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Endless olive groves which blanket rolling hills; blue and green where land and sea meet. This is familiar territory, the Corfu of the picture-postcards, of the villa brochures. Habituated to these gentle bucolic scenes, the traveller, coming on harsher landscapes, is caught by surprise. Such a scene presents itself at the end of a little road which leads from Agios Mattheos to the ocean on the west coast. Here is Lake Korission, a brackish lagoon which extends over 1500 acres under an open sky.
Bordered by forested dunes and edged by marsh plants and grasses, it is the island's most significant wetland biotope. The road ends near the sea at Halikounas, but you may continue northwards or to the south by way of unmade tracks. Southwards, the track runs along the narrow spit of land which separates the sea from the lagoon. Juniper trees, low-growing and battered by the west wind, blanket the dunes.
The track runs on and ends at the lake's outlet, where a wooden footbridge crosses to the lushly forested Issos peninsula. Here you continue on a footpath to the lake edge, then bear right into the forest of holm oak trees, their distorted trunks and writhing branches conjuring up an illustration by Arthur Rackham. You expect to meet fairies, but there are only some wandering tortoises and a herd of goats. Here, centuries of leaf-fall, mouldering in the dank shade of the close-woven branches, have generated a deep layer of soil where, in sunny pockets, wild flowers grow luxuriantly. Then the holm oaks give way again to junipers and you emerge onto sandy dunes again; only the sight of distant, olive-green hills around Hlomos remind you that this is not a real desert.
Onwards, following the wheel-tracks made by 4x4 vehicles, you reach the shore at Agios Georgios Beach - the quiet end, a mile or more from the tacky resort.
All this region, from the Lake to the furthest extent of the forest, is a notable wildlife habitat. 126 species have been recorded, among them widgeons and cormorants, while the endangered Great White Egret number over 90.
Leading northwards from the end of the asphalt road which ends at Halikounas, the track takes you to a low cliff above the sea, where there are benches so you can sit with a view of the open water. On the littoral late summer plains, you may also see wine-making in progress. Look out on the roadside for the Livadiotis Winery; their wine, made from the local Kakotrygis grape variety, has a unique taste which has earned it Appellation Controlée classification.
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