Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park

Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park
 

Overview
Sierra de Cardeña-Montoro Natural Park covering 38,450 hectares is located within the Sierra Morena in the province of Cordoba. The Sierra Morena is a mountain range which stretches for 400 kilometres east-west across southern Spain, and providing the watershed between the valleys of the Guadiana to the north and the Guadalquivir to the south.

Separated by the river Yeguas, it borders the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park. It is home to deep ravines, woods and rises up to just over 800 metres in parts. It is a very wild and unspoilt area and is home to some interesting granite and batholith blocks known as Bolas. These are up to 1 metre in diameter and have been created by the solidification of magma. The area has valuable deposits of lead, silver, mercury, and other metals, some of which have been exploited since prehistoric times.

The Eastern Sierra Morena is the region with the highest quality cork in Andalusia. The cork harvest and other activities that complement it, such as the production of Iberian pork, other livestock or mushroom picking, have served tp preserve the local culture while preserving the ecosystem.

Cork harvesting has a very low impact on the environment. The cork is removed first when the tree has a circumference of 70 cm at a height of 1.30 metres. The harvest takes place every 9 years and cork trees can live for up to 200 years.

There are forty-six game reserves are located in the Natural Park, of which 28 are designated as ‘big game’ or ‘caza major’ reserves which means that it is possible to hunt deer and boar there. The economic impact of hunting is important for the income of residents of the Park and it has largely replaced subsistence agriculture which is now restricted to the more productive areas of the park.

As demand has grown from relatively wealthy Spaniards for a ‘country retreat’ this has also meant that most of the marginal farms have been sold off and are now used primarily as places of recreation rather than as businesses.

The park is contiguous with the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park which it borders to the east.

Walking
There is a visitors centre in the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park, Centro de Visitantes Venta Nueva, just outside Cardeña. Several signposted walks exist within the park and range from 7km to 12km, each taking you through wonderful scenery.

Examples include:
Cardeña - Aldea de El Cerezo (7 km): A good path that runs though oak forest which is representative of the park as a whole.
Aldea de El Cerezo - Azuel (12 km): This path takes you through areas of oak woodland as well as farmed pasture.
Camino de Vuelcacarretas (5 km): An irregular trail that begins at Venta del Charco.

 

Sightseeing
In Montoro Iberian remains have been found suggesting a possible Greek influence in the origin of this town. Also numerous Roman remains show the importance that the town achieved during the roman period. These ruins include several tombs outside the town walls and a statue of the emperor Constantine.

Climate
The average monthly temperatures range between 9 º C in January and 28 degrees C in July. Despite high daytime temperatures in the summer the park is noted for its cool evenings. It is the rainiest area in the province of Cordoba and average annual rainfall is 530 mm.

Animals/Birds
As with many Natural Parks based within Sierra’s, it boasts a large variety of birds of prey, including golden eagles, Bonelli’s and booted eagles among others. Most of the large mammals including roe deer, fallow deer and wild boar are found within the forests along with less common species such as lynx, wolf, badger, fox and bobcat, genet and mongoose. The rivers are home to otters, kingfishers and terrapins.

Plants
The landscape is mostly rolling hills resulting from the slow erosion of the granite substrate with occasional rugged valleys that have been cut by streams. The vegetation is a mixture of meadows, pines and Mediterranean forest consisting of holm oak, olive and cork oak. A special feature of the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park is a forest of Pyrenean oak which can be found on a plateau near Cardeña at an altitude of about 700 metres in an area known as Escorialejo. This Pyrenean oak forest is comparatively humid and has a dense understory of lavender. This is one of the only few places these trees can be found in Andalucia.

 

 
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