Friday, 1 December 2023, 18:36
It is not as big or as long-lived as the famous ancient Castaño Santo in Istán, but it is certainly more accessible. Only half a kilometre from the centre of Pujerra, anyone visiting the spectacular but ephemeral 'Copper Forest' (as the area is known when the leaves turn autumnal colours) can get up-close to one of the hundred-year-old trees within the Genal Valley. In recent years it has come to be known as the Castaño Abuelo, the grandfather chestnut tree, as it is considered to be one of the oldest in the area.
It is not known for sure how old this tree may be, but nevertheless it is a spectacular sight. Its trunk has a perimeter of just over six metres, and it has a height of approximately fifteen metres with more than a dozen branches. In addition, its roots are more visible than usual adding to the attraction of this ancient chestnut tree.
It dates from much later than the first introduction of this species by the Romans. Even so, it is estimated that this mountainous area of Malaga has been its home for almost four centuries.
However, it is not possible to know the exact age of this tree without a detailed study. It is also by no means the only tree that is supposedly a hundred years old in this great forest.
Among them, there is also the chestnut tree named Castaño Rebeco, which can be reached by a longer and more complex path by foot. Specifically, you have to walk about two kilometres from an area known as Puerto del Hoyo, which can be reached along the winding, narrow road that joins the chestnut tree forest with the San Pedro-Ronda road (A-397).
To see these or other chestnut trees, it is best to do so before the end of the so-called Copper Forest period, as afterwards, the trees will become leafless for some months. The trees will only regain their leaves again in spring, this time green, as the next life cycle of the tree begins.
A visit to the Castaño Abuelo is a good excuse to get to know not only the Copper Forest but also small local villages such as Pujerra, which can be reached from the A-397 road via various routes. The recommended way to enjoy the scenery is a route that first passes through the village of Igualeja, as, in addition to being able to make a stop at the source of the Genal river, you will be driving along a road with beautiful panoramic views.
In the centre of Pujerra, there are several viewpoints overlooking the valley, as well as the church of Santo Espíritu. Not far from this church is the bust dedicated to Wamba, one of the last Visigoth kings. A legend, not historical fact, suggests he was born in a nearby farmhouse. This story (which is not very credible by the way) also includes a fictional tale which suggests that he left his humble life as a farmer in the area to occupy the throne that was rightfully his.
Beyond this fictional story, there is a real one that revolves around the origin of the shrine of San Antonio, located in an area known as Bentomí. This chapel, which was built just over two decades ago, was placed there to honour a story surrounding some locals and the patron saint of the village. Two villagers took pictures of the patron saint to this location away from the main village to prevent a valuable piece of local heritage from being destroyed during the Civil War and hid the pictures under some corks. Today, both this small sanctuary and its surroundings, where there are two rural houses, are an ideal place for a walk in the Copper Forest.
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