Rivers and Waters
The common feature of the tributaries which join the Genal flowing from the right side is their short length and the fact that all of them start in the vicinity of villages. This happens with the Benajamuz tributary first, then the Algatocín in the middle and Infi ernillos at the end. All of their valleys are deep, separating the neighbouring villages along the bank.
Although there is a watercourse which follows this pattern on the left side of Genal, the Arroyo Hondo, the presence of high mountain slopes of Sierra Bermeja changes the outlook of the environment here completely. Thus, both the Monardilla and the Almárchal tributaries start much higher up from the population centres and this way they are also much longer. They have a more substantial volume and, in fact, both support stable population of fi sh and both are called “ríos” by the local inhabitants. In case of the Almárchal there is an additional difference; its source is in the Spanish Fir forest, pinsapar, in the Paraje Natural de los Reales de Sierra Bermeja.
All in all, the water dynamics of the rivers and streams in the Genal differs enormously from its sister river the Guadiaro, mainly due to the fact that schist and chalk terrain prevails in Genal. There aren´t any exuberant water springs, if anything, the volume of the streams tends to be more modest and come from more than one source. Drainage during the rains tends to be instantaneous as the ground filtering is more diffi cult, especially compared to the surrounding limestone mountains which mainly drain towards the Valle del Guadiaro.
Contrary to how it may seem, the irrigation water used for the riverside gardens comes from the tributaries more often then from the main river which is more diffi cult to manage. And so, both the Almárchal and the Monardilla accommodate numerous “acequias” irrigation channels and water outlets used for consumption.
There are two dams which are very popular with swimmers, close to Venta San Juan: Charco Picado and Tomilla, plus there are a few more before la Escribana. In summer, bathing in the natural pools and places where water has been replenished by the winter rains, is a very popular thing to do in the nearby villages and there are favourite areas along the river enjoyed by the locals.
El Charco situated at the Prado de la Escribana is a watering trough or Abrevadero used by the Vías Pecuarias public paths which cross to the other side at the mouth of the Almáchar and continue the journey towards the Costa del Sol.
The mills, used either for grain or olives, require a somewhat stronger volume of water and a more constant fl ow than it is in case of irrigation. The Genal supplies just that and one of the most interesting mills is in the area of Arabí, called the Molino de Enmedio or Tomas´s mill. This mill consists of two well-defined parts: one used to be dedicated to making olive oil and the other to making fl ower. The façade shows a painting in ochre of the symbol representing the Calvary with a commemorative inscription dating back to 1755 when the mill started working. Close by, upstream, accessed by a path off the GR just before reaching El Arabí, there is one of the few mills whichhave been restored in an acceptable manner (this one due to having featured in some fi lm programmes) and which should be mentioned here despite of its being out of the way. We are talking about the Molino de Almenta, de Piña or de la Máquina Quemada. It is located on the Camino de Jubrique and near the Nacimiento del Charco Esteban.
El Molino del Álamo was dedicated to grain milling, using the driving force of water and two stones. This mill has also been renovated as a country hotel. There is a millstone next to the building with an inscription from a London foundry which used to make cast-iron parts for this type of machinery at the beginning of the 19 th century. The mill is situated between Venta San Juan and a campsite under the same name. Another flower mill, Molino de los Cipreses, is tucked away at a river bend of río Genal on a broad fl uvial plain in front of the Huerta de Juan Ruiz. This one is easy to fi nd from the path.
There is a stone on the track next to the Genal, as you pass el Monardilla, which used to serve as anchorage for a make-shift cradle-shaped bridge to cross the river. Currently there is a simple wooden bridge there. El Molino del Chairo used to get water from a canal from río Almárchal. This mill you will find very close to Prado de la Escribana and the Cordel de la Umbría at río Genal.
This stage gives you the opportunity to train your ear and in this way deepen your relationship with birds. Although you will be able to observe directly a varied sample of typical forest species, such as raptors, woodpeckers and many passerines, there is a significant number of species typical of woodland environment which are easy to hear and very hard to see. Also, what seems to happen quite often is that there is always a twig blocking the view of your target species. The section following closely the riverbed will provide an opportunity to become familiar with the bird community living in direct contact with the water.
Forest species are the stars of this stage. There are also birds characteristic to urban environments at the beginning and the end of Stage 27, and species typical of rivers and river banks. As you take the first and last steps of this route, Sparrows, Barn Swallows and House Martins will remind you that you are close to inhabited areas. As you set off on the walk and the first trees appear, you are more and more likely to see the Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Common Wood Pigeon, European Turtle Dove, Wren, European Robin, Song Thrush, Stonechat and Redwing, Common Blackbird, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli´s Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Black-eared Wheatear, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Hawfinch and Cirl Bunting.
Once you are at the river you can see and / or hear Common Sandpiper, Wryneck, Kingfisher, White and Grey Wagtail, Nightingale, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler occurring in the few open spaces with reed beds and Golden Oriole in the canopy of large trees. Birds associated with built-up areas along the way may include Common Kestrel, Little Owl, Red-rumped Swallow and Blue Rock Thrush.
The community of birds of prey is highly interesting here since you can see both the typical forest raptors (Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Northern Goshawk and Eurasian Sparrowhawk), as well as birds associated with rocky cliffs that tower over the valley, from Sierra Crestellina and Hacho de Gaucín, to the Benadalid cliff (species such as Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are relatively common if you pay attention to the sky).
If you walk any section of Stage 27 at dusk or at dawn, you can enjoy the call of such crepuscular species as the Eagle Owl, Scops Owl, Tawny Owl and Red-necked Nightjar.