San Roque has a total surface area of 145 km2 and among many other things, is a land of sunshine, water, sand, forests and mountains. It is a place where tranquility, calm, adventure activities and nature cohabit inherently. Within this vast borough you can come across some of the most impressive nature areas in the Gibraltar Area due to their rich biodiversity.
PINAR DEL REY PINE WOODS
A Historical Nature Spot
The Pinar del Rey Pine Woods is 338 hectare suburban park, situated in the middle of the county. It is located behind a hill where the city of San Roque is perched and is a nature area teeming with wildlife which can be enjoyed any time of the year. Access is totally free of charge.
This wooded paradise has a very interesting historical background, due to the fact that in 1310 monarch Ferdinand IV ceded the countryside in the vicinity to the city of Gibraltar, which was inherited in turn by San Roque after Gibraltar was captured. This nature spot featured the indigenous vegetation from the area, typical of Mediterranean forests. The presence of cork oak trees stands out from which cork bark is obtained, as well as a wide variety of plants and shrubs which make up the undergrowth. We can come across the most characteristic plant species such as Mastic; Quercus coccifera, the kermes oak; Chamaerops humilis, the European fan palm; cistus , the rock rose; or Cistus albidus, the grey-leaved cistus, among others.
It was not until 1800 when the Spanish Navy planted pine trees (bringing the seeds from Vejer de la Frontera ) to supply timber for warships. After the defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), the naval sector fell into a crisis, making it unnecessary to cut down these trees. Thanks to this, we can take advantage of this magnificent nature area today, which features a rich variety of flora and fauna.
The park is divided into two main parts, the southern zone with more influx of visitors and the wilder northern part where motor vehicles are not allowed. On the other hand, the southern zone features the Recreational Area with barbecue and picnic facilities, the Alhaja stream which leads to the Alhaja Drinking Fountain. This is right next to the entrance to Pinar del Rey, which you can reach on foot or by bike along the nature trail parallel to the stream.
The Alhaja Stream Nature Trail is easy to walk and one of the most beautiful out of the four nature trails at the park available at present. The Recreational Area nature trail is adapted to people of all ages and runs through the lower part of the forest. Eagle’s Hill Nature Trail is low-medium difficulty and Big, Ugly Bird Gorge is medium-high difficulty. Both nature trails are located in the northern zone of Pinar del Rey. Their itineraries go through places where marine fossils can be found due to the fact 25 million years ago the area where Pinar del Rey is situated was under the sea.
Each one of the nature trails can be done with a tour guide specialised in the environment from the Nature Visitors Centre, who offer full details on each nature trail. You can also do the nature trails on your own as each trail is marked and features signposting.
The Nature Centre, managed by San Roque Borough Council, features an information point and a botanical garden with flora from this ecosystem. In fact, the Nature Centre has been awarded the Blue Flag, just like Alcaidesa and Cala Sardina Beaches.
GUADIARO RIVER ESTUARY
The River Guadiaro Estuary, declared a Nature Reserve by the Andalusian regional government in 1989, is located at the river mouth, in the heart of the Sotogrande Costa Residential Area.
This wetland area is relatively small (with a surface area of 35 hectares) if we compare it to other nature spots in the municipality. Nevertheless, the Strait of Gibraltar is the most important migratory route between North Africa and Southern Europe. This nature area is an oasis for 144 different species of birds that flock here on a long journey and is used as a resting place, therefore it is easy to appreciate how relevant it is.
A large number of migratory birds are present here, both in the spring and autumn. Depending on when we go birdwatching, the following species that stand out are Tufted Ducks, Plovers, Egrets, Cormorants and Eurasian Coots, among others.
On the other hand, this wetland area is the only one of its kind in a radius of over 100 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline.
The nature spot has two walkways, one by Paseo del Parque and another on Jaime el Conquistador Road (towards Sotogrande Marina), just after the roundabout.
Torreguadiaro Lagoon is another small 2 hectare nature area, which fills with rainwater throughout the year and from surplus irrigation water from the Pacheco canal. It is located between Sotogrande Marina and the village of Torreguadiaro. This coastal lagoon is one of the old channels of the River Guadiaro Estuary, which was altered by natural and artificial changes in the river course during the 20th century.
Currently, just like the Estuary, it features walkways, information panels and a birdwatching hut. You can see bird species such as Western Swamphens, Common Moorhens, Mallards, Grey Herons and Little Grebes, among others.