During the first few months of 2010 we had lots of snow, making the Asturian scenery even more beautiful than normal. It also gave me the chance to do some snow walking and learn new techniques on various winter walking courses I attended.
Snow walking in the winter
But I didn’t only spend my time snow walking, I revised most of the self guided walking notes we offer to guests at the hotel as well as develop some new walks which can be done with out a car from the hotel. The culmination of this “work” was the production of the second edition of our Self Guided Walking “book,” a book which certainly gets used a lot by our guests.
We had another good season at the hotel slightly better than 2009 which considering all the economical difficulties is something to be pleased of. It is lovely to see so many “repeat” guests and very rewarding to see so many people interested in what we are doing. More and more people walk round the farm and particularly the vegetable garden.
Part of the hotel farm waiting for guests to visit
We were also extremely lucky this year with publicity, having had more press reports than ever. We started with an excellent article in The Guardian in April by Stephan Venable entitled Lone Ranger in Asturias. In May we were rated as one of the 100 Best Bolt Holes in Europe by the Sunday Times, in August we were featured on Notes from Spain as an Inspiring Asturian Dream and in September we were featured in the Waitrose magazine in an article entitled Hidden Spain. We were also featured in the Spanish press which focused on our food, with an article in the magazine “Integral” on our organic restaurant and the organic vegetarian cooking courses we offer were featured in “El Pais” two weeks ago.
Joe and participants on one of the cookery courses
So much of our success is due to our staff, the family and our collaborators. Special mention should be made to Maria Carmen who has now been working with us for over 12 years. Samantha and her boy friend Andres were working in the kitchen this year under Joe’s supervision and even though I say it my self, the food we serve is going from strength to strength. In the latest edition of the Alistair Sawday book it states we “use their produce in their menus (brilliantly.)” It probably sounds as though we are blowing our own trumpet, but I am just so proud and thankful to everyone here for what they have all managed to achieve over the years.
Mari Carmen preparing the breakfast buffet.
Special thanks should also go to our son Sebastian, who amongst other things arranged an extremely successful event this October “the Earths Pilgrim Retreat” with Satish Kumar and which was thoroughly enjoyed by all the participants. Encouraged by the response from this event he will be organising four more courses at the hotel for 2011.
A day on the Earth Pilgrims Retreat with Sebastian and Satish Kumar
The farm carries on being a central part of our project. We are now producing over one third of what we consume in the hotel restaurant and Joes imagination always helps in creating endless culinary delights when there are “gluts” of seasonal produce, (raspberries and aubergines come to mind this season.)
Home grown produce converted to culinary delights
Hugh who had been with us for 3 years working on the farm left in July to go and manage a community farm in Cornwall, and Wes took over his position. Amongst other jobs Wes built an amazing greenhouse, something I had wanted for many years. I am sure with the help of the greenhouse for plant production we will be able to develop our vegetable production even further.
For along time I have felt we have been doing a lot of environmental initiatives at the hotel and for the guests, but not so much for the local community. So it’s given me great satisfaction this year to be involved in the development of a local consumer group and the beginning of a community supported agriculture project.
Preparing vegetable boxes for the consumer group
It’s also good to see that after many years it looks as though we have a local person (Jenny) who is starting to get interested in using our wool to make artisan products.
Jenny showing samples of carded wool from our flock of xalda sheep
Our weather seems to have been as variable as ever this year. We had the worse floods in history in Arriondas this June, followed by a dry summer. We had snow as low as 200m a week ago followed by warm weather which has made all the snow disappear again.
The vegetable garden under snow last January
Having started and finished talking about the weather I think that’s a good time to wish every one a
Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year.