A recent initiative by the local authorities in Catral have seen the marking of three rural walks. What better on a sunny day than a walk through some of the Vega Baja‘s splendid countryside to see why the area is so famous for its fruit and vegetables. Handy maps can be found on the Catral Tourism website and also at the start point of each walk. They are waymarked with wooden posts along the way so you shouldn’t get lost.
The Ruta de la Huerta and the Ruta Arroba de la Madriguera are circular walks around the fields surrounding the town of Catral. We decided to try the Ruta Parque Natural el Hondo as it gave us more hope of seeing some interesting birdlife, despite being a seemingly linear route.
The route starts at the Santa Agueda Hermitage on a pretty little roundabout with plenty of parking space. It’s a long narrow road out of Catral to get there and make sure you are cautious of cars ignoring the fact that those leaving town have priority according to the signs! From there you have two options. One is going straight ahead for a few kilometres until the road ends at a wooden building which marks the entrance to the natural park.
We chose the other – turning right and walking out of town following the road as it meanders through the countryside. Don’t worry about any barking dogs as they all seemed to be well fenced in! At a T-junction a wooden post tells you to turn left and then continue following the road through the fields of artichokes. Eventually the road meets the edge of the natural park but there is no obvious way of entering. The only gate was locked and it was a treacherous balancing act alongside the drainage ditch to reach the footpath just inside the park. It turned out that we could have followed the road past the couple of houses and we would have reached the same place anyway!
There were quite a few swallows or swifts around and the odd bird of prey but it was generally disappointing. A map of the natural park would have been nice so we could see how far it was to the bird hides overlooking the water. Eventually we decided to head back towards Catral on the route we had come.
Making this a circular walk taking a path through the natural park would make it attractive to visitors but in its present form it is hard to recommend it to anyone. Try the other circular routes instead.