Valle de Ayora, western Valencia

Area: Valle de Ayora, western Valencia

Route: Montroi-Dos Aguas-Cofrentes-Jalance-Jarfuel-Ayora-Moixent.

 

Distance: 151 kilometres




Not a historians delight but an excursion that shows of the upland beauty of the most western edge of the Communitat Valenciana.



You leave Montroi by a long bridge at the other end of which Real de Montroi begins. At the first set of traffic lights turn right for Dos Aguas. Almost immediately is a dog-leg, left and right, signposted Dos Aguas. (VV3081).



After a couple of kilometres you begin to leave suburbia behind as you climb through orange groves. As the road rises you have pleasant views over the cultivated valley to your right but you soon enter a landscape of softly rolling hills covered in monte bajo.



As the mountain road rises the beautiful vistas become broader as you pass between the Sierra del Ave to the right, with the Sierra del Caballón to the left. At the km6 marker the road opens up to an upland valley and just after you pass a large building on your right (a holiday retreat for disabled people) a kilometre later, a twist in the road reveals the village of Dos Aguas, set like a disorderly pile of sugar cubes on a hillside in the distance. Sadly, close up the village doesn’t match the prettiness of the long shot.



When you reach Dos Aguas turn right for Buñol, up the right-hand side of Meson Lepanto. The rickety rural road from Dos Aguas is perfectly passable and takes you through glorious mountainscapes, possibly one of the most beautiful valleys in the Valencian Community. Follow the signs for Cortes de Pallas, Venta de Gaeta and Cofrentes



You are now in the Valle de Ayora. This road has historically been an important north-south communication route and also marked the border between Christian and Muslim territories. Vineyards become more common but still there are the beautiful broad vistas of pine forests, marred by the two vast cooling towers of the nuclear power station at Cofrentes, but a mere blip in the otherwise stunning scenery of this excursion.



As you drop down to Cofrentes you see its castle standing four-square on a rocky promontory above the village, and as you get nearer you pass a large wetland, the confluence of the rivers Júcar and Cabriel. On the opposite side of the valley to the much-restored Arab castle is Mount Agrás, an extinct volcano.



Most people come to Cofrentes to take the waters at the modernista spa of Los Hervideros (the boilers). Built in 1908 the Balneareo de Hervideros is almost a small modernista village, with a hotel, cottages, gardens, swimming pools, sports centre, minigolf, supermarket, chapel, a theatre, hairdresser and gift shop. The scent of pine trees fills the air and aged ladies and gents sit in the shade playing cards after their treatments in the baths, or wander the byways aided by stout bamboo poles. While the nearby volcano might be extinct, it is volcanic activity that keeps the water at a constantly warm temperature, and the salts and minerals it contains are said to be beneficial for those suffering from rheumatics and locomotive problems, while taking a tipple will also do your digestive system a power of good. You can even have a top-to-toe beauty treatment of vaporisation, hydro-massage, body peeling and power-shower, amongst a host of other pamperings.



Continue on to Ayora (25km) and a couple of kilometres later take a right to Jalance, from who’s ruined 11th century castle you get wonderful views of the Valle de Ayora. If you are there at a weekend or during August you can visit the Cueva de Don Juan, a 60,000 cu-metre cave at the end of a 12km drive through a ravine that cuts through the Júcar valley.



The cuisine of the Valle de Ayora is rich in energy-giving foods. The valley gives its name to the famous gazpacho ayorinos, a rabbit and chicken stew with wafer-thin pasta, with each town having its own slight variation. Calducho, a stew of chicken breast, mushrooms, tomato and Serrano ham is a speciality of Jarafuel, with Cofrentes offering olla cofrentina, stewed pork, potoatoes, pinto beans and cardoons (a vegetable of the thistle family), and Jalance, ajotono, mashed potato, cod and tomatoes. For desert you could be offered grullos, honey cakes, or aguamiel, baked pumpkin slices dribbled with honey.



Next stop is Jarafuel, whose main claim to fame is that it is the Spanish centre (and therefore probably the world’s) for the production of the horca a long-pronged wooden pitchfork that is made from the slim branches of the almez, a flexible tree peculiar to this region. In the plantations around the village the tree is carefully cultivated so that its growth takes on the required shape for the horca, each branch having four slimmer branches, and when it is harvested they are baked in an oven to remove the bark and bound with flat lengths of wood and round stones, to be left for a couple of months to dry and hold the distinctive curved pitchfork shape.



Jarafuel is also a major producer of bastones (walking sticks) in every conceivable shape and size, including those made from a tree root whose handles are carved into the shape of lions, elephants, horses and other animals, their heads and limbs following the particular growth of each individual root.



There are a number of small factories but Bastones Martínez on Calle Juan XXIII has a huge selection and if you can get a glimpse into the factory you will see a strange assortment of Heath Robinson machinery that bends, strips, straightens, carves and sands the bastones and horcas.

Ten kms south of Jarafuel, Ayora, with 5,000 inhabitants, has fifty percent of the population of the entire valley. You enter Ayora through small cornfields and tall crops of maize, with its castle keeping a watchful eye over the small low-level town.



The parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción has on display the impressive 16th century alterpiece, the Tablas de Yáñez de Almedina and the Milagro del Ángel (Angel’s Miracle) by Vicente López. The castle, more formally known as the Palacio Fortaleza del duque del Infantado can be reached by taking one of the steep streets from the Plaza Mayor, the prettiest route being via Calle San Nicolas where all the houses are whitewashed with a band of blue outlining the door and window frames.



Honey has been produced in the Valle de Ayora since time immemorial and the quality of its production was governed by the Ordenanzas Municipales del Valle de Ayora, which ensured its high quality during the four centuries from 1344 to 1747. These days the Sociedad Cooperativa Apícola de España watches over the artisan production that still uses many of the ancestral processes. If you want to know everything there is to know about this sweet product visit Ayora during the last two weeks of October for the Corte de La Miel. Honey and honey products can be bought at shops throughout the valley.




WHAT TO SEE


Cofrentes

Castillo

Balneareo de Herviederos, Balneareo s/n. Tel. 96 189 40 25.

 

Jalance

Castillo. Free entry.


Cueva de Don Juan. Open daily during the month of August.

Jarafuel

Bastones Martínez, Calle Juan XXIII 12. Tel. 96 219 81 25. Manufacture of horcas and bastones (natural pitchforks and walking sticks).

Ayora

Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Parish church.

Palacio Fortaleza del duque del Infantado. Castle ruins.



WHERE TO EAT


Cofrentes

Restaurante del Balneareo de Hervideros, Tel. 96 189 40 69.

 

Jalance

Albergue de Jalance, Calle Mayor 9. Tel. 96 219 60 48. Open for lunch and dinner. Restaurant Hotel del Valle, Colón 41. Tel. 96 189 70 00.

 

Jarafuel

Restaurante El Molino, Piscina Municipal, Camino Molino s/n. Tel 96 219 81 53. Open daily for lunch and dinner.


Ayora.
There are plenty of bars and cafeterias serving tapas and lunches. For gazpacho ayorino try
Restaurante El Rincon, Calle Parras 10. Tel . 96 219 17.

WHERE TO STAY

Cofrentes

Balneareo de Hervideros, Tel. 96 189 40 69.

Jalance

Albergue de Jalance, Calle Mayor 9. Tel. 96 219 60 48. Basic

Casa Ferdi, Calle Iglesia 12. Tel 610 27 67 08. Restored casino (village meeting place) in the old town below the castle. Decór of agricultural bric-a-brac and antique furniture. €€

 

Jarafuel

Casa Rural Rufina, Escuela 11. Tel 96 219 80 56/ 616 30 72 40.



MORE INFORMATION

Cofrentes

Oficina de Turismo, Plaza la Iglesia. Tel 96 189 4316. Open Mon-Fri 10am-1pm.

 

Jalance

Tourist Info Jalance¸ Calle Industria 11. Tel. 96 189 7171. Open Tues-Fri 10am-2pm, Sat 9am-2pm, Sunday 11am-2pm.

 

The extended version of THE PITCHFORK CENTRE OF THE WORLD

, including full details of where to stay and eat, and what to do, including opening times and prices can be found in Inland Trips From the Costa Blanca by Derek Workman, twenty-two excursions in the Valencian Community . His accompanying book Small Hotels and Inns in Eastern Spain gives details of eighty charming hotels in the region. Both are published by Santana Books. Tel. (+34 952 485 838) Web page www.santanabooks.com



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