The recovery and conservation work past and present of olive and flour mills in the Lecrin Valley is worthy of its own chapter. Today we can make a journey through time and space to take us closer to systems and ways of life that have disappeared or have changed radically.
In our Valley we can find a network of mills, the archaeological remains of a pre-industrial and industrial era that contrasts sharply with the three modern oil processing factories that today do the work carried out by a large number of people and mills in olden times.
I propose a route taking in the mills of the Lecrin Valley.
I suggest that if you are arriving from Granada, you enter El Padul following the old main road 323, coming into the town centre along the Avenida de Andalucía. On your right, after the petrol station is the former location of the threshing floors where El Padul’s farmers used to thresh their corn. Today, due to unbridled construction, the old threshing floors have been obliterated by housing developments. The visitor might be able to find the odd section of cobbled threshing floor. The dry land, divided into rectangular shapes, was where cereal crops used to be grown and where today we see newly planted olive groves. Carry on along the road and stop for a moment by the new Town Hall. Look for the Alcánceles watercourse, behind the Municipal Pavilion, and follow it west until you see a building higher than the rest. We are by the Silo. The Silo came to replace the old grain stores that were so successful in the Egypt of Joseph, the biblical dreamer. With a rucksack stored with grains of excitement and the image of the enormous silo in our eyes, we can set off on an adventure into a lost world - a world which, if we do not look after the tracks that lead us to it, future generations will find impossible to relive and revisit. Let’s change direction, now heading east for a walk by the Town Hall. We cross the park that used to be crossed by the tramlines and admire the old station and, just opposite, we find the Federico García Lorca Cultural Centre housed in the old tramway stores. A leisurely stroll through a grove of mulberry trees reminds us of the booming silk industry of Granada’s past. Take it all in, carry on until you reach the Mills Cross, you needn’t worry that a tram will come your way. Continue walking and you will see a singular building in the middle of the road - look at its size, shape and colours. No less singular, built from stone slabs is the ‘alcatifa’ or shepherd’s shelter, which bears witness to the hundreds of shepherds who used to roam the scrubland.
The monument to the flour mills signals the starting point for our mill route and takes the form of a metal hoist upon which is hung a runner stone resting on its bedstone, to bring together all the history of a town so closely linked to cereal crops that they appear on its coat-of-arms, a Mediterranean town which owes so much to corn, the vine and the olive.
From the Mills Cross we could follow several trails that are marked out across the drained lake area, but we’ll take ours and, following the Mill Route, we find ourselves in an oval depression, the Laguna (Lake). It opens at the twelve o’clock position with the river of the same name into which run the waters from various springs, the main one being the “Ojo Oscuro” (Dark Eye), but there is also the Raja spring that used to power the Señá Anica mill, Mrs Frasquita being the miller’s wife protagonist of Pedro Antonio de Alarcon novel “The Three-Cornered Hat”, an enjoyable book that I would recommend for getting a better feeling for mills.
Another spring! And what a spring it is, able to irrigate large areas of land and power a two stone flour mill and make anyone who sees it exclaim with admiration “shit, what a spring!”, so that eventually it became known as the Shit Spring. A priest or an incumbent with time on their hands toned this down, renaming the spring the Bad Name Spring. This spring was certainly feisty, as it could power two runner stones.
The Feliche Mill has been demolished, but we can still see the aqueduct that fed it, the pond, the bedstones and its two wheel pits. Parallel to it, above the irrigation channel where the lake meets the hills, there are two parallel ruts which must have been part of the route linking Granada to the coast. Foreign experts have claimed that these are Ibero-Roman cart ruts, whilst some locals say they are the marks left by the chariot of fire which bore the prophet Elias away, leaving its marks on this land, centre of the world and Eden on Earth.
The next mill we reach, Misqueres, is still used for milling. Its owner, Paco, has turned it into a rural tourism complex, using the names of the other two mills for his tourist lodges. His small museum displays the long disused tools and implements which, were they not housed here, would have ended up on a scrap heap. And his knowledge points us in the direction of the Calar de la Iglesia area, a once busy but now disused stone quarry.
We can buy fine quality olive oil in the San Sebastián factory, located on Chaqueta farm and owned by the Guerrero Amos family.
We continue our route along the old coast route, following Laguna River towards Villa Amena de Cozvíjar. By the Town Hall door there is a ‘pistrina’, a Roman millstone which was brought from the threshing floor near the Chapel of the Virgen de la Cabeza, patron of this village. This pistrina speaks to us of the ancient foundation of the village. The historian Florián de Ocampos tells us that this was a Phoenician foundation. In the village square we find the palatial country house of, who else, the Count of Villa Amena. And who else would the flour mill belong to? In the Cadastre that the Marquis of Ensenada ordered to be compiled in the mid 18th century, the response to question number seventeen stated that “there in only one flour mill in this area, a three stone mill owned by the Count of Villa Amena and rented to Juan Díaz for thirty-four ‘fanegas’ of corn each year and another similar quantity disposed as rent payment.”
The liberalisation of the exclusive rights over the mill traditionally enjoyed by the lord of the manor gave rise to the appearance of a large system of mills along the Laguna River, from the Caves District to the confluence with the River Dúrcal. The Count’s mill was joined by those of Andrés, Mateo, the Ríos and Ferrete, occupying not only the banks of the Laguna River but also the Alcázar Stream. The Count of Villamena’s mill was acquired by Mr Antonio Vílchez Arrebola in 1906, then one year later by Mr Luís López Hidalgo, who gifted it to the Padul Electricity Company of which he was director. Then came the Tusset electricity factory, with falls and channelling, located at the confluence of the Rivers Dúrcal and Laguna.
From the Caves District we can begin, or continue, a pleasant walk taking in the mills, since next to Padul Lake and sheltered by a huge hackberry tree is Manuel Calero’s mill, downstream on the right bank. He inherited it from his father Gaspar Calero, who bought it for seven thousand pesetas from the Zayas family back in the 1920’s. Although it has been transformed and refurbished, the millstones can still be seen decorating either side of the entrance to the grove where the mill is and also used as table tops. It was powered by the water stored in two ponds that now serve as swimming pools. Its mill room has been turned into a dining room where the only flour to be seen arrives in the shape of bread and exquisite pastries. The two wheel pits have been made into a wine cellar.
Downstream on the left bank we find Luís Rejón’s mill, with three wheel pits and a water system of millraces, one of which has been covered and another replaced by a cylindrical pond supplied with water from an aqueduct. This mill also formerly belonged to the Zayas.
A dam with sluice gates almost at the level of the wheel pits of the mill directed the water to the enormous pond of the power plant, the first in the Valley. This electricity plant was made from the old flour mill owned by the Count of Villa Amena. It is on the right bank, its hydraulic systems alternating between the two river banks.
The Zayas owned a third mill on the left bank, which disappeared with the widening of the path that goes down to Dúrcal River, it was fed by two millraces and had two stones and was known as Mochón’s mill, perhaps the name of its last owner.
Continuing our descent and crossing the river over a narrow bridge, we come across the Cónchar track and, at its beginning, Josefica’s mill. A three millrace mill, a clear sign of abundant water. The mill also had an oven and some caves divided up either for livestock pens or for providing some respite from the noise made by the stones and pit wheel, or perhaps for shelter in severe weather. This mill is located on part of the river bank. Opposite the mill is a crab pool which used to supply the Central Bar in Cozvíjar with these delicious crustaceans. This was in other times when the water ran clean and clear, before the advent of modern mains systems.
The Parejo mill was a two stone mill, water came in via the millrace system to channel it in, the river was blocked by a dam and waters collected from the Laguna River and the Ciancos Ravine by means of an underground channel. Palm trees and various different fruit trees make this a delightful spot.
In this lovely descent of the Laguna River we can find the Cónchar Acequia (irrigation channel) or the path linking the two populations which today form a municipality. In the mid 18th century, in Cónchar there were “two flour mills and one oil mill; one of the flour mills and the oil mill are property of the convent and nuns of Santa Catalina de Zafra of the city of Granada, rented by Manuel de Espadas of Granada for thirty-three reales (currency) and including some marjales (equivalent to 525 sq. m.) of land, and said lessee has another year of lease with another up to three hundred reales. And the other flour mill is the property of María López who rents it for a cahíz (weight measurement) of grain, half corn and half maize, for every year”. Almost one century later, that is to say in 1852, Pascual Madoz notes that there is only “a flour mill with two stones, powered by water, and an oil mill of the Arab press type, animal-drawn”. The flour mill is the Zarco mill.
From the San Antonio de los Tusset power plant, we can continue along the River Dúrcal upstream. The sky is spanned by bridges and aqueducts. The first one we see is of reinforced concrete, like a triumphant arch welcoming us and spanning the river in the valley below, this is the modern motorway bridge. We join the path without leaving the valley’s river bed. Continuing in this direction, we see an iron bridge that our Nobel prize winning author Cela compares to the Redondela bridges (in Pontevedra). Before arriving at the foot of the Iron bridge (or the Tin bridge, as the locals call it, and who named a neighbourhood on the other side of the town the Tin neighbourhood), we find a stone bridge crossing an old dry river bed. This is the Roman Bridge.
Crossing the river by means of prefabricated metal pipes, we follow the direction of the river and reach the location of the mill of Doña Juana, later turned into a flour factory. There are the remains of the water channels and the pond. The building has been fitted out as a farm-school and it has an impressive mesh of wooden beams, braces, sleepers and stems which form the frame that supports the roof.
Underneath the Tin Bridge was the Little Mill, which was use for crushing pine tree bark to extract the tannin sold for curing hides. From the top of the Iron Bridge we can make out another old mill turned flour factory and, over time, into a rural hotel and restaurant in a tranquil setting. It is next to the seven arch brick and stone bridge which was designed for carriages, stagecoaches, carts and traps. Take the opportunity to enjoy the waters of the Mono spring, shaded by the coolness of hundred-year-old poplar trees.
But let us descend from the skies and get our feet back on the ground on the Fuentes (Springs) Ravine path. Next to the Roman Bridge, at the beginning of the hill where the camino Real (Royal Road) to the Alpujarras used to be, on our right we find a pond mill with two wheel pits, now with wooden doors. In a 19th century schedule its name is given as the Old Bridge Mill. Some of the millstones can be seen in a carefully tended garden near the mill.
From ancient times, the water of the Springs was used for milling and it would not be uncommon if, from Roman times, some mills were erected along this ravine and road. The old Property Register records the existence of four one-wheel flour mills, one belonging to a Christian, Iñigo Muñoz, and the other three to His Majesty, confiscated from Moors. Likewise there were three oil mills, also belonging to His Majesty as they had belonged to Moors expelled in Christmas 1568, of these only one was properly equipped with everything needed for milling, in Moorish times each one producing twenty ‘arrobas’ (unit of liquid measurement equivalent to 12 - 16 litres) of oil annually.
A little further on from this mill, uphill and in an imposing building, we find another hydraulic device. This is the mill that was turned into a factory and changed its old pit wheels for a modern hydraulic turbine. It is saddening and maddening to see the state it is now in, what was once the centre of the Restaurante el Molino and centre of the Museum of Traditional Andalusian Cuisine. It needs restoring and bringing back to life with its own personality, raising the spirits to enjoy a beautiful spot with endless possibilities.
A little further uphill, sweetened by the coolness of the ravine and the riverbank vegetation, we arrive at the Alto Mill, looked after lovingly by its owner Serafín. Serafín is an expert in milling and his knowledge of the science and art of milling comes from being son and grandson of millers, and related through family ties with “el Sevillano” (“the Seville man”), after whom the mill in Acequias is named. He proudly shows us the mill and the springs in his orchard. The mill room is now a bedroom, perfect for summer nights. There are some interesting pieces of wooden roofing framework on the upper floor which bring to mind Nasrid carpentry.
Let us leave the chain of mills and head towards the old washing troughs, the parliament of the womenfolk where all the washing was done. Opposite, on the other side of the channel, are the remains of some Roman buildings worth visiting, and also worth visiting is the impressive neo-Mudejar style brick building which used to be the oil factory of Julio Martín. We approach the Tin Bridge and look down on the valley of the River Dúrcal from this metal structure, then go down to lunch in the Molino del Puente restaurant.
Our strength restored, we head to the village square in the church neighbourhood, former Celdelaque; the Latin root for temple. The square is the focal point for meeting and discussing the burning issues of the municipality and also for washing clothes. You can find out where the old path to Nigüelas is, and we head towards it at a steady pace.
We begin a measured walk through fruit and olive groves towards Nigüelas, with the irrigation channel alongside. This is the path that has always linked the two villages. Take care not to follow a tarmac track that heads to the east, the ‘Guards Path’. This would lead us to Acequias, and was used to escort supplies during the war of Philip II against the Moorish uprising. We head upwards. We are near a line of buildings, at the head of which is Lorenzo’s Mill. If we look carefully, we can make out the old pond and millraces, made larger by more modern work. Facing the pond, a quick access tower to control the flow of water. Behind the whitewashed front of the building, we can see the underlying wall construction of piled up earth. Sunk into the wall by the door are rings that remind us of a not-so-distant past when these roads were traversed only by beasts of burden who were tethered to these rings. Today there are some horses peacefully grazing the tender grass.
A few metres further up we have a delightful rural tourism complex. Called ‘La Alquería de los Lentos’, it is built around what was the Bizcos Mill. Its mill room pond, wheel pits and millstones are in a perfect state of conservation. The mill has been painstakingly restored by its owners and was originally built in 1865, as indicated by a sign painted on the wall underneath the roof eaves and next to a small window with a grille.
Carrying on along the path, it forks after a few metres. We continue upwards, against the direction of water. A sky blue gate. How many devices lie sleeping here! A plaque at the entrance, by way of epitaph, tells us that this was the Canario Mill (25). It is a pretty construction in its simplicity and symmetry. From the path behind the mill we can see its solid pond and the channel that brought the water in.
We walk upstream, the irrigation channel is covered over and we arrive at the water distributor at la Pavilla. A lovely walk looking for the source of the irrigation channel in the River Torrente, the scenery is breathtaking and the peace and tranquillity are restorative. We are accompanied by the music and the coolness of the flowing water. There are caves, dwelling places in former times. We turn back and retrace our steps when the path becomes less of a stroll and more of a scramble.
In the centre of the village, next to the church square, is the “Laerillas” oil mill. The name refers to its location in the side of a hill that looks down towards the River Torrente valley. This oil mill belonged to the Zayas family, as did some of the flour mills along the Laguna River. The working life of the oil mill could have been as much as five centuries, from the 15th to the 20th century. It was the last owner, Maria Zayas Osorio Calvache, who prevented the dismantling of the mills, presses, wells and earthenware storage jars. The local council initiative of requesting the mill from the Zayas foundation, and its restoration carried out in 1991, have given this spot back its unique character. Straight out of a time tunnel, this is an example of pre-industrial technology. On entering, to our right we see the collection pools and the oil mill patio divided into cribs. At the end of the patio is a building housing the oxen-drawn mill. Next to it, there is the pond that collected and directed the water that turned the pit wheel. We can see the water mill in the main room, at its northern end.
The main room is the largest in the building and houses two enormous Arab crushing beams more than 11 metres long. They worked like a nutcracker, the arms of the nutcracker being the beam and the floor of the room. The arms are joined together by wooden boards, all below a loaded turret filled with earth and stone, able to withstand great pressure. The nut is the load of pressing mats, and the crushed paste is the resistance. The power is the quintal, some 800 kilos, which by means of a worm screw pulls the beam towards the ground. The support point, the boards in the leaders. In the middle of the room is the fireplace with the cauldron for heating the water used for the second press. On the way out, the shop where the golden nectar was dispensed.
If we follow the irrigation channel a few metres more, we find Manuel Carrillo’s mill. It is a flour mill that makes use of the slope where the irrigation channel passes. In the same street, through a viewpoint with a grille we can see the two mill wheel pits with their pit wheels in perfect condition, from which we deduce that the runner and millstones must be kept inside the house.
Taking the path leading down to the river, we go upstream. In the riverbed we find a building with a jointed roof, further up again we find the water divider from which three irrigation channels emerge, two joining, Nigüelas and Dúrcal, until the Pavilla water divider. The third is the channel that borders the left bank of the River Torrente to irrigate the fields of Acequias and Mondújar. A little further up is Alto Mill with a reverse symmetry where the two turrets we see to the left are matched by two wheel pits. It is uniquely located in the bend of the river and at the foot of some sheer limestone mountains. Its surroundings are well looked after, as is the building itself. Millstones are used as tables in the garden. The water that powers the pit wheels arrives by means of millraces, one closed and one open; this system of power supply makes us think that there must be a strong water flow. Further up we find a small dam which collects water for the irrigation channel and for powering the mill. We follow the musical path of the waters towards Acequias. We can see Nigüelas from the other side, a last glimpse of the Laerillas oil mill, the Müller romantic garden and the Mudejar tower of the church of St John the Baptist.
But the olive oil, where is it made today? Far from these peaceful villages, on the Peña Blanca industrial estate, in the Navarro García S. L. factory which produces the Lechín de Granada variety exclusive to this area which, along with the Hojiblanca variety, produces a sweet and golden olive oil.
With views of the River Torrente valley from its left bank we arrive at Piletas, which is what the locals of Acequias, formerly Çeca, call the area of Alberquillas (‘little tanks’). Here, the village of Acequias had major water resources, used for four flour mills and two olive mills. Here the water was deposited in little tanks for soaking esparto grass and flax. The water collected in a cistern after passing through a decanter, and it was administered by different distributors out of which emerged the different irrigation channels, and hence the name of the village: Acequias (‘irrigation channels’). To our left as we descend, in the shade of a small poplar grove, we find an impressive pond covered with ivy. At its base, a platform with the bedstones supported by the vault of two wheel pits. The wheel pits are built from slabs of stone joined together with mortar which, along with the pond and some bedstones and runner stones, form the remains of the first two flour mills in Acequias.
A small cobbled threshing floor juts out over the River Torrente valley like a balcony. This was where corn was threshed by experienced and brave threshers, who did not suffer from vertigo. The small water tanks for the flax took up the remaining area, below the irrigation channel, from the demolished mills to the next two mills or stones in the mill called ‘El Sevillano’.
The Sevillano mill has been restored by the Lecrin Town Council with funds from the EU and the government of Andalusia. It is open for visits and enables us to discover the different parts that make up a water-powered flour mill and how it operates. From a water distributor we can follow the course of the water and see how it enters the millrace to the upper part of the stone tank. Inside the tank are two conduits like wells, made of ceramic pipes with a decreasing diameter which thus increases the water pressure. The water exits the conduit with maximum pressure and strikes the blades of the pit wheel, causing it to rotate and turn the runner stone. If we want to brake the movement we can insert the metal deflector between the water outlet and the paddle, and, if the sun is shining, admire the resulting rainbow formed by the deflected spray. A buttressed stone wall surrounds the mill yard. At the entrance to the yard (34) we can see the two wheel pits with their pit wheels resting on a thick wooden beam. In the mill room (35) we find two grinding stones with worn-out grooves. Posters inside the room provide information on the process of restoration and on how the mill operated. This mill also had a baking oven, the remains of which can be seen next to the fireplace.
A slim, airy tower like a bell tower shows the place where the Finca del Olivar olive oil mill was located. This was a water powered oil mill which used an old Arab beam press and which, in the 19th century, added a small moving tower mechanism, the same as that of the mill belonging to General Riquelme in Mondújar.
We head up to Mondújar, where we can ask for directions to the site of the Molinillo (‘Little Mill’). All that is left of the little mill is a neglected pond. From the site we can see the castle of Zoraya. If you are interested in seeing what the millstone quarries looked like, head up towards the castle. Take the path that leads up on the left by the ravine and when it starts to level off, look across to the other side of the ravine and you will see the quarry.
We go down into the village. Next to the church is the Mondújar Mill, now the Museum of Decorative Arts. An old oil mill, it was bought and rebuilt in the 19th century by General Riquelme, native of Granada and Captain General of Catalonia. To do this, he made use of the money obtained from his marriage to Bárbara Iznagas y Fernández de Lara, whom he married in Cuba. After the General died, the mill passed into the hands of the Riquelme foundation which he himself created to provide assistance to the widows and orphans of military officers. Lecrin Town Council bought the mill from the foundation and, through a grant from the Ministry of Development, has been able to restore it.
We approach the neighbouring village of Talará. If we do this following the Royal Irrigation Channel of Chite and Talará, we will come across the pond of an extremely old mill which is recorded in the Property Register in the following manner: “There is a bread mill with only one millstone at the head of the Chite and Talará water and at present it is not milling as it is in need of repair, which would be worth four ducados of income yearly, because it mills very little in summer and in winter.”
Following along the left side of the irrigation channel we arrive in front of a manor house dating from the 19th century, formed by a main structure and two arms within which is a square patio. This was the location, in former times, of the mill of the Marquis of Mondéjar. The Property Register records that: “there is an oil mill in the aforementioned place (Talará), which has been the possession of the Marquis of Mondéjar for a long time.” He owned another mill in Béznar. The Ensenada Cadastre records two oil mills: “one is in the village of Talará and belongs to the Marquis of Mondéjar, it can earn three hundred silver reales per annum, and the other that is in Chite belongs to the Holy Court of the Inquisition.”
Liberalisation took place in the 19th century and gave rise to the appearance of numerous mills and factories, which had to close when they could no longer compete with new milling systems which were more efficient and of higher quality. The flour factory in Talará that caused the closure of many mills during the 20th century also closed at the end of the same century. How times change! The oil mills that abounded no longer operate. There are some left, like that of Alejandro Tapia, José Martín, José Garví, Jesús Castillo….
In Murchas there are two mill sites that could well be those recorded in the Property register for the village: “In said place there are two oil mills, they belonged to Moors, they are good and well repaired and have everything necessary”. In Moorish times, Loxuela had an oil mill that: “is in a bad state, is missing the main parts, and the councils and neighbours are obliged to repair it out of their own pockets”. Nothing remains today of the oil mill, but there are remains in the same area, at the foot of the Castle next to the River Grande coming from Cónchar, of a flour mill that, in 1752, belonged to Pedro Cotiella. Its last recorded owners were the Cuellar and Pacorros families. It is a mill with three stones, the top floor and roof of which were destroyed by fire. It is located in a beautiful spot, surrounded by golden apple trees. Close by is the flour factory that belonged to Antonio López.
Following the edge of the Béznar reservoir, taking the old 323 main road or cutting down through Chite, depending on our means of transport, we head to Béznar. As we pass by Mojinar, think about the flour mills now covered by the reservoir waters. Here is a curious reference to the collective use of Chite flour mills, taken from the Chite Property Register: “In this place there are two bread mills on the River Moxacar, each of two stones, they are reasonable although of little income because they are only used by aforementioned place, they are lost and falling down and they also belonged to Moors, there was no miller, but rather each inhabitant milled what he required and left his portion of grain in said mill”.
After the Reconquest, Hernando de Zafra, secretary to the Catholic Kings, had significant assets in Béznar. Among these was an oil mill and 128 olive groves distributed over the more than 150 marjales of land he owned. In the inventory of assets of Hernando de Zafra we read: “An oil mill with its cauldron and equipment and through it runs the Royal Road, and it borders a Balori piece of land and has a plot belonging to His Honour”. The Ensenada Cadastre records that these mills in this village were owned by the nobility: “the other that is in the Upper District of Calvario belongs to the Marquis of Mondéxar, and will make each year thirty four arrobas of oil which, according to the price at which sold, will make four hundred and forty-two silver reales. And the other, which is in the Barrio del Fuerte and belongs to Juan Pacheco de Padilla, will make thirty arrobas of oil per year making three hundred and ninety silver reales”. Of this latter mill remains the tower housing the Arab press beam in Pilas Street.
Passing through Tablate and strolling through this village is to stroll through a ghost town. This village was repopulated by the Abarca, Aporta, Fernández, Gómez and Molaens families of Galicia, replacing the Moors who lived with Villaverde. In the silence and total absence of living beings, we find the oil mill pressing tower. Some say it looks like the tower of a fortress. The oil mill towers are solid at the top part to house the pressing beams, the towers of a fortress are solid at their base to withstand attack. It could be the last remains of the oil mill which was recorded in the Property Register as falling down and in need of rebuilding. Among the ruins we find the bread oven, in the charge of Melchor de Villaverde and before that of his father Antonio. Pascual Madoz tells us that in the mid 19th century it formed one Town Council with Izbor, but we do not know since when. The merger of the towns must have taken place between 1752 and 1845.
In Izbor we know of the existence of two oil mills, one in Zarza ravine and the other called ‘Grajas’. A flour mill was known as Allá de Cara. Izbor is different because of its orography, and comprises Izbor and Acebuches. This latter village must have sprung up as a result of the new bridge, and appears thus in a 19th century schedule: a farmstead by the Izbor bridge. Given the noise of traffic, this farmstead moved along towards the old Acebuches farm from which it took its name. The old village of Izbor took its name from the tower of its farmstead, remains of which are on the road leading up to the schools. Izbor has used stones for its walls and grey clay to cover and prevent damp, in the style common to the Alpujarras. There is a huge rock-strewn area above the village, with pieces of rock covering the hillside.
At the foot of the hill where the village is, on the flat land along the river, is the Antonio Paquez mill, an oil mill which was modernised by electricity in the 1950’s. From a point with magnificent views on the road to Pinos is the site of the Miguel Hernández mill. This animal-drawn oil mill was demolished and all that remains is the cistern. The walk along the stony path from Izbor to Pinos is beautiful, looking over the river valley and crossing the Zazar ravine. The miller Isabel Chávez tells us about the flour mill on the other side of the river that used a limestone for milling wheat and a rough stone for maize. The two wheel pits and the channel that took the water to the two millraces still remain.
Lower Pinos welcomes us with its drinking fountains. Next to them are the washing troughs and the site of what used to be an oil mill bought by the Town Council and which would serve very well as a centre of information on the history of oil, cereal, wine and mule driving. Still existing in the place names of Pinos is Molino Quemado, ‘Burnt Mill’, next to the Olive grove spring. There is also a modern oil mill, the San Roque Andalusian Cooperative, next to the road to Los Guájares, which produces a delicious, exquisite and delicately flavoured ‘lechín’ variety olive oil. This brings to mind the oil mill owned by Agustín Caro Riaño, an oil mill occupying 359.28 square metres, located at the entrance to the village next to the Royal Coast Road coming from Restábal. Bordering it were: to the north Real Alta Street, compulsorily purchased to build the Talará-Almuñécar C road, to the east the irrigation channel and Juncal path and to the west the Calvario path. The eau-de-vie factory near the mill was not touched. 24.92 metres of plot worth 2.50 pesetas per metre were taken up. By the road, the beam press was replaced by a modern hydraulic press.
The last will and testament of Nicolás Bonel Martín and Ana María de Orbe y Orbe, dated first July 1822, gives details of another mill that they bequeathed to their youngest son José Maria, a third of an oil mill that is situated between the two neighbourhoods of this village.
The focus of milling activity in Pinos was located in the Zazar area, there is still a motley assortment of mills at the foot of an enormous pond which was fed by the waters from the springs in the reed beds of Zazar. The road to Guájares, a diminished project initially intended to join Talará and Almuñécar, runs by Zazar deserves to be listed as Cultural Heritage and be fully restored, using the travellers’ inn as a centre for information on the area. Here in Zazar the element water combines with a natural farming landscape in which the terraces held up by dry stone walling are a harmonious example of local engineering inventiveness. A uniformly shaped stone aqueduct spans the old coast road like a triumphal arch, a testimony to Roman architecture.
We can set out on a pretty route from the Juncal fountain, taking the hill trail and, once at the municipal campsite, looking for the path that leads to Restábal, the main village of the El Valle municipal area. The scent of the woods, with their pine and dwarf oak trees, accompanies us. En route we also take in the thousand year old carob tree which, like Atlas, is fatigued by holding up the firmament with its branches and rests them on the ground to continue its eternal effort. Nature creates works of art!
The Property Register for Restábal records that the village had an oil mill, burnt down in retaliation for Moorish resistance against the pitiless policies of Philip II. In Moorish times, the mill produced twenty arrobas of olive oil. There were three flour mills. One fallen into ruin; one missing its millstones and milling gear, and the third, a mill with two stones said to be the best in the Valley and leased for 30 ducados, the equivalent of 11,220 maravedíes. At the beginning of February 1640, Miguel Ruiz of Granada leased the flour mill on the banks of the Restábal river to Andrés López and María Ruiz of Chite for 6 fanegas of wheat each month for four years. Two mills are recorded in the Cadastre (1752), one: “property of Alonso Coracho of Osuna, who administrates it and is paid in return thirty fanegas of wheat per year, the other flour mill is the property of Sor Theresa of Zaragoza, a nun in the convent of Our Lady of Angels in Granada, who leases it for thirty fanegas of wheat per year.”
In the mid 19th century Restábal had three flour mills and five olive mills, and the family names De La Venta, Alto, Cañadas, and Landa feature. Today, no trace of the oil mills remains in the municipal area but there is a monument to them, the Olive Monument, near the River Grande bridge which, in the manner of the patron saint of the village, grants us safe passage across the strongly flowing waters below.
From Restábal, we can follow the long GR-7 road to Melegís, crossing the gardens of the Hesperides where golden apples flourish...well, oranges anyway!
In some old Notarial documents of Simón de Ledesma, we find the deed of lease for the two oil mills, Alto and Bajo, by the Melexis Council in favour of Juan de Elvira. It is dated January 1, 1601, showing that the Notary Public in question wasted no time on celebrating the New Year. These oil mills, formerly belonging to Moors, appear in the Property Register of Melegís, and were leased by the Council for the sum of fifty ducados. The flour miller indicates that it was towards the Çohon springs (Ayn Alçohon), hot springs where the womenfolk did their washing.
On February 18, 1801, Antonio Fernández of Pinos del Rey rented from Antonio Miras of Melegís a three stone flour mill by the River Grande within the municipal area of Melegís in the place called “peña Horadada”, for two years and for a fixed rent of thirty-two fanegas of wheat. The millstones came from Sierra Elvira, Pinos, Barrancón and Guerrero quarry. At the beginning of the 20th century an electricity factory was added, the “San Antonio Factory". This was the property of Francisco Castro, known as the “Melegís engineer”, owner and manager of the Oil and Conserves Factory in the same village. All that can be seen when the water level goes down is the pond, a few channels and millstones. Memories of resting in the shade of the mill vine, hot summer days. It is all now buried in sand and covered by water, only visible when the water level drops.
We head back towards Saleres, in the area below the road we find the Manil farming plot and a little further on the group of “de la Blanca” mills. This group of mills is now in ruins, but we can make out the remains of a flour mill with its two millstones, hoist and wheel pits. The oil mill next to it must have been water powered, and there might have been an animal-drawn mill, although all we can see now are the remains of an electrically powered mill with its component parts more or less in place, all inside a large barn type building with a wooden gabled roof. The Ensenada Cadastre records this mill as the Bajo mill, next to the village, comprising two storeys and an animal pen, with a frontage measuring 18 varas and a depth of 35 varas, property of Sebastián Bravo and earning 312 silver reales each year.
Continuing along the GR-7 road and upon arrival at the River Santo we find what used to be the Enríquez mill, today converted into a house, keeping its old ponds and wheel pits, and with some pit wheels, millstones and disused machinery. The village itself still has two oil mills that stopped operating in the last decades of the last century.
In the Marchal farm plot and the Upper district are a large number of pistrinas. From this district the GR-7 continues towards Lower Albuñuelas.
Following the GR-7 we arrive at the boundary stone that indicates the edges of both villages, the ‘S’ of Saleres bidding us farewell and the ‘A’ of Albuñuelas shyly welcoming us or bidding us farewell, depending on which direction you are travelling in. The River Santo valley becomes narrower and narrower, and is lovely in its autumn colours. At the bottom of the valley on a flat strip of land, sheltered and seeking the waters brought by the slope, is the Fajardo mill. The track is almost overgrown by vegetation, sugarcane, aloe and prickly pears originally brought from Mexico. It is a two stone mill and the water is channelled to it by means of an aqueduct which feeds a small pond. This flour mill is in the process of being restored. It is in a beautiful, peaceful spot. A graceful small stone bridge crosses the waters flowing from the wheel pits, bringing to mind a Japanese garden full of fruit and flowers and colour.
We continue along the path and, after this area of peacefulness, we arrive at one full of life: the fountain of Haya (beech tree) or Aya (the tutor of princes and princesses). The fountain is surrounded by bushes of horse’s tail plant. There are hundreds of pieces of bivalve mollusc shells along the path. Using shells, more than two million of them, imaginative local artist Francisco Palma Jiménez has decorated his house. Stop a while at this hostelry of the soul, he is always welcoming and delighted to show you his house.
Next to the river, but sheltered from it, is the Bajo flour mill, the descendant of the other mill that disappeared during the storm of 8 September 1887, the torrent of water sweeping away three flour mills and covering two more with mud. Downriver in Restábal, the only mill that existed was destroyed and its vines uprooted. This storm and the earthquake made national headlines at the time.
Bajo mill has two wheel pits and, when it was rebuilt, incorporated limestone millstones. Its location invites a moment of calm reflection next to the gentle murmur of the spring and below the caves inhabited by hermits in former times. We are a step away from asceticism. These refuges, distributed along the valley walls, gave the river its name - the Holy River.
In the same neighbourhood is the site of the Arneta oil mill, all that remains of which is the millstone sunk into the ground and we can get an idea of the layout of the mill that today forms the entrance to the small bodega of José Anguita Palma. There was another oil mill in this neighbourhood, all that remains now is the entrance gate and part of the pressing tower which housed the Arab beam press. This is currently owned by José Fernández and his wife María, whose collection of disused mill tools are rather impressive. We find two closed wheel pits in one of the streets marking the location of a water powered flour mill. No one can remember the last time it was in use.
We head to the old Cautil hermitage, today the chapel of San Sebastián, a legacy of the armies of the kings of Austria. We lean on the balustrade and take stock: there were five oil mills, four animal-drawn by horses and one water powered mill. There were also four flour mills, two with two millstones and two with one, these were located near the river and water powered.
The Úbeda mill, today owned by Aurelio, is near the River Santo but set back from it, because as the locals know, this River is Holy until it tires of having its waters beaten by pit wheel blades and sweeps away all that is in its path. The millrace leads to the pond and in turn to the pit wheels housed in the two wheel pits. A little further up from this mill was the fulling machine. This device was used to full, i.e. beat, degrease and flatten, the flax yarn cloth woven in the village.
We go back to the village to look for the Alquería de Naxo tower (Bayo Tower), next to it we find Mill Street and the bedstone of the old oil mill placed at the head of a picturesque washing trough. Such movement and change in human enterprise! Such failed ideas! Such weaving and unravelling, like the constant and faithful Penelope!
Leaving the neighbourhood of regular streets constructed after the earthquake and taking the Cañuelo path, we direct our steps towards the last mill upriver, the Fondos mill. Just before arriving at some caves in a bank to the right, there are some livestock pens and next to them, the path leading to the mill. It is on the other side of the river amongst leafy vegetation and we can see its three wheel pits. Seeing it in the dappled shade of a beautiful carob tree is to see it in a perfect frame. Two open millraces channel the water to its pit wheels and a tank. The waters are captured upstream by a millrace and a sturdy dam directing the waters into it. It is waiting for careful repair and could become a jewel of milling, growing in value and attractiveness with the passage of time.
Patient companion on our stroll along the mill trail, it is not easy to find the flour, but in all of our bakeries you shall find our bread and pastries. In Albuñuelas you can find olive oil in the only oil mill, that of Juan Jiménez Pérez.
If you have followed this route along the Mills of Lecrin Valley, all that is left for me is to bid you farewell, thanking you for your time and wishing you good health and Godspeed. These mills are the human face of the landscape, reminding us of old ways of life. Just one fear: that the giant wind turbines take over and destroy our landscape.
Autor: Francisco Manuel Matín Padial