Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin – Tuesday 8th April 2014

The mountains and the seashore are our playgrounds here in the Hidden Valley but it isn’t quite enough. We need parks, meeting places, children’s playgrounds, running tracks and football pitches. In embryo we have them all but problems are attached to each one and are worthy of about five different stories.  The one I shall tell today concerns the Port of Soller Park that lives just behind the Church in the valley of the mountains that surround our wonderful Port. The park occupies a space that was designated as a public area in the late nineties.  This official status was designed to stop the area being built on for housing or any other commercial enterprise. It consists of a foot ball pitch, basketball courts, running track and a children’s play park with swings and apparatus.  The park is in mediocre condition right now and needs money and  a lot of tender loving care spent on it.  That being said it is still the favoured place for local children’s birthday celebrations and for the community paellas that happen there.  The reason that it has hit the headlines this week is that the owner wants some money for the land.

The recent history of the park is all to do with the fact that for many years local people were not allowed to use it.  The Military requisitioned the park as a training ground for its personnel in the days when the Port of Soller was a barracks in the Franco regime.  The owner of the land did not have much choice when the mighty Navy came knocking on the door and said ‘we want your park and we want it now’.  It was only a few years ago that this park came back into the hands of its owners once the Military handed it back.  At that time the City council designated it again as a public place and agreed in principle to pay the owner for the land to become public property.  The years have passed, the City of Soller has no money to buy the land and the owner feels he has been patient enough.  He served Soller council with a bill for millions of Euros two weeks ago and the genie is out of the lamp – it’s all gone ballistic.  I am not qualified to pass comment on the rights and wrongs of this but I can tell you that the coffee shop chatter says its all about property values.  An owner who might want to realise the value of his land might just be tempted to challenge the rules that designated this as a public land never to be used for housing.  The summer of discontent will be a long one on this issue – that’s for sure.

While collecting information for www.sollerweb.com my business partner Tracey Ivell and I have learned so much about the new ventures planned for the  Hidden Valley this year.  The one that amused us this week was the notion of the ‘Pop Up’ mountain experience.  Agapanto – one of our long established restaurants on the beach in the Port of Soller are expanding up the mountain and creating a ‘Pop Up’ experience.  The day starts with a walk or Jeep ride up the side of the mountain to the Olivar or allotment (if you are British) .  Once there amongst the olive trees and mountain side beauty you can walk or sit amongst glorious scenery and have lunch.  The Chef is a local Solleric and she will prepare paella, frito, pa’n boli and many other authentic local dishes and speciality vegetarian alternatives.  The ‘Pop Up’ is available for groups of between 10- 25 and is already proving a huge hit with holidaymakers planning their gatherings and locals thinking about Sunday lunches and special occasions.   This is just one of the new experiences available in the Soller Valley for 2014.  Sollerics are embracing this new season with huge enthusiasm and were so delighted when last Saturday a special visitor arrived.

Luis Ramallo is the President of UNESCO in Spain and he came to see how the Tramuntana are handling their special gift of Unesco status.  He was greeted and looked after by the great and the good of Soller and taken on a whistle-stop tour.  After spending time in the City Centre as it bustled with its Saturday market activities it was time to visit Fornalutx and absorb the mountains in all their splendour.  The rain stopped and a perfect day dawned for him to see the Hidden Valley at its best.  There is no doubt that the juggernaut that is Unesco has started to roll round here after a sluggish start.

The Easter people arrived at the weekend and Soller is full of English speaking people again.  It is great to see the holiday makers here and just lovely to see the children on the beach and even swimming!  Everyone is smiling – the people who are delighted to be on holiday and the Sollerics who have enjoyed their holiday but are glad to start another hard-working season.  The hotels are enjoying high occupancy and the newly refurbished Hotel Generosa on the front line of the Port re opens its doors this weekend and it is said that they are already fully booked for Easter.  Good news all round for the Soller Valley.

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