Centuries-old chestnut trees and stone constructions marked by the effects of the passage of time and the efforts of nature to recover the space taken by man give shape in the heart of O Courel to a landscape of great environmental and ethnographic value. We are in the Souto do Mazo, a chestnut forest that keeps the testimony of the importance that these trees have had since time immemorial for the population of this and other areas of Galicia. The wood, the bark, the leaves… all parts of these trees were of great use to the inhabitants of the place, but the chestnut stood out among them all.
The border of the municipalities of A Pobra do Brollón and Folgoso do Courel keeps one of the largest and best preserved concentrations of chestnut trees in the Galician Community. And there they are some buildings, the “sequeiros” (dryers), that allow us to remember how the exploitation of their precious chestnuts was made. They are therefore an open door to the past and to an activity that for a long time was one of the main livelihoods of the local population.
They are not the only ones that exist in Galicia, but the twelve Sequeiros do Mazo make up a unique complex that in recent years has been put to good use to prevent its disappearance, preserve its legacy and make it a tourist attraction. Each of the sequeiros, which was identified with the name of the owner family, served as a space for the storage and drying of the chestnuts from the trees located in the vicinity. Distributed in two heights, the sequeiro also served as a refuge and resting place for the person in charge of collecting and processing the chestnuts: the dryer. He had the responsibility of collecting the chestnuts in bags and transporting them to the sequeiro. He then carefully arranged them on the upper floor, called the caniceira, whose floor was made up of slightly separated sheets of wood. Then he would light a fire on the lower floor (remoleiro) to allow the heat and smoke to dry the chestnuts as they ascended to the caniceira. This fire also allowed him to protect himself from the cold of the mountain during the two or three weeks he needed to complete the drying process. The process concluded with the introduction of the already dried chestnuts in sacks and their hitting against a trunk to separate the skin from the fruit.
It has been a decade since the dryers last carried out this traditional way of collecting and processing the chestnuts, but the work of conditioning and signaling the sequeiros (and the nine nearby huts that served to keep goats) carried out in recent years make the place an ideal destination for nature and ethnography lovers. Walking among the chestnut trees and looking inside the old buildings it is possible to imagine how the work that took place there was and to relive a piece of the history of O Courel. To get there you have to take the road that links A Pobra do Brollón and Folgoso do Courel and stop shortly after the village of Mazo Santigoso.