Tag Archives: Places to visit in the Sierra de Grazalema

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema

A fine way to close the year is to enjoy the fresh air and the views from a mountainside enjoying December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema. Surrounded by a fabulous natural park with distant views towards the Mediterranean sea and Atlantic coastline. Above there will be soaring Griffon vultures and chattering Red-billed choughs. Plants laden with berries supply ideal food for wintering birds such as ring ouzel, blackbirds and thrush.

Mistletoe is a favourite decoration in the UK during the Christmas festive season but here the berries are not white, but a lovely red! Decorative blooms of winter flowering Clematis are laced amidst the red hawthorn berries and the first Broad-leaved irises show their bright colours.

February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
The male Spanish ibex are unmistakeable with their large horns.

The dominant male Ibex will be surveying his herd, having battled for the privilege he can stand proudly on a rocky outcrop above them. The herd will perhaps be grazing on the shrubs and grasses, sunbathing in a comfy spot, or nimbly crossing through and over the rocks.

In streams and water troughs look out for amphibians like the Iberian Spiny toad, fire salamanders and Iberian water frogs.

Although December may bring rain and frost to the mountains it is a time of growth, spurred on after the prolonged rest enforced by the heat of summer. This rainfall nourishes the ground and triggers the flowering and fruit production of many species. This is a process which now picks up speed with more and more flowers appearing each month through sprintime and until the summer heat strikes again.

A few of the plants to look out for during December in the Sierra de Grazalema

Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia baetica)
This is an evergreen twinning climber that weaves its way through trees, fences and shrubs. The flowers are distinctive being a u shaped tube with a flared opening in shades of chocolate brown to purplish black and occasionaly with a creamy yellow throat. These 2 to 5cm long flowers can be seen between autumn and early spring and are then replaced by a pendant green seed capsule which splits when ripe. The heart shaped, blue green leaves are openly spaced along the stems which can reach several metres in length. Found at stream sides, road sides, semi shaded woodland edges and thickets in eastern Spain, southern Spain / Portugal and north Africa.

Virgin’s Bower (Clematis cirrhosa)
The pale nodding bells of this evergreen climber decorate trees and cliff faces through the winter, gaining height by twining their leaf-stalks around twigs and branches. The creamy white bells that are around 30mm long (sometimes with red speckles in the interior), are replaced in early spring by decorative feathery tufts connected to the seeds. The leaves are a shiny green with the overall height reaching to 5m or more, depending on the support tree. It is frequently found around the Mediterranean area favouring woods, maquis, scrub and flowering between December and March.

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Aristolochia baetica and Right: Clematis cirrhosa

Bidens (Bidens aurea)
This is a fairly tall and slender perennial that can flower in the autumn with a late flush of flowers into December. The scientific name suggests that the flower colour is yellow but this is not always the case, as it can vary from white, cream to bi-coloured. It is an introduced plant that often naturalises on damp patches, to the point of becoming invasive.
Originally from Southern N. America and Central America, it was introduced to Spain, possibly for decoration but also as it has been popular as an infusion.

Red-berried Mistletoe (Viscum cruciatum)
Mistletoe is a partially parasitic plant that is well known due to its popularity at Christmastime. In Southern Spain / Portugal and north Africa the only form to be found has red berries which ripen from December to April, providing they have not been eaten by birds which is how they are transferred between host trees. Its growth style is the same as the more common white berried form, creating a dense clump on the branch of a host tree or shrub. It can be found growing on Almond, Olive or Hawthorn trees and on the shrubby Retama (Lygos sphaerocarpa). A small clump won’t damage the tree but large quantities which smother the tree will.

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Bidens aurea and Right: Viscum cruciatum

Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis)
When left to its own devices on fallow land or beneath orchards this annual marigold can form a low carpet of colour during the late winter months. The flowers are fairly small, 10 to 27mm and can be orange to yellow in shade. This small plant can branch out appearing to spread across open ground or become more upright amongst taller grasses. The leaves are a soft green colour and are finely toothed. They can begin flowering as early as December continuing through to the spring. It has a widespread distribution.

Southern Daisy (Bellis sylvestris)
The flowering stems on this daisy can reach over 30cm tall when in semi shade, the blooms are white with a yellow centre and are often pink on the reverse. The long oval and finely hairy leaves form a ground hugging rosette. They can begin flowering in December and continue into the spring, found at roadsides, woodland edges and seasonally damp fields and meadows. It has a wide distribution across southern Europe.

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Calendula arvensis and Right: Bellis sylvestris

Why not discover December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema with Sue Eatock from Nature Plus – Grazalema? https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/nature-plus-grazalema/

Ronda Today

Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/

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November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema

It’s early winter so with few wild plants in flower we are left with stunning November views, resident birds like griffon vultures, Bonnellis eagle, red billed chough and mammals represented, of course, by the ever present Spanish ibex. In November, wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema are quite stunning.

November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema
White villages in the Sierra de Grazalema
November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema
Rugged peaks are home to Spanish ibex in the Sierra de Grazalema

On a clear, crisp day the rewards are higher up in the mountains. Walk a path surrounded by mature trees, you will be steadily gaining in height, take a moment to look back over the valleys and white villages, now scattered beneath.

Check out Nature Plus – Grazalema for walking and wildlife holidays in the Sierra de Grazalema: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/nature-plus-grazalema/

November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema
Hiking and walking during November in the Sierra de Grazalema

Remember that some walks here in the Sierra de Grazalema natural park require a permit. Find out about how to get a permit here: https://grazalemaguide.com/blog/how-to-get-a-permission-for-restricted-footpaths-in-the-sierra-de-grazalema/

The views will have you stopping at every turn to breathe them in. Above you is an array of rugged peaks and grazing on the slopes, camouflaged amongst the rocks and shrubs are Spanish Ibex. The males are standing proud as the test begins to see which one will become head of the herd.

Spanish ibex are easy to spot all year round in the Sierra de Grazalema

Some of the trees which edge the pastures; Pomegranate, Quince, Almond and Walnut, plus those which grow on the mountain slopes; Strawberry tree and Sloe have ripening fruit which are often used in local cuisine.

Strawberry trees in the Sierra de Grazalema
Straberry trees (Arbutus unedo) bear fruit in November in the Sierra de Grazalema
Pomegranites in the Sierra de Grazalema
Pomegranites split and provide a welcome food supply for wild birds
Almonds in the Sierra de Grazalema
Almond are ripe and ready to pick during November in the Sierra de Grazalema
November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema

November is a great month to explore the white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema by car and you’ll find a map and descriptions of three routes here: https://grazalemaguide.com/blog/the-white-villages-of-the-sierra-de-grazalema/

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The VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda

If you are staying in the Grazalema area then most likely a trip to Ronda will be on the agenda and so its great to announce that recently I created the The VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda

The VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda

Listening to me along the way (and also some captivating guitar music from the amazing Paco Seco), you’ll pass breathtaking lookout points including the Mirador de Ronda and the Mirador de Aldehuela.

As we leave the new town behind us and enter the old, past the Mondragón Palace and museum we’ll visit Ronda’s former defensive border at the Puerta de Almocábar, and quake in the boots of history’s soldiers as you imagine approaching armies.

From there we’ll follow the old walls to the Arab Baths and the Puente Viejo bridge, before making our way back over Puente Nuevo. The tour ends in front of the Plaza de Toros, the Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda.

I’ll also provide answers to some intriguing questions like:

• What did Blas infante, the father of Spanish nationalism, do in Ronda?
• Why is one particular Italian priest famous around here?
• Who built the Puente Nuevo?
• Did Queen Isabella really visit Ronda?
• When did the Christian conquerors arrive?
• How important is bullfighting in Andalucia?

Creating the VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda from the content here at Ronda Today has been a real pleasure and I hope that you enjoy walking the tour as much I did making it.

You can get the guide directly here: https://voicemap.me/tour/ronda/ronda-andalucia-s-city-of-dreams-a-walking-tour

Wildside Holidays – Spain

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Dolmen La Giganta – Dolmen el Chopo

The Dolmen La Giganta – Dolmen el Chopo (after the name of the farm where it is situated an chopo is the poplar tree in English). It is well worth seeking out for the fantastic views and fascinating history of the Sierra de Grazalema

Location of the Dolmen el Gigante / Chopo in the Sierra de Grazalema

Dolmens are stone built burial chambers or tombs. They are created by standing huge stones on their edges to create the basic form and then these are capped with massive slabs. Soil would have been used to totally cover the entire area, but this has washed away over the centuries.

This dolmen is a longer structure, forming a corridor for multiple burials. Another name for such tombs such as these is Megalith, which refers to the huge stone slabs used to cap the roof. Many are dated to the Neolithic period around 4000 to 3000 BC.

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Findings within the better preserved tombs include hand thrown pottery, stone tools such as flint axes, beads and other ornaments. They are often positioned on a high plateaux or places surrounded by tremendous scenery.

Dolmen La Giganta is a long chambered dolmen, it still has several support stones and an impressive top stone in place, quite amazing when you consider its age and exposed position. It is believed that this funerary monument may date from the end of the Neolithic period. Standing alongside it one can wonder at how much time and effort went into quarrying, transporting and lifting such enormous stones with only the most basic of tools.

How much the people of that time must have valued the purpose of creating such a monument and placing gifts beside the deceased. They have chosen an amazing site as from here there are fabulous views towards Sierra de las Nieves and the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema.

How to get there

The Dolmen del Chopo is situated between Ronda and Grazalema, indeed it is very close to the main Ronda to Jerez road but as there are no sign posts for it so most people are unaware of its presence.

From Ronda drive towards Jerez de la Frontera. Turn off the A374 onto the A372 signposted towards “Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema” just before the “Puerto de Montejaque“.

After 1km, you will see a tight loop in the road with a large white farm house and building housing goats.

Immediately after this the road forks take the left curve towards Grazalema and straight away on the left there is sufficient area to park your car.

From here walk back past the farm house and goat shed which is now on your left and after the road curves to the left, turn right along a dirt track that has a chain across the entrance.

You will pass an old farm on the left and continue uphill to the right onto a plateau with arable fields and scenic distant views of a mountain ridge.

Follow the track to the left and now there is arable land on your right and a steep bank with eucalyptus trees on the left.

Ahead you can see an olive grove, we are aiming for the far side of this. As you reach the far end, you will see a gated driveway, and from here you can now spot the dolmen.

Turn right at the end of the fence, walking at the edge of the arable land…caution. If it has rained recently this field becomes impassable due to heavy mud!

You cannot get right up to the dolmen as it is on the other side of the wire fence.

Wildside Holidays – Spain

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The giants of western Andalucia a tale from the olden days

Once upon a time, in the land that is now Western Andalucia, things were different. Full of bear and wolf, bison, elephant and perhaps other creatures that have long since been forgotten in the mists of time….Giants! Don’t be silly I hear you say.

Giants live for a long time it is said. More than one hundred times the lives of a man but as the world has changed and the old souls have dwindled, all we have now are childrens bedtime stories and ruins in the dirt….But it wasn’t always so….

Many thousands of years ago in the hills and mountains of what is now known as the Sierra de Grazalema a giant was born. His mother named him Treow after the huge oak trees that had been planted by his father in the mountains and as he grew, his father taught him how to tend the countryside. For giants were not the evil killing creatures that some fairytale stories would have you believe. No, the giants kept the mountains tall and proud. They planted the mighty oaks and graceful willows to hold the soil and they tended the valleys down to the sea protecting the land as guardians.

Growing up as most giants did he knew little of what lay outside his fathers domain. He learned and tended and protected the trees but When Treow was one thousand four hundred and fifty years old his thoughts turned to a land of his own and maybe even a wife. A place to tend, a lady giant to love and children of his own one day to leave the land in their care when he was gone.

Many years later, times were changing in the world. Giants were few and far between, Killed by the smaller greedy humanna for their supposed treasure and persecuted out of fear and ignorance….Now, torch lights in the night signified it was the end of the peaceful time in the valleys of the snowy mountains. The attack was well planned and at the end lay dead two gentle giants that had only ever made good deeds. The last words to Treow from his father as he fell to axe and arrow protecting the body of his wife were “Run Treow!, run!… and Treow ran as the trees fell before him. he ran in his despair and rage and fear. Why did this happen? Why? We only ever tended the land and gave the treasure freely to all… Why? he cried… What is this madness? At last Treow went to seek Willow who lived to the east. maybe she could help him find the answers to his desperate questions….Many days later, half blinded, starving and frightened he fell to the ground and slept…

In the high valleys between the towering peaks there lived a peaceful race of humanaa… Since time immemorial they had helped a lone giantess tend the slopes, planting trees and keeping the water flows clear…the valley was beautiful, teeming with life and love, protected and guarded as it was by such beings… They had heard of the plight of Treow and sent messengers to Willow and as they knew she would, she went to him and held him and brought him to her home fixing wounds and hurts….As giants do, they became friends and worked together with the help of the community around them…. More trees were planted and mountains were shaped. Rivers were moulded and the land became so full of diversity that even the giants themselves were left breathless at the wonder before them…..

After 10 generations of humanna had passed and the world had once again began to speed up it was time for Treow and Willow to leave this world and pass to a different place…No children to leave their land to, they placed it into the care of the humanna elders trusting them to protect and nourish the land… The community built two huge stone chambers with standing stones and lintels on two hills and the bodies of the giants were laid, Treow in one and Willow in the other… To face each other and hold the mountains together in binding love for eternity…….

And today? In our world…Thousands of years have passed and you can still see the ruined dolmens of the giants at El Chopo and on the other side of the valley you can see the even more ruined dolmen of “The Giant”…. There they were and here we are standing in this incredible scenery where their treasure is here for us all to see…

This tale is based on an old and seldom used bedtime story told to children in the the area around the Sierra de Grazalema and the Sierra de las Nieves….

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