A stroll around Gibraltar No 17 : Europa Point

 

Over the years we have lived in Gibraltar, and particularly since the park was opened there a few years ago, Europa Point has been a frequently visited destination for our family. During those visits I have taken many photos around the place and thought it high time that I share with you some of the pictures I have taken there. You will notice from this post that they were taken at different times of year and you can see the changes in the weather throughout.

Europa Point and it’s Trinity Lighthouse are at the southernmost tip of Gibraltar. It’s not quite the most southerly tip of Europe, Tarifa (which is a bit further West along the coast) can claim that title, but it is an amazing vantage point and stands at the gate of the Mediterranean Sea. Just a few miles across the Straits of Gibraltar you can see the coast of Morocco.

The Trinity Lighthouse is the only lighthouse operated remotely by Trinity House in London which is outside of the British Isles. It has stood on the site since 1841.

It’s guiding light can be seen up to 18 miles away and is much needed to guide sailors safely through the Straits of Gibraltar.

The original Lighthouse keepers cottages are still occupied and I believe they have the claim to fame of being the most southerly houses in Europe as the southern most tip of Tarifa doesn’t currently have houses on it.

What an amazing place to live though… especially on a sunny day. I’m not sure whether I’d fancy it so much during a storm when the spray from the waves is hitting the windows!

The lighthouse isn’t the only tall building to dominate Europa Point, it’s also the site of the largest of Gibraltar’s mosques; Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque. It’s relatively new, being inaugurated in 1997 and is the most southerly mosque in continental Europe.

In the photo above you can see Gibraltar’s trademark levanter cloud forming on the top of the Rock in the background. Unless it’s very overcast or foggy, you are pretty much assured of sunshine at Europa Point because the cloud (if there is one) stays over the town area.

When we first arrived in Gibraltar back in 2009, the area around Europa Point was pretty much wasteland. There was the mosque and lighthouse of course plus a cricket pitch but the rest of the land was pretty rough. The promenade was originally laid out by the military many years ago and had decayed to a very sorry state but in recent years the whole area has had a massive facelift. It was sorely needed as it’s a popular stop off point for the dozens of tourist buses which visit every day.

One of the best viewing points across the Straits of Gibraltar is Harding’s Battery. The Battery is the site of a huge cannon and in the weapon storeroom beneath there is a small museum area with displays telling visitors about the history of Gibraltar, it’s wildlife and it’s relationship to the sea.

The wide open flat space behind Harding’s Battery is perfect for scooters, bikes and anything with wheels. We are pretty frequent visitors there with the Little Postcards. On a dry sunny Sunday afternoon though, you can take your life in your hands trying to navigate across it through the learner cyclists, confident scooter riders flying down the slope from the cannon and chuck in a few remote control cars zooming madly about!

Close by is the Sikorski memorial. It’s a fairly recent addition, having been moved here from the Eastside of the Rock. It’s to commemorate a plane crash in 1943 which killed General Władysław Sikorski, the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army and Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile. The crash also claimed fifteen other lives. The stone which forms the base of the monument was specially shipped to Gibraltar from Poland to build it.

By far and away the best addition for us and countless other families when the whole Europa Point area was renovated several years ago, was the addition of a large and fantastically maintained park. Known in our house as the ‘Lighthouse Park’ for obvious reasons, it has been the scene of many a picnic, play and sibling dispute.

We really are lucky to have such a lovely place right on our doorsteps. It’s lovely whatever time of day you visit.

View from Europa Point to Algeciras

It was the perfect vantage point to catch a good view of the super moon which appeared late last year.

But there’s more to Europa Point that the bit the tourists see…. there’s the coastlline too.

On a rainy afternoon late last year on a walk past the University of Gibraltar, I went for an explore and discovered a path which took me down to the sea.

To the Europa Foreshore…

The area of land directly beneath the Europa Point complex feels like a world away. In parts it’s shabby and unloved, but it’s really special even on a grey damp day like the one when I visited.

As I approached the foreshore I spotted an elderly man standing very still and looking out to sea. I stood back and tried to spot what he was looking at but couldn’t see. He suddenly turned on his heel and walked towards me saying ‘What a magnificent pod of dolphins… they’ve been coming past a lot these past few days.’ Oh how I wish I’d seen them myself!

This area of rock and rough scrub land is a nature reserve, as I was visiting in winter time there wasn’t a great deal for me to see plant wise. I will definitely need to make another trip down there in spring.

Like much of the rest of Gibraltar, the foreshore is dotted with military buildings from years gone by. This was the outer wall of the Rock’s military defences.

It must be very exposed to be down here on a stormy day!

I love the sliver of sunshine breaking the clouds on this photo, but can you see the rain coming down? Within a few minutes that rain was falling on me. Time to run back to the bus stop!

Europa Foreshore, I will be back again on a brighter, sunnier day with my camera. I feel like I have just unearthed a secret world no one else knows about!

 

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No 4: Gardens 

  Convent Garden fountain

Space is at a premium here in Gibraltar so very few people are lucky enough to have gardens. Nevertheless, it would appear that for many, lack of space is not a problem for would-be gardeners. Whichever road or street you go down, you will find keen green-fingered Gibraltar residents making the most of the space we’ve got.   

 St Jago’s

Whether it’s a window box, a row of pots outside the front door or a verdant balcony or roof terrace, those of us who love plants will NOT be beaten! 

 Upper Town

Gibraltar has it’s own Horticultural Society – did you know that? It’s been running for over sixty years. It was founded by Lady MacMillan, the then Governor’s wife back in 1953. Two flower shows are held each year with categories including; balconies, patios, courtyards, terraces, gardens, schools, corridors and estates. So no matter how much or how little space you’ve got, you can still have a go – even if it’s a single geranium plant in a pot. 

 Upper Town

It would seem that the British love affair with gardening persists even in these sunbaked and at times, rather unforgiving climes. There’s a Facebook page for Gibraltar home gardeners which boasts nearly 300 members and is a forum for gardeners to share hints and tips as well as sharing pictures of their horticultural successes and failures. 

 Upper Town

Sourcing plants isn’t too much of a problem here thankfully as there is a (small) garden centre – possibly the smallest in the world! The supermarkets here also stock some plants, although we have found to our cost that a few of them are a bit too ‘British’ for the Gibraltar climate and haven’t necessarily done too well here like hydrangeas and raspberries. 

 Garrison Library garden

We are also lucky enough to have a few garden centres situated a short drive away in Spain, so if we can’t find what we’re looking for here, we don’t  have too far to go to get new stock. 

 Europa Point Lighthouse keepers cottage gardens

Also, in my experience, I have found Gibraltar’s gardeners very generous in parting with their plants. In the last year I’ve been gifted nasturtiums and two types of lily. I have also bought a few plants from the Convent Garden at it’s annual garden party. 

 Upper Town

For some people, of course, their gardens can’t be on ground level and a roof terrace is their only outside space. 

 Town centre roof terrace 

One of the greatest upheavals of moving to Gibraltar (apart from leaving friends and family) was leaving my garden. I was a keen gardener and an avid watcher of Gardener’s World. I attended Gardener’s World Live at the NEC in Birmingham twice and made a wonderful trip to the Chelsea Flower Show. We may not have a beautiful display of bulbs in Spring, a lush green lawn in Summer or a beautiful show in Autumn with our Acers in our old front garden, but in Gibraltar we can embrace a different form of gardening. 

 South District

One plant which has always failed for me after at least half a dozen attempts, both in the UK and here in Gibraltar is agapanthus. I would just love to have some in our patio and lust after these beauties in the Governor’s own back garden:   

 Convent Garden

We have, however, had great success with our geraniums and pelargoniums which we inherited when we moved into our place. I was, at first, filled with trepidation about becoming custodians of such mature plants, but  so far, we’ve succeeded :-), we haven’t lost one yet! They grow so big here as they don’t lie dormant long in the winter like they do back at home (or indeed get killed by frost), as long as they are regularly dead headed and have a bit of plant food every now and again, they give us a wonderful show. They look their absolute best at sunset after a sunny day as the just seem to glow!

  I do hope you’ve enjoyed this short stroll around Gibraltar’s ‘gardens’, please call in again soon as I’ll be heading out for another stroll next week!