“Everything that the stopper can explain to the acorn”
We interviewed Eloi Madrià, recuperator of natural spaces and professional cork harvester
Eloi Madrià welcomes us in the middle of the forest, his place of work. This attraction to the forest didn’t come from his family. In fact, he discovered it by chance. One day, taking photos as an amateur, a friend told him that he might like to go to the forest to photograph a cork harvest.
“That fascinated me. It was still done with animals, and I found it such a beautiful job that I couldn’t believe it. Were there really people who worked in a place like that?” He tells us waving his hands up, showing us the beauty of the forest in spring, while all we hear are birds and the breeze moving the leaves.
When he decided to dedicate himself to the forest, to become a ” bosquetà “, as said in Catalan, he was 23 years old, but he had to wait a while.
Artisanal tools for the cork harvest. The bag was made for him by an Italian friend more than 30 years ago.
He started working in the hotel industry to, after a season working in a shelter for children, take care of the accounting of the family business, where he only “carried out” a year and a half. “I’m not cut out to work in an office.” Little by little, he taught her sister the tasks so that she could manage it herself. It was there, at the age of 25, that he began to dedicate himself fully to the forest, to the recovery and maintenance of natural spaces. And, at harvest time, he harvests the cork oaks in the province of Girona.
In addition, he collaborates with the Gavarres publishing house, run by his brother Àngel, which publishes magazines and books on history, heritage and oral memory, focusing on various areas of the Catalan geography. “It is a way of preserving the culture of the towns and villages, which otherwise would end up being lost.”
He tells us that this year is the last he works. That next year he will retire, although he will keep a couple of properties, “more than anything because they are friends and they have always been very good to me.”
When we asked him about the future of the forest, specifically Les Gavarres, the mountains that separate the Empordà from the Gironés, at the north of Catalonia, he told us that he would like to see them worked, in mosaic, that is, combining fields, vineyards and forests. “That will be the way to prevent fires and it can be a tourist attraction. Because of the type of people who come to these areas today, I think the vineyards can be interesting.”
Time will tell. For now, Eloi is dedicated to training young people to transmit their love to the forest and that they know how to treat it as it deserves. He says that he is retiring, but we cannot figure him far from the forest…
Text: Carola Pérez-Badua
Pictures: Caroline Faiola