It is fair to say that Gibraltar creates its own micro-climate. Protected by the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the north and the Atlas Mountains to the south, they form a protective barrier from the air that passes through the Alborin Basin. As a result the Alameda Gardens, which are housed on the rock, are the perfect place for Mediterranean and tropical plants to flourish.
The Alameda Botanical gardens are fast becoming one of the great Gibraltar attractions and offer the visitor a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of places such as Main Street and Casemates Square and instead, enter into a world of peace tranquillity and outstanding beauty.
In the year 1815, the then Lieutenant Governor of Gibraltar, General George Don looked into the fact that at the time there was nowhere in the garrison for anyone to partake in what he called 'public recreation'. As a result he commissioned landscapers and builders to put in a walk around the perimeter of what was called the 'Grand Parade'. This became known as an Alameda. This is a popular Spanish word which means boulevard or tree lined avenue or walkway, and gives people the chance to escape the heat of the hot summer sun.
Also around this time the land surrounding the Grand Parade was landscaped and expanded to include eight hectares of what is now known as the Alameda Gardens. The gardens had their inaugural opening in 1816, and the event was covered by the paper at the time. The gardens themselves were laid out with pathways that crossed each other and were lined with terraced beds on either side. These beds were terraced using Jurassic limestone, which was native to the area. Some of this limestone was tinted a gorgeous pale pink colour by the red sand that was also found here. Many years later, a whale's jawbone was used to adorn the entrance and gas lighting was also installed.
Although the gardens have been well used, unfortunately by the mid 1970s they fell into disrepair. They remained in this state until 1991 when finally the Gibraltar Government decided to consult with a group of environmental managers and landscapers who were tasked with the job of returning the gardens to their former glory. Their aim was to establish aesthetic beauty for the benefit of tourists and locals alike, whilst adorning the gardens with all types of plants from the Mediterranean, as well as other climatic zones. Also, a large collection of succulents from around the world was established here. The area was quickly renamed the Alameda Botanic Gardens and is now looked after by a team of horticulturists under the supervision of curator Dr Keith Bensusan.
The gardens house around 1900 species of plants of which over 1000 are succulents. Gorgeous plants such as the Paper Narcissus, rare specimens such as the Gibraltar Sea Lavender and over 170 different types of Aloe can also be found here. The gardens are designed so that no matter what time of the year you visit, there is always something in flower. Other specimens include an old and rather majestic Moroccan dragon tree, a stunning Bismarkia Palm from Central Madagascar, plus plants, trees and shrubs from far-flung places such as California, South Africa and Australia. As well as the flora and fauna, there are also a variety of tranquil water features, an open-air theatre in which are held recitals and musical events during the summer months, and plenty of shady walkways for the visitor to stroll around.
When you travel to Gibraltar a trip to the Alameda Gardens should definitely be on the agenda. They are open daily from 8am to 9pm (or sunset) whichever comes first. There is also free parking and it is free to enter.
Photos By Leo Hayes
Check out this Alameda Gardens Video:
Created by Gold Productions Studios