La Fuenfría Valley Historical Paths and Roman Bridges - Cercedilla

Calzada romanaLa Fuenfria Valley has been used probably since prehistory as a communication path connecting both mesetas. Over the centuries a dense paths network has been developed, constituting an interesting Historic Heritage within a high environmental value natural space.

The Roadway (“La Calzada”), the eldest path crossing La Fuenfría Valley, is from the Roman epoch. During a long time historians speculated regarding the pass the Romans had used to cross the Sierra: Navacerrada, Guadarrama or La Fuenfría, because the description of the stretch Titulcia-Miacum-Segovia, related to the nº 24 via of the Antonino Itinerary, did not allow to locate it with certitude (Antonino Itinerary: all the Empire Vias recompilation made in the 3rd century under the authority of Diocleciano). The appearance in 1910 of a Roman milestone (milliarium), now preserved at the National Archeological Museum, close to La Venta Bridge cleared up all doubts (Roman milliarium: it is a numbered milestone series placed along the Roman roads to mark the distances every 1.000 steps, a Roman mile, about 1.481m). Therefore it is a segment of the Via XXIV of the Antonino Itineray connecting Toledo and Segovia crossing the road stations of Titulcia and Miacum. The generally admitted opinion dates the initial construction of the Roman road at the 1st century AD. Several sections are preserved in good conditions. Its trail starts at Las Dehesas, crosses La Fuenfría Pass and continues in the province of Segovia. The visible remains are a stony path not very well preserved, with a variable width - the result of several repairs and extensions- between 3,5 m and 14 m. The irregular granite and gneiss blocks with a 30 cm thickness form three longitudinal nerves: two laterals and one central, which sometimes are crossed by other transversal, filling the resulting edges and frames with other smaller pieces.

In the Middle Age arose another itinerary for the cattle transit through the occidental valley side, known as the Old Road to Segovia (Camino Viejo de Segovia), existing a lot of possibilities it coincided with the Madrilenian variant of The St. James Trail (El Camino de Santiago).

During the reign of Felipe V, between the years 1721 and 1729 the called Borbonic Roadway (“Calzada Borbónica”) was refurbished, to facilitate the access from Madrid to the recently built La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace. The completion of that ensemble was crucial for Cercedilla, which became an essential stop for the royal retinue and the King’s Guards (Guardia de Corps).Therefore the Roadway and the roman bridges were renovated rectifying part of its trail. This cobbled path follows a more direct layout through the valley bottom till the pass with a higher gradient than the Roman road, coinciding with it in some stretches, and reaching a 400m fall.

In the early 20th century, the mountain enthusiasts opened new routes at the zone, being the most famous The Schmid Trail (El Camino Schmid). This path takes that name because it was traced by Eduardo Schmidt in 1926, aiming to unify the Navacerrada Pass with the Royal Spanish Peñalara Alpinism Society lodge situated at La Fuenfría Valley.

In the first decades of the 20th century was built the Republic Road (Carretera de la República), also called Prieto Trail or Puricelli Trail (Camino de Prieto o de Puricelli), being nowadays a forest path and partly coinciding with the grand track pathway GR-10. The name of Puricelli corresponds to the Company which achieved the construction of a road connecting Madrid and Segovia. The works started in 1931, stopping in 1936 with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The layout started close to the Railway Station, being part of that stretch what we know nowadays as the Puricelli Path. Another section started at La Fuenfría Pass arriving up to the Navarrulaque meadow, joining later on both stretches as a forest path, at the end of the 60’s.

In accordance with the Roman road old layout, four bridges are erected:

The Mill Bridge or El Reajo (Puente del Molino o del Reajo) has a 6,5m arch, it is exposed masonry made and reinforced with semi-hexagonal ground buttresses. There are six buttresses at the oriental façade, where they contribute to strengthen the bridge piers, extended on an exceptionally long wall.

La Venta Bridge (Puente de La Venta) presents similar characteristics, although the height and light are more reduced with just 5m, becoming the arch a barrel vault. The same features handle El Descalzo Bridge (Puente del Descalzo) and The Enmedio Bridge (Puente de Enmedio) very similar to the previous ones, especially the support vaults fleet angle, very biased towards the river, to smooth the roadway bends which crosses them obliquely.

The bridges are located in vacant sections of the Roman road, still showing their original foundation layer consistently with the proper roadway, and even offering a better preservation status due to recent restorations.

The Cercedilla Roman Road and the Roman Bridges were declared National Historic Artistic and Archeological Ensemble in 1983 (Conjunto Histórico Artístico y Arqueológico Nacional).

San Sebastián Parish Church - Cercedilla

It is situated on the highest part of the old town, at the village old nucleus. It is very easy to distinguish the building elements sequence: the bell tower, the portico nave and the baptismal chapel, the transept with the sacristy, and the Cristo de La Clemencia Chapel. It is unknown when the construction started, but the eldest preserved remains (the tower base and the exterior walls of the first part of the nave and the chapel) might be from the 12th or 13th centuries. The nave and the tower bell upper body might not have been built until the late 15th or the early 16th centuries, as we can deduce from the existing balls at the bell cornices.

The common element to the whole church is the magnificent stone tiled floor covering the nave and the transept, forming a granite slabs grid abutted in threes on the same material ribs. The tower with a square ground plan is without any doubt the eldest element, being its inferior part completely solid, which may suggest a possible defensive origin. It is made of exposed masonry with ashlars corners. The bells ensemble is flagged at the exterior with a cornice decorated with balls.

The nave is rectangular, limited at the foot by an exposed masonry very old wall. The inner is divided in four equal sections by three semicircular transverse arches, not counting the one giving access to the transept. We should emphasize the Churrigueresque (Spanish Baroque) style altarpiece which decorates the head of the church.

The Mills - Cercedilla

There are two flour mills, dated before the 18th century, both situated on La Venta River course.

The first one is located upriver, in the limits of the village. Although very transformed due to the usage change, it still has the appearance of a traditional construction with exposed masonry walls, monolithic lintels and sills on the door and windows and an inner wooden structure.

The second one is located downwards the river, and is the result of several modifications made over the last two centuries transforming it in a rectangular ground plan and four floors building. The first, second and third are masonry made and the last one rendering and whitewashed.

The machinery of both of them has not been preserved.

The Railway Station - Cercedilla

In 1888 was inaugurated the new railway tracing from Villalba to Segovia, which had been approved 4 years earlier and conferred to the Northern Iron Company (Compañía de Hierro del Norte), with a stop at Cercedilla. This transport system had a transcendental relevance for the area future development, either for the Cercedilla inhabitants to commute to Madrid or to make possible for the Madrilenian to visit the charming and attractive Sierra de Guadarrama.

Cercedilla has quite a number of railway buildings, related to two different tracings: the related to the line between Villalba and Segovia, and the Guadarrama Electric Railway, starting at Cercedilla.

To the first one are associated the older constructions: the Cercedilla Station, the employee’s house of the Northern Iron Company, the overseer house and bridges such as La Iluminaria. To the second one are associated the Navacerrada Station, the Camorritos, Collado Albo and Siete Picos wayside stations.

The Cercedilla Station, inaugurated in 1888, presents the proper features of the late 19th century railway constructions. The two floors building stands parallel to the railway with a gable roof allowing to create a third floor in that space under the cover, justified by esthetic and compositional reasons. The construction is made with masonry walls reinforced with brick.

The majority of the Navacerrada Electric Railway constructions were made after the Spanish Civil War, because when the line was inaugurated on July 12 1923, only existed the Siete Picos wayside station where was located the Machines House responsible for providing energy to the upper section of the tracing. The Camorritos and the Collado Albo stops were provisionally handled by wooden halts, which became definitive buildings in 1944.

The Fountains - Cercedilla

Considering the Cercedilla hydrologic richness, it is not surprising the numerous fountains and sources consigned at the town. The Bolo Fountain (La Fuente del Bolo) built in the 19th century is formed by two carved granite stone sinks adjoining the retaining wall made of thick ashlars blocks. The fountain location is flagged by a foreground large Herrerian ball. The Rincones Pipe (El Caño de los Rincones) built in the 19th century presents a single rectangular drinking fountain formed by two large granite slabs and completed by a large trapezoidal monolithic frontispiece. The Tomillar Fountain (La Fuente del Tomillar) close to the Reajo Bridge is formed by a large monolithic drinking fountain, adjoining a wall and flanked by two granite benches.

The Laundry - Cercedilla

It was built in 1945 in the surroundings of La Teja or De Abajo Stream. It had been conceived as a small rectangular ground plan building, with a three slopes roof, for a public laundry usage. At the inner there is a giant laundry sink made of a thick masonry wall crowned by large carved granite pieces. It was a relevant meeting point at the epoch. Even if there was running water available at the houses, The Laundry was used by the washerwomen until the end of the 60’s. Restored in 2005, it is used nowadays as an exhibition room or a multifunctional center.

Municipal Electricity Plant (Central Eléctrica Municipal)

The Municipal Electricity Plant was built in 1925, close to Las Dehesas road, and together with The Guadarrama Hydraulic Co. supplied electricity to the village. It was built with masonry walls and flat tile at the roof. It preserves at the inner the machinery that generated electricity for the public lighting. Later on, a ship engine was added to help the “Pelton” turbine when the water strength was insufficient.

Nowadays the building has an interactive scale model showing the “Pelton” turbine functioning, an explanatory video and an interactive board showing the water hydrological cycle.

Las Berceas Greenhouse (“Umbraculum”)- (Umbráculo de Las Berceas)

Premio Nacional de Arquitectura 1978.

Las Berceas Park is located at the end of Las Dehesas road. The building known as the “umbraculum”, inaugurated in 1979, is conceived as a continuous pergola garden architecture, under which raise several closed longitudinal pavilions independent and parallel, built on a masonry base, with wooden and crystal walls and covered with corrugated plates. The major relevance element is the pergola, made of varnished wood quadrangular pieces. The wood came from the close forest trees.

Las Berceas and Navalmedio Reservoirs

Las Berceas Reservoir located in La Fuenfría Valley, is a gravity dam receiving La Venta River and El Cerro Malo stream waters. It was built in 1958 by the Cercedilla Town Hall with the aim of supplying water to the village.

The Navalmedio Reservoir is fed by the same name river, tributary of the Guadarrama River. It was built in 1964 to supply water to the Sierra villages, and started to work in 1969. Due to the ground difficult topography, two concrete closing dikes in angle, separated by a small hill, had to be built.

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