Saturday, 5 November 2016

Bedar Pueblo visit

When I first learned about the remnants of local mining and ore exporting industry on the edge of Garrucha. I promised myself to make the journey inland to Bedar, whose mines were linked by rail to the descagador on the shore outside Garrucha. Finally, this afternoon I got around to making the trip. From Los Galliardos, at the edge of the coastal plain near the A7 autovia, the road winds steadily up a green valley into the Sierra de Bedar. The village stands at over 400m with immense views of the entire plain, and Mojacar Pueblo perched a mere 150m up in the Sierra Cabrera above the sea. 
This is a mineral rich area, and on the floor of the valley approaching the village are remnants of its 19th industrial history, and a loading terminal where the tramway to Garrucha probably started.
There is a walking trail from there to different mine sites in hillsides above. Lead, silver and iron ore were extracted here then, but it seems likely that the Moors would have first established themselves in this locality because of this. So far, however, I've not come across any references to when they arrived. What is reported however is their use of natural materials to make thick insulating walls for their houses, a necessity in winter.

I carried on driving up the road beyond the village, that goes to the even higher village of Lubrin over the other side of a mountain pass. It's a breathtaking switchback of a climb. I'd hate to have to drive it in really wintry weather. But, on this bright, warm and breezy autumn afternoon conditions were well nigh perfect for getting photos of the plain beyond Bedar from above.
I drove up the mountain until I could find a safe place on the winding road to turn and then descended to the village and parked the car by the main road on the edge of the village and walked around the streets, to try and get a measure of the place.

Bedar isn't easy to spot from the plain below. It was established in a relatively secluded position, and seems to not to have had defensive fortifications. The streets are winding, steep and narrow, and the 17th century Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza and San Gregorio Nanzianzen nestles among streets in the higher reaches of the village. It was shut, as ever in siesta time.
There's also a Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza that looks to be of fairly modern construction on the edge of the village above the main road in its own tree line plaza. It has a tall plain east window, to shed light on two large stained glass panels suspended inside the sanctuary on either side of the altar, flanking the statue of the Virgin. The window has long curtains, maybe to limit the amount of afternoon sunlight entering the sanctuary, but maybe so that the image of the Virgin can be turned around on special occasions for viewing by those standing out in the plaza. Just a thought. The entrance is a wrought iron gate, behind which is a substantial glass door, allowing visitors to look in.
Walking past a bar, I only heard English spoken, indicative of Bedar's popularity as a place for British people to settle. The mines closed in the early sixties leading to population decline due to emigration, so the influx of expatriates helped revive the fortunes of this village. as also happened with Mojacar Pueblo. Much of the site in the valley below from where ore would have been transported out to the coast has been cleared of industrial detritus, and landscaped. It's difficult to imagine what it might have looked like at the turn of the twentieth century when this was a much busier place than it is now.

I read an article earlier in the week about two French geology students who were researching local mining history here last year, and had re-discovered tunnels thought to be an underground section of the cable drawn tram railroad carrying ore to the coast, as an improvement on the overhead cable and bucket system commonly used. The latter I remember well, as it was used for building mountains of useless mined coal shale from deep underground and ruining the landscape when I was growing up in the Valleys. As spoil tips grew and changed shape, pylons could be abandoned or moved to deliver spoil to ruin new sites, a cheap and mobile option. The railroad to the coast was point to point, worth investing more in developing. It's amazing that new mining technologies can extract marketable minerals in situ and leave the spoil underground where it belongs. My Dad and Grandpa would be amazed, and very glad to see this.

As I'd set out rather late after lunch, my visit was not a lengthy one, as I wanted to pick up some more cerveza sin alcohol on my way and be back before dark. There's a good deal I didn't see in Bedar, and as it's not very far away, I think I'll make another visit before I leave.

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