Elche lies a spit south-west of Alicante. In fact, the airport there is known as the Alicante-Elche Airport. Touristically, much is made of the Palmeral de Elche, the Elche Palm Grove. We fancied being tourists and going to investigate. Elche is close to the El Hondo nature reserve so our plan was to give Francine some botanical interest in the morning, while nature was warming up, then move on to Hondo for some odonatology.
What we didn’t know was where to go to start. My investigations became quickly confused. I found that descriptions existed but precious few maps. Life became a little clearer when I read
The Palmeral de Elche is the generic name used to designate a system of date palm orchards in the city of Elche …in the urban area of Elche there are a total of 97 different orchards containing about 70,000 date palms.
Small wonder that I was having trouble finding a specific target with a dedicated parking place. Eventually I found a walk outlined, with a rudimentary map, so we headed for that.Francine took over from Sally Satnav and got us there. Our car park was beside a park. We wandered through that and picked up the designated walking route part way around and followed it backwards. 🙂
What we saw was not what we expected. Certainly there were very tall date palms but they appeared to be planted largely around rectangles of, well, drab soil devoid of anything else. This seemed curious. I suppose we were expecting something more ornamental However, the lack of ornament MAY be explained by the fact that the female palms are actually a cash-generating crop producing dates, which we didn’t realize at the time of our visit. Maybe the empty gaps are needed for harvesting? Maybe it’s nothing to do with that at all? 🙂
A little underwhelmed, we left our initial track, which we discovered was actually a road as a car went past, and began trying to follow one of several footpaths through this particular plantation. This soon became quite difficult and the interest in the soil surrounding the palms changed not one jot – still bland. The palm trees were undoubtedly impressive, though.
We thought we were still on the designated footpath but we seemed to have come to a dead end. At least, without stepping over a low wall into a play area, it was a dead end. Stepping over the wall was no problem for either of us but it felt a little weird; surely not the intended route. However, we were now back on the main walking route that we’d originally joined. Tis took us past one of the palms that bears a name, in this case, the corkscrew, for obvious reasons.
The corkscrew looks a bit bedraggled at the top. Spain is suffering from a voracious invading red weevil which attacks palms and kills them. Regular large doses of insecticide are needed to keep the pest in check. Could it be that this poor old palm is suffering, Francine wondered? The Elche plantation is both a cash crop and a world heritage site so it could have devastating results. Worrying.
Towards the end of or walk, we came across what probably should have been our original target, a more formal garden called Huerto del Cura, “a beautifully landscaped private garden” [according to the Rough Guide to Spain].
Coffee and Hondo called; we must return to Elche to look again. We must also remember to consult the Rough Guide in a more timely fashion next time destination confusion arises. Educational, though.