As we shall read in the ‘History’ section below, no trains ever ran along the 36,5 km of the Sierra Greenway route which lies at the foot of the southernmost mountain range of the Iberian peninsula, between the towns of Puerto Serrano and Olvera in the province of Cadiz.
This outstanding route, running parallel to the banks of a number of rivers, passes through some truly spectacular scenery such as the Peñón de Zaframagón (Rock of Zaframagón), home to one of the largest colonies of griffon vultures in Europe.
This Natural Trail - Greenway has been implemented within the Natural Trails Programme of the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente. More info>>
Puerto Serrano station: accommodation-restaurant. Headquarters of the Sierra Greenway Foundation. Touristic apartments.
Coripe station: accommodation-restaurant.
Olvera station: accommodation-restaurant, motorhome parking, interpretation center and tourist apartments.
Zaframagón station: interpretation center, Ornithological Observatory and visitor center.
Navalagrulla station: (in project).
How to get there:
By car: if you access by car, here are the following accesses:
Access nº 1: in the municipality of Olvera, at the crossroads of the road that connects Olvera with Pruna, next to the “Olvera station” tourist complex, you can park in the parking lot next to the station.
The route starts at the former Puerto Serrano railway station, built on an embankment overlooking the lowland of the Guadalete river. Its old buildings now house a small hotel and restaurant for visitors to the Greenway, and an adjoining car park. We set off along the obvious route and immediately find ourselves on the first (and only) diversion from the original route of the railway. The long El Indiano tunnel proved impossible to restore for use by the Greenway due to a series of cave-ins; instead we take a diversion that leads us to the first of many tunnels dotted along the route.
From here we follow the Greenway to Los Llanos de la Reyerta whose name (the literal translation of which is ‘The Flatlands of the Affray’) conjures up images of some long forgotten dispute. Here we come across the first of a number of water mills powered by the waters of the Guadalete river which runs high and fast at certain times of the year. The surrounding land also becomes rebellious and wild, with massive rocks emerging from the subsoil. The relentless force of the current has gradually eroded the rock to cut a steep-sided ravine through which the river threads its way in a series of rapids. At Km 5.9 the Greenway crosses the Arroyo de los Azares via the first of four major viaducts on our route. These spectacular constructions, together with the large number of tunnels along the way, enable us to negotiate the many natural obstacles in our path without losing height.
After emerging from the Azares tunnel, the Greenway overhangs the river and passes through a curious open-sided tunnel. This is followed by another, curved, tunnel almost 500m long. This is the first illuminated tunnel on our route, though it is a good idea to carry a torch in case the lighting fails....
At the other end of the tunnel, the valley opens up as the Guadalete river is joined by the more abundant waters of the Guadalporcún river at Junta de los Ríos (Km 9). A small car park has been provided at this point for those visitors wishing to start the route here, while the nearby Finca de la Toleta has been prepared as a recreational area and a camp site where tourists equipped for camping can spend the night.
At the Junta de los Ríos, the Greenway and the Guadalete go their separate ways. The old railway line follows the winding course of the Guadalporcún through the rugged terrain of the Betic mountains. Once again the engineers had to put their skills to work on the construction of a beautiful viaduct over the Arroyo de Gillete (Km 12.3). They also had to bore through a mountain or two, the most outstanding tunnel and the longest on the route (990m) being the one driven through the foot of the Cerro del Castillo.
After a long viaduct we arrive at Km 14.5 and the Coripe railway station (now refurbished as a Hotel-Restaurant), another of the recommended access points to this route. From here to Zaframagón we need to pass through five tunnels. Nature prevails on either side of the Greenway; neither roads nor villages disturb the peace and quiet of a landscape in which the only background noise comes from birds and crickets. At Km 20.5 the Zaframagón railway station comes into view, and from here it is just a short way to the highlight of this Greenway: the Peñón de Zaframagón (Rock of Zaframagón).
Now refurbished from its previous state of ruin, the station building is home to the Sierra Greenway Interpretation Centre. This centre is equipped with a number of information boards providing details of the natural parks in Andalusia, the Greenways, the griffon vultures, etc. as well as an information room and a small library. Thanks to an agreement signed between the Department of the Environment of the Cadiz Provincial Council and the Sierra Greenway Foundation, since September 2006 it has been possible to enjoy the benefits of a project which aims to help visitors learn more about the habits and peculiarities of the griffon vulture, one of the great attractions of the Sierra Greenway. By means of an easy to use joystick-controlled camera with a powerful zoom and a 360 degree field of vision, visitors to the Zaframagón interpretation centre can focus in on many of the nesting and perching sites of these fascinating birds. The images captured by the camera are shown on a large screen installed inside the interpretation centre. This equipment is not only for the enjoyment of tourists; it is also used as a source of information by the environmentalists responsible for monitoring these birds, since all the images are permanently recorded for later study. In spite of the relatively short time it has been open (and therefore publicized), in September 2006 the centre was visited by nearly 400 people, who expressed a high level of satisfaction with the experience.
The western side of the Peñón de Zaframagón has been cut into by the waters of the Guadalporcún forming a narrow ravine known as El Estrechón. Our route takes us several dozen metres above the river over the elegant Zaframagón viaduct before passing beneath the Peñón through a straight 700m long tunnel, guided by the pinpoint of light shining in from the other end.
On the other side the landscape opens up into meadows with the angular silhouette of the distant Sierra de Líjar as a backdrop. Livestock farms can be seen on either side of the Greenway, which gradually starts to gain height on its way to the Navalagrulla railway station at Km 27.3. Before reaching this out-of-the-way station we will need to pass through four more tunnels. Just like the El Peñón station before, this station is miles away from any town or village, so remote that it is hard to imagine there ever being any passengers on its platforms.
The last stage of this Greenway runs along the hill separating the basins of the rivers Guadalporcún y Guadamanil. The route now runs through gently rolling countryside and takes us through a further six tunnels. At Km 29.5 we come across an unusual switchback section as the Greenway drops into a river bed which had been previously avoided by an embankment that has long since disappeared.
After that little excitement our Greenway crosses the Colada de Morón (Km 32), an old livestock trail. We are now just three kilometres away from the impressive Olvera railway station, but in this short distance the elements have conspired to practically erase the railway works from the face of the earth. Only a few tunnels survived, three of which were eventually used by the Greenway.
Between the tunnels the new path clings to the hillside in a winding route which finally takes us to the platforms of Olvera railway station. The station building, unquestionably the most attractive of all the buildings on this railway, is now home to a charming hotel and restaurant. After a gentle climb during which we have Olvera Castle in view, we reach the historic white town of Olvera.
The Sierra Railway, which was to run from Jerez de la Frontera to Almargen, was a project conceived at the turn of the 20th century. It had been the dream of generations of people living in the Guadalete basin and on the higher land near Olvera.
The military were also keen to have a railway link between their bases at Cartagena and Cadiz. With the blessing of all, work began swiftly under the auspices of dictator General Primo de Rivera. The Spanish Civil War brought the work to a halt, and once the war was over the austere post-war years were not the best time to re-launch the project. Finally, in the mid-sixties, the project was finally and definitively abandoned following a report from the World Bank. All the stations, tunnels, and viaducts had been built but no tracks had ever been laid.
Of the 119 kilometres of this vast project, only 21 kilometres from Jerez to the Jédula sugar plant ever went into operation. Tracks were laid as far as Arcos de la Frontera but only test trains ever ran on them. A family of railway workers lived for a few years in the station buildings as if waiting for a train that was never to arrive.
A railway line on which the train never circulated, between the provinces of Seville and Cádiz, is now offered to us as a Greenway, in this chapter of the Vive la Vía series. A 36 kilometer route to travel by bicycle and walking through endless impressive viaducts and tunnels, which bring us closer to the white villages and the unusually green landscapes of the southern mountains. A pleasure for the senses of the visitors, and a tourist resource of enormous repercussion for the inhabitants of its towns.