“The land of seven harvests” was how the agricultural area of the Delta del Llobregat (lyoobrehGATT) south-west of Barcelona was known historically, thanks to its great fertility, plentiful water and mild climate. Now, this area, the Baix (Bash = Lower) Llobregat, is mostly an ugly and cluttered sprawl given over to industrial estates and transport infrastructure like Barcelona’s port and airport, and urban development (several towns bear the name: San Boi de Llobregat, Cornellà de Llobregat, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, El Prat de Llobregat, and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat which is Catalonia’s second largest city by population). And yet… the local train trundling down the coast suddenly leaves behind the warehouses and drab logistics hubs and then, who knows why, stops. All around are row upon row of leafy vegetables. I watch a man ploughing a field right beside the track. This is the Llobregat Delta protected agricultural area that provides us with our weekly basket of productes de proximitat – local fruits and veg. The artichokes are particularly famous.
The Riu Llobregat, at 170 kilometres, is the second longest river in Catalonia (the longest is the Segre). Its source is in the Serra del Cadí up near the French frontier. On its way down to the Med it flows past the iconic jagged mountain of Montserrat and through the town of Martorell where the ancient Roman Via Augusta crosses the river on the impressive Devil’s bridge, which dates from the High Middle Ages in its current form.
A stone’s throw from the city, too, is a haven for birds and birdwatchers. The Natural Spaces of the Llobregat Delta (Espais Naturals del Delta del Llobregat) is a network of protected areas established in 1987 on the right margin of the river that have been declared a Special Protection Area. This is a strategic point on the western Mediterranean migration route between Europe and Africa. More than 360 species of birds have been sighted on the Delta, one of the largest numbers of species seen in the entire Iberian Peninsula. And all within Barcelona’s metropolitan area.