BARROCAL

BUILT OVER 310 MILLION YEARS

With a characteristic granite landscape made up of rocks generated in the depths of the Earth, but shaped and exposed by hundreds of thousands of years of tectonic movements and climate changes, Barrocal is a refreshing oasis of Natural History. The Barrocal Park takes its visitors on a trip through nature, taking time for greater enjoyment.

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Barrocal emerges slowly, standing out from among the white buildings of the city of Castelo Branco, yet sitting on its edge. Born 310 ± 1 million years ago, from the Earth’s depths, at almost 30 kilometres, and at 750˚C , the end result could only be a very special landscape. What makes Barrocal special is that it is a natural element of the city, one that has evolved and contributed to it, and that today, more than ever, is truly a part of it. To talk about Castelo Branco, the city and its granite cladded origins is, inevitably, to talk about Barrocal. The history of Barrocal’s landscape can be told over millions of years, each one of its granite shapes has been carved by every drop of water that opportunely infiltrates the rock, across its dense network of cracks, giving us a page of history we have not lived through. However, it is these last pages that have shaped the interaction that we now know existed over 3000 years. Barrocal is a part and an example of the natural and cultural wealth of the UNESCO territory in which it is integrated. For this reason, it is a prime starting point to better understand and discover it.

The natural heritage encompassed in the Barrocal Park belongs to Castelo Branco. However, in a broader sense, it belongs to all of us. To all, today and to all who will come after us. We therefore need to respect and cherish it, allowing nature to continue its regenerative path, one that we all want and can now follow closely.

From Barão, T., Neto de Carvalho, C., “Barrocal, uma Paisagem Natural no Coração de Castelo Branco”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

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The origins of Barrocal

The Castelo Branco Granite Massif (MGCB) is made up of five different granite facies (group of rocks with specific lithologic characteristics that differentiates them from others), laid out concentrically, aged 310 ± 1 million years (late tectonic in relation to the ...third stage of the Variscan deformation), emerging in an area of 390km2. The Barrocal Granite (GBR) is a two-mica granite with identical quantities of biotite and muscovite minerals, medium-to-coarse grained. The fractioned crystallization process of this granite took place very slowly, over circa 4 million years. The MGCB is associated to the establishment of a gigantic magma mass over 310 ± 1 million years ago, originally located at a depth estimated in 30km with a crystallization temperature that began at 750˚C. The granite is a result of the in-depth fusion of materials from the earth’s crust during the formation of a chain of mountains, in the creation of the supercontinent Pangaea (Variscan Orogeny).

From Antunes, M., “As origens do Barrocal”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

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The shapes of a rocky landscape

The Castelo Branco Barrocal is a representative granite landscape with a ruiniform aspect, made up of blocks of up to 22 meters, of a greater size. Barrocal is the popular expression attributed to a terrain full of cliffs or crags. In the scientific definition given by Geomorphology, the Earth Sciences subject dedicated to the study of the dynamics of landscape forms, Barrocal is a dome topped by residual granite blocks, resulting from the erosive evolution of a granite massif. The Barrocal, known by this name, by all who have lived there over the past centuries, is therefore a classic example of this shaped granite. The dome shaped hill of the Barrocal has a northwest-southeast layout, with a maximum length of 1200 meters and a maximum width of 730 meters, rising 30-35 meters above the city plain. The Barrocal, exposed almost 50 million years ago, has evolved as a relief form over the past 4-5 million years. The evolution of the granitic forms of the Barrocal occurs very slowly and develops, above all, at the soil level and below, whereby erosion must take place so that they can be exposed at the surface.

The climatic degradation associated to the Quaternary glaciations, together with the tectonic movement felt in the region given the vertical movement of the Ponsul-Gata Fault, made possible the fitting of the drainage network of the Ribeira da Pipa, leading to erosion, shaping and exposure of the different granite geoforms that make up Barrocal. The Barrocal de Castelo is one of the 33 Sites of Geological Importance currently identified in the Castelo Branco municipality, under the UNESCO World Naturtejo Geopark, given the complexity of the geomorphological evolution it demonstrates.

From Neto de Carvalho, C., “As formas de uma Paisagem de Pedra”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

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IN THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH

The Barrocal Granite belongs to the granite massif of Castelo Branco, covering an area of 390 km2, surrounded by older metamorphic rocks, popularly known as schists.

Its mineral composition of mainly feldspars, quartz, muscovite and biotite micas, also includes as accessories apatite, zircon, ilmenite, andalusite, cordierite and sillimanite crystals. Its origin is associated to the establishment of a gigantic magma mass located at an estimated depth of 30 km with a crystallization temperature that began at 750˚C, dating back to 310 ± 1 million years ago. This granite is the result of the in-depth fusion of materials from the Earth’s crust during the formation of a chain of mountains related to  the plates collision that lead to the development of the supercontinent Pangaea (Variscan Orogeny).

GRANITE SHAPES OF BARROCAL

The Barrocal Granite was brought to the Earth’s surface as a result of the constant movement of the tectonic plates. Yet, it was previously filed away and retouched by weathering, through the drop-by-drop action of underground waters. This created and exposed by erosion the most diverse and particular granite landforms of the Barrocal dome, such as granite balls, pedestal rocks, jointed blocks, slabs, weathering pits, elongated boulders, flared surfaces, pedestal rocks  and a small tor, that still stand out. It is also worth noting the countless areas with fitting rocks and evidence of magma flows, from when the rock was still a river of magma in telluric movement dozens of kilometres deep in the Earth.

BARROCAL’S BIODIVERSITY

WILD NATURE IN THE CENTRE OF THE CITY

In the Barrocal Park two clearly demarcated floristic association can be found: a Continental association, represented by the Pyrenean Oak (Quercus pyrenaica), and a Mediterranean association, represented by the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) and the Holm Oak (Quercus rotundifolia). In open areas, a complex association of shrubs is found, with the White Broom (Cytisus multiflorus) and the Codesso (Adernocarpos lainzii), two Iberian endemic plants, standing out.

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FLORA

In Barrocal Park, two clearly demarcated floristic areas can be found: a Continental area, represented by the Pyrenean Oak (Quercus pyrenaica), and a Mediterranean area, represented by the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) and the Holm Oak (Quercus rotundifolia). In the undergrowth, there are aromatic and melliferous species such as French Lavender (Lavandula pedunculata) and Gum rockrose (Cistus ladanifer), plants with edible berries such as the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and the wild blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius). Several medicinal and spice plants stand out, among which St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens).  The broom, like the White broom (Cytisus multiflorus) and the yellow broom or Maya (Cytisus striatus), make springtime colourful. It is also possible to find Iberian endemism, such as the Codesso (Adernocarpus lainzii).  

Barrocal Park presents all those who travel through the walking trails, created for nature observation, with an opportunity to see significant botanical diversity, including Iberian endemism. It is possible to identify at least four types of habitats where species associated to substrate of granitic origin can be found:
Mixed oak forest; Mediterranean woods; Fresh water spring and temporary Mediterranean waterhole; Natural meadows.

From Pinto, S., “As plantas do Parque”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

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THE BIRDS THAT CROSS OUR SKIES

Conspicuous in the Spring, the birds make their mating songs heard, and several species use Barrocal to nest. Over the course of the year, other species pass through for their autumn migrations, such as the European pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), or others who spend the winter here like the meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis), the song thrush (Turdus philomelos) and the European robin (Erithacus rubecula).

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FAUNA

The day begins to dawn in Barrocal Park. Even before the first rays of sun appear, nocturnal birds like the Red-necked Nightjar or the Tawny owl have returned to their daytime shelters. Mammals (carnivores, herbivores and insectivores) such as Badgers, Foxes, European Rabbits, Hedgehogs and bats, as well as their prey, now without the protection of the darkness of the night, also rest in their shelters. In much the same way, the Common Salamander, who took advantage of the humidity of the night to feed or look for a female, now shelters itself under a rock or a rotten log, or hides away in a stone wall, protecting its sensitive skin from the dry air of the day.  

They then give way to the sun worshippers who begin to awaken to a new day and to the hustle and bustle of life that stirs the landscape. The air is filled with the songs and charms of the Blackbird, the Black-bellied Warbler, the Serino, the Crested Lark or the European Greenfinch, as if saying “Good morning!” to everyone. This is also when the daytime butterflies, such as the Common Copper, the Green Hairstreak, the Spanish festoon or the Clouded Yellow, become active, looking for delicious nectars or else a partner to give birth to a new generation and promote the perpetuation of the species. Birds of prey like the common-buzzard Eagle, the Booted Eagle and the Short-toed Eagle fly over the Park, looking for rodents or other incautious reptiles. In the meantime, Storks cross the skies of the Barrocal, on repeated journeys between their urban nests and the fields where they feed.

It is the living nature of the Barrocal Park that enchants and dazzles us.

From Romão, F., “Os Bichos do Parque em 24h”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

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Man in the Landscape

In the Castelo Branco archaeological panorama, the Barrocal is a paradigmatic place in the context of Recent Pre-historic times, holding archaeological remains that date back at least to the end of the II/ beginning of the I millennium BC. This therefore means, that 3000 years ago, during the Late Bronze Age, between the XIII/ XII century BC and the end of the XI/ beginning of the VIII century BC, the Barrocal had human occupation that is inseparable from the site in itself and thus has a great expression in the surrounding landscape.

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Contrary to a prevalent typology of high-altitude settlements, the Barrocal presents a rare form of occupation in this network of settlements, making it a peculiar place. The establishment of the settlement on the gentle slope of a small hill refers to the typology of open settlements, which have been dubbed "farmhouses" and are more frequent in the Tagus Valley. Research on this, which is in its early stages, corroborates this, based on the archaeological record, and the existence of a multifunctional occupation of space where an open settlement and an open-air rocky sanctuary coexisted in perfect symbiosis. It is therefore a unique and, thus far, unparalleled case in this territory.

From Mendes, C., Caninas, J., Henriques, F., Robles Henriques, F., Carvalho, E., “O Homem na Paisagem”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

History made of Rocks

The place today designated as Barrocal, is a last refuge, a last parcel that resulted from the chaos of blocks that once extended around the city. It is to be assumed that in the past different designations would identify the various rocky piles or outcrops that stood out topographically and that could not be missed. Time, that dilutes everything as it flows, dissipated local memories, but in the current rustic land matrix of Castelo Branco, some of toponyms have persisted and are listed as Barroca dos Castelhanos, Barroca das Formigas, Barroca das Vespas, Barrocal or Barrocal à Pipa, showing, once again, that toponymy is a "true epigraphy of land".

The surroundings were not far from the description provided by Baron von Wiederhold when, in 1798, he pointed out: "The city is very rocky. Although there are so many rocks, the fields are cultivated as much as possible; part of the land is sandy". At the end of the 19th century, the much-desired arrival of the railway to these latitudes of the interior regions of the Beira, sectioned the vast Barrocal located to the east and the farthest away from the old city walls, dividing it into two parts, intensifying the sense of remoteness of that area.

Throughout its history, Barrocal has combined objective and subjective realities and experiences of the cyclical daily life of the community, assuming itself as a territory of expression of desires, illusions and frustrations, materialized in a landscape that mirrors urban passions and fears. This interaction between nature and the rhythms of human life, has illuminated all the personal Genius Loci that the Barrocal brings together.

From Neto Salvado, A., Salvado, P., “Barrocal as Memórias e os Sentires”, Monografia do Parque do Barrocal (2020)

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BARROCAL IN CASTELO BRANCO HISTORY

Barrocal is part of the city. Some of the main and oldest historic monuments of Castelo Branco were built with Barrocal Granite. However, it was the construction of the railroad and of the adjacent industrial area at the end of the 19th Century, together with the opening of boulevards such as Nuno Álvares Blv., that led to the opening of several quarries to provide raw material for construction. The scars left behind by these quarries, the ponds and areas between the great granite piles, hold the memories of hours of play and adventures in the Barrocal, of generation-upon-generation.

Presence of Ancient Man

Human occupation in the Barrocal area dates back to the end of the 2nd Millennia/beginning of the 1st Millennium BC. The many unearthed archaeological remains (manual ceramics, stone axes, millstones, etc.) and the presence of an open air Prehistoric Sanctuary, show that profane and sacred activities possibly took place in an area of habitat.

SCHEDULE

Closed on Monday

Winter schedule (October 1 to March 31)

From 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, last entry at 3:30 pm


Summer schedule (April 1 to September 30)
From 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, last entry at 6:30 pm

CONTACTS

BARROCAL PARK
Rua Adelino Semedo Barata, 6000-040 Castelo Branco
+351 272 330 356  |  barrocal.parque@cm-castelobranco.pt
www.barrocal-parque.pt

Park RULES

WELCOME TO BARROCAL PARK, CASTELO BRANCO’S NATURE PARK!
The Park has a lot to offer. It asks only for all and each one of us to respect it, helping to protect its resources and to improve the existing ecosystem for future generations. The rules are few, but if we follow them, we can enhance nature’s impact upon us. Enjoy this incredible experience in the city of Castelo Branco, intertwined with plentiful unique experiences in nature.
No bikes
Please stay on the marked trails
Please avoid making unnecessary noises and carrying out activities that may disturb the peace
No smoking
Do not start fires
Protect our geological heritage: do not collect rock samples
Please observe plants without collecting them
Please observe fauna without disturbing it
Place all rubbish in its correct place