Cortegana is characterised by a broken relief, typical of the Sierra de Huelva, where valleys are mixed with small hills, giving great picturesque value to the natural surroundings, which have been worked by the passage of time and the labour of our ancestors.
The broken terrain produced the origin of numerous river courses, especially associated with the Guadiana bowl, forming an important hydrological resource with elements related to its use.
To the west of the municipality is the source of the río Chanza which runs off in an east-west direction to the foot of the Picos de Aroche and the Sierra Pelada. Also, to the west of the municipal area is the source of the Alcalaboza River, which feeds into the Chanza at the Portuguese border. To the east runs the Arroyo de Carabaña, which feeds into the Caliente River, tributary of the River Múrtiga, and to the south is the source of the Olivargas River, affluent of the Odiel.
In addition to the original woods in the region of these riverine areas, one can view other natural spaces such as holm oak woods, cork oaks or chestnuts, which constitute the most characteristic trees of the Park
Our Park was declared a Natural Park by the Andalusian government on the 28th July, 1989. It is also the Biosphere Reserve of the Sierra Morena Hill Country, declared by UNESCO in 2002, and is included in the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (CETS). Furthermore, it is part of the Places of Community Interest (SCI) and is a Zone of Special Protection of Birds (SPA).
The hill country of holm oaks and cork oaks occupies the greater part of Cortegana’s territory, showing a well-wooded countryside and mostly inhabited by pigs, sheep and cattle.
Deciduous trees are also well represented around Cortegana, predominantly chestnuts in the higher elevations , given the climatological and soil conditions required by this species, which is distributed around the urban nucleus of Cortegana or in other areas such as the Alcalaboza river.
Cortegana’s climate is Mediterranean with cool temperatures in winter and warm in summer, which decline especially in the evenings. The average annual rainfall for Cortegana is around 1000 mm.
Other transformations carried out by men have generated a countryside full of vegetable gardens, orchards, pastures and olive groves, very common in the terrain near the urban nucleus and the rivers, taking advantage of the flat areas and plains. Cherry, almond and pear trees, alongside the changeable chestnut trees, spread bursts of colour which make a beautiful show around Cortegana in spring and autumn.
The vegetation of the river woods and gallery woods, composed of two species of poplars, ashes, alders and willows, together with alluvial growth like rushes, oleanders and tamujo, a typical riverine plant in this part of Spain, is well represented in the region of the Chanza river and the Carabaña. Zones of typical Mediterranean vegetation are scarce in our area due to the human intervention which have transformed the terrain to make the most of it for our own use and are therefore reduced to the higher and more inaccessible elevations, where hunting often takes place.
In our woods can be found moer than 600 species of wild mushrooms and fungi, among which more than 30 species are edible, which makes a good part of our geography a favourite with mushroom lovers.
After a hot summer, after the first rains at the beginning of August, among the chestnuts, oaks and cork trees, we can enjoy the appearance of the Queen of the Sierra Mushrooms, the “Tana”, as the locals call it, the scientific name being Amanita Caesarea,Amanita caesarea, showing an explosion of the senses, peeping out from the dark reddish ground covered with chestnut leaves, with its golden orange colour, surrounded by a veil of purplish white…
Once autumn has fully set in, we can find, so long as the rains continue, chanterelles, «rebozuelos» o «chantarelas» (Cantharellus cibarius), boletus ( local name tontullo) «tontullos», (Boletus aereus), and parasol mushrooms «gallipiernos» (Macrolepiota procera).
In the pine tree covered areas, we can find red pine mushrooms or saffron milk cap, «rebollones» (Lactarius deliciosus) which locals hardly bother to collect as it isn’t much appreciated in this area. There is also a great variety of colourful Russulas.
In the mixed woods, if it is a very wet season, we can find death caps«Trompetas de los muertos» (Craterellus cornucopioides) and with great difficulty, Yellowfoot «Gula de monte» (Cantharellus tubaeformis)..
Other species present in the hills are varieties of boletus: Leccinum lepidum, Xerocomus badius, Xecoromus rubellus, false death caps,Amanita citrina, Amanita vaginata (variedad crocea), monk’s head Clitocybe geotropa, ink cap Coprinus atramentarius, shaggy ink capCoprinus comatus, Coprinus pinaceus, snail’s footCortinarius trivialis, wood blewit Lepista nuda, and tree oyster mushrooms Pleorotus ostreatus.Apart from the last two, most of these are poisonous or inedible.
Also, if the season is particularly wet, we can see on the chestnut trunks various species such as beefsteak fungus «Lengua de Buey» (Fistulina hepática).
If we have had a nice rainy autumn, at the beginning of spring we can expect many varieties of highly valued mushrooms, like the exquisite ponderosa (local name gurumelo) Gurumelo (Amanita ponderosa), which is very much sought after and prized by the local inhabitants, and shares its habitat with the shy, very similar, but poisonous “josefita” josefitas (Agaricus arvensis)
The diversity of species which make the Sierra de Huelva a fascinating focus for mycology lovers attracts hundreds of amateurs to come and enjoy the countryside and the mushroom cuisine that can be found in restaurants specialising in recipes made with seasonal mushrooms, delighting the palate of the diners without any doubt whatsoever.
Cortegana has quite a diverse fauna. The most interesting species are distributed in zones where there is less human presence, with less cultivated countryside and because they are less accessible, are less frequented by people. It is therefore more difficult to see the more imposing species such as the black vulture, of which we have the biggest colony in the Peninsula, the short-toed snake eagle, sparrowhawk, goshawk, golden eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, peregrine falcon, kestrel or the beautiful eagle owl.
The birds found along the rivers and lakes include the black stork, kingfisher, and more common, grey heron, mallard ducks, wagtails and nightingales. Smaller birds like woodpeckers, hoopoes, bee eaters, magpies, these last two with their wonderful plumage, song thrushes, blue tits, warblers, and in summer, cuckoos and shrikes, have validated the declaration of the Park as a “Special Protection Area” for birds.
In the hill country and leafy woods live mammals such as deer and wild boar, which two species are of special interest to hunters, and other like Egyptian mongoose, marten. weasel, gennet, badger, wildcat, and the very rare Iberian lynx. In aquatic habitats you can find species like ferrets and otters.