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.











Friday, March 25, 2011

Boarding school for the sons of the boatmen

This is so far one of the best locations we have visited, not only because of the place itself, but also for the great time we had there. It is a palace-castle built in the C12th. In the C14th it became the residence of the St. Bavon abbots, after the French Revolution it was acquired by a private owner, and in 1948 the Government bought it. Since then until it was abandoned it was used as a boarding school for the sons of the boatmen who worked for long periods in the channels.

The palace had a massive garden and an ice house to store food. The next photos show the main facade and the main staircase when it was a boarding school.

And now here come our own photos. Maybe they are not of the best quality (my camera was brand new and I did not know how to handle all its functions...). Anyway, I hope the pics are good enough to transmit part of the magic of the place, which although being in bad condition, has many rooms speaking of its past days.

This is one of the buildings near the palace itself. What once was a luxury house now is a half collapsed warehouse.

Back facade of the castle.

Maintenance stairs.

The main hall, presided by an impressive fireplace. Exploring the palace we found several fireplaces, all of them different and with their own charm.

Obelix is there!

A room in the lower floor.

Clothes stand for the children to leave their coats.

The main staircase it the most representative element of the palace. I can not help feeling sad when I compare it with the old photo and wondering how important the place was. It is always sad to see how buildings are abandoned, but when they are as impressive as this one, it is even worse. They should be preserved...

Electric panel

One of the classrooms. There are still some books and school material.

An interesting washbasin hidden behind a mountain of tables and chairs.

The kitchens are located in the basement, and there are still many of the original items. We also found in the basement the maintenance room, the boiler room and a food storage.

Some of the documents we could see there.

We went up to the forst floor, where we found the rooms and several halls.

One of the most interesting rooms, where we could find something about the history of the boarding school. There we found some files, postcards and letters from the children and teachers liveing there.

A still identifiable photograpic studio.

More rooms which now only keep objects which will never be used again.

And then we got to the upper floor. Here we found a huge archive with all the exams, homework and textbooks used by former pupils.
The way up to the tower. Inside there was nothing interesting. The room was full of pigeons, and the way up was not very safe.

A strange combination of three doors.

This was used to learn how to read... How it reminds me my Micho books...

During the exploration we had a really good time we will never forget, and I only hope we will see it back to life in the future. Buildings also deserve a second chance.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flour factory on the Channel of Castile

It is always good to learn something, and it is time to know more about the Channel of Castille and its environment.

Walking along one of the branches of the channel we found this flour factory called "Las Luisas", an example of the many flour factories which thrived in Castile during the C20th, and are now mostly abandoned due to the business being less and less profitable, the rise on wheat prices or the lack of quality wheat suitable for the fabrication of bakery flour. This last factor is interesting, because not all kinds of wheat produce flour soft enough to be used in the bread we eat daily, and the best wheats tend to yield less tons per hectare than other varieties more suited to compound production. This, combined to the neccesity of farmers to produce more and more in order to reach the same earnings, has lead into sowing more productive wheat varieties (but with less quality) and the massive production of barley, tougher and easier to take care of.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The history of the village of Jánovas is as sad as surprising. It is not the story of a village losing population until no one was left. It is the story of a village expropriated in order to build a reservoir, like many others, but with several differences: the reservoir was never built, the village was expropriated by brute force and all the affair dates back from 1917. Since then, all political regimes in Spain have played a role in the dissapearance of Jánovas.

Jánovas is located in the banks of the Ara river, a ravishing river of the north of Huesca, in the narrowest part of the valley. The site was suitable for hydropower generation, and the first authorization to use the Fiscal water jump was given in 1917 under Alphonse XIII´s reign. In spite of the authorization, no work was done, something that happened again in 1923 when the Government permitted the use of the Boltaña-Aínsa water jump.

In 1929, during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, Aplicaciones Industriales S.A presented a huge project to build a dam over 55 m. high in Jánovas, which would flood the villages of Jánovas, Lavelilla and Lacort, along with more facilities built following the river until Fiscal. The project was rejected, but Jánovas was again threatened by the construction of a reservoir.

Later on, in 1945 Iberduero (now Iberdrola) was authorized to execute a project in the area. The project was approved, but again nothing was done. The 28th march 1951 the government of Franco approved yet another project to use the natural resources of the Ara river between Aínsa and Fiscal. This time the project changed all that had been planned before, now allowing to build resoervoirs in Fiscal, Jánovas, Boltaña and Aínsa. This was an extremely destructive project, because it allowed to destroy all the aforementioned villages (most of them are now important touristic destinations) because the reservoirs were declared of public utility. All the villages in the area could now be expropriated. In the next year (1952), the definitive project was published, and finally works looked like starting at the site, 35 years after the first draft of the project.

The 28th december 1961 the expropriated areas were designated, nine years after the publishing of the definitive project, but although expropriations were made, there was no intention to start the works. In fact, in 1966 Iberduero was aked why the project was interrupted, and in 1971 was Iberduero itself who asked for a one year prorrogation to hand out a reasonable project. 19 years after the initial approval of the project nothing was clear but the atrocities commited by Iberduero in Jánovas since the list of expropriated areas was published. Since many neighbours refused to abandon their village, Iberduero started to dynamite the empty houses withouth any kind of protection for the rest of the neighbours, in an attept to force them out of the village. The case was taken to the Civil Governor of Huesca, who forbid the use of any kind of explosives. Anyway, Iberdrola kept demolishing houses, but now without explosives.

Iberduero found another "obstacle". The local authorities did not allow the closing of the school of Jánowas while there were children there, but Iberduero dared to demolished the upper floor of the building, where the teacher lived. This happened while the children were at school. The 4th august 1966 an Iberduero worker knocked down the door of the school and took out by force the teacher and the children who were there.

Children at school in 1965

There was also a neighbour who lived in a rented house. He had to cope with a lot of situations like being sued for leaving a cow in an empty stable after having asked for permission from the owner, because the stable was expropriated and it was Iberduero who decided what could be done, no matter there were no signs of the works starting... This neighbour also saw with his son how Iberduero devastated their fields as they were reaping them. This man was the last person who died in Jánovas. Iberduero also blocked three times the bridge over the river to make impossible for the neighbours to reach the road.

Finally, the 20th january 1984 the last family leaves Jánovas, thus dissapearing the last obstacle for Iberduero to build the reservoir. But this did not happen, because at that time neither Iberduero nor the Government had too much interest in the project.

What caused Iberduero´s disinterest was a reduction of the reservoir´s capacity ordered by the Government. Iberduero´s project in 1972 asked for a capacity of 548,5 Hm3, but another project of irrigation at the Monegros (a desert also in Aragón) in 1983 forced Iberduero to reduce the capacity of the reservoir to 350 Hm3. The budget was 19.400 million pesetas, but Iberduero considered the reduction in capacity rendered the project non profitable.

With such situation, Iberduero began to excavate a drain tunnel in 1985, but works were stopped soon after.

Years went by, and in 1993 the City Council of Fiscal allowed to change the course of the river Ara through a makeshift dam, this beingh the previous step to the construction of the main dam. The makeshift dam did not stad the force of the river when a 700 m3/s flood hit it, breaking it and causing a disaster triggering a bigger flood of over 1500 m3/s which forced to evacuate the village of Margudgued and flooded some of the villages near the river.

Since then, complaints and accusations against the reservoir become more frequent from different sources. In fact, the ombudswoman stated in 1993 the authorization for the project were out of date, but neither Iberdrola (they changed their name at that time) nor the Government were willing to make the decission of cancelling the project.

And finally the 10th december 2001 it was published the decission to stop the project because it caused too much impact to the environment, thus saving Jánovas from being swallowed by the water 84 years after the first plans to build a dam. By then the damage was done. The neighbours had to endure all kind of actions against them until all of them left the village.

Natural arch near the village

The fountain 

The church was used as a stable, hence the straw on the floor

The process of devolution of the expropriated areas started the 10th december 2008, but that created another problem. The former owners would have to pay the current price for the areas, but what they get in return were only ruins. They were forced to sell a village full of life for a ridiculous amount and now they were forced to buy it at a much higher price and ruined. Since then they ask for the devolution at a symbolic price, because the present conditions are unfair.

A project to bring Jánovas, Lacort and Lavelilla back to life has been recently approved. This includes building new houses and small hotels. A former neighbour of Jánovas wonders how would his village be today if nothing had happened, how would it be if we take as an example how Aínsa or Boltaña have changed in the last 30 years...

Anyway, even if Jánovas is alive again this story will be there, and the old neighbours will still be waiting to recover what was theirs.