There was a good turnout for this outing and 16 of us, 17 counting Sophie the dog, stopped for coffee and toast en route at a venta just before the town of Jimena.The morning was already bright, sunny and warm as we set off for la Sauceda: the road up there is a long, climbing and winding one, but very scenic and with some breathtaking views of the river Hozgarganta flowing through the rocky Jimena valley.
La Sauceda is located within the Alcornocales Natural Park, in the Sierra de Aljilbe and is right on the boundary between the provinces of Malaga and Cadíz. The highest peak of the range, el pico de Aljilbe reaches to 1091metres and it is possible to walk up to it, but special permission must be sought. Our route would be around the slopes of the mountain, an uphill walk but quite a gentle one. Historically much of this area was truly wild, untamed and barely accessible; reputedly the domain of bandits.There had been a settlement at la Sauceda since the 14th century, which by the 20th century had become a small village community with its own water mill, church and school.Its history came to a violent and tragic end, when during the civil war it became the refuge of rebels that brought about the destruction of the village and the execution of all its inhabitants.The village was not rebuilt and its ruins remains being slowly reclaimed by nature and gradually reabsorbed into the landscape.The area now has stone-built cabins that are available to rent for overnight stays.
|A view from the road bridge in the car parking area|
|Following a well-trodden path through the woodland|
Star of Bethlehem- Ornithogalum
There were the sights and sounds of spring all around us, the almost-bare leaved Holm Oaks are laden with new leaf buds whilst the remaining old dry ones are still in the process of being shed, showering down onto the ground at each breath of wind. Teline shrubs are in full golden blossom and at ground level there were pretty little flowers, golden lesser celandines, periwinkles,daisies and the more showy blooms of Star of Bethlehem, Three-cornered Leek and crocus-like Romulea. I also came across a couple of Bluebells, one very tightly in bud, the other beginning to open. There are signs of more flowers to come - the leaves of Spotted Orchids and Foxgloves are there and later on in April there will be Rhododendrons in bloom here.
|Spanish Bluebell- Scilla hispanica|
|Blue tit - Cyanistes caerulius|
|Our path was an uphill one, but the surroundings were more breathtaking than the climb|
|Spanish Festoon - Zerynthia polyxena|
The bright sunshine brought out some beautiful butterflies, a pristine Spanish Festoon and a rather faded Large Tortoishell. I also saw a Small Copper, several Large Whites and in the open area around the ruins of the church, a Moroccan Orange Tip.
|Trees, rocks and the sound of running splashing water are a magical combination|
|Iberian Chiffchaff ?|
|Large Tortoishell-Nymphalis polyochros|
This part of the woods has a quite different atmosphere. It is more open, the trees are mostly cork oaks that are quite evenly spaced and the undergrowth is largely bracken that is beginning to show green again. The trees will probably have been cultivated for their cork 'crop', but as much of the ground slopes steeply and the trees lean and bend, the task of cutting the cork must be challenging.
|The majority of the group that carried on walking through the woods against the stunning background of the Serrania de Ronda, with what we believe to be the town of Cortes de la Frontera in the far distance.|
|Similar view without the people|
Back at the river past the bridge where the water runs fast through rocks, a Grey Wagtail was spotted hunting insects.
|Romulea - Romulea bulbocodium|
Well into the afternoon now, the thought of lunch was foremost in most of our minds and our walk back to the cars was made at a much quicker pace; it was downhill too, which helped. We did well and resisted stopping, well except once when Paul found a newt in a shady pool for us to look at.