Life On The Farm Part 1 - Clive And June's Story

Published on 28/01/2009 in Expat Life

Cortijo los lobosClive and June Wolfe live in a beautiful old cortijo in the stunning countryside of Villanueva del Trabuco with their three teenage children, 15 horses, two goats, three dogs, four cats, one ferret and 10 chickens!  They run a thriving holiday business – letting out their converted barn for self catering holidays, as well as providing horse riding, mountain biking, guided hikes and other excursions.  Clive is a builder, working all week for clients and most weekends at home renovating the farm.  June is kept busy looking after all the animals, home and family, the holiday business, taking clients riding, and through necessity has become a pretty competent builder herself!

This is the story of their life now, and how it all began………..

It was August 1999, whilst on holiday with my parents Jan and Pete Saunders at their holiday villa in Los Romanos that we made the impulsive decision that would change our lives for ever.  Cortijo los lobosMy parents had decided to sell up in England and retire to Spain and were looking for a more suitable home to begin their new life.  We had accompanied them on their house hunting trips and had fallen in love with an old farm, with land and fruit trees.  

We started to dream about a simple life in rural Spain, living off the land, free of the stresses and strains of modern living and with a healthier environment for our children to grow up in.  Clive's mum, Janet, had been living in Canillas de Aceituno for about 18 years, so we were very familiar with this part of Spain.  With both sets of parents living here it suddenly seemed the obvious thing to do – we would move here too!

On 17th December 1999 we were on our way, having sold our house, folded up Clive's engineering business and packed all our possessions into a removal lorry. We set off on our adventure, after waving goodbye to all our friends, towing our caravan packed with all Clive's precious bonsai trees, the kids and our African grey parrot Oscar in the back of the car.  Cortijo los lobosOur cat, Simba was already at my parents house in Spain, having flown on ahead!

Two days later we were winding our way up the mountain road to Canillas de Aceituno, and squeezing our caravan through the narrow streets.  Finally we arrived at Sedella, where my parents were waiting to welcome us to their new home.  We were here at last, starting our new life, with no house or job and barely two words of Spanish between us – were we mad?

Christmas was great, with all the family together and the feeling of anticipation for our life ahead.  The Millenium eve was spent typically Spanish style in a freezing restaurant with our coats over our finery! Then real life had to begin. The kids started school in Canillas, the first English children and welcomed with open arms.  John, then 12 found it difficult to start with, but Harry, 11 and Elizabeth,9 loved it and within two days they were all settled and happy and had made lots of friends. Cortijo los lobosThe teachers were fantastic and the kids picked up the language immediately and were soon inviting their new friends home to play.  The process of enrolling them in a Spanish school was easy – there seems to be very little official paperwork.
We had their English school records and reports translated into Spanish before we came, but to be honest they didn't seem to be required and I doubt if they have even been looked at!

Clive started work building and landscaping for the local English community, and to this day, 6 years later, he has never been without work.  All that was left on our list was to buy a house!  Clive's mum had seen a house whilst property hunting with a friend.  It was in the campo, outside a village called Villanueva del Trabuco, on the road to Zafarraya.  We had never really been that way before, other  than to pass by on the motorway to go to the Alhambra palace or skiing in the Sierra Nevadas.  

We set off up the winding mountain road that leads to Zafarraya, and entered another world.  As we came out of Zafarraya and into the countryside approaching Trabuco the landscape was so different, so rocky and rugged, with wild flowers and oak trees.  Cortijo los lobosThen the land changed again, into olive groves and finally there was the farm house next to the biggest oak tree you've ever seen and with the most spectacular mountain view! We loved it the minute we stepped out of the car and onto the cobbled threshing circle.  Inside it was everything we wanted, full of rustic charm, and with not too much work needed!  The many outbuildings and flat field were perfect for what we wanted to do. We all knew there and then that it was going to be our home.  It reminded us of the highlands of Scotland, our favorite holiday destination in Britain.

What luck!  The first house we'd viewed and we were in love!  By March we had moved in, the kids were settled into school in Trabuco, once more the first English children, and we had made friends with our Spanish neighbours, who have been like family to us over the last six years and helped us in so many ways, we couldn't have managed without them.

Cortijo los lobosOur new life had begun, not without its teething troubles and stresses, but easier than we could have imagined when we first took the gamble!

So began our tireless struggle to renovate, build, landscape and generally improve our home.

Luckily the kids were picked up and dropped off by school bus right outside the door, which meant that I could get my scruffy clothes on first thing in the morning and work happily until dark, without interruption.  Clive had to go to work, but once home, would carry on working.  We were, and still are to a certain extent, workaholics, but we love it.  We often had deadlines, if friends were coming to stay from England, which gave us the incentive to keep going. (and a much welcomed holiday while they were here!)

About a month after we arrived we woke up one morning to find a very sad and bedraggled little dog, shivering in a stable.  Clive at the time wasn't really a dog person and told us not to feed it, but gradually we won him over and we were allowed to keep 'Paja' , so named, because we found her laying in a pile of straw.  She was such a sweet dog and we all came to love her.  Our menagerie had started!  After that there were kittens, and lots more abandoned dogs – once word got around that we were English we became the unofficial pet dumping ground.  Luckily most of them moved on of their own accord, but a few have stayed along the way.

Cortijo los lobosOur next animal to arrive was our first horse, Polly.  There was great excitement preparing for her arrival, cleaning out one of the barns and laying a new concrete floor, locating straw and feed (thanks again, neighbours!) The day to collect her at last arrived but unfortunately the Spanish man we had hired to transport her got his whip out and started whipping her to get her into the trailer which got her into such a state that there was no way she was going in!

We were devastated, what were we going to do?  We decided that the only way to get her home was to ride her, approx 50km from Sedella, through Alcaucin,  Periana, Pulgarin, Alfarnetejo and finally over the top off our own mountain and home – what an adventure! John and I took turns to ride while the others followed in the car with food and water.  It took us 10 hours, but it was an unforgettable experience.  Polly was none the worst for her long walk and soon settled into her new life. She is quite a character and over the years, with our ever growing herd, has maintained her position as 'boss'.

To be continued…………..

Written by: June Wolfe

About the author:About the author: If we can be of help with anything to do with living in Spain, caring for animals etc please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help.

Phone  June on 952 111 569 or 660294457  e-mail  see the animals on our website -

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normansands said:
28 January 2009 @ 17:22

Utterly charming, thank you for sharing it.

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