Itinerary: A loop route traced around the Palacio del Infante Don Luis, featuring a series of landscape elements related to the use of water, such as the Fuente del Caño (fountain), ponds and pool, the aljibe (cistern) of the Palacio del Infante Don Luis, urban orchards, and the Fuente de Ventura Rodríguez (fountain).
Highlights: Historical, environmental and cultural.
Length: 4 km.
Approximate duration: On foot: 1.5 h. By bicycle: 50 min.
Elevation: 656-679 MASL
Average: Average: 2.8%. Maximum: 13.7%
Accessibility: Dirt trails. Staircase on the way to the Aula Medioambiental (Environmental Classroom). People with Reduced Mobility may begin the trail from the Fuente de Ventura Rodríguez (fountain).
Boadilla del Monte's landscape is the result of the combination of its historical, artistic and natural heritages. In the case of water resources and their usage, there is also a relationship between these concepts, as man's relationship with water has remained a constant, from time immemorial down to the present day.
Over the course of history different methods have been used to obtain water, but always for the same purpose: to quench the thirst of those seeking it, to irrigate crops, and to supply livestock with water.
In the case of Boadilla del Monte the first vestiges were found researching its historical heritage, particularly the Convento Carmelita de la Encarnación (17th century), which obtained water by means of an underground conduit that connected with a subterranean spring that diverse sources situate between today's Pino Centinela housing development and the Club Las Encinas de Boadilla. Gravity carried water from the aquifer through it, and it was lifted to the surface by a series of vertical sedimentation wells, which not only facilitated the purification of the water, through its oxygenation, but also allowed people to access the system for maintenance and cleaning.
In its descent, parallel to the Calle de los Mártires, until reaching the Convento Carmelita de la Encarnación, the water from these conduits reached a catch basin that allowed for the subsequent extension of the shaft, to supply the palace with water.
Did you know...
In 1761, after the acquisition of the palace by the Infante Don Luis, from the Marqueses de Mirabal, a remodeling project (1763-1765) was carried out encompassing the water source known as the Fuente de Ventura Rodríguez (fountain).
From this catch basin, the convent's waters were connected with the reservoir, thereby supplying the palace. For this underground channels were created, stemming from what is popularly known as the Fuente de los Tres Caños (Fountain of the Three Pipes).
Thus, the source of the water in Boadilla del Monte was mainly underground, the Convent taking advantage of the existing groundwater. In fact, this was a common practice to obtain this coveted resource. When drilling reached the groundwater level, beginning at its lowest point, a series of conduits were installed, radially, to capture the water from springs further away and conduct it, by means of gravity, to the point to be supplied. The aquifer's location was determined by observing the woodland, identifying those areas with changes in vegetation (brambles and reeds), suggesting possible water sources.
The shafts and wells once found in the Monte de Boadilla have disappeared over time. Laborers and shepherds were once charged with their maintenance and cleaning, since both crops and livestock depended on the quantity and quality of the water.
One of the best-known sites in Boadilla del Monte is the Fuente del Caño, or Fountain of the Pipe, located in the park of the same name. The catchment of said fountain, which supplied water to the residents, was in the springs of the surrounding mountains, connecting with it through a system of minas, or shafts, built of brick. Time has managed to silence the fountain's constant bubbling, but the memory of its water endures today amongst the town's residents.
Very close to the Fuente del Caño, on the banks of the Arroyo del Nacedero, and behind the wall of the palace's orchards, another of the most important tasks associated with water took place: clothes washing. Here the pools were a place where the women of Boadilla del Monte came to wash clothes, and to share stories and news about the townspeople, while the children, carefree, played about.
Underwear was normally washed at home, while the rest of the attire, as well as bed linens, and towels, were carried in wicker baskets to the waters of the stream. The children accompanied their mothers, washboards hanging around their necks, later staking them to the ground using the sharp points with which they were endowed. The use of reeds and other types of vegetation, was common to dry the clothes, thereby completing the task. The first of these ponds was adjacent to the site where a wooden bridge crosses the Arroyo del Nacedero today, where nests are now provided for storks. The second pond was between said bridge and the Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge), on the Camino de Madrid.
Downstream, adjacent to the Stone Bridge, was the charcón, a pool created by a dike, constructed of natural elements, which slowed the flow of water for its use as a watering hole for the abundant cattle in the area.
When the water spilled over the dike, it followed the riverbed and flowed into the Guadarrama River, nourishing the orchards adjacent to the bed. In fact, taking advantage of this abundant water, channels were built called caceras, allowing the thirstiest orchards to also take advantage of the supply from the rustic watering hole.
Sharing the same function as these channels, to supply the orchards with water, around the palace one may observe aljibes, or cisterns, used to store the water from the aquifers. The largest is located on the plain by the storks' nests, and was used to irrigate the palace's orchards, fruit groves and gardens. Two systems of conduits stemmed from the cistern to the Valle del Infante (valley) and the Vereda de Valdecobos, capturing and merging the waters of these places in the historic reservoir.
On the opposite side, and lower, another underground conduit captured the water from the cistern and transported it to the orchards. Although it is unlikely that water often overflowed, the system featured an evacuation device that made it possible to divert the flow so that it would return to the Arroyo del Nacedero. Between the aquifers and the reservoir there were the aforementioned sedimentation wells, the last of which kept the cistern from clogging with materials dragged by the water.
In the driest years, or when demand for water was particularly high, the gravity distribution system was insufficient to irrigate the orchards. Thus, adjacent to the cistern a well was built designed to be operated via animal traction, with a mule powering the extraction system. Water from the well was conducted through a narrow channel underground to the reservoir.
Adjacent to the curious Gallinero del Palacio, an 18th century architectural complex forming part of the Palace's facilities, a small cistern was built in the 1960s that did not depend on rainwater to be filled, or on the conduits from the Convento Carmelita de la Encarnación, but rather a well that supplied it with groundwater. The terraced orchards that the aforementioned well supplied with water are located on the thalweg between the M-513 highway and the Avenida Adolfo Suárez, where urban orchards are currently found.
The water was transported from the cistern to the fields through a traditional irrigation system that is still conserved. The reservoir was connected to the terraces through an underground channel, and in each of them a catch basin was built, conserved as part of the municipality's cultural landscape.
From each catch basin the corresponding terrace was flooded, the water being distributed thanks to the slight inclination the farmers gave the land.
The changes that have taken place in the landscape hinder interpretation of the historical and natural elements linked to water. However, one cannot appreciate Boadilla del Monte's historical, artistic and natural heritage, and the history of its people, without considering this precious resource. Thanks to interviews with Patricio Fernández Sánchez, we can better understand the history of water in Boadilla.