Ronda - Los Alcornocales
Andalusian Nature Reserve
Expanse : 170.025 Ha
Prov. of Málaga : Cortes de la Frontera.
Prov. of Cádiz : Alcalá de los Gazules, Algar, Algeciras, Arcos de la Frontera, Benaocaz, Castellar de la Frontera, El Bosque, Jerez de la Frontera, Los Barrios, Medina Sidonia, Tarifa, Ubrique, Prado del Rey, Jimena de la Frontera.
C/ Ana de Viya, 3 3º
TFNO: 956 70 97 03
At Los Alcornocales (cork oak forest) Natural Park there can be seen a mountain range where is located, at an excelent conservation state, the most important cork oak forest of the Iberian Peninsula and one of the world's most important ones. The cork oak, with its Mediterranean character, is usually "naked", that means, without its bark, because the bark's used for cork, and is one of the most representative elements of our forests and has achieved an exceptional status due to the rational use of this natural resource, exploited since ancient times.
The natural attraction of this Park does not end there, because it offers some wonderful forests, able to transfer us to sub-tropical regions that does not exist nowadays in the European Continent. The natural species of that latitude have found at this place an adequate "hidaway" where to grow. This tropical trees are located at the called «canutos», consisting of deep and narrow valleys digged by the rivers..
The Natural Park has got an extension of 170.000 Ha being its limits Tarifa at the south of the province of Cadiz and Cortes de la Frontera, at the northwest of the province of Malaga. Most of the Natural Park consists of cork oaks, and also of wild olives, gall oaks, oaks,... depending its location on the humidity conditions and also of the type of substratum. The cork oak is a typical tree of the Mediterraean, which has adquired several modifications for surviving at this climate. It has got deep roots for taking water easily and its leafs have got a strong cuticle for hiding lots of transpiration, which would mean a loss of water by the tree's surface. The cork's bark works as a shield against fire, which is important because at the Mediterranean region exists a high risk of fire durign the summer.
The bushes colonizing the hills are usually the result of the original forest's degradation, which consisted of oaks and gall oaks. Despite of this, sometimes, the bushed grow at areas with strong winds or at very unfertile grounds, where the forest can not survive. The bushes consist mainly of species typical of the Mediterranean, like rockroses, heathers and howthornes.
This mountain range offers lots of birds of prey, living there about 18 different species.The better adapted to this kind of forest are the buzzards, the snake eagles, the tawny owls and the sparrowhawks.At the rocky sides and gorges of the mountains can be seen birds like the vulture, the Egyptian vulture, the partridge eagle, the eagle owl, the hawk and the kestrel.
The "canutos" (tubes in Spanish) are real subtropical forests, nowadays dissapeared from the European Continent except of Turkey and Spain.This valleys, digged by the river's action, consists of vegetal species like laurel, rhododendron, litle hazels, alder, and also of holly trees and some brackens that don't exist normally at the spanish forests. The fauna living at this streams consists of acuatic blackbirds, kingfishers and other fishing birds.
Hunting means one of the main economic resources of this space. Under the most important hunted animals has to be considered the roe deer, that finds at this place its most southern location at the Iberian Peninsula, and due to its isolation towards the other roe deers of Spain, it has got a different life cycle, loosing its hornes at the end of september, which causes an special hunting period. The deer lives as this forest since recient times, as well as the fallow deer and the Spanish Ibex, which did not live at this place and which have been set there for the great huntings.
The human presence at the Natural Park dates from early times, as showed by the cave's paintings found at the rocky sides of the mountain range. Later, the Mediterranean colonizers, named the phoenicians and the greeks, arrived to our coasts stablishing commercial relationships with the natives. The Romans transformed the forests and founded cities like Oba (Jimena de la Frontera ) and Lascuta (Alcalá de los Gazules). At the Modern Age, the forests were preserved by the Arabs, who worked at its conservation. Despite of this, the continuous batles caused the destruction of this land and several trees were cut without any order.
The population of this space is located at different sized towns. Ubrique, a town located at the Northeast side of the Park, has got as main economic activity the leather work, existing there nowadays a growing leather market. The town of Alcalá de los Gazules is important due to its historic setlement, but also to the construction of old mills and farmhouses.
The cork's extraction is and old and well known economic resource, which is worked today at a very similar way it has been done since centuries.The time for cork's cutting has to be done at the time of most intensive growth of the tree, just for achieving that the tree can be recovered as soon as possible. This work is done by groups of people living at the forest while all the work is done. Specialized workers do the «pela» (cutting the oak's cork) and make «panas» (groups of cork) that will be transfered on horseback later for its weighing and classification. In addition to this economic resource it has to be considered the care and grow of pigs, cows, goats and fighting bulls.
The region's gastronomy is wonderful, due to the excelent products found at the fields, like white horses, different kind of vegetables, snails, fungus, taken with the delicious meet of deers, wild boars and partridges, and seasoned with aromatic plants like laurel, oregano, pennyroyal, etc.
The craftmen usually worked the leather, palm and wood, offering wonderful and typical handicrafts.