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Report 2011: Gozo, Calypso’s Isle

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 16 of 26: Dwejra Watch Tower

photo by MAW

Dwejra Watch Tower

Dwejra Watch Tower is a short and easy walk from the car park across the limestone pavement. It has recently been restored by the Maltese Heritage Trust and is open daily except Saturdays. Look for the flag flying when it is open. It was built by the Knights in 1652 to secure the bay and also to prevent unauthorized access to Fungus Rock. It had a garrison of three people who kept 24hour guard and had three six-pounder cannons and two swivel guns. It was abandoned in 1876, but reused in the First and Second World Wars.

Steps lead up to the first floor entrance which was the guard room and living area with a well. This now has a small reception area. There is a short audio-visual in the basement about marine life. We climbed to the top for views of Fungus Rock and the cliffs with their well pronounced strata. On the roof is a small gunpowder store. This has an exhibition about the Knight’s of St John, their watch towers as well as some information about flowers and animals of Gozo.

Entry is free and the custodian, who was delighted to see visitors, was very chatty. We spent about an hour there and there were only two other visitors during that time. It is a shame as there are superb views from the watch tower, particularly of Fungus Rock.

Fungus Rock is a large sea stack at the mouth of the bay. It is one of the few places where the parasitic flowering plant Cynomorium coccineum grows. It was thought to be a fungus, hence the name of the rock, but isn't. Historically this was regarded as a miracle cure and used to treat numerous medical conditions including dysentery, bleeding and impotence.

During the Knights’ period access to the rock was strictly forbidden and the sides were smoothed making it more inaccessible. A basket on a wire was used to transport legal pickers. There were harsh penalties for trespassers or those found in possession of the plant. This was either the death sentence or rowing in the Knight’s galleys for life. The Rock is still out of bounds to protect the plant.

There is good walking along the cliffs beyond the watch tower.

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