Alex and Cuke, schoolteachers past and present, practise juggling outside their house

Matavenero is an ecovillage in North-west Spain, in the Montes de León. Together with its sister village, Poibueno, it lies in a remote location at an altitude of approx. 1000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level. In summer, vehicles can come to within a kilometre; in winter a 2-hr hike is necessary from the nearest village with a road, San Facundo, which is itself 5 km from Bembibre, the local town. The village was chosen for a project in sustainability by the representatives of a Rainbow Gathering, and was resettled in 1989, with the permission of the regional administration. There are now approximately 40 inhabitants including a dozen children, who have a school in the village. New families with children are especially welcome. There are still some houses in ruins, of dry slate construction, but most villagers live in eco-homes constructed afresh from wood and salvaged or local materials, or in renovated old cottages. Most ecohomes are round, eight sided or polygonal. There are no roads, or internal combustion engines, so it is outstandingly quiet. Transport of materials, wood etc is by wheelbarrow, small pony or donkeys. Most villagers achieve a high level of self-sufficiency in food and heating. There is a shop, communal telephone and office, and communal meeting/singing space (the 'bar'), and a simple hostel for visitors. Luxuries are hard to find. Water comes via an ancient, regularly maintained, aqueduct from a spring in an adjacent wooded valley. Meetings are held fortnightly, and decisions made by consensus. Habitants and visitors are expected to work at least one day a week for the community. The common language is Spanish. There are more details in the book 'Eurotopia', and the office can be contacted between 7.30pm and 8.30 pm Spanish time on 0034 987 693216.

You can write to the Consejo via El Uli, Matavenero,24300 Bembibre, León, Spain.

This place has a rare freedom to make living spaces for a critical mass of people having similar intentions and willingness to live simply in harmony with nature. Here, though the going is tough, there is a definite feeling of a vision, a project worth giving energy to, and strong, independently-minded people. Visitors, including families with children, are welcome. If you stay for a year and the consejo, the council, approves, there is at present a choice of simple places to live in or ruins to renovate. Here are a few pictures from our stays there:

Andreas' house the valley walk from San Facundo to Matavenero view of Matavenero from above the central path through the pueblo main crop is chestnuts, introduced by the Romans Hanna and Uli with their donkeys carrying goods up the main track main street, Feb 2003 the pueblo in June 2004 Abel and Ula outside their wooden tipi house sell veg to Gorio Matavenero seen from across the valley. The car park is light dot upper left.  How are your wheelbarrow skills? Jurgen with Pasha

<IMG src= Laura and friend ride down the main path to the village

Incidentally, if you are looking for a good 10 million Euro ecovillage project to get your teeth into, or maybe putting in a lot of effort and not too much money into something exciting, how about this depopulated village at 2hrs walk from Matavenero? It's called Fonfria. It has good water, stands at about 1500 metres, so is pretty cold in winter but fabulous in summer, is just about accessible by road and is crying out for real love and attention.

Hasta luego.

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