One would be forgiven to think that the landscape surrounding Tarragona has been tampered to death by heavy industry. As you make your way in from the Reus airport it looks just like that, with the Repsol chemical works belching out smoke, warehouses, and motorways clogging up the horizon as you make your way towards the city. Yet a great initiative by local conservationists is taking place putting the many secluded walks one can take around the Tarragona countryside on the map.
A few miles down the road, following the the tired Riu Francoli, past the concrete landscape and motorway bridges, one is led it to a heartland filled with lush Mediterranean vegetation. This is were the Pont de les Ferreres, the great remains of the Unesco listed Roman aqueduct, which brought the once pristine waters of the Francoli river in to the city, are found.
A little further down the road one can see the remains of the Mas dels Arcs, a once impressive medieval buildings, and towered by a column with a winged angel watching over the silent landscape. Despite the pervasive decay, with pieces broken off exposing the supporting wires, and graffiti smeared around its base, it is a beautiful place of contemplation.
After this it’s a long walk of over 20 kilometers along the Mediterranean landscape, where cypresses, oaks and pines gripping the calcareous ground, are interspersed with ancient abandoned smallholds, dry stone demarcation walls, sudden open sea views, shepherds tending after their flocks, fields and (sadly) the occasional new sterile concrete sprawl of summer villas left empty over the winter.
It ends at Riera de Gaia, a small Catalan village, fringed by fields and set along an ancient river bed.
The Tourist board in Tarragona has issued an easy to follow map with local walks which one can pick up at any of their outlet. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a wider initiative aimed to open Tarragonese outdoors to greater public appreciation.