Blog | Spanish farmhouse near Seville | B&B Aracena | Self-catering cottages Andalucia

The blog of Finca Buenvino Bed & Breakfast near Aracena, Seville, Andalucia, Spain in the Sierra de Aracena National Park. Set amongst a chestnut and cork-oak forest we operate as a family B&B and self-catering holiday cottages. We run cookery courses, photography courses, creative writing retreats and fitness retreats. Hiking trails and stunning views.

Hooray hooray, the 1st of May!

I shan't write down the rest of the refrain here, as it might be found offensive by the unimaginative, or even by the over imaginative!

Quite simply it's wonderful that May is here, and we can begin to see the tender lime-green leaflets of the chestnut leaves emerging on bare branches, and forming a  veil  which softens the scene, like a theatrical drop of netting which can be lit to create special effects of mist or smoke or a golden glow.

The new leaves lend a new density and depth to the landscape, which during winter shows the hard edge of the hills, and exposes the bare, twisted, Arthur Rackham-ish shapes of the pollarded chestnut trees.

By June, all will have blended into one green curtain with shadows of darkness and light, but for now we have the month of the verdant veil, and are awoken every morning by the birds singing their spring songs as they find themselves a mate or claim their own territory.

Whilst cleaning the cottage  pools and preparing them for the first warm weather, I was serenaded by a Golden Oriole, which moved swiftly from tree to tree, and yet remained invisible to me. The nightingales are pairing off by the stream, and soon will be singing by day and by night. Blackbirds and song thrushes too add richness to the spring symphony, and in the cloudburst of jasmine which should, last year,  have been pruned to the wall, but is now over a foot deep, I can hear the thin high-pitched song of the wren.

After the late rains we have been finding chanterelles and morels, and the stream is gushing in the valley, and grass and wildflowers are bursting forth.


On Saturday we drove to a remote farmhouse to celebrate a friend's birthday. The Dehesa was carpeted in purple and mauve, yellow and white. The gum cistus is in flower and dots the dark hillsides with blotches of white.

There were around 100 people gathered at the Cortijo, drinking manzanilla sherry, red and white wine or beer, and tucking into shrimp, and Ibérico ham, and delicious gazpacho, all of which was layed out on the long tables, covered with gingham cloths. A young man carved two hams for the assembly with great skill, until nothing was left but hoof and bone. He then severed the joints and there were good bones, salty bones, for making an excellent stock. A group, already merry, began to sing and clap time.

Then we were called outside to the summer kitchen, where a huge pot had been simmering away for several hours, with a cocido of chickpeas and Iberian pork. More tables covered in checked cloths were lined up in front of stone benches, topped with sun-warmed brick. We sat and tucked in to the comforting dish,  served with crusty fresh village bread.

All around the house there was a stunning 'carefully neglected' garden, filled with roses of every hue, dark crimson peonies and white or purple iris. A vivid dark blue Ceanothus looked dramatic against the white walls of the old house, and soft greyish purple hibiscus bushes were like puffs of smoke at the foot of the pale lilac trees.

The Orgasm Tree

We just received this lovely newsletter from Elaine Kingett, who runs several of her "Write it Down" writing retreats here in spring, summer and autumn. You can find out more about them under the Activities tab on this webpage.

I've never heard the Spanish chestnut referred to as the Orgasm Tree, but yes, she is right about the smell of the blossom, that discreet, green starburst  of catkins.

The Orgasm Tree

Very often, we begin a conversation with a friend on one subject and progress rapidly to something completely different, discovering on the way the most illuminating information.
 This happened to me last week. I was describing the climate at Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, where we run our writing holidays. I explained that whatever the temperature in the summer months, we can always walk because of the shade of the cork oaks and sweet chestnut trees that cover the dehesa - the wooded landscape of the Sierra de Aracena National Park.
‘Oh!’ my friend exclaimed, ‘That’s why the atmosphere is so beneficial for writing and meditation up there! That’s why your writers find it so empowering to stay there. Sweet chestnut’s a well known Bach flower remedy for encouraging new beginnings, transformation into a new and much better life. It’s a treatment for the "dark night of the soul," the despair of those who feel they have reached the limit of their endurance, it’s for a time when old beliefs and patterns break apart and make room for new levels of consciousness. It is the perfect treatment for when you are ready to open up to the light at the end of the tunnel, the light before the new dawn.’ Buenvino certainly has a magical aire, everyone remarks upon this. When I told her that the flowers of the sweet chestnut purportedly smelt like semen, she laughed. ‘Ah yes, it’s known as the orgasm tree because it produces such a surge of transformative emotions!’

The trees blossom in June, we’re there from the 16 -23...should be interesting...


After a quiet start to the year, February has come in with some very cold weather, which suits us, as it is time now to kill our house Iberian pigs, and to spend two careful days of butchering and marinading. Transforming these wonderful creatures into chorizo, salchichón, black puddings, air dried fillets and jamón.

Jeannie is assisted this year not only by our sons, Jago and Charlie , but by friends from Ireland  Fingal Ferguson of the Gubbeen Smokehouse in West Cork, who has years of expertise in the matter of charcuterie, Ted Berners of Wildside Catering, based at Ballymaloe House, (he will be stirring the pots for the first day's lunch break when everyone who is helping sits down together for the first matanza feast), Cullen Allen of Cully and Sully, Cork, and Darren Allen who looks after  Ballymaloe Farm matters.

You can just see Jeannie at the end of the table; between all her able young assistants. This is dinner last night; the evening before all the hard work began.

You can just see Jeannie at the end of the table; between all her able young assistants. This is dinner last night; the evening before all the hard work began.

Also here to help, is  cousin Jamie Thewes, taking a break from Errol Park wedding venue in Perthshire, and lending a strong arm is Murdo Anderson, of Greenfield marquees, Edinburgh. From the Basque Country Alcuin Arkotxa MacKenzie usefully slips from Spanish to English, and from Los Marines we have Eduardo, Chocoleo, and Carlos all weighing in with their expertise. As you wills note, butchering seems to be a mainly male activity this year!

We still hope for rain to come. The autumn and winter have been extremely dry: so much so that we were unable to sow and plant winter vegetables  in September, which means we had to forgo the joys of cabbage and cauliflower and broccoli.

We have some garlic and leaks, struggling pak choi, some endives and lettuces, and robust Swiss chard lingering on from last summer, but the few broad beans which were doing reasonably well were attacked by the sheep when a passing walker left a gate open. This is one of the hazards of having a walking trail passing through your land. Not everyone is responsible or thoughtful.

If we are lucky enough to get a wet late winter or early spring, then we will be able to sow beans and peas and root vegetables with confidence; and as the warmer weather comes in, these will be followed by peppers, aubergines tomatoes and courgettes. What I love is having a row of cottage flowers for adding colour to the house in the summer months. Great bunches of zinnias, cosmos or dahlias lift the spirit once the roses are wilting in the heat. However, without the wet spring we shall be done for. Our water table must be topped up before we can allow ourselves the luxury of irrigating.

September Plans and autumn Courses.

As we steam our way through August, it's 40ºC outside today, and Jeannie and I are hiding in the little cottage at the bottom of the valley, where on some nights we need to haul a blanket onto the bed because the temperature has dropped to 16ºC!

We are starting to look forward to September and the autumn months when we plan new cooking activities. Do have a look at the cookery courses page of our website and see if there is anything that appeals. We still have places on our 5 night foraging, olive oil and jamón Ibérico de bellota days.

We are lucky enough to have two of our sons living at home with us now. Jago, who is working in the PR department of 5 J's, Cinco Jotas, producers of probably the finest jamón ibérico de bellota in the country, and Charlie who has come to  run the kitchens at Finca Buenvino after 6 years of working for The Laughing Stock on the South Bank in London. He will actually be taking over administrative duties from me, Sam, as well as cooking. Jeannie will continue to be in the kitchens, but we both feel it is time to step back a little after over 35 years, and the boys will need to space to be creative and develop the business their own way.

I shall continue to write the occasional blog .....hopefully more assiduously and less occasionally than before! I shall also be keeping an eye on the bookings.


First Quarters, 2017

Summertime is here, or at any rate it is creeping in. Swallows are diving in through our bedroom window in the early morning; geckos darting up onto the ceiling, lilies bursting into flower in the courtyard, and the sun is pouring in horizontally by 8 o'clock, bringing some heat, so that we close the shutters to keep cool, and live in a dim aquamarine glow.... The pool is ready and waiting. Tim Clinch  is here for a few days with his group of photographers for a workshop. Non-photographers are sunbathing and reading by the pool, or walking through the shady chestnut woods.

I've been a lousy blogger as usual, the early year is so much taken up with trying to get everything set up for the season, as well as winter cooking courses, spring walks, exploration, preparation of the organic gardens, inescapable paperwork etc. so that it is hard to find time. Perhaps it's an excuse for laziness or forgetfulness!

We started the year with a full house, and a jovial crowd of Germans, Australians and Chinese guests.  Grapes were eaten at midnight and toasts were drunk and kisses exchanged.

In mid January we were joined by a team from the Danish Insitute for International Studies in Copenhagen who were working on a joint paper. We were able to provide peace and quiet,  a desk in each room, regular mealtimes, and space for them to meet and discuss in front of the fire.

in February we ran our specific food course about Iberian Pork; learning about Jamón Ibérico, how the pigs are raised; the special landscape of the dehesa;  and the curing process. We had a special tasting at 5J's (Cinco Jotas)after visiting one of their strikingly beautiful farms to see the animals free range under the oaks. We had visitors from Brazil, California Ireland and Scotland. We were fortunate to have Darina and Tim Allen from the Ballymaloe C|ookery School with us over the course as we learned how to prepare fresh Iberian pork. She of course in her famous red hat, with notebook and pen and a barrage of questions!

We were in London for a few nights and attended the Caballeros del Vino Español dinner at the Dorchester Hotel. after that back for a fairly quiet month.

Easter visitors were able to enjoy the  Semana Santa processions in Aracena , which are less crowded than those of Seville

At the end of the month of April Jeannie and I had a wonderful couple of weeks travelling with Australian friends, starting with  visits to Seville and Jerez with Manni Coe  with whom we visited the small Bodegas Tradición and tasted their fine sherries whilst admiring their spectacular art collection.  

Lustau 's Juan Mateos Arizón gave us a tour of the venerable cellars and we were able to taste the wines as we went along through the great winery 'cathedrals' with their soaring roofs. 

Juan  and his wife Gema Urquijo, organised us a sublime dinner in their vineyard near Las Tablas,  just west of Jerez, and we were able to watch the sun setting over the rolling countryside, whilst sipping a Papirusa and tucking into delicious tapas  before retiring for dinner into the cortijo which was beautifully decorated with huge branches of  flowering pomegranate.

We drove over the new bicentenary "Pepa" bridge into the heart of old Cádiz where we tucked into fresh shellfish  bought in the market, and then obligingly cooked for us in one of the local bars, where we were able to sit out on the street, watch life go by and consume some ice cold beers.

Next day we left for  Sanlúcar de Barrameda  to visit Javier Hidalgo , and visit the cellars where the classic La Gitana manzanilla is produced.After tasting some fine wines we drove out to his country place, where we were greeted by a mixture of bantams and peacocks and dogs, before tucking into more sherry, salmorejo followed byfine baby broad beans and squid (habas con choco). All too soon we had to head back to the Sierra de Aracena for a couple of nights here at Finca Buenvino before following on through  Extremadura on our way to the High Douro valley.

We stopped off at the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, where we spent a fascinating couple of hours before emerging to find out that we had a flat tyre.  after this was sorted we headed for the small village of Aliseda, west of the city of Cáceres. Here we stayed in the enchanting Hotel La Tierra Roja where we were advised to visit the  astounding surrealist Museo Vostell in Malpartida de Caceres. We were astonished never to have heard of this wonderful place, only a bit more than a couple of hours north of here.

We headed towards Portugal via the Roman Bridge at Alcántara, still used by traffic today.

Rutting Stags

There was a huge, not-quite-full moon last night and at between 3 and 4.30 in the morning we heard the stags' hoarse voices calling across the valleys and hills. Jeannie went out onto the balcony, and just across the valley from the house she could hear the clash of antlers as two stags fought over mastery of the hinds.

Autumn creeps in hesitantly

Some cold nights, some rain, the bracken turning to rust: these harbingers of autumn remind us that we must lay in logs.

An e-mail arrived this morning announcing the first meeting of the season at the chestnut cooperative SCA Castañera Serrana, to be held at the end of the month. It's good to get together and plan this season's campaign.

Volunteer work picking Chestnuts.

Our chestnuts won't be ready for gathering until late October or early November and we shall be looking for young physically energetic people to come and help with the harvest in exchange for board and lodging.

Our team in 2013 ! We only had about1.5 tonnes that year.

Our team in 2013 ! We only had about1.5 tonnes that year.

Usually we have 6- 8 helpers for the first two weeks of November. They stay in our holiday cottages and we provide the ingredients for breakfast and dinner which they cook for themselves. Lunch is always up at the main house and is a convivial affair. Picking is from 9 - 2.30pm 0r 3pm if going well. After lunch time to play.

At 5pm we will need some help to load the sacks into the van and deliver them to the co-op. Most applicants come through or

Our chestnut co-operative, the Castañera Serrana,  cleans the nuts naturally, using water at different temperatures, without the use of  chemical agents which can affect the environment as well as  the final product.  The cooperative was founded in the early 80’s, and presently has more   than 280 active partners,  within the "Sierra de Aracena and  Picos de Aroche natural park", which contains about 3.000 chestnut trees and an   average total  production of around one million kg.

They have a lyrical webpage in English about the seasons on a chestnut farm. Here it is:-

"Our chestnut forests are made up of trees, many of them hundreds of years old,  which form one of the richest ecosystems in Andalusia. They are an perfect example of respect for and balance within the environment.

These beautiful chestnut landscapes, occupy the highest and steepest slopes of the southern ranges in the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche Natural Park. They are particularly widespread in Fuenteheridos, Galaroza, Los Marines, Castaño del Robledo and Aracena.

The Chestnut Year

In the fields of the Sierra de Aracena (Huelva), the winter frosts give way to heavy rainfall. On drier days, early morning dews refresh the grass, which starts to grow strongly. Pigs can forage on roots and herbs in the meadows, and their offspring grow healthily. The wild mushrooms of the area (umbrella mushrooms, saffron milkcaps, and edible amanita ponderosa),  flourish and the farmer sees in this surge of new life the surest proof of overcoming the sterile winter, as well as the hope that the nuts will mature between summer and autumn.
Little by little the chestnut forests are covered in dense and intensely green foliage  which in June is dappled with the paler starbursts of chestnut catkins.

Unlike the flowering and growth which is usual at this season in most of Europe, the Mediterranean countryside seems to die under the torrid heat of summer. The gushing rivulets and streams unleashed by the recent spring rains turn to a trickle and eventually dry up; the river banks and watercourses are dry. The grasses, herbs and flowers left by the spring wither and die, leaving bare the dusty ground. The chestnuts drop their large catkins and life seems to go into a deep torpor.

But the collapse is only apparent, for once the trees and shrubs have finished flowering, their fruits start to form, to grow and to promise an autumn harvest.

The first autumnal rains cool the atmosphere and soak the bare ground. The chestnut trees change the colour of their leaves, which turn to yellow and drop lazily. Finally the time has come to start collecting the precious and exquisite chestnuts. There are different varieties: the locally named Pelon, Wide-Alájar, Helechal, Dieguina or Vazquez etc.

The harvesting of the chestnuts, which drop to the ground wrapped in a spiky protective shell known as a hedgehog, takes place in November and in the first half of December. The whole family is usually involved: while women and children concentrate on gathering the nuts, the men are in charge of loading the sacks and transporting them to the trucks, some use mules and others have 4 x 4 cars.

The chestnuts are usually eaten raw or roasted in the fireplace (the latter known as tostones or escafotes). Sometimes, to keep them longer, they are spread out onto a slatted upper floor in an old building known as a zarzo, where they are dried and smoked over wood fires lit on the floor below. These will become the popular pilongas or castañas enzarzadas which are very hard and need soaking after which they are easy to eat raw, or can be stewed (typical chestnut soup).

Currently, large numbers of excellent varieties of our mountain chestnuts, are exported to the United States, Brazil, Canada and other European countries where they are highly prized for making marrons glacés or chestnut jams.

The days grow short and it grows cold. The chestnut trees stand leafless, and have become grey shadows silhouetted in the fog.  The naked forest  meanders  melancholy between the dark meadows. The shadows are long and the dreaded frost returns.

During the winter months peasants perform maintenance work on our forests of chestnut trees.

Expert hands shape and prune the chestnut trees with the axe, eliminating all unproductive branches and strengthening the health and vitality of the tree."

Copyright -

Sunday Lunch in Good company

Elaine Kingett (@elainekingett) is here once again with one of her intimate writing groups. They are creative, cathartic and allow participants to get in touch with their inner selves,  relax mentally as well as physically (with yoga, walks, meditation and swimming)

On Sunday we were 15 for lunch, joined by Javier and Paula Hidalgo   as well as David Swann, and Maria Jose Sevilla to keep us entertained with wine and sailing stories as we sipped.

Menu: Cold solomillo of Iberian pork with pimientos del piquillo, smoked aubergine caviar, tomato, feta and almond salad, fried green peppers, green salad, pasta salad, assorted Spanish cheeses with candied aubergines, watermelon from the garden, and sourdough buns.

Cookery Courses for January and February 2017

We will be running two four-night courses at the start of the year.

Comida de Cuchara; "Spoon-Food" Spain's comfort Food!

Our winter landscape: the chestnut trees are bare and sometimes cold winds do blow.

Our winter landscape: the chestnut trees are bare and sometimes cold winds do blow.


We love Spanish spoon-food - comida de cuchara - it's comforting on cold winter days. What is better than a deep bowl of soupy rice with fish, or butter beans with tomatoes and clams? Or a traditional cocido, with plenty of chorizo and chick-peas, and chopped chard or spinach leaves, and a spoonful of smoked sweet paprika from la Vera? Salt cod is delicious when flavouring a dish of potatoes and onions with turmeric; sometimes we add a few green beans if there are any to be had fresh from the coast.

In the autumn we get plenty of wild mushrooms, some of which we dry, and freeze and the are then available for us to throw into our soupy stocks to form a flavoursome basis for our barley or rice dishes. Rabbit bones make an excellent stock, as do those of quails or chickens, so we may start the course with some roasted birds or rabbits or a paella, and afterwards learn to make our light stocks from the bones and fresh vegetables.

It's healthy, economic food, delicious, honest and filling. We will also be baking our own sourdough breads or quick wholemeal seeded breads to accompany these winter delights.

Our Spanish Spoon-Food course is running from 25th - 29th of January; Cost €900 includes all tuition, lodging wine and food, and pick up and drop off from Seville

Our second 4 day course will be running in February

Cerdo Ibérico, learning to cook with Iberian pork: and how to appreciate good quality Jamón Iberico de Bellota.


We live in the heart of the Iberian pig country with its beautiful wild landscape, where the Iberian pigs roam free from November to March, and gorge themselves on the sweet acorns of the holm-oak trees.

We will be visiting one of the top ham producers of the area, and lunching on a farm to see the animals in their natural environment. We will watch a demonstration of how to carve a ham, and we will taste different parts of a leg to see how the flavour changes.

We will be learning how to prepare slow- cooked Iberian pork cheeks in white wine with bay-leaves and peppercorns, on a bed of root vegetables chopped and softened in Olive oil.

We will be preparing the fillet mignon or solomillo of Iberian pork, with butter and sage or sweet roasted peppers and sherry. The meat is best served slightly underdone, as unlike ordinary pork it is a red meat, and can even be eaten raw as a carpaccio, with a tiny spoonful of homemade mayonnaise on the side perhaps, but it is so delicate you won't want to overwhelm the flavour.

The liver is often served fried and cut into thin strips as a salad in a vinaigrette made of sherryvinegar and olive oil. Pieces of crispy fried garlic are dropped into the salad and a sweet confit of onions is also good. Serve with a bunch of watercress or rocket.

Our Iberian Pork and Jamon Iberico de Bellota course is running from 8th - 12th February 2017; Cost €1200 includes all tuition, excursions, lodging wine and food, and pick up and drop off from Seville.

Please get in touch via our contact page if you are interested in either course!

Day 5: Candied Aubergines in Honey

Candied Aiubergines in Honey syrup with ginger.

Candied Aiubergines in Honey syrup with ginger.

Following on from where we left off on day 2, the process is the same for two more days. Remove the aubergines in the morning, add 500 gr. of sugar to the syrup, bring to the boil, replace the aubergines in the thickened syrup and bring back up to the boil once more. Switch of heat and allow to cool. Do this once more in the late evening, adding a further 500 gr of sugar.

Repeat this sequence on day 4. By the end you should have added around 3 Kgs of sugar and have a dense ginger-flavoured syrup. The aubergines will gradually continue to absorb the sugar, becoming quite translucent.

Day 5. Remover the eggplant, and the ginger; throw away the ginger root. Add 1kg. of runny honey, and bring back to a simmer. Replace the aubergines and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime warm several 1Kg or 2Kg preserving jars in the oven to a temperature of 100ºC. Turn the heat off under the syruppan, and allow the syrup and the fruit to settle until the liquid is still.

Bottle carefully with a ladle. The syrup is very hot! Tighten the lid of the jar when full, making sure the aubergines are covered by plenty of the liquid. It's best not to overfill the jar with fruit. It does not matter if there is a lot of syrup on top. Allow to cool all day before storing in a cool cellar or larder.

To Serve

We place one or two whole aubergines on a shallow dish with knife and fork, and serve it with strong manchego cheese, or fresh goat's cheese. Just cut a slice and place it on top of a slice of cheese. Eat!

Home made vanilla ice cream goes well with these; dice them intotranslucent cubes, and pour some of the extra syrup over the ice cream.

Candied Aubergines

Jeannie is peeling and pricking the aubergines with a fork.

It's that time of year again: a glut of aubergines coming up from the vegetable garden every day, and one of the ways to enjoy them in another guise through winter and spring, is to candy them and flavour them with ginger. They are perfect with manchego cheese, or can be used to decorate a honey ice cream.

The process starts 1st thing in the morning, so that you have time to make the first sugar syrup before retiring to bed on day 1. Start with peeling them, and pricking them all over with a fork.

Lu Kingett and Claire Victory are helping to peel and prick. A couple of dozen were done in minutes and dropped into lemon acidulated water.

Lu Kingett and Claire Victory are helping to peel and prick. A couple of dozen were done in minutes and dropped into lemon acidulated water.

Here is how they look as soon as they go into the water

Here is how they look as soon as they go into the water

The aubergines are then brought to a simmer with 2 or three fresh ginger roots cut into small chunks, and the zest of an unwaxed lemon. To begin with there is a tendency for them to float, so they must be weighed down with a plate to keep them submerged. the pan is then taken off the heat and allowed to cool until evening.

 In the early evening, fish them out, one by one with a slotted spoon. Add sugar to the water. This time we put in 500gr, or roughly 1 lb. Bring the weak syrup to a simmer, ensuring the sugar is all melted, then gently drop the aubergines back into the liquid. allow them to come to a simmer again and cook them gently for about 15 minutes. with the plate over them.

This is how they look after one night in the weak sugar syrup.

This is how they look after one night in the weak sugar syrup.

Next morning fish them out once more with a slotted spoon and place them in a deep bowl as they will shed their syrup. Add the next 500gr/1lb sugar to the syrup in the pan, bring to a simmer, and place the aubergines back in the liquid along with any liquid they may have shed. Bring back to a simmer, cover with a plate, weigh them down and stand them until evening. ........more to follow!

Late summer madness

Well, it seems we need not have worried about the initial hesitation and panic caused by the Brexit referendum. People have decided that they need a holiday come hell or high water.

New clients, old clients who have become personal friends, even longer standing personal friends who have become clients; writing groups, cooking groups, people who stay and laze, read and swim, or people who walk the mule trails or jog through the forest with all the latest Fit Bit tech strapped to their manly torsos; elderly ladies who identify butterflies, bat-men who set up lights and traps to see which varieties are about, ant-girls who are writing about bio-diversity in the organic veggie patch for their theses at Scandinavian universities; all are here or have been here or will be here this year.

We have just returned from a week in Bulgaria, eating Sereni cheese baked between filo pastry sheets with dill and lovage (but it's not really lovage, but a kind of sharp celery leaf); soft, soft breads from the Tsentralni Hali market in Sofia; huge pink beef tomatoes much like the ones grown in the Sierra de Aracena, and enormous juicy peaches, heaped upon roadside stands manned by smiling lady farmers.

Our Spanish shop peaches arrive chilled from Sevilla or Valencia, generally waiting to ripen in a warm kitchen, so they do not always have the same yielding sweetness unless we are able to get them locally. In the mountains everything is later due to our spring frosts. The peaches of La Nava, which is nearby, are celebrated in one of our last early autumn festivals at the end of September.

Our kitchen is smelling of these new inspirations. Our filo pastry and Burgos cheese, beaten with eggs is spiced with fennel seeds from the garden and this summer's basil pesto. Sourdough is rising in a large pottery bowl. A Bulgarian brioche is glowing in its egg-yolk glaze like a pale conker. Peaches are being fried in butter with sweet sherry, to accompany theduck breasts which we are serving tonight.

Things that go grunt in the night

Hot day in the low 30ºsC yesterday, so we went up for a midnight swim and then lay out under the stars, watching the satellites slide silently through the sky.

As I came through the arch to extinguish the lanterns on the terrace, a wild boar grunted and rushed off into the woods.

Brexit, let's hope........

There was a stunned silence on Friday morning, 24th June. I came down stairs to make coffee and was met by a guest sobbing quietly. We all felt betrayed. Of course there was no vote for us as we have lived out of the UK for over 30 years, but from outside it seems that British politicians do not care how much damage they do to the economies of other nations, let alone to their own.

On a cheerier note, summer is here, the climbing roses are out, chestnut blossom is spilling from the trees in starbursts, the pool is lovely and we have a houseful of guests from Northern Europe and the United States. We were 12 for dinner last night and nobody mentioned the B word. Beetroot and yogurt jellies with cumin were followed by Iberian pork fillets with pimientos del piquillo. After that Medjoul date and custard tart (from Rory O'Connell.)

We washed it down with bottles of Palacio Quemado, from the Ribera del Guadiana D.O just up the road from here, North East of Villafranca de Barros. Later, under the stars we drank chilled glasses of iced Vino de Naranja, from the Condado de Huelva......F the B word!

Fitness Week (June 18th - 25th 2016)


Al Fresco Mediterranean Lunch will keep you going until tapas and dinner!

Prizewinning Fitness and Lifestyle Instructor, Sarah Maxwell arrives on Saturday for another magic week of morning yoga on the lawn, long walks, swimming and pool exercises, all accompanied by excellent Mediterranean cooking, Spanish wines in the evenings and starlit conversations. Check wonderwoman out on

La lluvia en España.....

Prizewinning Lifestyle and Fitness Instructor, Sarah Maxwell, arrives on Saturday to start one of her #magic weeks of #walking,#swimming, morning #yoga on the lawn and #mindful eating! Should be fun, what with the excellent #Mediterranean food, and Spanish #wine in the evenings, and #starlit #conversation.

Read More

Chintzy cheeriness.

Tried out these bedspreads but almost immediately decided that this was the War of the Roses.

Hooray,hooray, the 1st of May.....and yes, the swimming pool is ready and blue and sparkling, if a mite chilly. Guests have been swimming like mad, though, so it does feel as though summer is on the way.

"Write it Down" Weeks for 2016

I have just been sent the beautifully designed new webpage for "Write it Down" weeks at Finca Buenvino. That's a great job Elaine Kingett. Take a look by clicking Here. We are looking forward to more fun, more creativity and naughtiness, more introspection when it's necessary, some smiles, some tears, but mainly a lot of joy and self discovery. Participants are often astounded by their own creativity, which has been unlocked by this week in beautiful surroundings under the careful guidance of mentor Elaine Kingett.