21 March 2010

Persistent Rain Threatens Spanish Caves

Spanish caves don't like rain... in truth water (and snow) is the caves worst enemyMost caves hold up to water very well, the fact that Spanish caves have been around for decades and in some cases centuries proves that adverse weather conditions are not particularly dangerous for caves. However prolonged weeks of rain can take its toll and this is exactly what has happened since late 2009 until now ~ basically there has been no sun and fine weather to dry out the landscape.

Renovated cave room
Spanish caves by their very nature have no foundations, the foundation is the hillside and rock from which they have been "dug out" this means that caves move all the time as the terrain around them moves too. This may sound quite off-putting but in reality is nothing to worry about, it simply takes minor maintainence little and often such as cosmetic plastering and perhaps filling in the odd crack on a rendered facia.

Rain however can seep through the roof, this takes unusual and adverse weather conditions. Many Spanish caves do not have this problem as they are terraced with plenty of earth on top with a gradient so any water simply runs off. Caves like our own though which have a flat roof are vulnerable to seepage as the water effectively has nowhere to go. The same can be said for heavy snow which ideally needs to be shovelled of the roof before it melts...imagine 150m2 of snow 2 feet deep all turning into water.

We have been living in "Cueva Esperanza" since 2004 and it is the first time we have experienced any water damage. According to the locals Andalucia of late has had three time the average rainfall over the past few months - hence the problems. Luckily a little damp simply needs drying out before re-plastering but this takes time as there may well be water working its way through the rock for a good few weeks yet.

 Water damage

Persistent rain has also been problematic with the terrain in and around the village of Orce and its outlying hamlets. Small landslides partially blocking roads have been frequent as have the odd (and rather large) falling boulders. Pictured above is a small abandoned cave opposite our own, the front slid off during the early hours, now exposed to the elements it probably won't be long before there is a collapse.

The other issue for cave owners is that many of these dwellings are used as holiday homes so with nobody being "in" the cave during the recent weather the rain has been able to cause more damage through damp. Come the summer though all will be well again, the Andalucian heat will bake the caves and revert the rock above to becoming impervious to water once more. The other upside of course is that the resevoirs are full and the region has enough water now to last for the next three years.
For more information on Spanish caves visit Livinginacave.com

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