Friday, July 12, 2024

Most visitors to Gozo are surprised at how 'green' it all is !  Away from the resorts and more urban areas of Malta, that is  certainly the case.  The countryside here is quite unique; traditional farming methods still exist and the hilly tiers of terraced fields in the shadow of a late summer afternoon make for stunning views.  Once the first rains of the year have fallen,  usually in September, the landscape is transformed into a myriad of colour and texture; and so it remains, from November to May the island is lush and green.  So, if you have been persuaded, take a walk, a drive, or even a cycle ride and explore your surroundings.

We have made a few notes on the kind of things you may see or ponder on your travels...

These are typically Mediterranean; rocky heath land and drought resistant plants.  The soil may appear thin over its limestone rock bed, but there is a thriving agricultural industry on the island.  Take a look at the variety of vegetables and fruit available at the local market.  Terraced fields  are filled during winter rain storms and act as reservoirs, holding water long enough for the crop to benefit.  Over the centuries, farmers have used the Prickly Pear plant to mark boundaries and the larger leaves of the plant are often used to  provide shelter for newly planted seedlings.

Cliff walking
One of the best cliff views on Gozo can be found at Ta'Cenc.  These cliffs have become home to a variety of wildlife and birds.  The Maltese Islands are on the migratory route of many species travelling from Africa to northern Europe.  The national bird of Malta is the rare blue rock thrush which nests on the southern cliffs over in Malta, and Ta'Cenc is home to a colony of Cory's Shearwaters.  Rabbits, which are a favourite national dish, are now found only in very isolated country spots.  Gozo is the island's main source of honey production and flowering spring herbs bring out dozens of species of butterflies, and of course bees...

Trees and flowers
Plant life here adapts itself to drastic changes between seasons.  During the summer heat, many herbs and flowers wither and go into hibernation, only to spring into life again after the first of the winter rains have fallen.  The Islands are home to many trees; some of these are native, and some introduced by the knights.  Over in Malta, at Buskett Gardens there is a large area of woodland, planted by the knights as a hunting ground.  Native trees to the Islands are olive, Carob, Fig, and Wild almond.  Others, such as conifers and Eucalyptus were introduced as a form of shade and shelter protecting land and housing.  Flowering, decorative trees include the hibiscus, oleander, tamarisk, pink judas, jacaranda and yellow mimosa.

Through the seasons
In the early winter months, after the first rain, you can find the first daisies, marigolds and buttercups.  Then heather, Cape Sorrel, right up until spring when the hues change to include poppies, clover in purple, irises, thyme and the tall fennel.  Along coastal paths you can find lavender, thyme and heathers - they provide lots of colour and give a home to the Maltese Wall lizards so often in evidence.

Just a few of the insects you can find in the Maltese Islands include: the Seven Spotted Ladybird, Green Lacewing, Honey Bee, dragonfly Scarlet Darter and Emperor, Glow Worm, Praying Mantis, Common Potter Wasp, Longhorn Oak Beetle, Two Spotted Field Cricket, and the Cicada !