“By the end…it was clear that Spain’s spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms. Spain became the most visited tourist country in the World, and slowly, as the foreigners poured in, its identity was submerged, its life-style altered more in a single decade than in the previous century.”- Norman Lewis, ‘Voices of the Old Sea’.
After almost two years we took the official paperwork challenge and risked a flight to Europe, to Spain, to visit my sister at her overseas home near Alicante. I was nervous about that but I have to say that everything about the outward flight went perfectly.
After a couple of days lounging around, drinking San Miguel and eating tapas Lindsay pulled a surprise – we were going on a bike ride. I like bike riding but not in the UK where the roads are dangerous but in Spain there are miles and miles of cycle paths where there is no real danger except for the occasional potholes.
Lindsay and Mick ride for miles several days a week but we are not used to long distances which after fifteen kilometres and sore butts accounts for our non smiley faces. And we had still got to cycle fifteen kilometres back home.
Anyway, back to Guardamar. I confess that I love this place. It fascinates me.
Like many Spanish villages on the coast it once relied almost entirely on fishing but it has the distinction of suffering three severe environmental disasters. The original village was built between the banks of the River Segura and the Mediterranean Sea but heavy silting from the river and the encroachment of sand dunes from the sea overwhelmed the village and one hundred and fifty years ago it had to be completely abandoned and relocated to safer ground.
This is the site or the original village today which is a palm forest planted to try and stabilise the ground but Guardamar has new problems.
The linear park of palms and cactus and succulents are withering away and dying back as they struggle to fight some sort of pest or disease which one by one is killing the trees and plants that (I am told) once provided a stunning green park for visitors to wander amongst. Such a shame. A warning of just how ‘temporary’ life can be on Planet Earth!
In the 1940s the municipality agreed permission for local fishermen to build houses directly on the edge of the beach, something that would not be allowed today and would be regarded as rather reckless.
The Casas de Babilonia are a string of elegant beach houses built perilously close to the sand and the sea and over the years the advancing Mediterranean has nibbled away at the fragile infrastructure and undermined the inadequate foundations.
Families lived and worked at the edge of the sea. Today the houses are retrospectively declared to be illegal builds that contravene the Spanish Coastal Law (ley de costas 1988) that defines a public domain area along the coast and a further zone beyond where restrictions apply to private ownership.
Moving on, later, in the 1960s came tourism but not from the North as Norman Lewis lamented but from the towns and cities of Spain itself and even today you won’t find package holiday deals to Guardamar de Seguara.
Trouble from the river and bother with pests has been followed by catastrophe from the sea in a massive wild Mediterranean storm in December 2016 which battered the coast and the fishermen’s houses and left them in a parlous state. Almost unrecognisable, nearly gone, the victim of changing coastal dynamics, the battering ram of the sea when twenty foot high waves crashed into the decaying properties and did massive amounts of damage, washing away walls, tearing down terraces, breaking beams, trashing tiles and crushing concrete.
This is the coastline today…
Such was the fierceness of the storm that it rearranged the seabed and the coastal geography and removed the beach and the sand where fishermen once rested their boats and holidaymakers put down their towels and pitched their sun umbrellas.
Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…