It is an area that has coexisted with the written history of our lands. A faithful testimonial of the passage of time, it possesses a natural, historical and cultural wealth that must be preserved.
From antiquity until the end of the 19th century, it was an important location for people looking for land to cultivate and a sense of security, in a very dry area before the construction of the Urgell canal. It has a rich historical heritage including numerous archaeological sites and stone constructions integrated into the natural environment, which give the landscape a human quality and tell us the history and social reality of the territory in recent times; a way of living linked to the agricultural and livestock industry.
The landscape is notable due to its sinuous morphology; the anticlinal valley that isolates it and the network of roads that cover it make it excellent for practising or organizing leisure activities as well as enjoying extraordinary views. Simultaneously, one can find exceptional seasonal passes, hills, wide crop fields and roads guarded by drystone walls.
It is a privileged spot for studying the transformation of the landscape and for visiting the heritage created as a result of the construction of the canal, including the canal in its entirety. From several points the irrigated lands of the plains and riverbanks of Sió can be seen, as well as views of the steppe landscape of the mountain range.
From the villages of La Sentiu de Sió, Montgai, Butsènit, Preixens, Agramunt, Castellserà, Penelles and Bellmunt d'Urgell you can take a route to discover the Bellmunt-Almenara mountain range. Then, there's Pilar d'Almenara, where the first channel of the Urgell canal is born, 3 km from Castellserà in the direction of Preixens.
FLORA AND VEGETATION
The potential vegetation of this area is a forest formed mainly of holm oaks.
In general the holm oak forest has been greatly degraded. The small woods of the hills of Bellmunt and Almenara have been least affected. It is a very poor community in species, among which we can highlight the Etruscan honeysuckle and the prickly juniper.
The kermes oak: the slow degradation of the holm oak wood would entail, especially in the driest, sunniest places, the establishment of the kermes oak scrubland, a shrub that in this case usually measures little more than one meter in height.
As regards the floral composition of this area, there's a variable number of species, among which we would emphasize the black hawthorn.
Scrubland: depending on the nature of the substrate, two types of scrub can be distinguished: calcicolous, formed of rosemary and slim-leaved flax, and those which grow in gypseous terrain, the Gypsophila struthium and Ononis tridentata.
The wooded shrubs, located in some parts of the Llarga hills and between Bellcaire d'Urgell and La Sentiu de Sió, are the result of the Aleppo pine plantations that were carried out some years ago.
In the gypseous places, the spaces left by the bushes and which form the scrub and thyme bushes form a significant lichenic coverage: crustaceous terricolous and squamulose, Diploschistes diacapsis and Acarospora placodiiformis.
The therophytic grasslands: in many places, the degradation of the kermes oak forests and scrubland has reduced them to a minimum, while giving over prominence to ramose false-brome. On the southern slopes and in the silty clay soil, areas of esparto grass may grow, if very fragmentarily.
The nitrophilous vegetation: on clayey and altered substrates, as occurs at the foot of some hills, Mediterranean saltwort grows with white wormwood.
In dryland crops (especially barley) - the crops that are most commonly found in our area -, the plants considered weeds by the farmers are logically affected by the use of herbicides, which means that a series of plants almost always occupy field borders. Most of the flowers that form part of this community of plants are a true mosaic of reds, yellows and greens, which includes mostly beardless hypecoum, poppies and violet horned poppy.
The fauna of the mountain range includes several species from the Pyrenees that are considered invasive, such as the wildcat, the badger and the wild boar. However, the most common mammals in the area are foxes, weasels, rabbits, hares, wild boars, North African hedgehogs, voles, dormice or garden dormice, field mice, shrews and squirrels (in the wooded clearings).
We must also mention reptiles such as the ocellated lizard, the Montpellier snake, the ladder snake, the Lataste's viper, the slowworm, the gecko and various species of lizard (in most abundance is the large psammodromus).
There are few amphibians to speak of. The most common are the natterjack toad and the Perez's frog.
It is also important to highlight the presence of two interesting invertebrates: the scorpion, which is in significant abundance in the mountains, and the tarantula, which builds cylindrical cavities surrounded by vegetation that are easy to see.
The area's significance in terms of wildlife, however, comes from the steppic birds that make the Bellmunt-Almenara range a first order ornithological point of interest. These birds, usually with cryptic colourations and terrain habits, tend to nest on the ground, and some of them have spectacular mating dances. Notable among these birds are the little bustard, the stone-curlew, the calandra lark, the Montagu's harrier, the European roller, the corn bunting and the red-legged partridge
The Bellmunt-Almenara range is considered a pseudo-steppic environment, largely shaped by the actions of man for hundreds of years through the extensive cultivation of cereals and fruit trees in the drylands, pasture, etc.
The proliferation of irrigation, which has significantly reduced dryland areas, as well as the widespread use of fertilizers and the improvement of agricultural mechanization, which have reduced the fallow areas of pseudo-steppic zones, have resulted in the loss of these birds' habitats, as well as the extinction of some species and a fall in number of many others.
It is within this context that the Bellmunt-Almenara mountain range has become an area of great importance for the conservation of these birds and therefore an area of high ornithological interest.
There are also many birds of prey such as the red kite, the black kite, the common buzzard, the western marsh harrier, the kestrel, the Eurasian hobby, the griffon vulture, the golden eagle, the Egyptian vulture and many others. Some of these birds of prey come from mountain areas in search of food, while others spend the younger stages of their lives in the area.