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.











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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Abandoned beet sugar refinery

It is time to review our visit to this huge beet sugar factory. The size is impressive: more than 17 hectares (over 170.000 square metres) and 4.5 Km long including part of the railway.

It was built the 4th June 1942 in order to expand the influence area of the Compañía de Industrias Agrícolas (Agrarian Industries Company), recently merged with Azucarera del Jalón (Jalón Sugar Company). In 1991 the machinery was updated, but the factory ceased its activity in 1995, leaving without employment about 200 workers.

A bit of history about the sugar industry:

  • In 1980, it is signed the first treaty between farmers and industry owners. They aim to be more competitive.
  • From 1940 to 1960 the number of sugar factories remains the same due to a law that forces a minimum national sugar production of 350.000 tons per year
  • Between 1960 and 1980 there is a major growth of the activity in Spain.
  • The 80´s and 90´s see an adaptation to the EU standards. All non profitable factories are shut down, and the rest are updated. This was the beginning of the end for the industry in Spain.
Nowadays, sugar factories have considerably reduced their number mainly because the production caps introduced by the EU. These caps were intended to control the prices by limiting production, but this has proved to be wrong. Today, sugar factories are being dismantled, the most recent example being the Peñafiel factory, still being demolished and which adds to the ones of Benavente, Toro and Valladolid. That is the effect of pointless policies, reaching the point of Spain not being self-sufficient on sugar, something we have always been, being forced to import sugar, losing thousands of jobs and lowering the profit farmers get for their beetroot.

The factory had a broad gauge train halt connected to the nearby railway station. There is not much left...

Building the factory took 11 months, with an average of 985 people working daily. Again the figures of the materials they used are outstanding.
  •  23.485 m3 of concrete.     
  •  4.300 Tm of cement.    
  •  9.060 m of metal for the roofs.    
  •  2.547 tons of machinery brought from El Tarajal (Málaga).     
  •  2.9 Km of steel beams. 

The initial factory included:

  • Factory buildings 96 m. long, 51 m. wide and 19 m. high. 
  • 4 huge warehouses. 
  • Several workshops.
  • Beet siloes.
  • 17 houses for the workers. 

There is a huge decantation pool built in the 70´s. Actually, we could find its blueprints.

This is part of the equipment which was inside the silo. Today we can see an enormous hole (as big as a 3 storey building) done in order to extract the machinery.

Through the window...

One of the factory bouldings. The only remains are these brickwork furnaces.

These are the rotary dryers. Sugar must be dried before packed, and it can be a dangerous process because sugar dust can cause explosions when it reaches high temperatures. The whole factory is quite a dangerous place. Debris is constantly falling from the roofs, the combination of metal structure (which snaps without warning) and concrete mixed with the exposure to the elements makes the structure very unstable. This zone in particular is one of the most dangerous, but also the most spectacular one.

Processing unit built near the final days of the plant.

The access to the offices and lab.

The offices are cremmed with documents, magazines, archives... they contain what the factory was and now they are completely negelcted.

Upstairs, a surprise. A room full of original handmade blueprints of all the machinery and buildings of the factory. Entire projects of the buildings, the pool, the machines... I´d have spent a whole week there but we had to go on.

We also found the lab in this floor.

Outside, the great, 60 metres tall chimney.

The workshops. Maintenance duties everyday.

A funny Mutua Montañesa poster, reminding us how important safety is. Which style do you prefer?

One of the 17 houses for the workets. They even had a swimming pool.

Before finishing, something to take into account:

  • It is one of the most dangerous places I´ve been to (excluding a pottery in the Netherlands). Pieces of roof are constantly falling off, and some of them are not exactly small. Anyway, a small fragment of roof falling 19 metres is also dangerous.
  • It is guarded.
  • The whole complex is huge, and there are pools, trenches, wells... and A LOT of asbestos.