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Went off into Andalucia over the weekend

We’ve seen that house prices are much, much, cheaper over the border. So, off we go to have a look. You can follow along on Google Maps – start at Ayamonte right on the P/S border, right at the south. From there there’s the A449 that runs straight north. Villablanca, San Silvestre de Guzman, Villanueva, Pueblo de Guzman and off to one side, El Granado.

So, it’s different, very different. The P countryside is market towns, sure. With villages, hamlets etc strewn between. Scatterings of cottages and so on.

This 449 going north was entirely different. Every 15 km or so there’s a little town of 2,000, maybe 2,500 souls (numbers found by looking them upon Wiki). But inbetween there’s absolutely nothing. No villages, no hamlets, not even farm cottages.

I assume – but don’t know – because the area was big haciendas, ie feudal not peasant farming.

The towns also tend to come to an abrupt halt at the edge. This is urban, then the other side of the road is country. No blend and merge at all.

In the towns there seems to be near nothing. A couple of Spar type supermarkets, couple of bars/restaurants and pretty much nothing else. OK, some of that could just be me being wrong. My mental model might well be of larger places – 10k little towns, not 2k people ones.

But one, El Granado. We went into the main square – obviously it was, church, ayuntamento (ie, town hall) and fountain. And yet there was nothing else there. That’s where I’d expect the cafes etc to be but not a single one.

All of these places were near entirely empty on a Saturday as well.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s all really different. Or perhaps it’s just that it’s all so much more lightly populated than pretty much anywhere I’ve ever been.

Pity, because we’ve seen several houses that look great. Proper small city little merchants/professionals houses at very reasonable prices. Already refurbed 200m2 places at €80k. Like this, this and this. But then that’s 30 to 40 km from the nearest metropolis of more than 2.5k people. You’d either need to really like driving or be very selfcontained.

Which is, obviously, one good reason for the pricing.

Pity. Having a place there was a serious thought for a time. Not sure that thought survived going there.

23 thoughts on “Went off into Andalucia over the weekend”

  1. Yes, it’s a relic of feudalism. A demographer has claimed that Spain is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, because if you take out all the 1km squares that have nobody at all in them, you’re left with all the Spaniards living in quite a small area. In England, I think you’d struggle to find all that many 1km squares with nobody living in them – parts of Dartmoor and the Pennine uplands, barley baron acreages in Lincolnshire and East Anglia – but in the rest of the country, even most farmhouses aren’t that far apart.

  2. It’s like an exaggerated version of England in the Middle Ages. Parts of the country were farmed “in several” i.e. as individual farms. So you get farmhouses on the farms, hamlets, but few villages, and the fields were hedged. Other parts were farmed “in common” using the Open Field system. So you have villages but not scattered farmhouses, and few hedges.

    The administration of both parts of the country is referred to as “feudalism”, which seems unhelpful to me.

  3. “The towns also tend to come to an abrupt halt at the edge. This is urban, then the other side of the road is country. No blend and merge at all.”

    In this country that’s called planning control. Houses all the way up the national park boundary, and them BLAMMO, nothing but fields and moorland.

  4. Weird that there were not many photos of the outside of the properties. Quite liked the last linked one, plenty of space for a workshop in the garage area.

  5. Are you saying that they’re still empty 600 years after the heroic liberation armies drove out the Mahometan invaders, Sam?

  6. A lot of space for the money true, but not terribly nice space and the town looks like a dead and alive hole. I imagine the locals would be utterly bemused if a foreigner bought a house there.

    Not an area I am at all familiar with; been to Seville, which was lovely, but that’s all.

  7. You can see the same crossing the Pyrenees from France to Spain.
    You’re probably right about a latifundia effect (big absentee landlords). Could also be a security & taxation policy.
    But what do you want a 200m2 house for, Tim? Starting a family?

  8. One cause I have seen for villages and towns, not hamlets and farms, is perpetual fighting in the late middle ages.

    Hence south of France, with its bastides, and north Italy with its hill villages. Hundreds of years of incessant fighting made the farmers huddle, even if not serfs.

    One way to tell is where the towns are located. If it is in defensible positions, on hills or islands, then that is the likely cause. If it is just the farming structure then the towns will be in the valleys, near the fields.

  9. Hmm, yes, that makes sense….Moors and Christians and all that. The Algarve was reconquista’d some 400 years before Andalucia…..

  10. Wow, that third place is a right rabbit warren; a party wall nightmare – and the walls look pretty rough. I found it on Google maps and wasted some time working it all out from the photos. On-street parking (dogleg rear garage not for regular use); front door onto sidewalk; bedrooms by the sidewalk. Upstairs is just storage and the “bathroom” is tucked into the back corner behind the kitchen-diner-living room, which is behind the neighbour’s garage. Nice fruit tree in the yard but that area looks like it would flood into the house in a downpour. It’s been up for sale for a while (streetview is April) and I suspect they’ll struggle at 80K euros. You’d need that much again as a back up for problems.

    I remember Loulé looking like a nice little town thirty years ago. Is that unafforable now?

  11. Friend of mine just bought in Ayamonte. But new built Beach front flat. So not really what you were looking for. And another kind of budget.

  12. A lot of Spain is like that. You’re tooling along deserted countryside, go round a bend and there’s a town with speed operated traffic lights you’ve inadvertently triggered. So you sit and fume for a while as Spaniards behind you who know the road give you dirty looks.

  13. Part of the reason maybe that was bandit country until the early years of the C20th. I think they caught the last one in 1902 or something. So you’ve got an area of Spain which was to extent lawless. Not a place you’d want to be living out in the boonies.
    Now think it through. That bandit was caught is a symptom, not a cause. He was a product of a society produces bandits. That didn’t go away when they caught him. So how much have to local people changed in a hundred years?

  14. @RlJ
    Yeah we all notice that. And that you don’t have to be far into town for it to be six storey blocks of flats or higher. One popular theory is the Spanish just like living like that. But it may have to do with municipalities. And that’s where planning & building permission decisions happen here. At the municipal level. Where it’s very helpful to, shall we say, know people.
    Pal has a house in a town up in the Sierra Nieves. He also owns a cortijo on a plot a little way from the town. Cortijo’s a variety of one room shack would have been used as an occasional dwelling by agricultural workers. His intention was to turn it into a proper house & he thought he had planning consent to do this & it’s currently half built. At which point the planning consent was rescinded because it’s the wrong side of some arbitrary line on a map. Maybe him being English caused this map to be found in the bottom drawer of a desk in an unused office at the ayuntamiento. Who can tell?
    This comment & the above comment may not be unconnected.

  15. That first one, Tim, is like the Moors never left. Does it include stabling for your arab stallion?

    Having had some experience with these sort of places I’d proceed with some caution. Basically, somebody, sometime got their hands on a parcela & built that out to the property line. Without the hindrance of any building control regulations whatsoever. Who owns or is responsible for the party walls could be interesting, for a start. And in my experience Spanish plumbers & electricians are… no I’d just better not go there.

    If I was going to buy something like that I’d get somewhere that hadn’t been modernised & do it myself. Then at least I could be confident with what’s been done.

  16. Some advice for anyone buying in Spain. There are tens of thousands of properties that don’t have residential permission. Some may have started like the cortijo mentioned above. I rented one up in the Sierra Nevadas. English couple bought it & extended the fuck out of it. Added another 8 rooms. When they did it, no one was much interested in planning permissions. Rubber stamp process at the ayuntamiento. Unfortunately all that changed. A lot of these permissions were adjudged defective at regional level & people were looking at having their homes bulldozed. Some of them were. Currently, there’s some process where they’re going through these rescinded permissions & regularising. They’re going through the municipalities alphabetically! They may be up to the D’s by now. The Sierra Nevada municipality’s in the O’s & that extended cortijo’s unsaleable unless you can find a mug. My pal’s town’s in the Y’s.

  17. I saw similar in Catalonia – small villages/towns with nothing for a few k between them and, mostly, nothing going on in them, either.

    You might try to flip the search: look for restaurants and bars, especially places that have more than one, then visit and see what the houses nearby are like.

    But if you find a fun bar or two, your risk of noisy late night sound systems has to go up, too.

  18. small villages/towns with nothing for a few k between them and, mostly, nothing going on in them, either.
    Ask yourself the question, if you were visiting small villages in the UK, what would you find. Nothing for a few kilometres between them & mostly nothing going on in them. If you were luck these days there might be a pub. Slim chance of finding a restaurant. Possibly a small shop. Why would Spain be any different?
    People’s views of Spain tend to be coloured by the Spain they see. The Spain that’s on or not far off the tourist track. About 95% of Spain few visitors have seen.

  19. True, BiS, but the difference between Spain/UK is that in Spain the land between villages is often completely uninhabited, there majority of km squares in Spain have nobody living in them. In the UK, while it would be relatively ’empty’, there’s usually at least a farm in any given km square.

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