Rivers and Waters
La Fuente de Jimera de Líbar, the starting point of this stage, is also known as del Lavadero. After the Christian conquest of the Serranía region, the village changed its original Arabic name of Inz-Almaraz (lady´s castle) to Ximera de Libar, and it was on a stone at this fuente where one of the earliest recorded mentions of the origins of the old name was found. La Fuente, which dates back to 1789 according to the inscription, has constituted, until recently, one of the key infrastructures of Jimera de Libar either to stock up on water or socialise with the neighbours.
Comparing this side of the valley with the one in front, you will note that the number of streams is much bigger and their water mlevel more constant and signifi cant. You will cross the Atajate and Judíos streams first, both being the longest and carrying most water. They come from the district of Atajate. After that, there is the Alfacara and its tributary the Fuensanta, in the district boundaries of Benadalid. Before Siete Pilas and at the change of district boundaries there are the Paliche (or la Vega) and Bovedilla (or Peñoncillo), of smaller size.
In the Dehesa de Jimera, in front of the Cortijo, there is a seasonally flooding area which should have ended up being a natural pool similar to one you will be visiting later on. However, the place has been degraded by the silting process and passing farm animals. Amphibians, which are present but hidden away under the water surface, do not survive well in the dry years here. The Laguna Honda, (del Quemado or Florida according to locals) is a complete opposite. It fi lls up every year and is covered with fl owering crowsfoot, with outstanding amphibian species such as newts and Mediterranean Tree Frogs.
Fuente de Siete Pilas is located at the Camino de Benalauría. We do not know its origins however the old name was Pilas de Calabrina or Calabrinca, after a rest area for live stock which existed near the watering hole. The fuente used to have originally seven troughs or (pilas) which gave name not only to the water spring but also its immediate area of Benalauría district. The abundance of water here in the meeting point of limestone escarpments of the watershed between Genal and y Guadiaro valleys and clay terrain, has made these places very popular since ancient times.
The proof of the value of this important agricultural and animal farming area has been the existence of “alcalde de agua”, literally “mayor of the waters” dealing specifi cally with water issues in the village, until not long ago. Also, note the curious shape of the village boundaries of Benadalid, Algatocín or Benalauría which, starting from Valle del Genal, extend their territories up to the side of Guadiaro in search of the water springs of Fuensanta, Salitre, Almargen or Siete Pilas, among others.
A recent remodelling has added six more “pilas” to the Fuente, giving it its actual look. As you walk up from the village you are accompanied for a while by one of the irrigation channels which carry water down from the highest springs to irrigate the plots of land below. There are still in existence a couple of tiny “fuentecitas” along the way, which are worth a mention: la Fuente de los Garbanzos (Chickpea Spring, its water is famous for its properties for cooking) before Siete Pilas and la Fuentezuela on the incline to Puerto de Benalauría, almost at the very top.
At this stage of the walk you will be crossing pine and holm oak woods, scrub and areas of cereal agriculture. Consequently, the composition of bird species is quite varied. Although along the whole route you can see rock faces which mark the valley of Río Guadiaro, you will be able to get close to that environment and enjoy rock-dwelling species once you have climbed to the pass called Puerto de Benalauría. Along the last section of Stage 26 you will be passing through chestnut groves which also will be very discernible during next two stages.
Stage 26 starts off in Jimera de Libar with urban birds. However the privileged location of the village provides the opportunity to enjoy a good number of mountain birds from the very first moment. Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Common Wood Pigeon, European Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Common, Pallid and Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House and Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, European Robin, Common Stonechat, Common Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Eurasian Jay, Common and Spotless Starling, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Serin and Greenfinch are the species present in the dehesa area at the first part of Stage 26.
Having climbed the uphill section, you will be passing by farmhouses where House Sparrow occurs and in the cork oak areas you may also see Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Nuthatch, as well as Hawfinch. Other forest species which are present include Short-toed and Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the Golden Oriole in areas with tall riverside vegetation, joined by Nightingale and Cetti´s Warbler. Next, you will be coming to an open area with beautiful views of the village of Cortes de la Frontera on the slopes of the Sierra Blanquilla. Crossing olive groves and patches of cereal fields and scrub you will also be able to see Bee-eater, Black-eared Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Corn Bunting.
Another climb takes you across a mature holm oak wood flanked with hawthorn and to a settlement called Siete Pilas, now directly en route to your destination, the Puerto de Benalauría. Before the steepest climb and outcrops of limestone (which makes up these sierras), you will be passing through open farmland, where it is worth turning around to enjoy the landscape. It is mainly Crested and Thekla Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola which keep you company at this point, together with Woodchat Shrike and Melodious Warbler in summer season. Along the climb towards the pass Puerto de Benalauría, among the pine trees, the first rock faces bring the mountain species with them, including Bonelli´s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart (breeding and wintering), Black Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike, Raven, Jackdaw, Red-billed Chough and Common Linnet, as well as Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, and Common Kestrel. This is also a suitable environment for the Eagle Owl. The walk downhill to the village of Benalauría leads through holm oaks where, besides the already named species, you can see the Woodlark.
Remember now to pay attention to the sky to search for birds of prey, listening to the calls of forest birds (the type of species which will take the lead during the next stages), and enjoying the birds as you arrive in the village, greeted by Swallows, Starlings and House Sparrows.