(1) We leave the stone forecourt of the Monastery (lonja) through the archway, the Arcos de la Compaña. We can enjoy spectacular views of the Garden and Orchards of the Friars and the pond, presided by an enormous weeping willow. Its origin corresponds to one of the two oldest fountains of the area, the fuente de Blasco Sánchez or del Estribo, together with the current Fuente de la Reina, known back then as Matalasfuentes. We are accompanied on our walk by a line of horsechestnut trees.
We continue along the Paseo de Carlos III to access the Herrería (a site declared an area of great beauty, or Paraje Pintoresco, in 1961 and the property of Spanish National Heritage) through two columns: we are on the Shepherd’s Hill, or La Cuesta de los Pastores. We follow the path down, passing on the right a kiosk, called “Zarco”, and next to it a small fountain, the Fuente del Seminario.
On our walk we see a specimen of love tree (Mediterranean redbud) a species that has a spectacular and early pink blossoming. Advancing a bit more, we reach the golf course and opposite this, the facilities of the Youth Hostel, Albergue Juvenil de Santa Maria del Buen Aire. In this area of the Herrería forest the presence of ash trees forms a meadow. We continue down the path, walking next to the wall of the golf course and accompanied by majestic specimens of plane trees. A little before reaching a cross, the Cruz de los Romeros, there is a detour we can take to approach a fountain there, the Fuente de los Capones.
The slope goes down to the streambed, the Arroyo del Batán, and we reach the intersection with the main road, the M-505, which we must cross with care. The asphalted road goes directly up to the Silla de Felipe II (Chair of Felipe II): there is a short-cut along the paths that come out from behind the recreation area on the left. On that same side, we pass the Fuente del la Prosperidad. To the right, we can appreciate the hermitage, the Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia.
(2) At the side of the hermitage, there is a specimen of Scot’s pine catalogued as a singular tree for the Madrid Autonomous Community. Above is found the fountain known as Fuente de las Arenitas. We are in a magnificent area sprinkled with cherry trees, wild pear, spindle tree, blackthorn, hawthorn, wild rose, blackberry, wild plum, elder, privet, ivy, honeysuckle, ferns, willows, hazels, crab apple trees… It is a good spot for bird watching.
(3) From Felipe II’s Chair, the Silla de Felipe II, we enjoy a spectacular panoramic view. We can find here magnificent specimens of Montpellier maple, especially one of arboreal bearing next to the stairway worked in stone, catalogued as a singular tree by the Autonomous Community of Madrid. Red-rumped swallows are usually abundant in this section.
(4) We make our way to the Casa del Sordo. It is accessed via a road that runs from the kiosk located at the base of the Silla. From the Casa del Sordo the view is spectacular. From here, the path links to a wider dirt trail that in turn leads to an entrance to private property. From the gate, without going through it, our route continues parallel to the wall and without taking any other detour to the right. The path twists several times as it goes up. On our walk, we may even surprise a long-tailed or Hispanic lizard and, with a bit more luck, Ocellated or Iberian emerald lizards.
We jump the wall where the GR 10 path is shown (this wall is the “Master Fence” and marks the limits of the old hunting grounds of Felipe II), from where we can already clearly differentiate the silhouette of the “Fraile” (Friar) above, on the peak of the Machota Alta. The junction of the walls marks the limit of the Pyrenean oak; it can’t be missed. From this point on, the vegetation will vary radically (with excellent specimens of the prickly juniper, marjoram, thyme and French lavender) and we get to its left, advancing a short way until we are on a well-marked path.
(5) The path ascends again until it reaches a hill, the Collado de Entrecabezas. Here we have three options:
(6) To turn to the left and go on until the Machota Baja, through Los Ermitaños; or to continue straight ahead and begin the descent towards Zarzalejo among large granite posts, on the path that comes out from the right side of the stream that rises from…
(7) …the Fuente de Entrecabezas and which leads us to the fountain, the Fuente del Rey (around which we will see magnificent chestnut trees, some of which are protected and catalogued as singular trees of the Madrid Autonomous Community);
(8) or to turn to the right and walk up to the Machota Alta, popularly known as the Friar’s Peak, or “Pico del Fraile”. The path continues following the wall which goes up to our right. From this point, we leave the path GR-10. We go over the fence and continue down to the left of the stone wall along a path which, a few metres further along, is well marked. In the first part of this phase, we find ourselves surrounded by juniper, white broom, dog-rose, a large amount of aromatic plants – lavender, thyme, …—, some Holm oak. Almost at the peak, on the other side of the wall, we find an excellent specimen of hawthorn.
We begin the descent following the path, as we have up to now, parallel to the stone wall. A few metres along, the wall changes direction and heads off towards San Lorenzo, leaving a path to the left, parallel to another wall in the direction of the mountain pass, the Puerto de la Cruz Verde. We continue next to the wall until we reach the entrance to a private property from which, in turn, there is an earth track known as the Camino del Ortigal. The vegetation gets thicker and is a perfect refuge for foxes and wild boar.
The Camino del Ortigal continues for some 200m on flat ground, surrounded by white broom, up to a path that goes off on our right, parallel to the metallic fence. This path will take us, on the crest of the slope, to the asphalted surface, always in the direction of the dam, the Presa del Batán, and the Monastery, parallel first to the metallic fence – little more than 100 metres – and after to a stone wall. At the end of the wall, the oak wood. We have two options, both taking us to the asphalted path: one following ahead over the crest of the slope and the other taking the path on the right (which leads into the closed wood of Pyrenean oak, brambles, wild rose and broom) to cross a stream and reach a wide dirt path. We turn along it to the left and go straight to the track (rockroses on the right and ash and oak trees on the left.
(9) We are now once again on the asphalted track, which we take on the right and once at the fountain, the Fuente de la Reina, or the area of the chestnut trees, or Castañar, the ecological path begins. This path, adapted for people who are blind or in wheel chairs, boasts signs providing information. We can enjoy the hundred-year-old specimens of chestnut trees, gigantic lime trees – the Tilo de la Mano lime tree is located on the land of the chestnut wood and two of the chestnut trees in the Arroyo del Carbonel have been classified as singular trees – peonies, hazels, cherry trees, climbing plants, sloes and Pyrenean oak. At the end of the ecological path, a fence closes the path to access by cars and a dirt track coming from the right connects this path with the track that we take after passing the Casa del Sordo and leads us once again to the historic stone chair, the Silla de Felipe II.