Just a short walk from the Radisson Blu Resort and Spa in St Julian’s is the start of the Pembroke Heritage Trail – a Natura 2000 site that is bursting with nature’s beauty and Maltese history, as well as being home to a huge variety of Mediterranean flora and fauna.
Here’s 5 reasons why you should get back to nature with a walk along the Pembroke Heritage Trail.
The Rocks and Greenery
This natural site occupies around half the size of the entire area of Pembroke and has one of the few remaining limestone karstlands found on the east coast of Malta. As the hard rock limestone has eroded over millennia, small soil cracks have emerged that have become ideal habitats for garigue, or low aromatic and spiny shrubs like Mediterranean thyme, and bulbous plants known as geophytes.
There are also several varieties of larger shrubs to be found along the trail, such as the evergreen honeysuckle and shrubby wild olives. Among the more commonly-found Mediterranean species of wild plants are also many species of orchids to admire, as well as two very rare species of shrubs that are not found anywhere else on the Maltese islands.
Plants and flowers usually attract wildlife, and Pembroke Heritage Trail is no exception, with more than 200 species of fauna being recorded in the area. Although the wild animals may be no larger than the size of a rabbit, this Natura 2000 site hosts a huge number of arthropods, reptiles and nocturnal creatures such as snails, grasshoppers, butterflies, hedgehogs, bats, shrews and lizards.
Lucky trail explorers may also see a slow-moving chameleon on a branch, or maybe even a black western whip snake rushing under the shrubs.
The Marine Life
Alongside the coastal Pembroke Heritage Trail are the gently lapping waves of the Mediterranean Sea, and with it comes a wealth of marine life near the Heritage Trail. The geology of this coastal underwater world offers many cracks and crevices that provide habitats for shallow-water fish, several species of blennies and colourful wrasses. Hunting these may also be larger predatory fish such as the moray eel, while other creatures such as starfish or sea-cucumbers hang on the rocks or glide across the sandy seabed.
Slightly further out from the coast, snorkellers will also discover a range of marine life, including sponges and anemones, molluscs and crustaceans, and several species of crabs and small shrimps, which all serve as prey for the larger predators such as octopi, squids and cuttlefish.
As an open, natural landscape close to the sea, Pembroke Heritage Trail is the ideal place for birdwatching. Herons often fly low through the site, while kestrels and other birds of prey might fly above. Smaller birds enjoy the cover and camouflage of the grasses and shrubs arounds the rocky terrain, which gives them access to a vast menu of insects for their next meal.
Many bird species such as thrushes, wheatears, wagtails, pipits, larks, starlings, swallows and sparrows also find the site ideal as a breeding ground, so trail explorers may also come across several nests.
Pembroke has a long history that dates to the 1600s, when Grand Master De Redin of the Knights of St John built the Madliena watchtower. While exploring the Heritage Trail, which itself used to be a military trail, visitors will find many structures related to the Victorian military era such as the military shelter rooms. The extensive military history of the area is due to the British Armed Forces using it as a musketry camp and training ground in the 1840s, and it was even the British who named the locality Pembroke.