Los Alcornocales Natural Park Cadiz Malaga
Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Los Alcornocales Natural Park – The Cork Oak Natural Park
Cádiz – Málaga
List of Villages in Los Alcornocales Natural Park:
Alcalá de los Gazules, Algar, Algeciras, Arcos de la Frontera, Benalup-Casas Viejas, Benaocaz, Castellar de la Frontera, El Bosque, Jerez de la Frontera, Jimena de la Frontera, Los Barrios, Medina-Sidonia, Prado del Rey, San José del Valle, Tarifa, Ubrique and Cortes de la Frontera.
In Los Alcornocales Natural Park there is a complex group of hills where it is developed, in excellent state of conservation, the largest cork forests in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most important in the world. This tree of Mediterranean character, with bare looking due to the thinning of the cork, is one of the most representative of our forests and has achieved this privileged position thanks to the rational utilization of this resource, exploited since time immemorial.
The natural attraction of this Park does not end here, since it has some exceptional gallery forests, capable of transporting us to subtropical regions nowadays absent in the European continent, being composed of typical species of these environments that have found in this place a suitable shelter to develop. They are located in the so-called “coverings”, deep and narrow valleys cut by rivers.
The 167,767 hectares that occupies Los Alcornocales Natural Park are distributed from Tarifa, in the south area of Cádiz to Cortes de la Frontera in the northwest of Málaga. Most of them are colonized by oaks, sometimes mixed with olive trees, oaks, oak trees … depending on moisture conditions and the kind of substrate. The cork oak tree is typical of the Mediterranean basin which has become unique adaptations to survive in this climate. It has deep roots to get water more easily and leaves have a hard cuticle that prevents from excessive transpiration and therefore water loss through the surface. Finally, the cork bark acts as a protective layer against the fire, as in the Mediterranean region there is a high risk of fire during the summer.
The shrub that colonizes the slopes is usually the result of the degradation of native forest, consisting of gall oaks and oaks. But sometimes it is developed on windswept surfaces or on very poor soils where the forest can not succeed. It is made up of mastic trees, rock roses, heathers, lavenders, spurge flax and hawthorns, among other typical species of the Mediterranean climate.
These mountains have great wealth in birds of prey, a total of 18 species. The better adapted to this type of forest are the booted eagles, snake buzzards and short-toed buzzards, goshawks, sparrow hawks and tawny owls. In the slabs and cliffs of the mountains are located (Cock-of-the-rock) rupícolas as the common vulture, Egyptian vulture, Bonelli’s eagle, owls, peregrine falcons and kestrels.
The coverings are real subtropical forests, nowadays disappeared from the European Continent except in Turkey and Spain. These valleys carved by the river channels are composed of laurel, rhododendron, hazel, durum, alder, accompanied by holly, ferns and rare specimens in our forests. The fauna living in these streams is composed of dippers, kingfisher, sand martins, etc.
Huntings are one of the main economic resources of Los Alcornocales Natural Park. Among the games we can find the deer that finds in these lands its southernmost distribution, and that due to the isolation of the rest of peninsular towns has evolved into an annual cycle different from the rest of Spain, losing the antlers in late September so it has a special hunting period. The deer has been reintroduced recently, as well as the fallow deer and the Spanish Ibex that inhabit these places but not have been introduced for large hunting.
Human presence in Los Alcornocales Natural Park dates back to ancient times, as indicated by the paintings found in the slabs of the mountains. Later Mediterranean, Phoenician and Greek settlers, landed on these shores establishing business contacts with the Indians. Romans transformed the forests and founded towns such as Oboa (Jimena de la Frontera) and Lascuta (Alcalá de los Gazules). In the Modern Age forests were preserved by the Muslims who carried out conservation works. However, the battles that ravaged these lands gave rise to a repetition of indiscriminate logging.
The population is distributed in nuclei of different sizes. Ubrique, located in the northeast of the Park, has as main activity the tanning of the skin with a flourishing market. The municipal area of Alcalá de los Gazules is important both for its historic artistic nucleus as for the old mill buildings, huts and country estates.
The extraction of the cork is an ancient resource that nowadays is done very similar. Corkage period must coincide with the highest vegetative activity so that the tree will recover as soon as possible. It is carried out by teams who live in the bush for the duration of the operation. Skilled workers make the “stripping” and pile up the “buddies” that will be move through cavalry so that later they will be weighed and sorted. Together with this action it is carried out the rearing of pig, goats, cows and untamed livestock.
The local, rich and delicious cuisine is linked to farm products such as thistles, bass, snails, mushrooms, accompanied by rich venison, wild boar and partridge, all seasoned with aromatic herbs that grow spontaneously such as bay, oregano, pennyroyal, etc..
The craftsmen are dedicated especially to the harness, palm and wood, highlighting the feeding troughs made in ash wood.
Photos from the 06/05/2018, area of El Ramblazo and El Parralejo.