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Guardamar Del Segura:

 

Famed for its fabulous white sandy beaches, Guardamar del Segura stands at the mouth of the river Segura, north of La Mata and Torrevieja on the southern Costa Blanca, Spain. It is a busy town and popular holiday resort for thousands of visitors, and rightly so as it has much to offer. Guardamar has 12 km of fine sandy beaches, beautiful parks, numerous fine restaurants, many specializing in local cuisine, and an interesting history stretching back many centuries.

Guardamar del Segura has been populated since pre-history, with artefacts found in the Bajo Segura providing evidence of Neolithic (9,000 - 2,000 BC) settlements. During the 8th - 6th Centuries BC the area was much influenced by the Phoenicians who brought Greek and Phoenician objects to the region in trade. There is evidence of a Phoenician harbour town in the area now called “La Fonteta”. It was a fortified town with an enormous wall and was well placed to support Phoenician shipping routes along the Mediterranean, it was a very important town in these times.

In what is now known as the Iberian Period (6th - 2nd Centuries BC) several villages were built around the mouth of the Segura, some large and fortified. Skills were learnt and the making of iron developed along with writing and sculpture. There was a village known as Cabezo Lucero where a bust of a lady was uncovered in later years, now known as the “Dama del Guardamar” (Lady of Guardamar).

With the arrival of the Romans in the 2nd Century BC a cultural change swept over the whole region - the Latin language was compulsory for everyone. Trade and commerce thrived and the area, as was typical in Roman times, became wealthy. New villages appeared together with improved facilities for the exploitation of fishing and salt. A salt works appeared just south of Guardamar del Segura at La Mata.

The Guardamar region seems to have remained stable up until the late Roman period (5th - 8th Centuries AD) when the decadence of the Roman Empire led to much vulnerability and invasions from the east of Europe caused instability throughout the whole area.

The 9th Century witnessed the conquest of the peninsular by the Arabs and the Islamic religion and culture swept over and finally devoured the Christian way of life. Around the middle of the 10th Century AD by command of the Caliph Omeya Abderraman III some religious buildings were constructed close to the mouth of the River Segura, amongst these was a fortified monastery (Al - Monastir) known as “La Rábita”, remains of this can still be seen today.

The Arab occupation lasted up until the 13th Century when Christian troops under Jaume I came from the north. Peoples from Aragon and Catalonia settled the area and coexisted with the Muslim population. In 1271 Alfonso X founded Guardamar del Segura as a town on the site of the castle. In 1305, by way of the Treaty of Elche, Guardamar and the region east of Murcia became part of Valencia under the Crown of Aragon.

Due to its strategic position Guardamar del Segura was prone to constant insecurity. In 1331 the town was burnt down by Muslims from Granada and most of its inhabitants deported. The town was burnt down again in 1358 by “Peter the Cruel” (Peter II of Castille) as a punishment for weakness shown by the town during the wars between Aragon and Castille. During these times the commerce of the town depended mainly on fishing and salt, although there was some agriculture and cattle. Towards the end of the 15th Century agriculture became more important and the irrigation of vast pastures owned by the town, resulted in a growth of population throughout the 16th Century.

In 1558 the walls of the town were reinforced by Joan Baptiste Antonelli to resist artillery attacks from barbary pirates.

Old GuardamarIn 1829 the old town of Guardamar del Segura was destroyed by a huge earthquake that devastated the whole region of the Vega Baja and left 3,000 people homeless. The engineer for the region at that time, Joachin Larramendi planned the construction of a new village. The new town was designed in a neoclassical style with straight perpendicular streets, set north to south in 3 symmetrical squares. The houses were designed to withstand earthquakes, single storey and with large yards. The site of the old castle and town was used as a quarry to provide materials for the new town.

The population however soon discovered that the chosen location, closer to the sea, was not ideal as strong winds from the east were dragging enormous sand dunes towards the town. Cultivated areas were engulfed by the sand and even some of the northern streets of the town were being submerged by the moving sand. The problem reached its peak in 1896 when it was realized that a solution had to be found. The regions mountain engineer Francisco Mira Y Botella came up with a plan to plant trees along the sand dunes to slow down the movement of sand. He did much research to find suitable species of trees for the terrain, to endure the strong east winds and for drought conditions. He settled on pine trees (of various species), palm trees and eucalyptus trees, together with some creeping species of plants.

The planting began at the beginning of the 20th Century and continued for over 20 years, the people of Guardamar del Segura took part in the planting and were paid a salary for doing so. The plan worked perfectly and so the town was saved from disaster. The resulting forest still exists today and still keeps the sands from moving. The area is now known as “La Pinada” and covers an area of 840 hectares, now declared an area of natural interest. There is a wide variety of flora and fauna to be found here and it is a popular place for an afternoon stroll in the shade of the trees.

King Alfonso XIII visited Guardamar del Segura in 1923 to open a canal from Guardamar to Elche, built to provide much needed irrigation for the fields of Elche. The town continued to grow and still relied largely on agriculture for its income.

From the 1950’s tourism started to become important in Guardamar del Segura as holiday makers from Madrid and the rest of Europe descended on the town during the summer months. So began the housing development of the town - mostly houses for summer use.

Guardamar’s main income now comes from tourism and housing development, including the sale of land for building. The only industry of note is a battery factory built at the end of the 1970’s.

There is some confusion as to the origin of the name of the town. Some say it translated as “Guardian of the Sea” but a more likely theory is that it derives from the Arabic “Guald - al - Amar” (River of Sand).

Places of interest in the area are the Parque Reina Sofia (Queen Sofia Park), a fine place for a picnic, La Gola, where the river meets the sea - perfect for water sports,and the Parque Natural de Laguna de La Mata, which includes the La Mata salt lake and is a popular area for horse riding, cycling and walking. Many also choose to bathe in the salt water and enjoy its healing effects. A trip would not be complete without a visit to the bustling town of Torrevieja with its fine promenade, busy shops and restaurants and its huge Friday market. Important festivals are the Moors and Christians (July), L’Encanta and the Fogueres de Sant Joan.

Guardamar del Segura has many fine beaches including Los Viveros, Playa Centro, El Monacayo and of course not forgetting its naturist beach Los Tusales. Also worth a visit is the Casa Cultura (House of Culture) which houses many historical artefacts from Guardamar’s past.

Guardamar del Segura is located between Torrevieja and Santa Pola, and can be easily reached via the coast road (N-332) or by the CV-910 from Rojales.