The Sierra Espuña Regional Park is located at the eastern point of the Cordillera Betica and situated in the heart of Murcia

Sierra Espuña Regional Park

  • Region: Murcia
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1931 (Area of national Interest), 1978 (Natural Park), 1992 (Regional Park). Also listed as a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) and a Site of Community Importance (SCI).
  • Park surface area: 17,804 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Aledo, Alhama de Murcia, Librilla, Mula, Pliego and Totana

Points of interest

The Sierra Espuña Regional Park is located at the eastern point of the Cordillera Betica and situated in the heart of Murcia, one of Spain’s smallest provinces. It is a heavily wooded area in a generally arid zone.

At the end of the 19th century, the entire mountain range was in a lamentable ecological state, with the almost total loss of its tree mass and presenting serious desertification processes. In 1889, the forestry engineer Ricardo Codorníu undertook the enormous task of reforesting the entire mountain range. This reforestation project became a model for its time and was then carried out in many other areas across Spain.

The high peak called Pico Morrón, at 1,579m dominates the landscape which contains a combination of rock forms, each eroding at different rates. The limestone areas give the typical karst formations of deep valleys and caves.

There is a national hunting reserve and through this large mammals have been introduced, the European Mouflon (Ovis musimon) and Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) are both at home in the dry, stony mountain peak areas.

The Sierra Espuña Regional Hunting Reserve has a surface area of ​​14,183 ha and a 76 km perimeter and is located within the Sierra Espuña Regional Park limits. Hunting in the reserve is dedicated to hunting larger game such as red deer and wild boar and is strictly monitered and managed.

In contrast to the pine clad mountains in the north-eastern area is the protected lunar type landscape made up of the mineral gypsum. The Barrancos de Gebas, known as the “bad lands” (tierras malas) are a succession of arid ravines and gullies.

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Flora

Reforestation plans have used three main types of pine trees, Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), Maritime/Austrian pine (Pinus pinaster) and Black pine (Pinus nigra salzmannii).

Holm oaks (Quercus ilex) appear in small numbers from around 700m with the pine trees. There are also some oaks on higher, poorer ground, where they are of small dimension, dwarfed by the conditions. The undergrowth is typical for the Mediterranean region, Kermes oak, (Quercus coccifera), Prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), Lentiscus (Pistacia lentiscus), Buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides) and Gorse (Genista longipes). In more open areas these are accompanied by Rosemary, Thyme, Rockroses and clump forming Esparto grass (Stipa tenacissima).

The exposed high grounds of poor nutrients and stony soil are inhabited by well adapted low growing, thorny plants, Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea) and Hedgehog broom (Erinacea anthyllis) are among them. Another specialist plant, Sarcocapnos crassifolia grows in cracks in soft limestone cliffs.

The stream banks are where you will find Elm (Ulmus minor), Black poplar (Populus nigra), Mediterranean willow (Salix pedicellata) and Mediterranean honeysuckle (Lonicera implexa). Damp areas such as springs are home to ferns like Southern Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris).

Cultivated areas within the park have introduced a wider variety of trees including Walnut (Juglans regia), Service tree (Sorbus domestica), Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and Almond (Prunus dulcis).

Fauna

The Mouflon (Ovis musimon) was first introduced to the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Rhodes and Cyprus during the Neolithic period, coming from Southwest Asia. This long separation from original stock has led to the categorizing of the subspecies. Now rare in those island situations, its numbers have grown in mainland Europe from recent introductions. It is red-brown in colour with white belly, muzzle, eye patches and lower legs. The Barbary sheep, from North Africa, is a more uniform brown.

The pine trees are home to the Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris hoffmanni) a local subspecies that is effectively cut off from other populations in this green island. Other animals include Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Hare (Lepus capensis) and Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Genet (Genetta genetta) plus the extremely elusive Wild cat (Felix sylvestris).

The skies above the high exposed areas may have Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Booted eagle (Aquila pennata), Short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) with the Eagle owl (Bubo bubo) more often only heard.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco), Jay (Garrulus glandarius) and Common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) may be seen around the pine woods. The rocky areas are home to Blue rock thrush (Montícola solitarius) whilst in the steppe area of Llano de Cabras you can find Dupont’s Lark (Chersophilus duponti) and Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus).

Amongst the reptiles and amphibians are Iberian water frog (Rana perezi), Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanica), Fringe-Fingered Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus), Bedriaga’s Skink (Chalcides bedriagai), Viperine Snake (Natrix maura), Lataste’s Viper (Vipera latastei) and Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus).

There are 14 bat species recorded in the park including Greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), Savi’s Pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii), Nathusius’ pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii), Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginata), Long-fingered Bat (Myotis capaccinii) and Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros). The last two are on the endangered list.

Butterflies within the park that deserve special attention are Spanish argus (Aricia morronensis subsp morronensis), Carswell’s Little Blue (Cupido carswelli) and the moth Chersotis margaritacea subspecies espunensis which can only be found at Morrón.

Also in the area

Pozo de Nieves or “Snow wells”

There are 26 Pozo de Nieves or “Snow wells” in the mountain region. These structures are above 1300m altitude and consist of a large circular hole cut into the hill and lined with stone. There are steps built to the base and a domed roof. Snow was collected by hand during the winter, compacted to form ice and stored until needed in the towns during the summer months. The ice was transported by mule and donkey up to 70km. They were used from the 16th century right up until the 1920s.

Viewpoints or Miradors

Collado Bermejo viewpoint

This viewpoint offers one of the best panoramic views of the entire Sierra, since it is located at an altitude of 1,201 m, it is a must if you want to climb the Morron de Espuña and see the Pozos de la Nieve. A stop here offers the opportunity to see places as beautiful as the Umbría de Peña Apartada, the Peña Apartada itself, the Cerro de la Garita, and of course, the deep and green valley of the Espuña River. In the distance you can see the Barrancos de Gebas.

Collado Mangueta viewpoint

Fabulous views of the Pozos de la Nieve on the right and Cartagena on the left, places as beautiful as the Cerro de Pinos Blancos, the ravines of Malvariche and La Hoz, two of the most important streams that flow into the Pliego river. Along the Pedro López trail, there are two restored snow wells.

Mula’s Umbria

This is one of the most unknown areas of the Regional Park. The area has a great landscape and ecological interest, in which dry agricultural landscapes and large areas of pine forest intermingle which favor birds of prey. The Barranco de la Hoz is one of the deepest in the park.

Ravines of Gebas

The Gebas ravines are one of the most spectacular landscapes of all those that come together in the Sierra Espuña Regional Park . It is a desert-type space, like a lunar landscape or bad-lands, which is formed by gullies, canyons and ravines.. The area covers almost 2000 hectares and is distributed between the municipalities of Alhama de Murcia and Librilla.

Totana is Spain’s second most important area for pottery production.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Interpretación Ricardo Codorníu

On the road between Alhama de Murcia and Pliego take the turn to La Casa Forestal, the information centre is on this road. (Ctra de Fuente Alta, RM-515 Km 12, ascent to Sierra Espuña, CP. 30840, Alhama de Murcia).

This information centre has a good selection of guides and maps and knowledgable staff that can help you get the best out of a visit to the area. The center also has an Interpretation room where you can learn about natural and cultural values, especially fauna and flora through panels, models, interactive elements and photographs. There are also temporary exhibitions related to the regional park and other protected areas of Murcia province.

Huerta Espuña

Next to the visitor center is the area known as Huerta Espuña. It is one of the most historic places in the park, since it was the center of operations for the repopulation tasks directed by Ricardo Codorniú, here the first experimental crops were carried out to study the viability of the plants in this environment, which later they would be used for reforestation. Currently you can see the number of orchards that were used, some of them are still in use for projects to recover protected wild flora.


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