Cabárceno Nature Park in Cantabria, Northern Spain, is not like other wildlife parks. 75 hectares in size and situated in an old Roman iron mine, it is the biggest wildlife park in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. The former toxic mining zone has been transformed into a wildlife haven, where endangered primates, big cats and European bison can roam in semi-freedom.
It is a bank holiday Friday, Madrileños are celebrating their Patron Saint. Throngs of people are coming into the capital for the festivities, Maria is working on a live TV special. I make a sneaky exit and catch an early morning bus to San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the low, rocky Machotas.
I cross through the enormous courtyard of the Palacio, early tourists wait to enter, while swifts and swallows take their breakfast in the skies above. Leaving both equally noisy groups behind I enter the tranquillity of the Bosque de la Herreria. I wander happily through shaded walkways of tall oak. The forest is overgrown and lush. A robin sits in a bush, crows caw high in the trees.