Wednesday, 8 November 2023, 11:22
The green tones of chestnut leaves are giving way to ochre and copper hues in the Genal valley in the Serranía de Ronda. The time has come for these trees to become the focal point of autumn in Malaga province in villages such as Pujerra, Igualeja, Parauta, Jubrique, Cartajima, Genalguacil, Faraján, Júzcar and Benalauría.
After the harvest and All Saints' Day, it is time for the landscape to transform. The Bosque de Cobre (Copper Forest) gains its name due to the distinctive colour of the deciduous leaves of the chestnut trees.
Little by little, with the help of the wind and some rain, the branches shake and shed their leaves. It leaves behind a spectacular ochre carpet, which can sometimes make it difficult to find your way along the rural roads and paths in this area of the Serranía de Ronda.
The real magic triangle of this Copper Forest borders the villages of Parauta, Pujerra and Igualeja, which are the municipalities that currently have the most hectares of chestnut trees. Despite all this, the latest harvests have been very low, making more than one local farmer question the future of these crops, which today seem to be more of a tourist attraction than a business.
The best way to enjoy the Copper Forest is to follow some of the hiking trails that form the backbone of a network of paths. They represent the legacy of many chestnut growers, lime workers, muleteers and other trades. While they are no longer in use today, they were essential in times gone by.
Those who want to really immerse themselves in the Copper Forest and have time to do so can do some of the trails that link the aforementioned villages of Pujerra, Parauta and Igualeja. All three are linked by tracks that go up and down hills between chestnut groves and riverbanks. The riverbanks also have their own Copper Forest thanks to the deciduous leaves of their poplar trees.
The lesser-known poison ivy also contributes to the ochre and copper spectacle, a shrub that stands out in the middle of autumn with its colourful leaves.
For those who have less time available or simply want a family outing, there are other, simpler routes. From Igualeja, the village with the most inhabitants in this part of the Serranía de Ronda (just over 700 people), there are two beautiful trails. One is circular and is called the Las Caleras trail. It starts at the area known as the Nacimiento del Genal (source of the Genal river), which has been declared a natural monument of Andalucía and a unique spot in Malaga province. At the moment, it is looking at its best thanks to the recent rains and the deciduous autumn leaves.
This route does not have steep slopes and allows you to enter the chestnut grove without too many challenges. Slightly more demanding is the Las Caleras path, which you can start in the village of Igualeja itself, but also from the road to Pujerra (MA-7300). Just at the sharp bend that crosses the Seco river, you can see the signpost for this path, which is most beautiful in its final stretch. This leads to the pool that gives its name to the route, located on a steep bank.
The more adventurous and experienced walkers can look for some of the most ancient landmarks of the Alto Genal, such as the Rebeco chestnut tree, also called the 'spider' because of the form of its branches. There is an unofficial route that starts at Puerto del Hoyo (between El Madroño and Pujerra).
Another simpler option is to look for the "Castaño Abuelo" (grandfather chestnut tree) which is located about seven hundred metres from the centre of Pujerra.
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