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Arts and crafts in the Lumberjack Festival in Cofrentes


On 3 May Cofrentes celebrates its La Maderada festival for the seventh time. That same weekend Amata will organise, for the second year running, an Arts and Crafts market. Perhaps Cofrentes is not just around the corner, but the combination of wandering round a pretty village, watching the Lumberjack Festival activities and visiting an original craft market makes for a good excuse to spend a weekend here.

As the name suggests, the festival has something to do with wood (madera in Spanish). In the 18th and 19th century most people in Cofrentes earned a living by floating timber along the rivers Cabriel and Jucar to the coast. On Saturday 3 May the good burghers of Cofrentes don colourful black smocks and a gaily coloured neckerchiefs, pick up their punting poles and march to the banks of the river Cabriel. There the rafts and their crew are blessed, and then ferried across the river to the other side of the village. All very colourful and quite authentic.

Now the real feast starts, with an extensive breakfast of “tortas” and “pasteles” washed down with “zurracapote” (a local version of sangria), followed by folk dancing and a giant paella, a lot of music and the odd outburst of frivolity. And of course there is a lovely Arts and Crafts fair, with all its attractive wares.

The craft fair is organised by Amata, the same craft association that brought some thirty stalls to this village last year. Besides the people who came last year with leather chess boards, artfully carved rings and hair pins from bone and wood as well as a smith with realistic forged and hammered roses, there are people with wooden toys (makes a change from all those colourful mass-produced plastic toys), puppets, ceramic ware, decorated boxes as well as jewelry using macramé and semi-precious stones, aluminium, enamel, copper and cunningly wrought iron. All made by the people on the stall – not for nothing has Amata registered the slogan Artesanía de Autor!

The market is held next to the castle and is open Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 May from 11 to 2 and from 5 to 9. This year the market has the circus as theme; two acrobats show off their skills accompanied by two enthusiastic drummers. Young visitors can pick up the odd skill in various workshops and their parents can restore the inner man (and woman) in the small tavern that forms part of the market.

The village of Cofrentes is itself worth a visit, with small picturesque streets more suitable for heavily laden donkeys than modern cars. There are magnificent views of the river, the lake and the surrounding hills; there are thermal baths nearby, a golf course and an adventure play park. Or you can explore the surrounding countryside on horse, foot or mountain bike; you can cruise over the lake or take a tourist train through the Cabriel valley. The really tough guys can take a raft or canoe along the river

Cofrentes lies on the border between Valencia and Albacete, half way between Almansa and Requena. If you want to find out more about the craft market, ring 639 979 678 and ask for Elvira, who speaks English, or take a look on www.amata.es (also in English). If you want to stay the weekend, whether in a 3-star hotel or a simple pension, ring the tourist office on 961 894 316 (open every day of the week, also on the weekend, or so they claim) or look at www.cofrentes.es


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