Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park

Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park
 

Overview
The Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park is an area of around 5000 hectares (of which 3,925 are land and 1,152 are marine) located on the south coast of Cádiz province. Of the total are, The Breña y Marismas de Barbate park is Andalucia's second largest coastal reserve and has one of the most impressive stretches of rocky cliffs along the Andalucian Atlantic coastline. Although small, the park has a diverse range of habitats which include pine forest, wetland, mobile dunes, sea cliffs and a marine section. It is also possible to join an organised boat trip from the port of Barbate and to dive or snorkel in the clear waters of the park.

The land area includes a coastal cliff that reaches 100 metres above sea level at Torre del Tajo which offers a spectacular view over the Strait of Gibraltar. The top of the cliff is colonized by a pine forest, the result of the reforestation carried out at the end of last century. At the edge of the cliff are some examples of Aleppo pine mixed with juniper bushes. The cliffs are subjected to a continuous saline spray and you can find many halophytes species growing there. In more sheltered areas there are wild fig trees and brambles.

The rocky cliff walls are used as a breeding ground for various species of birds including a large herring gull colony as well as cattle egrets, jackdaws and starlings.

The marine section of the park includes an area up to one nautical mile along the coast, consisting of large stone blocks which have fallen from the cliff that rest on a sandy substrate. Unlike the Mediterranean coast, the Atlantic coast is of course tidal and this means that a much greater diversity of plant and animal life is found in the intertidal region than on other parts of the Spanish coast.

There are no major towns inside the park although the town of Barbate is close to its eastern border. Commercial activity within the park is restricted to the collection of pine cones and pine nuts and some livestock farming, mainly sheep. These activities are commercially unimportant as most of the local workforce are employed in the commercial port and the salted fish industry. The park is located to the west of the Estrecho Natural Park and Los Alcornocales Natural Park.

 

Walking
The Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park is unrestricted. There are some first-rate signposted walks, with outstanding views along the coast.

The Sendero de los Acantilados walk is around 6km and takes you along a costal footpath which starts from (or finishes!) at Barbate to Caños de Meca.  Along the way you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views.  There are also a few specific viewpoints along the way, namely the towers of Mirador Torre del Tajo, Mirador del Acantilado. 

Sendero del Torre de Tajo is a short 1.6km walk.  Although it is one of the easiest it is also one of the most eye-catching and should not be missed.  The route takes you through a forest of umbrella pines, junipers and wild olive trees leading to a tower and finally the coast.

Sendero del Torre de Meca is a 3.4km easy walk which takes you to the Torre de Meca watchtower. There is also another route which takes you to the Torre de Meca watertower called the Sendero de Caños al Torre de Meca.  This is a slightly shorter route of 3.3km.

Sendero Marismas del Barbate is a 9km circular route and is the longest walk in the park.

Sightseeing
The community of Caños de Meca  and Vejer de la Frontera are both well worth visiting.  As are the two watchtowers Torre de Meca and Torre del Tajo.

 

Animals/Birds
As the Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park is on the flight path of migrating birds it is an important stopping place for them.  As well as migrating birds, many species use the cliffs for nesting such as the cattle egrets, little egrets and yellow-legged gulls. The pine forest is home to several birds of prey such as common buzzards, kestrels and barn owls. As well as being a home for cuckoos, goldfinches, hoopoes and several varieties of tits. Egyptian mongeese, foxes and weasels are also found within the protection of the forest. Probably one of the most important populations in the park is that of the endangered chamaleon, which lives mainly in the pine woodland.  Many other lizards are found here too, for instance Algerian sand lizards and three-toed skink.

Plants
The Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park pine forest consists of mainly of umbrella pines. There is also considerable number of the endangered prickly juniper.  The undergrowth of the forest also has wild olive trees, palms and myrtle growing there. The beaches are the ideal habitat for marram and sea daffodils.  Aleppo pines are found between Caños de Meca and Torre del Tajo along the cliffs.

Cord grass, glasswort and sea purslane dominate the marismas which are in tidal zone. It is worth noting that the marismas are a particularly beautiful in autumn when colours of the flowers are red and orange.

 

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