La Breña Marismas de Barbate Natural Park Cadiz
La Breña & Marismas de Barbate Natural Park Cadiz
On the Atlantic coast of the province of Cadiz is located the La Breña & Marismas de Barbate Natural Park, one of three protected areas in Andalusia that includes a maritime zone, configured as a sea-land Park. It covers a total area of 5,077 hectares of which 3,925 are land and 1,152 are marines. Located at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar is a support point for the migratory routes of birds in the marshes of Barbate.
The most representative ecosystems of the Natural Park are the marine systems (underwater and coastal), cliffs, pine forests, marshes (nowadays in periphery) and dune systems of small size.
The land area consists of a coastal cliff that reaches into the higher elevations 100 metres above sea level, where is located the Torre del Tajo which offers a spectacular view over the blue waters of the strait. In water and at the foot of the escarpment you can observe big released blocks by the erosive action of waves and inlets where there are small sandy deposits covered during high tides.
The top of the cliff is colonized by a pine forest, the result of the reforestation carried out at the end of the last century, accompanied by an undergrowth of Mediterranean scrub very clear to prevent fires. At the edge of the cliff are some examples of Aleppo pine mixed with juniper bushes and shrubs with a padded able to resist the wind. The nesting birds consist mainly in finches, greenfinches, goldfinches and chaffinches with tits like some tit and the crested tit. It should be noted a pair of peregrine falcon and a kestrel.
The saltiness of the cliff is due to small drops of sea water that the wind rises and crashes against the rocks calling this effect “saline spray.” These physical conditions lead to the development of characteristic marsh plant communities adapted to saline environments, called halophytes species, among which we find the barrilla, the sweet and savoury almajos or the pinwheel. In more sheltered and extensive areas develop wild fig trees and brambles.
The rocky cliff walls are used as a breeding place for various species of birds. The herring gull colony is the oldest of all, but the largest is the cattle egret, finding some nests mixed together. Jackdaws and black starlings form colonies in the tower of the Tajo, in cracks and ledges of the cliff.
The marine extension of this Park up to one nautical mile along the coast, consisting of rocky beds due to the fallen blocks from the cliff that rest on a sandy substrate. Biological communities typical of these habitats are influenced by tidal movements. Preferentially it is observed different types of gas, while in the upper and bare of alga appear naked molluscs such as the winkle and limpet.
Inside the Park is not located any human settlement, the town of Barbate stands very close to its eastern border. The Park’s main resource is the harvest of pine cones and pine nuts, to be busy most of the space by a pine forest. There is also livestock, mainly sheep. Both activities have a marginal character, since the commercial port and the salted fish industry absorb most of the manpower of the town. We do not forget tourism, an important source of income in these coastal towns. The use of timber continues to fuel small carpentry activities. Anyway, the main purpose of the pine forest is protective, setting these sandy and unstable areas, subjected to strong local winds.
The local cuisine is based on a rich supply of seafood products. You can find them in tapas or dishes in a great variety of fish from the Strait of Gibraltar, being the most characteristic one the Northern bluefin tuna. This traditional fishing equipment is used to fish tunas in its passage through the strait through a complex system of permanent nets. Catches are made taking advantage of the migration of tuna. During the spring the fish move into the Mediterranean Sea for the annual egg start while in autumn the specimens are caught moving into the Atlantic once the breeding season has finished.
The most celebrated festivals are the Virgen del Carmen, as corresponds to an eminently sailor town, and to the great sardines. In the first one it is traditional the boat trip of the Virgin around the port.
Tourism in the area come from looking for its beaches, however we have to emphasize as a place of interest, although it is situated outside the park boundaries, the town of Vejer, to 8 kilometres and considered like Pueblo Blanco (White Village) from the region of Janda, with a well-preserved architecture and beautiful panoramic views.
Inside the Park you can see two towers located on the highest point of the cliff called Torre del Tajo and in the west end of Spot to 162 metres height. These are two coastal watchtowers of the XVI and XVII centuries, both of them built in places of great scenic beauty that will host in the near future recreational areas. We can find remains of the Visigoth period in two shrines located next to the space, called Ermita de San Ambrosio, because it rises near the town with the same name, and the Santuario de la Oliva in the road Vejer-Barbate.