Nature Reserves

THE DUNES

Chipiona is located in a strategic point on the Atlantic Coast, a few kilometres away from Doñana National Park and the mouth of the Guadalquivir River.

In the coastal areas between Camarón and Tres Piedras beaches, is an interesting dune cordon. These dunes works as “sand pantry” and ensure sand for the beaches. In the longitudinal dunes we can find an interesting flora, with high adaptability to salinity. The vegetation provides a refuge for migratory birds that cross the Strait of Gibraltar looking for their winter home. Reptiles also find a perfect habitat for survival: snakes, lizards, ocellated lizards, skinks, and the common chameleon.

Chipiona became a pioneer in chameleon protection, and a significant number of them survive here. Townspeople respect and protect this ecological local emblem. The chameleon is characterised by its ability to change colour to blend in with its surroundings, its independent eye movement, and its feeding mechanism, using its tongue to catch its prey (insects).

“EL CAMALEÓN” NATURE INTERPRETATION CENTRE

The Centre is located in the area known as La Laguna, in Calle Camarón, by the wooden walkway across the dunes, which is adapted for disabled people. It is an important place for the study of chameleons in particular, and nature in general. It consists of three different buildings in traditionally-constructed cabins, and offers a multi-purpose room, laboratory, classroom accommodating thirty students, conference room, toilet facilities, reception, exhibition room, terrarium and terrace.

COSTA BALLENA GREEN CORRIDOR

The Costa Ballena Corridor consists of a 1.2 km wooden bridge by the beachside, for walkers and cyclists, connecting the Nature Interpretation Centre with the Costa Ballena residential area, crossing areas of ecological interest in the town.

The project reconciles public and tourist use with the protection of the environment, providing access to the beach to avoid trampling on the delicate ecosystem.

The corridor has two wooden bird observatories, which allow the general public to enjoy nature protected against sun and rain.

THE “CORRALES”

A fishing “corral” is composed of an artificial wall in the inter-tidal zone of a gently sloping beach, providing a large dry area at low tide. They work with the tide to trap fish. They are most effective during a syzgy (when the Earth, the sun and the moon are aligned), because more fish go inside and it is easier to collect them. The best fishing months are from January to May (cuttlefish) and from May to October (fish), and after a storm.

Fish pass over the wall on the rising tide (certain types of fish, like bream, as soon as the water begins to cover the wall, swim inside lying on their side). At high tide, the wall might be almost two meters below sea level. When the tide is falling, many fish swim out the corral, but others miss the opportunity and are trapped inside.

Corralling is an ancient fishing system, whose origin is attributed to Romans, although the oldest documents found relating to it belongs to 14th Century. The walls were built of large oyster shells (base and sides), and filled with smaller stones and gravel. The shells of crustaceans like oysters or limpets works as natural mortar which solidifies the walls. The water flows through pipes, around 30-50 per corral, through which the seawater runs out on the ebb tide.

At low tide, ponds are formed naturally, each one known by a name related to its characteristics or situation (La Barreta, Los Hoyos, El Rincón, del Centro…). Ponds by the beach are sand-ponds, which remain empty at low tide.

In the deep end of the corral, ponds are divided into smaller parts (“piélagos”), to prevent fish escaping. “Jarifes” (large stones which rest on three/four smaller stones where fish take refuge), are placed inside the ponds. Fish also hide inside “solapas” (clefts in the rock).

A “Cataor” is the person responsible for maintaining the corral. Each one has its own Cataor, and he is the first person allowed to go in at low tide. The “Cataor” arrives when stones begin to appear, indicating to other fishermen when it is time to begin to fish. They come in to the Corral, walking slowly behind the Cataor, looking under rocks and clefts.

The Cataor uses a “cuchillo de marea” (a large knife to kill the fish), “tarraya” (small round net with weights on the edges), “fija” (metal trident), “francajo” (trident with a wooden stick), an olive oil jar to filter the water, and a wicker bag called a “seroncillo”.

THE PINEWOOD

The pinewood is approximately 2.5 km from the city centre and is composed of several areas – Majadales, Peritanda, Abulagar and Tábano. Apart from the pines, other plant species include Palmetto Plant (Chamaerops humilis), White “jaguarzo” (Halimium halimifolium), bushes, shrubs, like white broom (Retama monosperma) and mastic plant (Pistacia lentiscos).

The fauna includes rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), dormice (Eliomys quercinus), passerine birds such as blackcaps and warblers, and other birds as finches, buntings and robins. Reptiles include ocellated lizards (Lacerta lepida), ladder snakes (Elaphe scalaris) and common chameleon (Chamaeleo Chamaeleon), which is listed as an endangered species in Spain, but in Cadiz and Huelva is listed as vulnerable and very important to protect.

THE GREEN WAY

The Vía Verde (green way) is a footpath and cycleway constructed on the old railway that passed through the town. It runs approximately 8.50 kilometres, within municipal boundaries.

The Vía Verde is ideal for walking, cycling and horseriding from the Jerez road to Costa Ballena, with a special lane (1.7 metres wide, with wooden poles and compacted soil) to provide access for disabled people.

It is well signposted, prohibiting the entry of any motor vehicles. There are several posters informing people about fauna and flora along the way. All the signs, poles, picnic tables/chairs and litter bins are made from natural materials like wood, so it fits perfectly into its environment. There is a wealth of bird life to be seen and the tree canopy is formed almost exclusively by pine.