Finch's Quarterly Review - The Nature of Things
He wanted his own private olive grove, and it wasn’t in Fernando Peire’s nature to give up – not even on Mother Nature
I remember that what first drew me to the little town in the deep south-west of Andalucia was simply its name; just two words sitting side by side on a map of the province of Cadiz: Medina Sidonia. These words instantly evoked images of medieval El Andalus. I simply had to visit.
What I discovered when I reached Medina Sidonia was a hilltop town that thought it was still living in the Fifties. White-walled houses connected by steep and narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, a central square and lively market, old men in hats huddled on every corner in their shirtsleeves, hunchbacked old women lugging bags home from the market, young children playing unsupervised on the main square, not a single traffic light nor parking restriction… This was the Old Spain. And from the ruined castle at the town’s highest point you got to see the most incredible panorama: the grey-green outline of the mountains of Sierra Morena to the east; the meandering, orderly crisscross of olive groves planted much closer to home; the bull-breeding farms dotted with livestock predestined to afternoon death; lonely, ruined Moorish castles atop tiny hills; the Atlantic sunset beaches close to the Cape of Trafalgar, where 200 years ago Nelson led the English to victory over the Duke of Medina Sidonia and his Armada. The view must surely have thrilled the first Phoenician to climb the hill of Medina some 2,000 years before me.
I set my heart on buying a property on the outskirts of this town. I quickly bought four acres of land with water but no electricity, some stables and sheds but no house. The place was run down and had not been cultivated for decades. I had months of arduous clearing to do before I could even begin terracing the hillside that sloped steeply away from the outbuildings that would eventually form the basis of my new Spanish home.