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Sotogrande - Along the Boardwalks

Garigue Alcaidesa

This month we bring you three easy walks that give you the chance to get you out into the fresh air. They are all within 15 minutes from Manilva so you can try them at short notice and they traverse different landscapes. You will not need boots for any of these walks. The first is not actually on a boardwalk but the title sounds good.

The Garigue - Alcaidesa

How to get there: Take the A383 out of La Linea towards the A7 at Alcaidesa. Just before the major junction with the A7 you will see a sign directing you to Mirador Higuerion. Take the slip road and park in the car park.

Distance: 2 kilometres there and back.

Garigue Alcaidesa

The well marked broad path, slightly inclined, starts at the back of the car park and immediately takes you into the garigue. The difference between maquis and garigue is the height of the foliage, maquis is over waist height and garigue is less than that. For the first part of this walk the garigue is less than waist height which is great since all the impenetrable, to humans anyway, foliage receives enough light to be really diverse.

In a few square metres you will see Spanish gorse and broom covered in yellow flowers, the ubiquitous dwarf fan palm, bright pink bell heathers, lavender, white rock roses, deep blue anchusa, thistles, asters and various members of the marigold family in an exuberant display of colour. Studded amongst the shrubs are wild olive trees. The yellows particularly are iridescent in sunshine. Clearly heard and occasionally spotted flitting between one bush and another is a whole range of birds, chaffinch, bullfinch, warblers and wagtails. You have to be very quick to positively identify any at all.

In half a kilometre or so the landscape changes again to more open fields populated by cattle. In early December the first calves were just staggering to their feet, disturbed by our passing. After about a kilometre you reach the end of this section of track and turn around to walk back. You will be treated to one of the finest views of Gibraltar in the background framed by sloping garigue covered hills in the foreground.

Reclaimed Sand Dunes - Sotogrande

Distance: 1 kilometre round trip.

 

Reclaimed sand dunes Sotogrande

From the Calle de Jaime there is a signposted boardwalk running off to the south into the naturally occurring reclaimed sand dunes that form the south western part of the Guadiaro estuary. The whole area is protected and is a haven for waders and warblers. The foliage is typical of that found on established sand dunes, glassworts that will tolerate a salty soil and clumps of marram grass, esparto, sea barley with pale fronds and common reeds with feathery brown flowers. A buckthorn provides a splash of colour with its red flowers. However the most prominent plant here is pampas grass. Native to South America it is an invasive exotic here and the Junta are taking steps to control it without eradicating it altogether.

The boardwalk takes you in a semi circle and you emerge on the banks of the river beneath the road bridge. Here in a more open environment you will see flocks of gulls of all sorts, Mediterranean, yellow legged, black-headed and if you are lucky, Audouin's gull. Mixed with them are the terns, smaller than gulls with a more V shaped wing. Again you may see many species all together on the water or in flight including the sandwich tern, little tern and whiskered tern. You are almost certain to see cormorants during the winter, they like the six posts that emerge from the right bank just downstream of the bridge and can often be seen in the 'drying the wing' posture, although nobody yet knows why they do that. Across the river and upstream slightly is a favourite spot for a grey heron.

Reclaimed sand dunes Sotogrande

The walk continues briefly, taking you from the north side of the bridge back to the road.

Nearby right at the south western end of the Paseo del Parque (see map) you will see a chained off track leading towards the river. Go through the stile and, about 100 metres down the path, you will see a bird hide overlooking a small lagoon. Considering how close you are to habitation the variety of waders is astounding. For many people this is as close as they will get to a purple gallinule. There are a few pairs that have established themselves over the last four years. Easily recognised, about the same size as a small turkey with huge red clawed feet totally out of proportion to their body and blue plumage with red bill and crown, they are a noisy, aggressive bunch, forever chasing off the numerous coots and moorhens. This winter there are also a couple of little grebes over wintering and the resident grey heron and egrets can always be spotted. From this hide you may also see the winter visitors, widgeon and shovelers, mixed in with the resident mallards. Keep your eyes above the horizon towards the river and you could spot an osprey and a marsh harrier.

Fresh Water Lagoon  Torreguadiaro

Fresh Water Lagoon - Torreguadiaro

How to get there: Park in the car park at the Torreguadiaro entrance to Sotogrande port.

Distance: 1 kilometre round trip.

Cross the road at the security booth and step onto the boardwalk ahead of you. To your right, after a few metres there is a spur leading to a bird hide that is usually locked and in any case useless because of the thick reeds growing untrained in front of the viewing slits. In fact the only views you do get of the open water are through the reeds. You can expect to see various ducks, coots and moorhens. Pochard have been seen here but not yet this year. Most of the bird activity is likely to be in the reeds and amongst the bamboo alongside the water. There are a number of chiffchaff visiting for the winter from further north and a few warblers.

The bird life is not the main reason for taking this walk. As you walk around the seaward end of the lagoon you find yourself at the top of the beach. On any normal day you will find a real head clearing breeze, whether it is off the sea or off the land, ideal after a party night.

Places to Visit

and Torreguadiaro

© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.

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