Neftalí Platas García (Photos by José A. Armesto)
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The Natural Park “Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés” (Low Limia- Xurés Range) (declared in 1993) is located in the southwest of Ourense province.
Its has 20920 hectares and includes the upper parts of municipalities of Entrimo, Lobios and Muiños, in the border with Portugal, and next to the Portuguese National Park Peneda-Gerês.
Landscape is the main attractive of this park, typical of Iberian Peninsula Northwest ranges, and it combines rugged ranges and milder ones in which granitic rocks enhance because of their size. These different and varied ranges of sceneries gives to this park a very good ecological mark. The more typical features are boulders granite rocks.
Water is another one of the main physical elements in this park. First, the streams made by the strenght of rain waters run by the cracks of the ranges, making spectacular waterfalls. Second, some dams (Salas or Lindoso) and above all, the thermal springs that allowed the development of thermalism, as Lobios Spa.
Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés is a particular area because is in the transition between two climatic regions: Eurosiberian and Mediterranean. Climate is western oceanic (in Limia Valley) and mountain oceanic (in the range). The annual average precipitation is 1000 to 2500 mm (depending on altitude) and the average temperatures are 8º to 15ºC. It often snows in the summits and the temperatures can be very low in eastern areas.
Flora and Fauna
In spite of the uniformity of substrate, there is a great ecological variety. Baixa Limia region is placed in a transition area between two big European floristic regions: Eurosiberian (Atlantic region) and Mediterranean. Owing to this, the vegetation contains woods of deciduous trees, typical of humid climatic conditions and perennial trees, like cork oaks and strawberry trees, more adapted to dried conditions during some times of the year. In low lands there are woods of oaks and cork oaks.
The scrubland is made of brooms, gorses and some species living in warmer areas like gum rockroses and strawberry trees. As it increases in altitude, the Pyrenean oak substitutes gradually to the oak and other trees like holly trees, yews, strawberry trees, birchs, scots pines and herbaceous plants.
Fauna is varied because of the landscape contrasts of the natural park that allows the acclimatization and gave refuge to many species. Nevertheless, human beings caused the extinction of bears but it's trying to reintroduce the Xurés goat again.
At present, it's possible to find more than 30 species of mammals and 140 of birds. We can mention: wolves, genets, beech martens, foxes, roe deers, wild boars, black kites, tawny owl, eurasian scops owls, falcons, golden eagles. In the wetlands surrounding the range we can find storks and grey herons, in the rivers, otters and in the dams some species of ducks.
We can also highlight two indigenous breed of cows: “barrosa” from Portugal and “cachena” from Olelas (Entrimo), both endangered species.
The current population of the three municipalities of the Natural Park is 6300 inhabitants. It's a regressive population, in which there are more people with more than 60 years old than people under 20.
The distribution of the population is not uniform. Litte towns and hamlets are concentrated by the river Limia and its tributaries, as in any pattern of population with an agricultural and livestock economy. In contrast to this, there are other underpopulated areas in the upper part of the range, apart from some hamlets devoted to cattle farming and with not much population (Alvite, A Cela, Queguas or Bouzadrago).
Agricultural and livestock economy represents the main activity. Mostly of the farms are family which mean more than 50% of the employment in the area. Service sector, hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and tourism are also important for the economy of this area.
Baixa Limia region is an area with important and valuable remains from the past. The archaeological, ethnographical and historical heritage began in the Paleolithic. From those times there are remains of hunters-harvesters in the fluvial terraces of Lobeira and Riocaldo.
According to the researchers, the first effective occupation was from 4th millenium b.C. When the first shepherds and farmers settled in this area, leaving a number of Megalithic monuments, between 3500 to 2000 b.C. (dolmens and similar) that can be found in the valley of river Salas, Leboreiro range, Motas range, Queguas range, Pisco, Galez, etc.
There are remains of the copper age or Chalcolithic too, but the most known are the sites of the Castro culture, and we can mention the castros or hill-forts of Taboadela in Barxés (Muíños), Outeiro da Cela in Mugueimes (Muíños), the site of Castelo in Galez (Entrimo) or the site of Monte dos Castelos.
When Romans arrived to Galicia, this region become important for them as a pass in the XVIII Roman road from Bracara Augusta (Braga) to Asturica Augusta (Astorga), crossing the mountain pass of Portela de Homem. The romanization process can be seen by the buildings that still remain: the Roman camp and way station (“mansio”) of Aquis Querquennis (Bande), thermal baths of Riocaldo (Lobios), “mansio” of Baños de Riocaldo or Aquis Originis (Lobios), milestones or miliarium. These milestones are cylindrical stones or monoliths used to mark the distances and, sometimes, to worship the authorities or gods (Lobios).
Other samples of the past are the visigothic church of Santa Comba (Bande) from 7th century, the remains of the castles of Vila (Lobios) and Monte dos Castelos (Entrimo), the sanctuary of Milagres (Muíños), and the churchs of San Mamede in Grou (Lobios), San Miguel in Fondevila (Lobios), Nosa Señora do Xurés (Lobios) and San Salvador in Prado de Limia (Muíños). Civil constructions are the bridges of Casal, Pacín, Covas, Porto pequeno, all of them in Entrimo, and the bridges of Ganceiros and Carballedo de Torno in Muíños.
The traditional houses of Baixa Limia developed from the simpler one-storey and an only inner space. Inside them people and cattle lived together, only separated by a wood wall. Later this wood wall is substituted by a stone wall. A pattern more modern is a two-storey house. At the ground floor there are the stables and the upper floor is divided in rooms. The access is by an external staircase. Other similar buildings include a “solaina”, an exterior corridor located to the east. The more modern houses are the two-storey buildings with several rooms and with a big balcony in the front.
- Baixa Limia Serra do Xurés Parque Natural. Consellería de Medio ambiente. Xunta de Galicia.
- XOSÉ RAMÓN MARIÑO FERRO e XOSÉ MANUEL GONZÁLEZ REBOREDO (2010): Dicionario de etnografía e antropoloxía de Galiza, Vigo, Nigratrea.