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The nature trail of Castel Manfrino
The Pro Natura Laga association, born in Teramo in March 1998 and headed by Pro Natura Abruzzo, aims to promote, through a knowledge of nature, aware of the complexity and delicacy of its balances, the protection of areas of greatest naturalistic interest and the improvement of the quality of the urban environment in relation to the biological and cultural needs of man. To encourage this new attitude towards the environment, the Pro Natura Laga association promotes the dissemination of Environmental Education in schools of all levels both through specific courses and as a discipline with a transversal character compared to all the others.
Since the acquisition of a new sensitivity towards the environment passes mainly through a direct approach to the natural reality of its territory, the association proposes to use some areas of the Gran Sasso - Laga National Park, equipped with particular requirements as permanent locations for routes - nature aimed at encouraging students to develop the ability to read the environment. Among these places, the area close to the ruins of Castel Manfrino, near the group of the Twin Mountains, in the municipality of Valle Castellana, in the province of Teramo, seems to possess characteristics particularly suitable for this destination thanks to the good accessibility of the places, in conditions of relative safety, and the plurality of educational and cultural values that the site presents. The study of the environment thus becomes the leitmotif of an interdisciplinary work project rooted in the territorial context of the pupils. For this reason, the Pro Natura Laga Association, with the financial contribution of the Park Authority, is preparing to set up a "nature trail" in the area complete with illustrative boards and naturalistic and historical-architectural observation stations, representative of the geomorphological and flora characteristics. - salient fauna of the biotopes crossed and of the historical and monumental emergencies of the castle site, to be used with the support of specially prepared illustrative didactic material.
- Knowledge of one's territory;
- awareness of the ethical value of knowledge of nature.
- Knowledge of elements of ecology;
- knowledge of the features of the history of their territory;
- knowledge of basic notions of geography and geology.
- Read a natural environment;
- recognize the relationships that intervene between the components of an environment;
- knowing how to compare;
- build disciplinary and transversal knowledge;
- knowing how to classify organisms;
- distinguish the different phases of local history;
- knowing how to report on the activities carried out.
- Take an exploratory attitude;
- perceive the environment in aspects and suggestions that are not strictly cognitive-rational;
- be able to highlight the relationships between causes and effects in an environmental context;
- acquire behaviors that respect the environment.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Equipment for mid-mountain walks, notepad, pencil, pens, magnifying glass, binoculars, containers and plastic bags for collecting samples, water bottle, packed lunch.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AREA
This area, like other areas of the Gran Sasso - Laga National Park, does not show in its present aspect that condition of almost original naturalness typical of environments that over the centuries have remained free from significant anthropic interventions. In fact, in the territories of the park the human populations have exercised a progressive modifying action of the environment whose beginnings can be traced back to those phases of prehistory (the Neolithic period) in which pastoralism and then agriculture took root in the central Apennine area. .
In many areas, therefore, despite the great suggestion of the landscapes and scenarios, the traces of a centuries-old presence of man and an exploitation of the environments begun in ancient times are still clearly legible today, especially through the analysis of the vegetation cover, despite the fact that depopulation and the abandonment of the mountains in recent years. Among the areas of the park that, due to their particular morphology, perhaps from more ancient times have seen the transit and then the settlement of human populations in protohistoric times, there is the basin of the Salinello stream, with its gorges that have always represented a fairly easy communication channel between the environment of the Middle Adriatic hills, which were the site of agricultural development very early on, and the vast hunting and grazing areas of the Monti della Laga, beyond which it was possible to access the Rieti basin and then to the Tyrrhenian side.
This connection function was accentuated in Roman times when probably, according to the hypothesis of the historian Nicola Palma, along the Salinello valley incision ran a branch of the Via Salaria called Via Metella and was then maintained in medieval times, when on the remains of a Roman castrum, probably reused by the Lombards, was built under the Swabians in a strategic position and on a rocky spur at about 963 m of altitude, the Castello di Macchia, now known as Castel Manfrino. To date, however, no concrete elements have emerged that corroborate the Roman and Lombard presence, certain information on the existence of the castle is obtained instead from the reading of documents from the Angevin source, the oldest of these is dated November 28, 1269 and from the discovery on the spot of 13th century vases.
The fortification was part of a defensive line consisting of 12 castles positioned along the border between the Papal State and the Kingdom of Sicily established after 1153 with the annexation of the territory by the Normans. The Macchia Castle was almost certainly built starting from 1263 by general Percivalle d'Oria by order of Manfredi in anticipation of the descent of the troops of Charles of Anjou, to this circumstance we must probably trace its name of Castel Manfrino or Castel Manfrì. The walls of the castle aligned along a longitudinal axis in a north - south direction, follow the course of the contour lines with a length of about 120 m and a width of 20 - 25 m. In the Angevin period it was dominated by three towers and inside it contained in addition to the stables and the quarters of the troops and the castellan, a chapel and a cistern located under the keep located to the north, next to the entrance. The vertical structures were made up of "sack" walls, while the horizontal ones, concerning the roofs, the floors and the stairs were mainly wooden; no trace remains due to the perishability of the material of these elements. For the construction was used the timber from the surrounding woods that perhaps at the time were still made up of valuable species such as silver fir. This essence, which has now disappeared spontaneously in the area, survived at least until 1939 with some specimens on the nearby Montagna di Campli. On the other hand, the destruction of the woodland in the vicinity of the castle was aimed at increasing visibility and precluding any possibility of cover for any attackers. The strategic importance of the Macchia Castle was reduced starting from 1400 with the introduction of gunpowder and probably at that time the progressive decline of the structure began.
The examination of the area where the remains of the castle stand today therefore presents multiple values both of a naturalistic and historical nature precisely because of the fact that in this sector of the park, perhaps the result of that co-evolution between the physiognomy of the natural landscape and the different forms of human use of the territory that have occurred over the course of history.
Precisely for this plurality of cultural values and for the relatively easy accessibility of the places, the Pro Natura Laga association proposes the use for educational and scientific purposes of the currently existing path that connects the town of Macchia da Sole to the ruins of Castel Manfrino, through the preparation of a real "nature trail" equipped with didactic boards that illustrate the salient geomorphological and florofaunistic characteristics of the biotopes crossed and the historical and architectural emergencies of the castle site.
As regards the geomorphological framework, among the most important aspects we can remember the presence along the path, near Macchia da Sole, of Miocene marly rocks called Marne con Cerrogna which is followed by the outcrop in the castle area of the so-called Dolomie of Castel Manfrino which dating back to the period between the upper Triassic and the lower Lias (around 200 million years ago) represent the oldest geological formation of the mountainous complex known as the Twin Mountains. These limestone reliefs located east of the Monti della Laga and called Montagna dei Fiori (1814 m) and Montagna di Campli (1718 m) are defined as "twins" because of their essentially identical geological and structural characteristics. They are separated by the deep transverse incision of the Salinello Gorges, which represent the result of a typical phenomenon of antecedence, since the route of the Salinello stream, which flows below Castel Manfrino, was established before the uplift of the mountain range, in the course of the Pliocene, and river erosion has affected the chain as it formed, dividing it into two similar reliefs.
From the point of view of vegetation, due to the reduction of anthropogenic exploitation in recent years, it is now possible to witness in the area a gradual process of re-naturalization of the mountain slopes overlooking the path, along which all the stages of the dynamics can ideally be retraced. of the vegetation, which, starting from the arid pasture with grasses originated due to the cuts of the past, lead through the open formations to red juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), fragrant broom (Spartium junceum), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa ) to the reconstitution of the sparse wood of oak (Quercus pubescens), field maple (Acer campestre), ash (Fraxinus ornus) and black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia). The path of the path, while not allowing to come across plant species of particular rarity or undisturbed plant formations, allows visitors to grasp through the guided reading of the vegetation the historical evolution of the plant cover of the site and the realization of those dynamic processes, which in the absence of disturbance, can lead to the reconstitution of the wood cover in degraded areas.
Another aspect that can easily be highlighted, especially in the final part of the route, is the influence of the exposure of the slopes on the microclimate and therefore on the distribution of the individual plant species. In fact, it can be easily observed how along the slopes exposed to the north the common juniper (Juniperus communis) with bluish black galbuli replaces the more frequent red juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus) with reddish galbuli, typical of sunny areas and as near the ruins the variations of exposure favor the appearance of tree species such as beech (Fagus sylvatica) and holm oak (Quercus ilex) with very different ecological requirements.
Among the most common herbaceous plants along the path are: the ciliated carnation (Dianthus ciliatus), the Italian perpetuins (Helicrysum italicum), the cornflower of Abruzzo (Centaurea ambigua), Eryngium campestre and Eryngium amethistinum.
From the point of view of the fauna, due to the elusive nature of most of the vertebrates present in the area, the easiest encounter in the summer is with insects, in particular with Orthoptera and Lepidoptera, which populate in large numbers the dry and sunny slopes. The observation of the most widespread species is interesting as it allows to highlight some of the typical defense strategies based on mimicry. Thus on the flower heads of thistles and scabiose between late spring and summer it is easy to observe the butterflies of the genus Zigaena with the typical red and black livery, a classic example of phaneric mimicry, that is, of warning colors that warn insectivorous birds on the toxicity of the species that exhibit them.
Among them, but more rarely, the species Zigaena ephialtes is also found. which differs for the black color flecked with white that imitates the appearance of other equally unappetizing butterflies belonging to the genus Amata.
The latter represents instead an example of Mullerian type mimicry since in this case the same pattern of warning coloring is exploited by several disgusting species that take advantage of the experiences made by predators on one of them.
Also among the Orthoptera spread along the path we find many examples of mimetic colors such as that of the locusts belonging to the species Oedipoda coerulescens and Oedipoda germanica.
They fly away from the gravelly areas exhibit the flashing blue or red coloring of the hind wings which, after a rapid flight, suddenly disappear under the gray or brown tegmine, as soon as the insects settle again, mingling with the substrate. This sort of flash effect confuses predators who are unable to focus their attention on a precise image of the insect to search for.
As far as vertebrates are concerned, the observation possibilities essentially concern birds. Looking at the sky carefully, it can also happen to observe in addition to the common gray crows, the rapid passage of the jay or the evolution of some birds of prey such as the kestrel, the buzzard and the peregrine falcon that nests in the nearby Gole del Salinello. If the vegetation is observed with the aid of binoculars and preferably with the guidance of an expert, it is also possible to distinguish many species of Passerines, whose variety depends on the presence of various transition environments.
Among the large mammals in the area, the wild boar (Sus scrofa) is quite numerous and has returned to be part of the wildlife of the province of Teramo since 1976, the year in which the first entries made in the municipality of Montorio al Vomano date back. Today the wild boar, which had disappeared from Abruzzo probably since the last century, is widespread in all the municipalities of the mountain and high hills of the province. Omnivore par excellence, it has managed to spread also because it is able to modify its diet according to the food resources offered by the various environments; on the Monti della Laga the wild boar seems to have found an ideal environment for its survival as the vast woods offer shelter and food in autumn and winter. From May to November, when the desirable resources offered by the wood decrease, it leaves the boundaries of the Park to frequent the fields located on the edge of wooded areas and consume cultivated plants such as cereals, potatoes, sunflowers. The traces of its passage are easily recognizable thanks to the characteristic "plowing" that it leaves in the fields and meadows after having dug with the snout called "grifo" in search of roots, tubers and insect larvae. Among the natural enemies of the wild boar there is another inhabitant of this area: the wolf. In the area of the Monti della Laga, the presence of a nucleus of ten to fourteen wolves seems to have been established, which, as has been recently ascertained, also frequent the area of Monti Gemelli. One of the methods used to identify and count wolves in a given area is to emit recorded howls to which they usually respond. The numerical increase recorded by this predator in recent years must certainly be attributed to the protection status granted to the species since 1976 and to the return of wild ungulates in large portions of the Apennines.
Pro Natura Laga Association
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