Work has finally begun on the Gaucín to Manilva road. It is well overdue, having been pot holed and rutted for as long as I can remember. The work – or sometimes what appears to be lack of it – crops up in conversation daily, from the dangerous corner as you approach the bridge at the bottom of the Genal to the fact that often the only activity appears to be the water truck which trundles up and down all day keeping the temporary gravel surface dampened down. Last week the stretch between the Casares turn off and the cement works closed all together meaning a bit of a detour if you want to get to the coast and I wonder what impact this will have on numbers for the forthcoming Art Gaucín visual arts festival.
But the benefit of this closure is that if you are travelling south, you can take the old Jimena road and see the storks nesting on the electricity pylons that line the rail track to San Roque.
I first encountered these birds over fifteen years ago (in the early days of my Gaucín love affair), before the AutoRoute was extended past Estapona and was thrilled to see that this little colony was still succeeding there. I lost count at a dozen nests, a silly stork or two perched in each, as we cruised past. Later in the year the fields opposite are a haze of pink-tinged fluffy white cotton heads that paint the crop with a setting sun whatever the time of day.
And if you make this journey in May you also get to enjoy the amazing display of wild flowers that fill the hedgerows. The Valle de Libar travelling north between Cortes and Ronda is famed for its wildflower meadows and although the roadside to San Roque is subtler, once you train your eyes you realise just how beautiful and widespread the wild flowers are.
A blanket of daisies, rock roses, scabious, buttercups and borage rolls out before you.
Enormous heads of cow parsley with their plump crochet caps grow in clumps in along the banks of the ditches, interspersed with the occasional flash of poppy red.
Even once all the roadworks are completed and journeys become simple again, I’m going to carry on taking the Jimena road once in a while just to witness how the seasons change it.