Benalup-Casas Viejas is a township of about 7500 inhabitants which is on a hillside called Loma de las Grullas, due to its proximity to La Janda’s lake where there were, among others, many of this kind of birds before the lake dried.
Its location in the province of Cádiz is privileged as it occupies the geographic centre of the south half of the province. At the same time it is also the geographic core of La Janda region.
Indeed, Benalup-Casas Viejas is located between 36º 20’ 30” north latitude and 2º 7’ 30” west longitude, at a fewer distance of 20km from three big historic cores like Vejer de la Frontera, Alcalá de los Gazules and Medina Sidonia. However, it is also equidistant, about 60km far from the three big metropolis of the province of Cádiz, the capital, Jerez de la Frontera and Algeciras.
Regarding the current communications, the central location in La Janda region, is in its favor. The nearest airport is located in Jerez de la Frontera, about 57 km far. The nearest railway stations are Puerto Real (50km) and Algeciras (62km), being the lines of Madrid-Cádiz and Algeciras-Bobadilla the most accessible ones. Regarding the buses, it is remarkable the lines of Benalup-Casas Viejas, Medina Sidonia-Cádiz and the one of Benalup-Casas Viejas Puerto Real- Cádiz. With regard to the accessing routes, we find the roads C-211 Benalup-Casas Viejas-Medina Sidonia, the local road of Benalup-Casas Viejas-Alcalá de los Gazules, the road C-440 and the road C-343.
If we pay attention to the characteristics of the relief, we can come to the conclusion that it has the same nature of intersection already mentioned. In effect, in its municipal township we find the two essential forms that make up the province of Cádiz. To one side, the Western countryside and to the other side, the group of mountains. Between these two and as a extension of these, we find minor unities which are the protagonists of the location of the village of Benalup-Casas Viejas; Las Mesas, concretely Mesa Baja and Vega del Barbate.
And so, its municipal township is divided into three areas; la mesa, la sierra and la vega. La mesa is a big area of olive and mastic trees, finding on it the best preserved fan palm area in the township. As typical fauna it is remarkable the Pampa finch, the abulilla, the little owls, pigeons and doves and the European turtle dove. To the southwest, in the old lake of La Janda, it is located one of the biggest colonies of storks of the township, finding also several cattle egrets, Montagu’s harriers and several duck species. The abundance of rabbits in the area is noticeable. The traditional dedication of the territory to the extensive cattle industry has provided a high degree of preservation. In the area of the groups of mountains, the preservation of the natural habitats is even better, as its exploitation is and has been extensive. The cork oak or the shrub oak, as it is known in this area, is the most characteristic forestall specie and along with it, it is remarkable the presence of the cistus, strawberry trees, lings, laurel trees, ferns, willows, gall-oaks, alder trees and escobones. The fauna of the area is formed by vultures, Egyptian vultures, eagles, swifts, starlings and ravens, deers, wild boars, foxes and roe deers. Finally, the area of la vega del Barbate is dedicated to the cattle industry, fundamentally to the extensive type and that is the reason because its natural habitat is fully deteriorated.
Between Mesa Baja and Vega del Barbate it is produced a sloped relief that was used by the founders of Casas Viejas in order to place their homes, giving origin to what we currently know as Benalup-Casas Viejas. Since the 60’s until now, the village has known a progressive and gradual development occupying (and it currently does) the highest and plain area of the mesa, next to this slopped relief. So, we can establish a first division in the urban planning of Benalup; the historical centre or the oldest area located in lands with considerable slopes and a modern area which is located in obvious.ly, flat lands.
Its climate is Mediterranean of oceanic influence with Western and Eastern wind predomination. In the municipal township of Benalup we find the spread of Las Lagunetas, about 10 km far from the urban centre approximately.
We think it is appropriate to briefly analyze the geological characteristic of Mesa Baja. During the Paleozoic and Mesozoic this area was covered by the Tethys Ocean. This geosynclines was being filled up with sediments during these periods, fundamentally in the Secondary or Mesozoic. In the Cenozoic, as we know, it took place the alpine paroxysm which is the base of the current relief. The East was elevated while the West was sunk, both separated by the current basin of the Barbate river. The transition between the Valle of the Barbate river and the Western countryside is occupied by a calcareous mass. The old part is about 50m of the sea level, while the summit where the modern Benalup-Casas Viejas is, has 100 mt of height of the sea level. Regarding to the materials, it exceeds those of the Cenozoic, limestone generally. The ground type is the denominated Mediterranean red ground, and its lithology is full of calcareous limestone, which gives the ground a sandy texture. This causes a very permeable ground, making up in its interior an abundance of water-bearing mantles.