General view of the Castell del Rei. | GRUPO SERRA


Does anywhere in Mallorca generate quite as much heat as Pollensa when it comes to controversies regarding access? La Fortalesa is the standard-bearer in this regard because of umbrage taken at the exceptions to access exclusion. Images there are, for instance, of the newly-wed Rafa Nadal and Mery Perelló and the cast of The Night Manager in the grounds of the old fortress. And so La Fortalesa commands the indignation because of its visibility, not just from the waters of the bay but from the pages of celebrity outpourings and television entertainment. Visibility but off-limits.

There is another fortress in Pollensa. It’s not visible - not easily anyway. Yes, images of it abound, but they aren’t ones sprinkled with stardust. Maybe it would make for a good TV production location. Perhaps people might even wish to get married there, minus the lavish catering and the plush terraces of course. But film crews wouldn’t be allowed, and wedding parties most certainly wouldn’t be. For this is the Castell del Rei, the King’s Castle, with origins going back to Roman times. The Castell del Rei, an ancient fortress with current-day battles fought by those who want access and those determined to prevent this.

The castle has lent its name to the cove which it overlooks - Cala Castell. It is this cove which enables visibility, but mostly by sea. The cove can be accessed by boat, but not by foot - or not normally so - for the cove, like the castle, can only be reached (officially) by crossing the Ternelles finca. This finca is administered by a company called Menani on behalf of the owners, the March family, they of Banca March, the descendants of the Santa Margalida smuggler later banker, businessman with fingers in numerous pies, and political power broker who came to be referred to as Franco’s banker - Joan March Ordinas.

There is, curiously perhaps, an association between Joan March and John le Carré’s The Night Manager. March was reckoned to have been a spy for both sides during the two world wars, an espionage to suit his interests. Like Richard Roper, he was an arms dealer. But there the similarity ends. Roper was fictitious. March was not. His memory, unavoidable in Mallorca, is not one that every islander is proud of.

If the March family didn’t own Ternelles, might there be the level of controversy there is? Other owners might not have had a legacy like the March family does. Other owners might have made the finca more accessible. Who can say? Hypothetical, but some of the criticisms regarding access have played on that legacy. They have been political, as they have also been social.

It’s not that access is totally denied. For years, limited numbers of walkers have been allowed on the old way - the Camí de Ternelles - and been able to enjoy this vast natural space. For Ternelles is natural. This is not a finca that is an estate in the sense of there being some grand mansion. One of the few constructions is the ancient rock fortress.

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The owners have not been alone in restricting access. The Balearic government had also created restrictions. The castle and the cove were classified as exclusion zones in the Tramuntana Mountains. They were sites of special sensitivity because of their birdlife - the black vulture in particular. Apart from researchers, people weren’t allowed in case they affected vulture reproduction and nesting.
The exclusion zones worked. The vulture population has come to flourish again. The government has therefore amended the management plan for the Ternelles exclusion zones. Walkers will be allowed to go to the castle and the cove, but they will still be limited in number. In essence, the government accepts the principle of restricted access. It is surely right to do so, as unfortunately not everyone respects natural spaces such as this. Unfettered right of passage would be a disaster.

But Menani, the March family don’t agree with the amendment to the management plan. An appeal for the application of “precautionary measures” against this amendment (dated January 23 this year) has been turned down by the Balearic High Court. This is ahead of what we are told will be a definitive ruling.

Definitive? Can there be such a thing for Ternelles? Years of litigation have brought us to this point, one by which Menani maintains that there would be a lack of protection for the natural environment. The amendment violates a principle of “non-regression” in environmental matters. In other words, once a principle of protection is established, there should be no going back.

I can understand the point. But the amendment by a government whose environment ministry was controlled by a party that loves to display its environmental credentials - Més - is clear enough in maintaining a principle of control. What’s the family afraid of? A global sporting superstar organising marquees by the castle for a wedding guest list in the hundreds? Hardly.

Muro's pumpkin fair
Muro might have a giant pumpkin event in October this year.

How climate change is affecting a Mallorcan autumn fair

Like many other fairs on the island, Muro’s autumn fair has a theme - pumpkins. The weekend in November, which normally coincides with Pollensa’s fair (artisan design), is an occasion for pumpkin-based gastronomy and the competition to discover the biggest pumpkin. A problem has, however, arisen with the latter, and this is to do with the timing of the fair and the climate. A change in the climate, says the councillor for fairs and fiestas, Rafel Gelabert, is making things difficult. The giant pumpkins are harvested in September. “But making them last until November has become very difficult in recent years because the temperature has risen considerably.” The pumpkins are rotting before they reach the fair’s weighing scales.

The solution? For 2024, it is being proposed that there is a giant pumpkin event in October and another one for normal pumpkins during the autumn fair. Gelabert hopes that the fair will extend “throughout the year”. The town hall intends creating an allotment for residents without gardens who want to grow pumpkins, something that “distinguishes Muro”. Oh well, something good may come from climate change.