Experience the Park

The Majjistral Nature and History Park commands magnificent views of the Northwest coast of Malta with visitors being able to see as far as Sicily on nice clear days.
Visitors can walk along kilometers of trails that will take you through a myriad of habitats synonymous with the Mediterranean climate. Visitors can also enjoy viewing the many endemic species of flora and fauna spread all over the place.
Historical features related to past agricultural activities and military history can be observed through the extended network or dry stone rubble walls, the many corbelled stone huts (giren), Pillboxes, shooting ranges and the Għajn Tuffieħa Barracks.
The Majjistral Park also hosts one of the most frequent beaches in the Maltese Islands, the same beach holds the last remnants of shifting sand dunes on the Island.

Coastal Heritage

Majjistral Nature and History Park

The rock layers most in evidence here are the Blue Clay and the overlying Upper Coralline Limestone.

 

 

 

*Photo provided courtesy of Tessa Mercieca.

The northwest of Malta with its scenic coast and alternating ridges and valleys provides an array of landscapes coupled with far-reaching views to Gozo.

The area is of High Landscape Value and is characterised by two wide karstic plateaux; the bay of Ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa (Golden Sands); the headland of Ras il-Waħx – encircled by a string of boulders forming a landscape unique to the Maltese Islandsa; and the cliffs which continue along the coast as Rdum Majjiesa and Rdum id-Delli up to the next bay of il-Prajjet (Anchor Bay).

The rock layers most in evidence here are the Upper Coralline Limestone lying over the blue clay. Exposed layers and collapsed boulders of Greensand can be identified by their orange colour. Marine erosion plays an important role in shaping the landscape, producing inlets and bays with small pocket beaches at the head of the bays.

The Majjistral Park includes 6 KM of walkable coastline, where one can view all these features in peace and quiet.

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Much of the Park is composed of coralline limestone forming plateaus and coastal cliffs, however a number of different habitats can be found. A habitat is a place where wild plants and animals live. Habitats can over time degrade, especially at the hands of man, or improve. Among the most important habitats in the Park are –

Garigue. The garigue habitat is composed of low shrubs not higher than one metre, together with a number of other plants including annuals and those with a bulb or other storage organs. A typical plant of this habitat is the Mediterranean Thyme (Thymus capitatus), most in evident during flowering in late spring and early summer.

Maquis. This habitat is defined by evergreen shrubs and trees that are up to three metres high, together with a number of other plants such as climbing plants. In the Park this habitat is found in the coastal area.

Coastal Cliffs. Much of the cliffs found in the Park do not rise directly from the sea and form what is known as the rdum, where clay slopes and large boulders are found. Here a high number of wild plant species occur, including ferns. Several pairs of Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) nest in the cliffs.

Clay slope steppe. In the coastal areas, slopes of clay are visible. One typical plant of these habitats is the Esparto Grass (Lygeum spartum).

Rock pools. Temporary small rock pools form in winter on the rocky ground. The shallow ones dry quickly, but deeper ones may persist for some time and harbour aquatic life such as the freshwater shrimps (Branchipus) and species of algae.

Sand Dune. A small sand dune remnant occurs at ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa beach, where sand blown inward by the wind has formed mounds of sand that are inhabited by salt-tolerant wild plants. One key species of this dune habitat is the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum).

Fields. A number of fields also occur in the Park, some of which are abandoned, others worked. In these areas of disturbed land, a diversity of wild plants can be found, such as poppy species (Papaver), fumitory (Fumaria) and White Rocket (Diplotaxis erucoides).

Natural Heritage

Ecology

Olive trees at Majjistral Nature and History Park

The olive tree was first reported to have originated in Syria. Its nutritional value and medicinal qualities were discovered around 2000 BC. The health benefits are both internal and external for a person (Immune System Support, Pathogen Control: virus, retrovirus, bacteria, fungi, parasites, Cardiovascular health, Cholesterol & Hypertension).

Olive cultivation very often has a positive impact on the environment and the conservation of the landscape. It is an essential factor in combating desertification, which is one of the greatest environmental problems in the Mediterranean Region. In providing shelter and food for wild fauna, olive groves contribute significantly to maintaining the biodiversity of these regions.

The Park has a diversity of habitats such as cliffs, clay slopes, boulder screes, garigue, temporary freshwater rock pools, agricultural land (both abandoned and in use), and a sandy beach with a small sand dune. These different habitats harbour a diversity of fauna and flora, some of which are rare or endemic.

Visiting the Park will take you through a variety of different habitats that are of major importance due to the specie making use of such areas. Many of the habitats are listed as ANNEX 1 habitats of European importance.

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The coastal heritage of Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park is an impressive one. The features that are found include cliffs, boulder screes, visible layers of geological rocks, old stone stairways, old rubble walls, a medieval village, British military structures, and whole communities of coastal plants well-adapted to live in harsh conditions. The coastal area of the Park also holds a landscape of high aesthetic quality.

Much of the coastal area of the Park consists of cliffs and boulder screes. In some areas slopes of blue clay and detached boulders of greensand are also visible. The greensand when exposed turns orange, and greensand rocks become very visible even from far away. Along some parts of the rocky ground near the edges of the cliffs there are narrow and deep gashes. These are also present in some parts of the cliff faces. These gashes form when underlying rocks of greensand and blue clay weather and erode down, leaving the upper layers of rock (upper coralline limestone) without support. The boulders beneath the cliffs are in fact the result of this. Some boulders slip or fall down beneath the cliffs, others tumble further down and may end up at the sea shore, forming boulder screes. These boulder screes are absent in the northernmost and southernmost areas of the Park.  The whole habitat of cliffs, clay slopes and boulder screes is known as Rdum. Walking in the rdum of il-Majjistral Park one cannot be awed by the impressive towering cliffs and large chunk of rocks. Rocks here can have a “sponge-like” surface, the result of countless years of rock weathering and erosion. Rock boulders resting on each other often give rise to a cave-like formations. The northernmost coastal area of the Park holds low cliffs rising directly from the sea. Weathering and erosion processes especially by the sea waves have here formed caves.

In the southernmost area of the Park is Ramla tal-Mixquqa where a rare habitat exists: a sand dune. The sand blown inwards by the wind forms mounds that some plants can inhabit resulting in the formation of sand dune communities.

In the area of Rdum id-Delli there is a subsidence structure (doline or sinkhole), where rainwater carries sediments down towards the coast. One process of doline formation is when the ground collapses because the underlying rocks are chemically dissolved, leaving a weak “roof” that will eventually collapse.

The coastal area of the Park is of immense natural heritage. The Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) haunts the cliffs and rdum. It is a common breeder and its presence enriches the coastal biodiversity. Its melodious song can be heard on many months of the year. The coastal area also holds most of the few breeding pairs of Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) found in the Park. Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis), Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) and a few pairs of Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata) also breed in the coastal areas.

The flora of the coastal heritage abounds with rare and endemic species. Ferns find here a good habitat and 4 species have been recorded, including the Mule’s Fern (Asplenium sagittatum) inhabiting deep and dark shafts. The sub-endemic, small and often un-noticeable plants of Maltese Toadflax (Linaria pseudolaxiflora) and Pignatti’s Fern Grass (Desmazeria pignattii) also find the coastal area their home. The endemic Maltese Sea Chamomile (Anthemis urvilleana) reveal themselves when in flower, these small plants inhabit both above and below the cliffs. Other coastal endemics include the Maltese salt-tree (Salsola melitensis) and Maltese and Zerapha’s Sea-lavender (Limonium melitense, Limonium zeraphae). The populations of the sub-endemic Southern Dwarf Iris (Iris pseudopumila) found so far in the Park only occur in the rdum. Good numbers of the endemic Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis urvilleana) grow in the coastal sites, as well as in other areas, of the Park. Adding to the beauty of the coastal landscape are the clay slopes full of the Esparto Grass (Lygeum spartum), its rhizomes helping to lessen the erosion of the clay. The number of other flora species at the Park, tied to or not to the coastal areas, is very high.

The sand dune at Ramla tal-Mixquqa is likewise important for a number of plants that are located only in such habitats, including the only population of Sand Restharrow (Ononis variegata) known for the Maltese islands. Perhaps the best known plant found here is the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum), often painting parts of the dune white with its flowers.

Flora

Ecological Surveys on wild plants carried out in the Park has revealed over 370 species, many of which are native, and include rare, endemic or sub-endemic ones. Iconic species on the Park’s rugged rocky landscape include the Maltese Shrubby Kidney-Vetch (Anthyllis hermanniae), Maltese Spurge (Euphorbia melitensis) and the Mediterranean Thyme (Thymus capitatus). The African Tamarisk (Tamarix africana) and the Esparto Grass (Lygeum spartum) inhabit the coastal areas, the latter’s rhizomes helping to stabilise clay from being eroded away. The Park’s flora also contains wild orchids, with 9 species found frequently to common. The Fagonia (Fagonia cretica) is a relatively uncommon species that is confined to the western area of Malta and is found in good numbers in the Park. Four species of ferns inhabit the coastal areas, the commonest of which is the Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris).

 

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Much of the Park is composed of coralline limestone forming plateaus and coastal cliffs, however a number of different habitats can be found. A habitat is a place where wild plants and animals live. Habitats can over time degrade, especially at the hands of man, or improve. Among the most important habitats in the Park are –

Garigue. The garigue habitat is composed of low shrubs not higher than one metre, together with a number of other plants including annuals and those with a bulb or other storage organs. A typical plant of this habitat is the Mediterranean Thyme (Thymus capitatus), most in evident during flowering in late spring and early summer.

Maquis. This habitat is defined by evergreen shrubs and trees that are up to three metres high, together with a number of other plants such as climbing plants. In the Park this habitat is found in the coastal area.

Coastal Cliffs. Much of the cliffs found in the Park do not rise directly from the sea and form what is known as the rdum, where clay slopes and large boulders are found. Here a high number of wild plant species occur, including ferns. Several pairs of Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) nest in the cliffs.

Clay slope steppe. In the coastal areas, slopes of clay are visible. One typical plant of these habitats is the Esparto Grass (Lygeum spartum).

Rock pools. Temporary small rock pools form in winter on the rocky ground. The shallow ones dry quickly, but deeper ones may persist for some time and harbour aquatic life such as the freshwater shrimps (Branchipus) and species of algae.

Sand Dune. A small sand dune remnant occurs at ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa beach, where sand blown inward by the wind has formed mounds of sand that are inhabited by salt-tolerant wild plants. One key species of this dune habitat is the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum).

Fields. A number of fields also occur in the Park, some of which are abandoned, others worked. In these areas of disturbed land, a diversity of wild plants can be found, such as poppy species (Papaver), fumitory (Fumaria) and White Rocket (Diplotaxis erucoides).

Caper flower at Majjistral Park

The caper was used in ancient Greece.
Capers can be grown easily from fresh seeds gathered from ripe fruit and planted into well-drained seed-raising mix. Seedlings appear in two to four weeks.

The caper bush requires a semiarid or arid climate. The caper bush has developed a series of mechanisms that reduce the impact of high radiation levels, high daily temperature, and insufficient soil water during its growing period. The flowers are sweetly fragrant, and showy, with four sepals and four white to pinkish-white petals, and many long violet-colored stamens.

For a list of all plants recorded in il-Majjistral please check below.

Check out the list of plants at Majjistral Park

Lichens

Not less than 30 species of Lichens can be found in the Park. Lichens are made up of two organisms (Fungus and alga/cyanobacteria) living in a symbiotic way. Lichens can grow on many surfaces, but many grow on rocks, trees and soil. They do a lot of benefit, such as releasing oxygen during photosynthesis. For more information about these organisms and species that have been found in the Park please check out the list of Lichens below.

Check out the list of Lichens at Majjistral Park

Lichens at Majjistral Park

When you look at a lichen you are not seeing one organism but at least two. You are seeing a structure (thallus) formed by the interaction of either a fungus with an alga or of a fungus with a cyanobacterium. The fungal partner is called the mycobiont. It is incapable of making food by photosynthesis so it gets its sugar derivatives from the algal (or cyanobacterial) partner called the photobiont.

Lichens can survive very harsh conditions. Locally this means long months of exposure to the hot sun without water during which they will dehydrate. This interrupts photosynthesis and will slow down or arrest their growth but it still allows them to survive.

Fauna

Sardinian Warbler at Majjistral Park

Sardinian Warbler (‘Bufula Sewda’) is one of our resident birds.
This striking bird is common in the Park preferring areas with trees and shrubs but is also found in the garigue habitat.
It nests in shrub and lays 3 to 5 eggs in one clutch and can have 2 or more broods per year.
The warbler is frequently heard singing (including in aerial song flight) and it feeds on invertebrates, berries and other fruits.
The female feeds their chicks every 7 mins (on average) without stopping for 12 days!

*Photo provided courtesy of Aron Tanti.

Birds

Majjistral Park is one of the best areas to observe, photograph, and study wild birds. The best seasons are spring and autumn, but during the other seasons many birds are still observable. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded in these last 5 years at the Park. These include rare and scarce species, some of which are irregular visitors to the Maltese Islands.

The coastal areas hold breeding Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), Malta’s national bird. It can be seen all year round in practically all areas of the Park, even away from the cliffs. Its melodious song is heard on many days of the year.
The Blue Rock Thrush is one of 11 bird species that nest regularly in the Park.

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The others are: Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla), Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata), Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti), Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis), Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra), Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) and Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispanicus).

A feral population of pigeons (Columbia livia domestica) also nest in the cliffs, some having an almost similar true Rock Dove (Columba livia) plumage. Sardinian Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas are common residents and are likely to be seen on every visit to the Park. Spanish Sparrows are everywhere, but Tree Sparrows are scarcer and only observed in a few sites such as the barracks area. Spectacled Warblers occur in a few sites, nesting in low shrubs in the garigue or in the areas beneath the cliffs. Its presence is often revealed by its alarm calls. Cetti’s Warblers are often hard to see because they sing from trees or other vegetation. Short-toed Larks make their appearance in April after arriving from their wintering quarters in Africa. They take up territory and fly high singing above it.

The Collared Dove is a relatively recent breeder in the Maltese islands, and it is found in good numbers in several areas spread throughout Malta. However, it is still a rare breeder in the Park, with regular sightings of a few birds only at the barracks.

The rarest of the Park’s nesting species is undoubtedly the Corn Bunting. Once a common breeding bird of Malta, it has now declined severely. A handful of Corn Buntings have been recorded nesting in same areas in these last years. Here the male can be seen singing from prominent perches such as electricity wires or the top of a plant. From all nesting birds in the Park, the commonest species are Spanish Sparrows, then Zitting Cisticola followed by the Blue Rock Thrush.

Other birds that have been recorded nesting in recent years in the Park, but irregularly, include the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) and the Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris), two frequent to common spring migrants. Malta’s largest breeding bird – the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) is a regular gull in the Park especially at the coastal areas but has never been found nesting.

During migration, the stretches of garigue are favoured in spring by migrants such as the Hoopoe (Upupa epops), the Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and the Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), while in winter Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) and Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) are regulars.

For more information about wild birds in the Maltese islands and in il-Majjistral Park please check the list below.

Check out the list of birds at Majjistral Park

Mammals

Wild rabbits (scientific) are perhaps the most widely recorded species in the Park, their presence often revealed by their droppings and burrows. Other mammals that have been recorded in at il-Majjistral include The Weasel (Mustela nivalis), Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus) and different species of bats including pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus sp.).

Hedgehog at Majjistral Park

Algerian Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), Maltese name: Quanfud is the largest of three insectivorous mammals that occur in the Maltese Islands.
The familiar Xummiemu is instantly recognisable from its coat of spiky bristles, which are actually toughened modified hairs that cover the animal`s back for protections from predators.
The underside of the body is not covered in these bristles, which is why the animal rolls into a tight ball when it encounters danger, so as to cover the soft unprotected belly, head and limbs.
They natural food is insects, snails, slugs and earthworms, which hedgehogs forage for at night.
The Algerian Hedgehog is protected!
*Photo provided courtesy of Guido Bonett.

Black Western Whip Snake at Majjistral Park

Black Western Whip Snake (Maltese:’Serp Iswed’) growing to 1.5 m in length, is the largest and commonest snake in the Maltese Islands.
It has a rounded snout, large eyes with a round pupil, and a long tapering tail. The shade of its underside is ash and occasionally yellow. In contrast, the young snakes have an olive-green head and a light ash colour which darkens along the years; these show the same colour as those of the adults on their fourth year.
The Western Whip Snake occupies all types of habitats; still it has a preference for dry and quiet places. One may come across it along valley sides, maquis and open rocky ground, where it is occasionally observed basking on rocks or rubble walls. It is an extraordinary hunter, using its vision to locate prey, which varies with local availability.
However, it typically takes other reptiles and small mammals, including lizards and their eggs, mice, shrews, other smaller snakes, frogs and large insects.
*Photo provided courtesy of Guido Bonett.

Reptiles

The rocky landscape and diverse habitats of the Park is a home to reptile species which include 3 species of snakes, all of which are not dangerous to humans. The most likely to be encountered during a warm sunny day is the Black Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus).

The other two species recorded in the Park are the Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) and the Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla). Other terrestrial reptiles found in il-Majjistral are the Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica), the Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), the Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) and the Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon).

The Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta), a marine reptile, has successfully nested at Ramla tal-Mixquqa (Golden Bay) in 2016 and 2020.

Amphibians


Malta’s only native amphibian, the Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus) is also at home in il-Majjistral, inhabiting damp places such as streams or temporary pools.

Amphibian at Majjistral Nature and History Park

Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus), Maltese Name: Żrinġ is the only native amphibian on the Maltese Island.
They are mostly a muddy mustard-brown in colour, with darker patches that looks like daubs of paint (hence its name). They live in damp plaes, especially  wet valleys with seasonal streams but also in and around small agricultural reservoirs.
The painted frog is protected!
*Photo provided courtesy of Annalise Falzon.

Swallowtail at Majjistral Park, Malta

Swallowtail at Majjistral Park, Malta

 

*Photo provided courtesy of Noel Camilleri.

 

Insects and other invertebrates


It is no surprise that a relatively large area as il-Majjistral Park holds a diverse array of invertebrate life including insects. Among the most noticed are the butterflies. Here 9 species occur regularly, including the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon).
The Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is one of several moth species that have been recorded here, and one of the most known, often seen in daylight hovering in front of flowers to suck nectar.  Dragonflies, grasshoppers, mantids, cicadas, wasps, bees, beetles, bugs, spiders, freshwater shrimps and snails are other invertebrate life that can be found in the Park. For more information, see the list below.

Check out the list of Insects and other invertebrates at Majjistral Park

GEOLOGICAL TRAIL AT MAJJISTRAL NATURE AND HISTORY PARK

Boundary

Boundary

HIGHEST POINT @125 m above sea leavel

*Thanks to Chiara Parise

Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park is situated in the North-Western coast of Malta (Mellieħa), in the area between Anchor Bay in the northern part and Golden Bay in the southern part. The park includes different elements of natural, cultural and touristic interests. It is possible to find anthropic heritage, unique habitats for flora and different geological sites.

Malta is an important touristic island, especially near coastal areas. Within the Park area it is possible to practice various activities like geological and natural hiking, trekking, horse riding and snorkeling.

LITHOLOGY OF MALTA

Lithology of Malta

MAIN LITHOLOGY IN THE PARK

Upper Coralline Limestone: most common surface rock. There are irregularly shaped depressions formed by solution.

Blue Clay: a band along the coast, under Upper Coralline Limestone.

 

 

Lower Coralline Limestone

It’s the lower, made up of carbonate sand and gravel mixed with shell fossils. It’s hard and resistant to wear and tear, and forms steep and vertical cliffs along the coast. (north-west of Marsalforn on Gozo). High erosion resistance.

Globigerina Limestone

It’s the middle interval, softest of the three limestones. It’s composed nearly completely of planktonic carbonate and gets its name from the Globigerina foraminifera. Yellow-grey colour. It’s used to construct buildings, pavements and Maltese towns. Deposited in deep water (200m). It shapes an undulating landscape.

Blue Clay

Softest rock on Malta. It consists of very fine-grained particles of clay minerals and carbonate, which make it impermeable. It catches water that sinks down through the porous rocks above and forms the floor of a precious freshwater table. Plastic/ductile.

Upper Coralline Limestone

It’s a lookalike of its older sibling, deposited in the same high-energy deposition environment. On Gozo, this hard limestone stands out as caps with steep cliff sides and flat tops, above the softer rocks beneath. High erosion resistance.

GEOMORPHOLOGY

Geomorphology is the study of processes which shape landscapes. Il-Majjistral Park is a fine example where such processes can be evidently seen. It is a landscape which offers many opportunities for the observation of geomorphic processes.

Much of the landscape of the Park is characterised by the Upper Coralline Limestone and blue clay. In a few coastal areas of the Park small rocks of greensand can also be found. The shape of the landscape in the Park is highly controlled by the presence of faults and boulders of limestone that have detached themselves from the plateau. The most outstanding features of geomorphology in the Park are cliffs and bays. Indeed, the high and steep cliffs and two sandy beaches represent the main coastal landforms of the Majjistral Park. Marine erosion also plays an important role in re-shaping the landscape, producing inlets and bays with small pocket beaches at the head of the bays.

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The evolution of the Park’s landscape results directly from the position of a hard rock – the upper coralline limestone – resting on a softer rock – the Blue Clay. Blue Clay erodes by water, and when this happens the upper rock layers collapse as they have no support beneath. Some of the upper coralline limestone rocks stop below the cliffs, others fall further down into the sea. This collection of rock under the cliffs form what is known as boulder screes, and are important geomorphological features in the Park. Boulder screes at the shoreline protect it from the weathering effects of waves.

Blue Clay was formed in deep sea and is made up of fine-grained sediments with a large component of organic material derived from plankton (plants and animals that drift with the sea currents). Clay forms gentle slopes, some of which are covered by soil and vegetation. The Upper Coralline Limestone includes shallow marine sediments that contains different types of corals (marine animals that secrete calcium carbonate and are important reef builders) and coralline algae (red algae that contain calcium carbonate). The Upper Coralline Limestone forms steep cliffs and well-developed karst topography. Karst topography is a landscape shaped by rain water dissolving the limestone, giving the surface a rugged shape, and the formation of land forms such as shafts, tunnels and caves.  The depressions produced by solution (weathering, i.e. breakdown of rocks, of limestone by acidic rainwater) in the Upper Coralline Limestone are filled with soil.

The soil in the Upper Coralline Limestone is reddish, and is called Terra Rossa. Biological activity within the soil accelerates the weathering of the limestone. The reddish tinge of the soil and rocks is due to relatively high content of iron oxide.

Coastal erosion (wearing down of material and its transport) and/or gravitational processes, chemical weathering and rock spreading play their part in the geomorphology of the Park. Fissures (fractures or cracks) play an important role in the instability of the limestone cap rock, favouring processes of detachment and the subsequent displacement of the rock boulders. Where fissures occur, soil accumulate and vegetation grows, further contributing to the widening of the fissure. The weathering of the softer underlying rocks further destabilises the cliff face, resulting in the eventual detaching of blocks of rock, and sliding down towards the shoreline.

Landforms that have been affected by the action of running water (fluvial landforms) in the Park are those that have been created by deposition of sediments and those created by erosion. Such landforms include V-shaped small dry valleys in the Upper Coralline Limestone that are relicts of former pluvial (heavy rainfall) conditions and groundwater erosion. Today these valleys are currently converted to agricultural land. Other fluvial landforms are large valley beds and cones (accumulation of sediments shaped like a section of a shallow cone) consisting of Quaternary sediments transported and deposited through the action of water as well as gravitational processes. In Majjistral Park there are also areas showing extensive erosion by wind and water (Badlands). This Badland topography can be seen at coastal steep Blue Clay slopes that are exposed to the action of water, resulting not only to erosion processes but also to instability.

Karstification is well-represented in the area. The Upper Coralline Limestone is very sensible to the dissolution action by rainwater, the slightly acidic water dissolving the calcium carbonate found within the limestone throughout the ages.  This Karstification is widely seen in the surface topography of plateaus showing irregular and rugged shapes. Dissolution of limestone can also create caves, where the roof collapses down causing subsidence at the surface. Two such dissolution subsidence landforms in the Upper Coralline Limestone occur in the Park.

Humans have throughout time significantly shaped the terrain of the Park through agricultural, recreational and touristic activities. There are fields, inland and coastal, some of which are bordered by dry stone walls (rubble walls), some abandoned and others in use. Other human history include archways made from stone, cart-ruts, corbelled stone-huts, and remains of British military architecture.

Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park is a landscape rich in geomorphology. Perhaps the most significant landforms within the Park are landslides located at the coast and favoured by the overlying of the Upper Coralline Limestone above the Blue Clay. These landforms are the result of key processes that provide a comprehensive understanding of the geomorphological evolution of rocky-coastal areas. Other geomorphological features, as we have already seen, include landslides (lateral spreads, block slides and rockfalls), dissolution subsidence structures, areas characterised by dissolution surfaces, dry valleys and badlands. Il-Majjistral Park is truly an important area not only in its rich natural heritage but also in its geomorphological features. A deeper understanding of such processes should lead to a greater appreciation of the Park by the general public.

IL-MAJJISTRAL LANDSCAPE

IL-MAJJISTRAL LANSCAPE

Il-Qarraba

Il-Qarraba is a promontory on the north-west coast of Malta and it divides Golden Bay (in the north) and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay (in the south).

Il-Qarraba is a promontory on the north-west coast of Malta and it divides Golden Bay (in the north) and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay (in the south). It reaches a maximum altitude of 29 m above sea level and it has a very particular morphology, due to sea erosion and atmospheric agents. The layers that emerge are Blue Clay Formation and, above this, the Upper Coralline Limestone Formation. The Blue Clay layer, due to its high erodibility and its direct contact with the sea water, tends to shrink more and more, bringing the layer of Upper Coralline Limestone to collapse. The latter in fact remained a platform of about 8 km, which will tend to shrink over the years until it disappears.

Cultural Heritage

Ta' Ciantar Tower at Majjistral Park

Għajn Żnuber Tower (Maltese: Torri ta’ Għajn Żnuber), also known as Ta’ Ciantar Tower (Maltese: Torri ta’ Ciantar), is a rural structure in the limits of Mellieħa, Malta. It was probably built in the 19th century as a farmstead or hunting lodge, and it later served as an anti-smuggling post and a coastal lookout position.
The building was restored by Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park in 2012 after part of it had collapsed.

Various features of cultural interest that merit conservation lie within the boundaries of the Park. These features include cart-ruts, long rubble walls (dry stone walls), farmhouses, small beehives, tombs dating to the Classical period and numerous corbelled stone huts (giren). On the two sides of the valley overlooking Golden Bay (Ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa), there are entrenchments built as part of a coastal defence system during the period of the Knights of St John in the early eighteenth century. The cultural features of the area are intimately linked to the geographical landscape in which they are situated.

The rural, vernacular and military heritage of the area forms an important cultural landscape, with human activity attempting to make the most of the difficult conditions and limited resources available. Of more recent origin are the Second World War pillboxes/gun-posts and British Navy stone markers which highlight the importance of the area especially in the early 20th century.

Two large sets of military barracks used during the British period as well as a disused military shooting range lie just outside the confines of the Park.

During the first World War, wounded soldiers from the Battle of the Dardanelles (Battle of Gallipoli) were brought to a large hospital camp erected in this area.

The rural, vernacular and military heritage of the area forms an important cultural landscape, with human activity attempting to make the most of the difficult conditions and limited resources available. Of more recent origin are the Second World War pillboxes/gunposts and British Navy stone markers which highlight the importance of the area especially in the early 20th century.

Double Girna

The girna or Maltese corbelled stone hut is an important feature of the local landscape which provided shelter to farmers and herdsmen or their livestock in days gone by.
Some are still well preserved and should be considered a subject of architectural, cultural and ethnic value, having been passed from one generation to the next.

British Army barracks

During the centuries, due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean
Sea, Malta was home to much strife and military activities.
In the Park one can observe many British military structures dating back to the early twentieth century, such as the Għajn Tuffieħa Barracks, shooting ranges, pillboxes and stone property markers, which highlight the importance of the area during that time.In August 1915, work began on converting the military camp at Għajn Tuffieħa into a convalescent hospital for 5,000 injured soldiers coming from the campaign in Gallipoli.
Three camps were initially formed with a central headquarters a kitchen, spartan bathing facilities and sanitary conveniences. Each camp had its own vegetable garden and a ten-acre plot was set for the cultivation of potatoes.

Two large sets of military barracks used during the British period as well as a disused military shooting range lie just outside the confines of the Park.

During the first World War, wounded soldiers from the Battle of the Dardanelles (Battle of Gallipoli) were brought to a large hospital camp erected in this area.