this is a two and a half hour walk from my house, a circular walk which five of us and three and a half dogs walked on the day after Christmas. The half dog is one of the Al Manzil Weimerana puppies; given a few rests and a cuddle or two she managed very well.
Manfred and I started out from Al Manzil, walking around the edge of the sierra to Arroyomolinas (the arroyo, the valley, of the mills) which is a very pretty walk in itself, mostly next to rough shooting territory – coto desportivo de caza, say the warning notices – on the hillside, in between one or three pretty fincas of grazing cattle, bells clonking away, and cork oaks; on the other side several flat olive groves, silver leafed seas of trees in rows, all the same height, the earth bare except for a few fallen olives. it was chilly and mist still hung between Arroyomolinas and Alcuescar.
the other three arrived by car at the bottom of the Garganta (throat, ravine, though ravine hardly does it justice) and we set off uphill between two spurs of the Sierra, covered with oaks and the occasional little abandoned plot of bright green grass and orange trees in favoured spots with water.
the watermills driven by the Garganta stream are based on the Roman pattern, with a narrow culvert for the millstream on top of a high stone built construction.
there is a long well-like drop onto the water wheel, long since rotted away in this valley.
there are fifteen altogether here. One imagines a constant stream of donkeys carrying corn up and flour down this path
there has been some rather heavy handed reconstruction, rather than conservation, using unsympathetic materials like the modern terracotta tiles visible on the roof of the adjoining building.
otherwise the stonework blends into the rocky background of dry stone wall and granite boulder.
the path marches along the side of the valley, rising pretty smartly, and soon one begins to feel as if one is about to arrive at the top.
this is deceptive though, there is another half an hour, at least, of steep path from this point.
the bones of the hill; jointed granite terrace and cliff and tumbled peaks. Even a turreted fortress appears where more resistant rock has stubbornly remained.
the last steep rise to the last of the mills
one looks back at a foreshortened view of mill and rocky landscape.
the path joins a system of paved caminos around the back of the Montanchez sierra, which lead to other circular walks
several more stiff turns up the stone paved path and one arrives at the top, the flat and fertile heights of olive groves.
now the camino leads directly to Montanchez
shady with encinas in places and in others between old coppice of castaña (sweet chestnut) which reminds of Sussex woodland.
in Montanchez coffees and beers in the sun at the plaza, and then the steep downhill walk down through the town and the old mule camino back to the house. three hours in all, in refreshing cool air and bright sunshine.
Manfred made an epic ride from Al Manzil via Arroyomolinas and the the garganta to Montanchez a few years ago on his locally bred Hispañola/Arab – ish little horse, Ali, galloping all the way on a loose rein, jumping and dodging boulders, the horse completely at his own speed, in forty five minutes from home to the Plaza del Toros at the top of Montanchez.