AH Monsanto – AH Sortelha
Great Bicycle Route
Places of passage: Aldeia de João Pires, Penamacor, Meimoa, Barragem da Meimoa, Meimão.
Leaving Monsanto through the west gate, the route descends along the Roman stone road that coincides with the GR12-E7, to separate from it shortly after, turning northwest. It crosses the EN332, passes the stream, and turns northeast towards the Village of João Pires, a land of simple beauty and picturesque houses. Then, it turns right, heading north, passing Aldeia do Bispo at a distance. It continues along a beautiful panoramic trail, leaving behind the granite world and entering the landscape of schist. It turns west and finds the EN233, which it follows on the right, until it crosses it by tunnel, to approach and enter Penamacor. Continuing north, the section rises and follows the ridge of the wind farm, making a long crossing through production forests dominated by maritime pine and eucalypt. In Meimoa, a village of good gastronomic traditions, it crosses the old stream bridge, where there is the pleasant river beach. Closely following the course of the Meimoa stream, the leg continues north along a low-relief rural landscape where olive groves predominate. Finally, it arrives at the wall of the Meimoa dam. The leg crosses the dam wall and follows a dirt path that enters the Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve. It goes around the reservoir from the south side until it reaches its eastern end, and heads towards Meimão, in a landscape dominated by pine forest. It then continues up to the ridge of the wind farm and Alagoas. It also passes through the Village of Santo António and, soon after, arrives at Urgueira, near the junction point with the connection legs to Sabugal and Sortelha. From this junction point, the route continues left, through the village, exiting through Rua do Pinheiro and continuing forward until it turns southwest, towards Ribeira da Nave. After passing the stream, the route goes up to close to 800 meters, then descends slightly to enter the Historical Village of Sortelha by the Devesa.
Fauna and Flora
_MONSANTO_ In the surroundings of this particular Monte-Ilha we find a flat area, with grazing fields of spontaneous grass, and also some clusters of cork oak and Pyrenean oak, where we can watch the Thekla's lark, the Eurasian jay, the spotless starling, the stonechat, or the rock sparrow. During winter, the black redstart and the crag martin stay close to the village. Near Senhora da Azenha, still in the granite area, the woodlark and the coal tit can be found. Further on, moving into schist land and as we approach the Ponsul river, we may be surprised by a little ringed plover. Ahead we enter a typical cork oak forest, where there is the black-winged kite, the European robin, and the starling, among others. _PENAMACOR_ The geomorphological diversity corresponds to a diverse and unique landscape richness. The county is part of the Geopark Naturtejo of the Southern Meseta, and over 2/3 of the Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve are part of its territory, due to an interesting geological heritage and a set of assets linked to biodiversity: until recently, the Iberian lynx used to live here, and everything is being prepared for its return. The vast horizon is framed by the reliefs of Monsanto, and the mountain ranges of Penha Garcia, Malcata, Gardunha and Estrela. In the centre of all this, the village of Penamacor rises as an extraordinary viewpoint. Here is where plain and mountain meet, generating space, light, warmth, and freshness. _BARRAGEM DA MEIMOA_ The reservoir of Meimoa Dam is a great place to watch some bird species that have water as their habitat. The great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), and the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) are the most common species found here, but, sometimes, the elusive black stork (Ciconia nigra) can also be seen. Its forest component is mainly made up of a continuous patch of maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). However, on the southern slope of the reservoir, it is still possible to observe patches of Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) and, mainly, an important patch of strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo). This plant, usually in the form of a shrub, belongs to the heather family and is highly valued for its fruit, the “medronho”, both for fresh consumption and for the production of arbutus brandy. _URGUEIRA_ A mosaic of meadows delimited by walls and lines of Pyrenean oaks. The meadows are used to feed cattle, but they house an interesting faunal variety. Different species of butterflies, such as the Cardinal (Argynnis pandora), the great banded grayling (Brintesia circe), and the Spanish festoon (Zerynthia rumina), are merely some of those that give a colourful dynamic to the green meadows. Flocks of Iberian magpies (Cyanopica cooki) noisily roam the fields and the spotless starlings (Sturnus unicolor) walk around on the ground, following the cattle and the bugs they shake off. Meanwhile, the black redstart (Phoenicuros ochruros) wanders around on the roofs and backyards of the village. There are also some centuries-old chestnut trees here, some of them already dead, but still conveying respect for sheer size. _SORTELHA_ Since the HV of Sortelha is mainly a granite area, when we pass through the village of Santo Antóni, which is a schist area, we witness a clear change of landscape. There is a significant patch of Pyrenean oak, where Western Bonelli's warblers can be found and where chestnuts and heathers most often appear. The diversity of the avifauna is linked to the diversity of habitats, which means we will find bird species associated with the forest, such as the Eurasian jay or the European green woodpecker. Among the existing shrub species, we highlight the narrow-leaved mock privet, the common hawthorn, the broom, and the purple gromwell.