We enjoyed annual holidays in Southern Spain – for a couple of years we visited an apartment complex in Mojácar, we loved the Moorish style and the spectacular views even the lunar landscape away from the coast. At that time, in the early 1990s few people had heard of Almería, let alone visited. The area was markedly old fashioned, at the airport, luggage was taken off the plane and placed on shaded racks and there was no autovia or motorway.
We usually hired a car and ventured up and down the coast and inland, in May 1995 when a friend suggested contacting someone advertising farmhouses for sale in the Almanzora Valley, we couldn’t resist. We looked at three possible projects all of which could have been moved into after bathrooms and kitchens had been fitted. We loved the area and drove up to Baza, another day we ventured north of Albox, along empty roads up towards Velez Rubio, dreaming of a new project in Spain. When I say we, there was our family, John, Jane and our three teenage children.
Through the summer our thoughts kept returning to Arboleas and we wondered whether we could actually make it real. In October Jane had an opportunity to visit Mojácar with her parents, the plan was to stay in a hotel and to meet up with the entrepreneur Gordon Condrey to have a look at some more properties. We actually went back to one of the houses, at Los Gibaos we were pleased to find out that a couple had moved in, they turned out to be friendly and very helpful. Back at the hotel in the evenings my Dad felt that a renovation might be too big a job, a ready to move into house too expensive, which left our best option, to buy a cheap ruin and have a modest holiday home built.
We viewed two in Los Carrascos, with Diego Oller Jimenez, we had all squeezed into an old red Clio. The first, a single storey old school overlooking the Arroyo Aceituno, in a small hamlet of farmhouses, the school had not been used for many years. It needed a bathroom and kitchen and vision to see the finished article, the roof was intact, but it didn’t have much land, although it was surrounded by almond trees. It had fantastic views.
The second property was a large stone farmhouse sadly it’s roof was in a poor state of repair. On entering the property, it felt quite dangerous, the whole place had been empty many years.
There was a pigsty and animal sheds, it did have around 800 metres of land, water and electricity connected and it stood on an elevated position near to an asphalted road. It was fabulous, the potential was outstanding. We took video and loads of photographs and returned to England, full of excitement.
We showed John, who had stayed at home and looked after the kids, all the images, he fortunately trusted our judgement. We contacted Gordon Condrey saying that we wanted to buy the ruin and asked him to draw up some plans for a new house.
John and I returned in February 1996 to complete the purchase of the ruined Cortijo , including obtaining non-residency and visiting the Notary. We then finalised the plans for the new holiday home.
In May, John flew out to Spain to check on the progress of the building work.
John took this final photograph in October 1996, with part one of the house completed. The rest is history, which has affected hundreds of peoples lives.