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Vall Cerdana

Some historical notes on the landscape of Vall Cerdana:

  • The closa cerdana ("enclosure") is the most characteristic structure in the agricultural plain of Vall Cerdana. Taking the form of an orthogonal mesh made of several roads, canals and plots, this structure has its origins in Roman times. Today, many are associated with traditional constructions of an agricultural nature; these farmhouses are known as masos cerdans, built during the 18th and 19th centuries. The masos were located at one end of the plots, surrounded by wooded terraces, paths and dry stone walls.
  • Also during the Roman era, grains were cultivated on the plain (some of which are still cultivated today) and there were extensive livestock raising and pasturing activities (predominantly sheep) near the mountain dwellings. Moreover, vineyards occupied the sunniest slopes, especially at considerable heights.
  • Throughout history, the Segre river, which crosses the entire Vall Cerdana, has favoured the development of a dense network of canals and ditches to take advantage of water, mainly to irrigate the meadows and croplands. Many of these canals come from the 8th century, when the area was occupied by Muslims.
  • The towns of Vall Cerdana are distributed so as to be protected from the plain, with PuigcerdÓ taking up a strategic position. All these towns in general have undergone little change from time immemorial to the second half of the 20th century, when new urban growth proliferated on the sunny side according to a repetitive construction model mostly linked with the practice of winter sports. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century and coinciding with the arrival of the railway at PuigcerdÓ in 1922, Vall Cerdana became a pioneer in snow and alpine tourism in Catalonia (the La Molina ski resort was the first to open, in 1909). During the decades to come, the construction and hotel and hospitality industries surpassed farming activities as economic driving forces.
  • Today, the agricultural and forest landscape of Cerdanya still maintains part of its historical legacy, despite the fact that much of its traditional agricultural and forestry activity has vanished. For one thing, the structure of the landscape is still closa-based, while grain cultivation has mainly become concentrated on the best land at the bottom of the valley and is now mechanised. Furthermore, livestock raising has replaced the type of cattle, from sheep to cows and horses, all dedicated to the production of milk and meat. The forestry sector has dwindled a lot in recent decades, and few sawmills are still active. These changes have contributed to the growth of the forest, though many summer meadows have remained for pasturing.

More information on Vall Cerdana in the Landscape Catalog of Alt Pirineu i Aran:

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