Barrow Gurney psychiatric hospital

It was one of the most advanced psychiatric hospitals in the United Kingdom, pioneering techniques such as ECT, job therapy and an open villas scheme which gave the patients more freedom.

Spanish Civil War: Somosierra front

One of the bunkers at one of the earliest battlefields of the Spanish Civil War. The National army attacked the zone in order to isolate Madrid and cut its water supply.

Château de Noisy

The main kitchen of the castle, located in the basement and mainly used during its time as a boarding school.

Abandoned hospital

This hospital was specifically built to treat tuberculosis. Later it was reformed and it became a special education centre until it was finally abandoned.


The abandoned village of Valdegrulla is located in the Spanish province of Soria. The last inhabitants left the place approximately fifty years ago.











Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bunkers at the Sierra de Guadarrama

Madrid was one of the main scenarios of the Spanish Civil War, and there are still plenty of remains which remind us that episode. The bunkers, pillboxes and defence points we can see today witnessed the battles which took place there, and tell us of a dark part of our history

Despite we were heading for the bunkers in Madrid, we had to cross the Sierra de Guadarrama. This mountain range is part of the Sistema Central, which crosses Spain and Portugal. Our first stop was the Segovian village of Valsaín, where we found more than one surprise. The first one was this huge ruined building.

Later we found out it was the palace of Philip II.Before that it was a hunting residence belonging to the Trastámara family, but Philip II enlarged it  during the C. 16th. At some point it was bigger than the  Palace of la Granja de San Ildefonso, not very far from there. It was used until Charles II´s reign, but a fire destroyed it in 1682. Most of what remained was salvaged to build the Palace of La Granja, and what was left was abandoned. Its condition worsened in 1869, when it became a private property. It was not a big change when it was declared National Monument in 1931, because up until then nothing had been done to preserve it. There is currently a project to restore it as a luxury hotel, but so far there are no signs of any real intention to recover the place.

This is the palace in another time...

And this is what we can find today.

We leave the palace and we started looking for the Valsaín trenches and pillboxes. The area saw the Battle of la Granja in 1936, when Republican forces crossed Navacerrada coming from Madrid and attacked National positions in the province of Segovia. Some of this trenches have been restored, and there is a trail following them. Near there we could find a visitor centre in which you can find all the information related to the trail. Then we explored some of its most important locations.

Some defence points, and the trenches linking them.

The trenches have been dug again, because the original ones have been naturally refilled after more than seventy years. In spite of that, these old trenches can still be seen because stones mark their location.

Another interesting location was the command post from which defence was organized.

Walking up the slope there was this outpost where the advance of enemy troops through the mountains could be controlled.

Leaving the trail we decided to climb the Cerro del Puerco (The Hog´s Hill), where we found plenty of remains even we could not explore all the zone. The (non-existent) path was far from easy...

Coming back to the trail we found the biggest position of the area. The main bunker had a twisted entrance in order to reduce the effects of the shockwaves during an attack.

Here ends our visit to Valsaín, and then we head to the Alto del León (The Lion´s Top), the frontier with Madrid. There we found another abandoned building, unrelated to the Civil War though.

Casa Hilario, an abandoned and very thrashed road restaurant. Opposite there is a warehouse which still contains some remains of the restaurant.

But the really interesting feature are the bunkers. Almost next to the road we found this one:

There also are several crosses remembering the fallen.

There is also the position of el Cerro de la Sevillana, at one of the peaks near the mountain pass of the Alto del León. In our way there we found  radio tower.

It is also interesting (and impressive) this massive ventilation shaft, from the Guadarrama tunnel.

Our trip through the remains of the Civil War in Madrid will continue in another post, visiting some of the most important locations of the period.

To read the second part of our trip in Madrid, click here. (Spanish version)
To read our post of the Somosierra front, click here. (Spanish version)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Castrovita spa and bottling plant

This post is dedicated the the old Fuente Sayud spa, located in the minucipality of Castromonte (Valladolid), and the Castrovita bottling plant wich was built next to it.

The spa was open to the public until the 60´s, and the bottling plant continued its activity almost thirty years more. The high nitrite concentration in the water forced the sanitary authorities to shut down the plant, considering that mineral water unsafe for human consumption. Today there remains very little of what the plant was, mostly due to vandalism and copper thieves, the latter being an important worry in Spain.

Copper thieves are responsible from the collapsing of half of the 1st floor of the spa. We had visited the location a year ago, and although it was in a very bad condition the structure looked safe enough. But we didn´t expect what we found in our last visit...

Upon arrival we saw lots of Guardia Civil (policemen at the countryside and villages, more or less) seals all over the place, and soon we found out why. Thieves had burnt copper wires inside the spa, causing a fire which spread through the wooden structure of the building and destroyed half of the 1st floor.

This is an example of something sadly frequent in Spain, and that´s why we are reluctant to give the exact location of many places we visit. We want to state we are against this kind of things: we reject the theft of anything at abandoned places as much as the damage that causes.

The ground floor before and after the fire:

Welcome to the spa! A nice path lined with acacias, now neglected, is the access to the site.

The bottling plant was not very big. In fact, Castrovita water was not a very famous trade mark, and not many people outside the province of Valladolid missed it when it dissapeared. The roof was mainly built with AC-sheets, something very common since the 60´s until the 90´s. If you want an asbestos overdose, this ais a nice place to go.

Many bottles were scattered all over the place. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, still watter bottles, sparkling water bottles... Bottles everywhere. Talking about sparkling water, that is fairly rare in Spain. If you ask for water, you always get still water, and if you ask for sparkling water... well, good luck then, because it is a bit hard to find.

These plastic scales were used to make bottles. There can still be seen the paper sacks containing the scales.

These are the only traces of machinery remaining. The rest has been stolen.

After explring the bottling plant, we entered the spa building. There is not much recognizable, apart from the natural spring and some water basins.

At the basement we found the high room where the spring is. The room is high indeed, since it reaches from the basement to the roof, three floors away. Today it shows the damage caused by the fire, because it is the place where the thieves carried copper wires to burn them. This is how they remove the plastic insulation, leaving just the copper which can be sold at junkyards for an always rising price. Thieves found this great, well aired room perfect for their purpose. There are even some burnt copper remains.

In our first visit all the botthles scattered on the ground were still in their original cardboard boxes. To the left it can be seen a pile of bottles burnt due to the fire.

We went to the 1st floor, or what was left of it.

More bottles outside, now mostly glass bottles, heaped next to the spa building. This is how we ended our exploration, whith the bitter taste of seeing how a location has been destroyed not only by vandalism, but also by criminals.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Abandoned villages in Segovia

Rural depopulation is always a threat for the smallest villages. Sometimes it is due to poverty, sometimes due to expropriations, and there are even some cases of supernatural tales explaining how people were forced to leave their homes. This report is dedicated to a couple of villages in the province of Segovia: San Miguel de Neguera and La Alameda.

San Miguel de Neguera

The village is located near Sebúlcor, at the edge of the Hoces del Duratón. It has a long history.
In fact, a visigothic necropolis was discovered agout half a century ago, and there were found numerous objects from that time. That means there has been a settlement in the location for more than a thousand years. Nowadays the archaeolohgical site has dissapeared.

The first document that confirms the existence of San Miguel de Neguera dates back from 1076 A.D, and the village reaches its peak in the C. 16th, when the González Sepúlveda family build a magnificent state, which since then is the most important building of the village. In the C. 18th the village had between 20 and 25 people, and other three small villages depending on San Miguel de Neguera had dissapeared. The inhabitants were day labourers, and the houses did not belong to them, neither the land they tilled. There are no reports about the recent history of the village nor the moment when it was finally abandooned.

This is the only building that preserves its roof in the village, and it is being used as a stable.

The rest of buildings are more or less in this condition: absolutely unrecognizable.

It is also worth mentioning this water mill. It is a fairly big building, but it is impossible to learn more about its history. Its ruined condition and overgrown briars make it impossible to enter the building.

This is the most striking building. Gonzáled Sepúlveda´s State. Today it is in a extremely bad condition, although an attempt has been made to keep the facade together holding it with steel beams. It is the only thing it has been done to preserve San Miguel de Neguera.

 La Alameda

La Alameda is a small village near Pedraza. Its existence is knowm to date back to the late C. 16th, and halfway  C. 20th about 50 people lived there. That was not enough to avoid depopulation, since they had no running water nor electricity.

The village is very small. There are only five buildings and only two of them are in good condition. One of the most striking features of the place is that it is secluded. It is not far from other villages, but the way to La Alameda is not too obvious. It is a little path lined with trees, away from the main road (which is a really lost road). This makes La Alameda a little place far away from our time.

Next to this  fountain we found the best preserved building of the village. The owners keep it in good condition.

The rest of buildings have been abandoned, and time has not forgiven them.

Today La Alameda has a different kind of problem. More than 10 years ago, a building company bought the ruined houses of the village and built a sewers network. In fact the way to the village has become a nightmare because that works they totally destroyed the path. The building company wants to build housing development in that privileged location, but there is one obstacle: the owners of the two well preserved houses refuse to sell them by asking outlandish prices for them. While this has kept the place as it is preventing the building of a bunch of cloned houses, this has also brought unexpected consequences. The village has not been recovered. There have been some groups of people willing to inhabit the place without altering the environment and from an ecological stance. This kind of actions has saved many other villages, and maybe they shoud be taken into account to preserve these, and the possibility of being permanently inhabited again.