Cavall Verd and Serra del Penyal ridge walk – Costa Blanca mountains

Cavall Verd and Serra del Penyal ridge guided mountain walk in Costa Blanca

Cavall Verd and Serra del Penyal

The Cavall Verd ridge has been tempting me to walk along it ever since we arrived in Costa Blanca.  The twin peaks of this ridge rise up at the head of the Jalon valley at the eastern end, high above the village of Murla and have an outline that is unmistakable from near and far.  The name of the full ridge is Serra de Penyal and Cavall Verd is actually only the eastern end and has much historic background.

Ancient legend has it that a mystical Moorish knight on a green charger (Cavall Verd) rode up the mountain to help the Moors during a huge battle.  These people had taken refuge in the castle of the Penyo Roig as the king had ordered the final expulsion of all Moors to Africa.  In 1609 the king sent in his troops and a huge battle took place.  Eventually the Moors surrendered and were deported to Africa from the nearby port of Denia.

I checked out the maps and guide books and found the perfect circuit which could be started from any of the three mountain villages of Benimaurell, Fleix or Campell.   The decision to do the ridge and of where to start was made easy by the fact that Mark wanted to explore a nearby canyon from this Benimaurell, an activity involving some long abseils which was definitely not dog walking territory and so this provided me with the perfect opportunity for a long walk out in the mountains.  A friend, Susie was also able to join me and Don making it a much more sociable and enjoyable walk.

Penyo Roig on the Cavall Verd and Serra del Penyal mountain walk, Costa Blanca

The rocky summit of Penyo Roig

Cavall Verd and Serra dell Penyal guided mountain walk, Costa Blanca

Susie on one of the rocky steps on Serra del Penyal

The route up onto the ridge took in well-marked paths and tracks up the north side of the mountain.  We could clearly see the col we were aiming for, just to the right of the twin peaks which I mentioned previously.  The only disappointing part of the walk is that we would not actually walk over the twin peaks as the biggest one Penyo Roig is a huge rocky summit and only accessible as a rock-climb.   So the walk along the ridge starts at the col beneath this spectacular lump of rock and we could easily see why we would not be walking up it!

From here the ridge is roughly 5km long and between 700 and 800m high with far-reaching views of the sea and other mountains.  It feels wild and much of the walking is on bare limestone, with the path appearing now and then through the flora and rock. There are a couple of short rock steps but these are aided by fixed ropes and don’t present much difficulty – my four legged friend Don scrambled up and down them with ease, and he has been known to refuse to go up anything too steep!  There was a little wind which gave a pleasant temperature for the walk and the sun came out from behind the clouds every now and then.  This was good as it kept the rocky path nicely dry for us.  It is a walk I would avoid if there was cause for it to be wet or damp.   

We walked through low growing flora on the ridge such as rosemary, thyme, gorse (in flower), rock roses and dwarf fan pans, and were treated to the tall spires of some early flowering white asphodels happily growing amongst the limestone.  We also saw kermes oaks and quite a few small pine trees on the ridge. 

We were cautious of the pines as most of them contained processionary caterpillar nests some of which were close to our path, and were alarmed to find some caterpillars on the path.  Usually this wouldn’t happen until between February and April.  The processionary caterpillars are a major pest in the area as the hairs on them can cause severe irritation to humans and mammals.  They are from the pine moth which lays its eggs in the trees.  The caterpillars build nests and when ready during early spring, climb down the trees to the ground and form a line, head to tail, hence their name.  They are especially a problem for dogs who naturally inquisitive animals and one hears upsetting stories of dogs dying from these poisonous insects.

The peak at the end of the ridge is Penya Alt, 850m high and our path then led us down the southern side through pine trees, past a col and below another rocky ridge which has a cross on its summit, the Penyons de la Pereta.  On reaching another col at the end of this ridge we crossed back onto the northern side of the ridge heading back the way we’d come and were instantly treated to the wonderful sight of terraces of almond trees already clothed in pink blossom.  Again this seems early as mostly one wouldn’t expect to see them in flower until February.    We could also now see the mountain village of Benimaurell, our starting and finishing point down below and our route traversed the lush northern slopes of the mountainside.   One last steep track down and we were walking through the narrow village streets and as is often the case there appeared to be no-one around!  However, hoping to find somewhere for some refreshments in the village we opened the door to a bar which looked very much closed from the outside and were surprised to find it busy with families out for their Sunday lunch! 

Almond trees in blossom on Serra del Penyal guided mountain walk, Costa Blanca

Terraces of almond trees in blossom

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