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.











Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Mausoleum of the Italians

At the top of the Puerto del Escudo (Pass of the Shield), in the border between Burgos and Cantabria, we found this strange monument built as the final resting place for the Italian soldiers fallen during the Spanish Civil War in that place.

The Italian CTV (Corpo Truppe Volontarie) attacked the Puerto del Escudo in 1937, during the National offensive against Santander. The attack was eventually successful, but the Italians sustained hundreds of casualties.

In order to bury the fallen and conmemorate the battle, Franco ordered to build a twenty meters high step pyramid in 1939, with more than 300 niches inside.

The "M" at the entrance honours Benito Mussolini. As we can see, a wall was built to block the entrance, but there is a hole in it, so it is possible to enter the pyramid. Just behind the wall there is a metallic door.

Inscription above the Mausoleum´s entrance
Inside, we found the 360 niches for the soldiers, now empty since the reamins were repatriated to Italy in the 70´s. In the basement there are 12 more niches for the high ranked officials, but it is impossible to enter there. One of the ladders has dissapeared, and the basement itself is full of debris.

Altar in front of the niches

Entrance to the basement

The Ebro Reservoir seen from the Mausoleum.

Nowadays the Mausoleum is inside a private property, behind a barbed wire fence.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Engaña Tunnel (South entrance)

The Engaña tunnel is one of the biggest civil engineering works during the dictatorship of Franco. It is a railway tunnel between the provinces of Cantabria and Burgos which never came into operation.


The tunnel is part of the Santander-Mediterranean railway (now mostly abandoned), and it is located between Vega de Pas in Cantabria and Pedrosa de Valdeporres in Burgos. It is 6.976 m. long, and it goes under the mountain pass of Estacas de Trueba. For a long time it was the longest tunnel in Spain with all its length inside the country, until the Barcelona tunnel (in the Saragossa - Barcelona railway) surpassed it. Nowadays the Engaña tunnel looks small compared to the twin Guadarrama tunnels, with over 28 Km. each. Anyway, it is remarkable the effort required to dig the Engaña tunnel, started almost seventy years ago and with very reduced resources.

The Santander - Mediterranean railway

The construction of the tunnel started with the foundation of the two villages for the workers in 1942. Those workers were political prisoners from the Spanish Civil War. The villages, located near Vega de Pas and Pedrosa de Valdeporres, had a population of 190 and 370 respectively.

The works were firstly appointed to the Ferrocarriles y Construcciones ABC company, with a deadline of 52 months. Eventually, the section between Vega de Pas and Pedrosa de Valdeporres was not (partially) completed until 1961, 19 years after being started. The works included the villages for the workers, four tunnels and three stations. All these buildings can still be seen, although some of them are in very bad condition.

Later on, in 1950, the works were transferred to another company called Pórtoles y Cía, which managed to increase the digging pace up to 10 m. a day. In that time almost no machiney was used, and sometimes dynamite was the only way to dig. This was a slow and dangerous process, and the number of deceased workers is not clear, but it is between 11 and 20. One of the biggest problems they faced were water leaks. The biggest one happened in 1956, when workers had to cope with a leak of 39.600 litres per hour. This forced to use a lot of water pumps and reduce the shift duration.

Workers digging the tunnel
The digging was finished in 1959, but the rails were never installed. After that, works were stopped until in Ney Year´s Day of 1985 the Government decided to abandon the project when there reamined only 63 Km to complete the Santander - Mediterranean railway. Thus, the tunnel was abandoned even before it was used. For some time, it was only used by trucks when the nearby Puerto del Escudo (pass of the shield) was blocked by the snow.

There are no certain data about the number of workers who took part in the construction of the tunnel. Some sources claim there were 400 workers (250 prisoners and 150 civilians), but others go much further, saying there were more than 9.000. What is certain is the massive pardon of 1945 ordered by Franco, which affected many political prisoners taken during the Civil War. Although prisoners were not forced to keep working in the tunnel from then on, most of them remained there.

Entrance to the workers´ village of Pedrosa de Valdeporres

The station

As we can see, it is in very bad condition and it has been used as a stable.

The village also had a church, which also served as a theater.

Houses of the workers near the tunnel

Next to the south entrance of the tunnel, there is this huge tower. It is a silo with a watchtower attached to it. Now the ladder to the top of the watchtower has dissapeared.

In forn of the tower we can see this power plant. There can be seen the transformer tower, and under the entrance gates the furnaces which powered the station.

The Santander - Mediterranean crest

The engineer´s houses

The south entrance to the tunnel

Now the tunnel is in really bad condition, because of the low quality of the materials used in its construction. In 1999 there was a collapse wich made it impossible to pass through the tunnel with a vehicle, and in 2005 there was another collapse which blocked the way almost completely. In fact it is very hard to go through the tunnel on foot. Anyway, we strongly discourage entering the tunnel, because in addition of the great risk of collapse it is always flooded since the water leaks have never stopped.

But what we do reccomend is visiting the entrance itself, which is perfectly signaled. The local authoriries have tried to recover the place, creating some trekking routes. It is also frequent seeing neighbours from the nearby villages there, enjoying a walk in this privileged landscape.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tierra de Campos

Our visit to Tierra de Campos (meaning land of fields) has brought us some surprises. Among small villages with adobe houses (a mix of clay, straw and water) and huge cereal fields we found some interesting abandoned places with a story to tell. In addition, the wheather was excellent, making our trip even more enjoyable.

Tierra de Campos is a region located in the north of the province of Valladolid and part of the east of Palencia, in Castile and León (Spain). It has always been dedicated to agriculture, and more precisely to grains, and it is also known for being almost flat in its entire extension. In fact, from some hills you can see many miles away. It´s also typical the adobe, present in many buildings which range from houses to factories going through dovecotes and mills. Most of the villages of the region have less than 300 inhabitants.

Our trip through Tierra de Campos


The first village we visited caught our attention with the ruined tower of the old Iglesia de San Juan (St. John´s church), built in the first years of C.14th and open to the public and in good condition until the end of the 40´s, when it was decided the church had to be dismantled and all its art pieces to be relocated somewhere else. Nowadays the oly remains we can see are the ruins of the tower, a wall and the main gate which dates from the Renaissance.

Storks flying away from the ruins of the tower

The main gate

In addition to the church, we found other ruins in the village. In this case they were the remains of some large adobe building, whose main gate we can see here.


Our next stop was Moral de la Reina, where we found the ruins of another iglesia de San Juan. This one was built in the C.15th, and was heavily rebuilt in the C.18th. Now all there remains are these ruins next to the graveyard.


In Cuenca de Campos we came across an abandoned monastery, but since it is a private property we could not enter.

The monastery seen from "el Conjuradero" watchtower.


Ourt final stop was the abandoned village of Villacreces. It belongs to the village of Santervás de Campos, though its best access is through Villada, a town in Palencia.

Judging from the size of the church tower, Villacreces was an important town long ago. It is known there were 160 inhabitants back in 1828, and there was even a hospital, but the village lost population steadily. In 1970 there remained only 25 inhabitants, and in 1981 the last neighbour abandoned Villacreces. From that moment on, the old neighbours visited the village from time to time, until in 1989 the Mudéjar church was dismantled by the priest of the nearby village of Arenillas de Valderaduey in order to repair his church. That marked the end for Villacreces.

One of the few brick buildings of the village

Ruins of the old hospital

Inside the tower

Since then, all the buildings deteriorated very fast, because the adobe could not resist the passing of time after the roofs collapsed. Now almost every building is practically unrecognizable, and the only well preserved building is the tower of the church, where the wooden stairs to the top and the bells (today gone) can still be seen.

And this is the end of our trip through Tierra de Campos, knowing this region has much more to offer. We appreciate all your comments, and we hope you enjoy this blog from this very first post!