About a month ago we decided we wanted to buy this place. Today we signed the contract and paid the deposit! So here’s the story of how we fell in love with an abandoned village in the interior of Asturias…
Mary the estate agent had told us to visit the village and the Danish couple who were living there. We had a few days set aside to travel around Asturias, so we were off to see them. Having passed the last big city about half an hour ago, we were on a winding road following a river in a beautiful valley where the hillsides are adored with the colours of autumn woodland. Little green pastures and red-roofed villages bask in the sun, nestled into nooks in the landscape. The gentle hillsides rise up to exposed rock peaks and occasionally a bigger mountain comes into view in the distance.
We took a small road off to the side and straight away were going steeply uphill, winding our way up and up to almost 800m, passing a few villages on the way. We parked at the edge of a village and stepped out to the sound of cowbells and birds. Here we donned our rucksacks – it’s a bit of a walk from the car park! We headed uphill on a concrete road past a few houses and a yard with free ranging chickens and honking geese, then onto a very steep, rocky track through an avenue of trees between the fields – this track may once have passed for a road if you had a laden donkey instead of a car. Ten minutes from the car park and we arrived at the turn-off to the abandoned hamlet. We walked along the grassy track past a few ruins and an uninhabited house to arrive in the middle of the hamlet, where the view opens up.
The little house that’s dug into the hillside at the top of the hamlet is for sale, standing strong but looking a little neglected. It has its own small field behind, currently being grazed by cows, a bit of land for growing vegetables out the front and a small ivy-engulfed stone barn below. On the downhill side of the village, a young Danish couple are in the process of buying one of the other dilapidated houses, which they are busy trying to make winter-proof. The whole hamlet is a little overgrown with grasses and brambles, and pollarded trees with light green leaves that scatter dappled light and flutters of colour in the breeze.
The views in every direction are wonderful – we are in the mountains after all. The hillside opposite is a complete blanket of treetops undulating with the shape of the land and its river valleys. Beyond that, the summit of a mountain emerges, adding some drama to the otherwise serene and peaceful scene. There are no cables to be seen, no roads to be heard.
The Danish couple Tarje and Signe and their baby Roar welcomed us in the autumn sunshine and we ate together outside. They had been camping by their house and we set up our tent in front of the other house. We looked around the buildings and the land together and chatted about our plans for the future. At one point we were standing in the field taking in the scenery when a bright shooting star scattered sparks across the sky so bright that you could see them even though it was sunny! We joked that it could either be a good sign or a bad omen depending on what you wanted the universe to be telling you.
That night, in the dark and quiet, Dave and I were too excited to sleep much (and were camping on a bit of an incline), so we got out the tent to look around. It was a clear night and the Milky Way was shining bright. A crescent moon rose over the mountains and owls hooted in the forest. We were pretty much sold. We whispered into the cool air “I could totally live here.” “Yeah, me too!” And we stood there for a while admiring the place and imagining how our lives would continue to unfold.
I have to admit that neither the house nor the land are exactly everything we were looking for – the house is very small (5m x 5m) and the plot of land is smaller and steeper than we’d had in mind. Not to mention the fact that you have to park half a kilometre from the village! But it’s such a perfect place that the list of requirements has been happily forgotten. The location is spectacularly beautiful and remote but still the nearest village with amenities is only 15 minutes away by car, the nearest city less than an hour. We are an hour and a quarter from the airport, from surf beaches and from a little ski area. Hiking is right on the doorstep since we’re 810m up a 1,600m mountain. Climbing and canoeing places are also plentiful. Not that we’ll have time for outdoor activities whilst we’re making our off-grid house liveable and planting a food forest!
One of the deciding factors is that Tarje and Signe bought the other house in the village. They have changed the whole feel of the place – it’s not an isolated abandoned village any more, but the makings of a community.
We can’t wait to get started on everything! The house is basically some stone walls with a timber frame and tiles on top. So it needs re-roofing, insulating, and everything that we want to have inside it needs to be added – stairs, internal walls, windows, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, heating, off-grid plumbing and electrics. I think we’ve got our work cut out next summer!
This winter we’re continuing to live in an apartment at Richard and Suzanne’s place. We’re helping them with some winter jobs and in our spare time are planning what we want to do at the house. We will be spending odd weekends over at the new house to do a few jobs but there is only so much we can do before the weather gets more predictably nice. We were there last week and spent two nights camping inside the house inside a tent because the roof leaks! It was raining the entire time except when it stopped raining to snow a little. And it was freeeeezing! Maybe a wood burner is one of the first things to install, after a composting toilet.
So there we are. We started our married life this year camping in the wintery chill of early March, cooking porridge on a camping stove in the frosty Highlands. And we’re ending the year in much the same way except this time outside our own little house in the highlands of Asturias. I feel like it’s where we were destined to end up. And with that sentence, our lives as off-grid hippies may have already begun.