Overall, though, I was most struck by the interplay and interdependency of the different land uses and incredible attention to detail in the management of the trees, pasture and livestock. Just one example of this was learning of the special calculation done each year into the anticipated acorn crop and limit set accordingly on the number of pigs that can be reared in order to retain organic status for pork production. Such an ethos is surely something that John Muir would have approved of, regardless of whether in sunny, southern Spain or on the side of a somewhat soggier Scottish mountain:- “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Transhumance is an ancient practice of moving animals between regions to benefit from the best grazing at the best time of year. The loss of this transhumance has impacts in both Andalusia and the north. In Andalusia the sheep remain on the same ground throughout the year which increases the pressure on the available grazing and is detrimental to the soil. In the north the lack of annual grazing has led to abandonment of pastures, which are infilled with continuous forest or scrub cover, which lowers biodiversity and increases the risk of fire.
The group was intrigued to learn that forestry age is measured differently in Bulgaria where the mean age of trees is used rather than the length of time the area has been afforested. This is due to the influence of other European countries where a more holistic approach through continuous forestry methods are adopted. This is unlike Scottish forestry which is still in the infancy of this and mostly managed on a financial /accountancy basis. The oldest tree in the park was a 500 year old beech. The group asked several questions about deer but it was apparent there was no problem with high densities due to a combination of factors, primarily predation by wolves and anthropogenic hunting. One of the rangers stated that there were probably less than one deer per 100 ha. The hunting in the region is managed by local hunting groups and licenses are issued by the Ministry for Food and Agriculture.