Malta Diary How green are our valleys? Malta and Gozo are full of them – beautiful, natural and picturesque
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The Maltese word for valley is “wied”, from the Semitic, the equivalent in Arabic being “wadi” – and Malta and Gozo are full, overflowing with “widien” (valleys).
That may sound strange for such small islands in which rivers are non-existent because of their restricted smallness. However, the islands are pock-marked with valleys, surrounded by fields that give rise to Malta’s agricultural production and in the vicinity the rise of villages and towns.
There are about 200 valleys in the Islands, 154 in Malta, 42 in Gozo and two on the small island in between, Comino. Some of the major ones run into each other but are named differently because of the locality they run through.
The intensity is possible because of the soft limestone formation of the Maltese islands, easily grooved during periods of heavy rain.
Many are beautiful, natural and picturesque – although some in the past were subject to awful experiences because they were seen as natural dumping grounds for unwanted and bulky household rubbish by the more moronic element of society.
In those days it was not unusual to find a valley full of mattresses, rusty bedsteads, ‘fridges and cookers together with dead dogs and cats and on numerous occasions, dumped vehicles.
Fortunately, those days are now over because of greater environmental awareness campaigns as well as eagle-eyed vigilante groups and of course strategically situated security cameras.
Some are obviously better known than others because of their natural beauty and their landmark assignation. Some of the names are romantic and linked to fabled love affairs, otherwise linked to various Ottoman Moors invasions that produced miracles or anguish. One of these is the Mosta Valley where legend has it that lantern lights can be seen at night and screams of anguish heard.
One of my favourites has always been Wied il-Lunzjata (the Valley of the Annunciation) in Rabat, Gozo. This is a deep valley of beauty and serenity that begins its descent in the vicinity of a small and ancient chapel that still bears the Latin plaque that holy patronage is not granted to criminals – thus precluding criminals from gaining entry with the scope of legal immunity and thus protection for their criminal actions.
The valley gradually descends surrounded on both sides by stratas of well-kept terraced fields each with their impeccable stone walls to provide shelter from soil erosion in heavy rainfall.
It is just heavenly.
Another beautiful valley in Gozo is Wied il-Ghasri, as well as the “widien” at Xlendi and Marsalforn.
Not to be outdone, Malta has its own. Perhaps the best known is Wied il-Qliegha better known as The Chadwick Lakes, named after the British engineer Sir Osbert Chadwick who designed a system of dams at the end of the 19th Century aimed at preserving rain water as it poured down the various levels.
Unfortunately, these were totally neglected for many years and besides rubbish being dumped in them they were also allowed to silt up with soil, stones and gravel. Renovation and regeneration is taking pace to restore the area to its natural beauty.
Regeneration and renovation is taking place in Wied Babu in Zurrieq, probably Malta’s most beautiful valley with a water flow that emerges in the area of Zurrieq’s Blue Grotto with its crystal clear blue waters and rainbow coloured strips of sea bottom sands.
Most meaningfully, these valleys house the most important strains of plants, trees, bushes, animals, birds and insects that are indigenous to the Maltese Islands yet over the years they have become clogged up with invasive vegetation such as wildly growing canes that are so abundant they choke off the indigenous vegetation.
Thankfully, the Government has now vowed to take regeneration and renovation of all valleys in hand and currently a survey is being carried out to establish all the various needs and restore this environmental and agricultural lifeline of the Maltese Islands to their natural beauty.
“He is still his mother’s milk”
Referring to a person who is naive – wet behind the ears!