Cabezo Gordo

Torre Pacheco

Information

El Cabezo Gordo originated in the Triassic, a division of the geological time scale, approximately 250 million years ago. At this time, the Earth underwent a process of transformation in which important geographical features were formed. During the Alpine orogeny, the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided, pushing the accumulated marine sediments, and thus forming mountain ranges, mountains and elevations such as El Cabezo Gordo.
 
In this period, all the world was united forming the supercontinent "Pangaea", which was divided at the beginning of the Jurassic. In the Triassic also appeared the first mammals that evolved from the mammalian reptiles and in the advanced Triassic appeared the first dinosaurs. These data show us the age of this mountain, the same as the Sierra Nevada in Granada.
 
Located in the middle of the coastal depression, this mountain is 312 metres above sea level and 3 km long. It is the only elevation in the municipality of Torre Pacheco and is part of the Betic Mountain Range. It is not of volcanic origin like other elevations of Mar Menor like its islands and El Carmolí. Its nature is limestone and marble. It dominates the Campo de Cartagena from the north and the Mar Menor is 6 kilometres away.
 
El Cabezo Gordo is a protected landscape in the following categories:
 
• In 1998, with the Natural Resources Management Plan for the Open Spaces and islands of the Mar Menor and Cabezo Gordo, it was declared a Protected Landscape (Paisaje Protegido) due to its great biotic, landscape, cultural and paleontological interest.
• It is part of the Natura 2000 Network with the category of SCI (Site of Community Importance), especially because it is the habitat of five species of bats.
• It is also catalogued as an SGI (Site of Geological Interest), formed by sedimentary rocks such as: limestone and dolomites and metamorphic rocks such as marble.
• It is a Wildlife Protection Area.
• It is part of the Integrated Management Plan for the protected areas of the Mar Menor and the Mediterranean coastal strip of the Region of Murcia 2019, declared a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).

Features
Type: Paisaje Protegido
Surface: 281ha
Nature

FLORA

There are 4 types of hábitats, catalogued as being of Community interest and hosting numerous species protected at regional level (approximately 200). They are included in Annex I of the Habitats Directive and  are:
 
• Xerophytic scrubs
• Rupicolous communities
• Thyme tres
• Grasslands
At first glance, we might think that Mediterranean shrubs are worthless because of their unattractive appearance, yet they are part of unique ecosystems. For example, there are species exclusive to North Africa and South-East Spain (called Ibero-Africanisms) such as Cornical, Mediterranean dwarf palms or Orchids.
The southern slope of El Cabezo Gordo is the "solana" area (sunny) where the sun shines most, and it is the driest area. However, the northern side is the "umbría" area (shady), more humid, with more vegetation, including a pine forest.
These are the most important species:
The Cornical or Cornicabra, is an abundant example of Ibero-Africanism in el Cabezo Gordo.  It can only be found in warm areas, with stony and sunny soils as it does not support frost. It can be found in the Canary Islands, Cabo de Gata, the coast of Murcia and the North African coast.
The Chumberillo de Lobo is another Ibero-Africanism considered a botanical pearl. It is common in the coastal mountains and at the top of El Cabezo Gordo it is very widespread.
 
Regarding flowers:
 
Bellflower: very common in pots and gardens and also grows wild in this natural area.
Ruta: it is yellow and gives off a liquid that causes a very painful irritation to the skin.
Pepperwort: made up of tiny white flowers that exhale a rich smell of honey.
Horehound: it can be obtained an incense elixir out of it by rubbing its leaves. Its flowers are lilac.
Risa de la Virgen: typical of low, dry, arid and warm mountain pastures. It has colourful flowers with 5 lilac petals.
• There are also chestnuts and different types of thistles on the edges of the roads.
 
We can also find typical trees of the area such as carobs, olive and almond trees.

FAUNA

If we look at the landscape we notice that there is a beautiful panorama, however, we also appreciate that the whole territory of El Campo de Cartagena, being a plain, has been altered by human hand with: crops, roads, tourist complexes, industrial estates, urbanizations, etc. Fortunately, El Cabezo Gordo has become a safe place for dozens of animal and plant species that have become extinct elsewhere. For this reason, it is classified as a Wildlife Area.
The following species can be highlighted:

Ocellated lizard:

It is the largest lizard in the Iberian Peninsula, with a length of up to 75 cm. Its tail is twice as long as the rest of its body. It has a large head and a powerful jaw. Its body is very robust, coloured in yellowish green and adorned with blue ocelli (eyes). Its extremities are well developed, and it lives among the rocks of El Cabezo Gordo.

Birds:

They are the most representative group of animals, due to their variety and colourfulness, and also because they are easy to see. There are more than 70 different species: some of them stay all year round and others are migratory, using el Cabezo Gordo as a place of passage and rest where they find water, food and shelter. 

The krestel is the most abundant bird of prey that can "hover", i.e. to be suspended in the air to locate its prey. It looks like a small hawk of about 35 cm with spotted plumage. It has powerful eyesight and feeds on insects, mice and small reptiles.

There is also a jackdaw the size of a dove, with dark plumage and from the crows family. It is a very sociable bird and can be seen in large flocks on the rocks. They place their nests in cavities that they fill with sticks, upholstering the inside with sheep's hair, threads and other fibres.
 
Other species are the owl, the turtle dove or the Eurasian crag martin (which nests in the rocks).

Mammals:

As for mammals, there are foxes, although climate change is affecting them more and more and reducing the number of specimens. Rabbits and hares are also common, as is usual in the Campo de Cartagena.

USES

In Cabezo Gordo there are many natural cavities such as La Sima de las Palomas of karstic origin, but the vast majority were excavated over 100 years ago. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, miners extracted iron, magnetite and calcite mainly from El Cabezo Gordo and drilled it, giving rise to numerous wells and galleries. During the Spanish Civil War, these cavities were used as a refuge for the population from the bombardments of the planes and as powder magazines to store the war material.

To extract the mineral, the rock was perforated with drills and then dynamite cartridges were introduced to execute the blasting.

One of the most surprising caves is the Cueva del Champiñón, a gallery of more than 300 m that crosses the mountain from South to North. After the abandonment of mining, the humidity of some galleries was used to grow mushrooms (champiñones), as was the case with this tunnel in the 70s.

MILESTONES

Remains of Neanderthal man from approximately 50,000 years ago were found at La Sima de las Palomas Paleoanthropological Site.

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