Nearly all the watermills that the walker will find on the route have been recorded since the XVIII Century in the land register of the Marquis de la Ensenada, although many were already in use in the Nasrid period. Many of the mills have been restored and are now rural accommodation for hikers. The flow rate of the rivers of the area means that the Lecrín Valley is “overrun” with mills.
A REMINDER ON HOW TO GET THERE:
- Access: From the coast motorway, take the turning to Padul and carry on until you reach the town centre.
- Itinerary: The outing starts in the Avenida de Andalucía in Padul and, depending on which route is taken, finishes in Acequias, Dúrcal or Nigüelas.
- Length of time: To walk the entire route would be too much,. It is better to go by car, and park it somewhere en route to continue sections of the route on foot.
The route of the watermills, which passes close to the lagoon of Padul and the river Dúrcal, starts out in the Avenida de Andalucía. A signpost marks out the footpath, in the same direction indicated for the Fuente de Mal Nombre. With a certain amount of doubt and curiosity as to what a spring could be like with such a peculiar “Bad Name”, the walk commences among fields sown with poppies. Nearly all the watermills that the walker will find along the route have been recorded since the XVIII Century in the land register of the Marquis de la Ensenada, although many were certainly already in use ever since the Nasrid period. After we go past the first mill, the Señora Amica, we arrive at a spring with crystal-clear water, the Fuente de Mal Nombre.
Any one of the many passers-by can satisfy your curiosity as to how the spring got this euphemistic name. It is sufficient to mention that, according to tradition, the original participants were a nun who was walking in that area, and some disreputable young men.
Just to the side, if the walker looks carefully, he will see cart tracks and hoof prints deep in the rock. This is part of a Roman road that joined Sexi with Iliberis, which was the only form of communication between both cities in the times of the Roman Empire.
A pure-white mill stands just opposite the Fuente de Mal Nombre. It is the Molino de Mezqueros mill, now converted to provide rural accommodation. Perfectly restored by the owner, the mill consists of two millstones, the volaera, or top one, and the solera, the one on the bottom. The windmills which Don Quijote came across were clearly identfiable from the outside by their sails. Watermills, on the other hand, are no different from a normal house at first glance. Along the route, one of the ways in which to distinguish a watermill is, apart from the fact that it is near a river, is that in the courtyard there is a large round table made of stone. These tables are none other than the soleras millstones when they have been worn down by rubbing against the volaera.
The path from Padul to Cozvíjar is unmistakeably indicated on the road, without the need for a road sign or signpost. The fact that the path paved with asphalt that has accompanied the walker until now, now changes to a dirt track is signal enough.
Heading towards Dúrcal, the path becomes wild and jungle-like. On more than one occasion, the hiker has to roll up his trousers in order to cross the river of the lagoon of Padul, particularly fast flowing at this time of year. Semi-ruined mills hide their sorry state of repair in the undergrowth, and electric light stations in the same state appear from the riverbanks. Right next door to the educational school farm of El Molino, the walker will come upon a bridge over the river Dúrcal for this section of the excursion, which is thought of as being Roman but is in fact medieval in origin. The aforementioned farm school means an obligatory stop in the case of having children with you.
For them the stay might be longer in the summer colonies. Pigs, rabbits, horse riding trails and life in the country are the distinguishing features of El Molino. If at this point the hiker should come across a pirate complete with a scar on his face, he should not be deceived. The assistants of the school farm usually wear disguises and fancy dress, to the children’s delight.
Following the footpath, the hiker comes out at the Alquería de los Lentos, an old watermill converted into a hotel and restaurant. Thus the mills along the route supplement their usefulness and please both the eyes and the stomach of the walker. This point could well be the finishing note of the day. If you wish to continue, the next point on the route could be the most mountainous village of the Lecrín Valley, the village of Nigüelas.
Apart from the spectacular scenery, the Lecrín valley also has some interesting museums of great historical interest. One of them is the Molino de Aceite de Nigüelas, that may date from the Roman period. If all the watermills that the walker has seen up until now are for grinding corn, this one was built to make ‘liquid gold’. When the trickle of water from the nearby stream did not have enough water to crush the olives, the annexed Molino de Sangre was used instead. The name “Blood Mill” is no trivial imaginative name, since the force provided by the water was substituted, and it was powered by either animals or slaves.
If the hiker sees fit to go to the neighbouring village of Acequias, he could continue the cultural tour by visiting the Molino de la Interpretación del Agua, an former watermill now converted into a museum through an European project. So that the journey described is not too tiring for the traveller, some sections of the journey can be done in the car and others on foot. Another common option is to follow the route on horseback, or, for the sports lovers, on a mountain bike.
The lagoon of Padul, a biological reserve
The lagoon of Padul extended over more than 300 hectares in the XV Century. Human presence here has been dated from more than 7,000 years ago, and remains of mammoths continue to emerge from the peat bogs. The first phase of drying out the lagoon started when the Catholic Monarchs captured Granada. The concept of environmentalism was still very far away in the XVIII Century, but the concept of hunger was very much present. During this period, the second drying out of the lagoon commenced, to obtain fertile ground for cultivation. Nowadays, the natural reserve forms part of the Sierra Nevada Natural Park, and it has the same level of protection as the Veleta peak, so it is a biological reserve on the same scale. It extends over 60 hectares today.
SETTLING DOWN TO LIVE
A small Great Britain in the heart of the Valley
The English people are not only interested in the beaches of Marbella or Mallorca. Little by little, the Lecrín Valley is being inhabited by red-faced neighbours who are purchasing nearly all the properties they can find for sale in the area. From El Puntal housing estate, located at the entrance to the valley, to Nigüelas, the most “mountainous” village of the Lecrín Valley, more than 900 metres high, the English residents have turned the area into their own private British Isles. The schools of the area, the shops, or the bars can bear witness to this avalanche of foreigners who have found in this Valley incomparable landscapes and affordable prices to be able to settle down there.