A Walk in the Ambroz Woods
Hervás is a pretty town in the Ambroz Valley quite close to the border with Salamanca Province. It is a ancient and historic place and has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status for it's preserved Jewish Quarter. In the Middle Ages the Jewish population was pivotal to the wealth and success of many places. Both Christians and Moors were forbidden to lend money at interest (usuary) and Jews did the lending to both sides in the Reconquista wars. More than that they were scribes and translators who could read and write Latin, Arabic and Hebrew. They were doctors, astrologers, merchants and all-round vital people in any given community. After the walk make sure you go and see the Jewish Quarter.
This walk goes through some of the extensive deciduous forests in the Ambroz valley. Walks here are usually done in November for the glorious Autumn colours. Over 10,000 people normally walk here in that month, though, thankfully, not all on the same day. This walk is a short, circular adaptation of a longer linear walk and can be enjoyed as late in the year as June. The trees give shade and the late Spring flowers are lovely.
Time: 4 hours
Distance: 15 kilometres
Elevation: lowest 640m, highest 905m
Difficulty: low with a medium bit
Route: out and back or circular — map by Google
Take junction from the E803 - N630, sign-posted for Hervás EX-205. Keep following the signs for Hervás at the roundabouts. The EX-205 becomes the Avda Reconquista on reaching the town. Park where there are free parking spaces under the trees near a park on the left and a smaller one on the right. In any event park in Avda Reconquista..
1. N40º 16’ 19.85: W05º 51’ 45.65”
Walk back down the direction you have just driven up and proceed away from the town. On the left there will be a small park with a few trees and bushes. Put this on your left and just after the small park turn left leaving the Avda Reconquista.
2. N40º 16’ 18.96” W05º 51’ 52.14”
Walk straight down this road.There are village houses on either side but a tree-covered sierra can be seen ahead. Do not go straight on when you come to a turning on the left that goes through a tunnel under the old branch railway line.
3. N40º 16’ 04.75” W05º 52’ 00.63”
Turn left to walk through this tunnel. There is a white and yellow waymark on a stone on the right side of the tunnel wall. Once through the tunnel the extensive woods start on both sides of the road. The trees are deciduous; Pyrenean oaks, chestnut, beech, trebinth and others. The verges on both sides of the road are covered in flowers and flowering bushes in spring.
Immediately ahead of the tunnel is a signpost, indicating right, for Gargantilla. Turn right. Ignore the old granite steps immediately left that go into the woods and the road to the left and keep on the tarmac road going right. Follow the road as it passes an information sign about the area on the left. Ahead is a new-built house as the road bends left. Ignore small turnings left or right and pass a weekend house on the right. Just past the bend after the weekend house there is a compacted earth turning on the left with a finger sign-post for Gargantilla. Follow the sign, turn left and leave the tarmac road.
4. N40º 15’ 41.52” W05º 52’ 16.07”
The track goes through the woods and is fairly easy to follow (photo 1). As the track goes up slightly, the trees are dense on the left side as the sierra climbs up but there are views on the right of villages in the Ambroz Valley, the long Embalse de Baños and the sierra on the other side. The track is compacted earth with a few rough stones but the verges are a treasure trove of wild flowers including vetches, foxgloves, orchids, lavender and tall asphrodels, depending on the time of year. Watch out for butterflies in the spring as you listen to the loud birdsong. The track does have tempting turnings that head up on the left, or down on the right, but the track is very clear and simply goes more-or-less straight to Gargantilla. There are two places where concrete and stone bridges with wooden fences have been built over streams that flow from left to right over the track. Depending on the time of year these could be just a trickle or a substantial torrent — hence the bridge constructions. There is the occasional way mark but they are hardly necessary.
The woods end, rather abruptly, on walking up a small hill (photo 2, looking back). The open area has splendid views over the Ambroz Valley and the villages below with the sierra behind make a lovely sight, especially in Autumn when the woods are fiery reds, oranges and yellows. Continue the walk to Gargantilla by going straight ahead from the track out from the woods. Ignore the turning that goes up and left. Our little track is compacted earth with a dry stone wall and cherry orchards on the right. There is also a good view over the valley. The track drops down to Gargantilla by winding down quite a steep hill but the village is clearly visible (photo 3). Keep going until you arrive at Calle Hervâs and the small plaza to find a bar for refreshments.
5.N40) 14’ 53.79” W05º 55’ 13.09”
There are two ways to return to Hervás and your choice may depend on the weather. The first option is to go back through the woods, the way we have come. The second option, described here, is to return via a small tarmac lane that offers a more rural, agricultural and pastoral view.
Return up Calle Hervás to reach a junction with three options.
6. N40º 14' 58.69" W05º 55' 02.25"
The left is the ‘main’ road going in and out from the village, the middle lane is our choice and the right track is the way back through the woods.
Having chosen the lane simply keep on it all the way back to GPS 4 and then retrace stops from that point. The lane goes up and down and winds around to start with but settles down to become a gentle long stretch (photo 4). To the left are views of fields, grazing animals and the valley and sierra behind. Ahead, for most of the way are some very high mountain tops, snow-covered for most of the year. To the right is higher ground with the woods through which we walked earlier. The hedgerows on either side of the lane are particularly rich in wild flowers and butterflies (photo 5). Expand the flower photo, left, (photo 6) and count the butterflies!