Vejer's watermills are located in Santa Lucía, a small village situated next to La Muela, three kilometres from the town. Santa Lucía has been declared a Natural Monument for its singular beauty, its exuberant vegetation and the diversity of its landscapes.
We have evidence of the mills's existence since the sixteenth century, except El Hoyo mill, which dates from the seventeenth century. Although there were seven watermills in Santa Lucía, today we only preserve remains of five: Miraflores, Garrobo, Batán, Hoyo and Santa Lucía. All of them worked with the power of the water coming from the natural spring of the area currently known as La Muela. Thanks to the terrain's natural unevenness or by means of aqueducts, the stream of water reached the seven mills with enough pressure and speed and made them work. These watermills belonged to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who not only had a monopoly on the use of the mills, but also on the spring of La Muela and the water emanating from it. With the establishment of liberalism at the beginning of the twentieth century the Dukes of Medina lost their seigniorial jurisdiction over the town of Vejer and its municipal area, but they retained the ownership of the watermills and the spring. In this context, the Count of Villariezo and his son the Count of Bornos, took advantage of the strength of the water produced by the water falls and decided to create an electricity company which they called Eléctrica Villariezo. The company supplied the town of Vejer with electricity and water.
Finally, the electricity supply was transferred to the company called Sevillana in the 1960s and the water supply and the spring of La Muela became property of the municipality in 1978.
You start at Santa Lucía, located three kilometres from Vejer de la Frontera. Park your car next to the church and begin to walk up. Turn left and you will see the “Aula de la Naturaleza”, the watermill called El Hoyo and the first waterfall. Go back to your way and follow it until you get to El Batán watermill, at the foot of the Roman aqueduct that extends to the watermill known as El Garrobo. From this mill, you continue your way up to the last mill; Miraflores. You will see several remains of the aqueduct and new waterfalls surrounded by exuberant vegetation. At this point you will find a viewpoint, from where you will enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of Vejer, as well as amazing views of cultivation fields.
Continue climbing and you will reach Vejer's water deposits and the natural spring of La Muela which currently supplies the town of Vejer with water.
Once you are in La Muela, go along the edge of the sandpit until you arrive at a crossing known as Verdecabras. You turn right twice and go down a paved road. From there, you can enjoy amazing views of Vejer on the right, the mountains of Grana on the left and the Industrial Estate of Cañada Ancha at the foot of the road. When you reach the Industrial Estate, turn right and you will get to the small village of Santa Lucía again. Following this road, you will pass Santa Lucía's fountain and you will finally arrive at the starting point: Santa Lucía's Church.
The commonn birds in the area are the ones typical in the area of La Janda: swallows (Hirundo rustica), turtledoves (Streptopelia risoria), partridges (Alectoris rufa), goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), black kites (Milvus migrans) and storks (Ciconia ciconia).
Santa Lucía's flora consists mainly of mastranto flower (Mentha suaveolens), reed (Scirpus lacustris), bellflowers (Campanula carpatica), plenty of acanthus leaves (Acanthus mollis) and many woody species such as canes (Arundo donax), osier trees (Salix viminalix), blackberries (Rubus ulmifolius), wild olive trees (Olea europaea var. sylvestris), cork oaks (Quercus suber), mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus), and carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua). You will also find lots of vegetable gardens and fruit trees such as pommegranate trees and fig trees, as well as wheat, sugar beet and sunflower fields. All these types of vegetation create a diverse landscape of great beauty.
LENGTH OF THE ROUTE: 5,5 KM APPROX.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: LOW
SLOPE GRADE: INTERMEDIATE
TIME: 2 HOURS
START & END: SANTA LUCIA'S CHURCH
Places of interest
1. The church
At the beginning of the twentieth century it was rebuilt on the old hermitage of Santa Lucía, which had been commissioned by the Dukes of Medina Sidonia in the sixteenth century.
There is evidence of the mills' existence since 1509, except el Hoyo mill, which dates from the seventeenth century.
These mills' operating mechanism was as simple in theory as it was complex in practice. Once the sufficient amount of water had accumulated into the well, the miller opened its door and released it. Then, this water, now with enough pressure and speed, reached the lower part of the mill, activating a system of gears which generated a rotation movement and which transmitted it to the grinding stones through a vertical axle called palahierro.
3. The aqueduct
The aqueduct was probably built by the Romans and reformed by the Muslims. Its function was to regulate and carry the waters towards the mills.
It consisted of a group of pillars, semicircular arches built with blocks of stones and a well or pail. This cylindrical structure was several metres deep with a small door on its base and served to accumulate the water and generate the necessary pressure to make the mill's grinding stones work.
The aqueduct presents an unequal state of preservation: some sections have fallen over the stream bed, some others have simply disappeared over time; some arches are preserved in perfect condition while in others,only the pillars remain standing.
4. The landscape
During the walk you will enjoy amazing waterfalls, artificial water canals (atarjeas), remains of the Roman aqueduct and the watermills, all of this surrounded by blackberries, climbing plants, acanthus leaves, reedbeds, mastic trees, cork oaks and fruit trees, especially orange trees and louquats. Moreover you will enjoy beautiful views of Vejer and its wheat, sugar beet and sunflower fields. All of this makes this route a wonderful and enjoyable walk.
The mills used this operating mechanism until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the heirs of the Duke (the Count of Villariezo and his son the Count of Bornos) took advantage of the strength produced by the water falls and created an electricity company, which not only supplied Vejer with electricity, it also established the first milling industry which used electric power.
State of preservation:
Members of the vocational training centre of Vejer worked in Santa Lucía between 1997 and 1999. They restored el Garrobo mill, part of El Hoyo mill, the tower of El Batán and the vault of Miraflores. They also renovated part of the aqueduct and the atarjeas.However, in spite of these restoration works, a continuous maintenance service is required to preserve this unique environment in its current condition.
5. Cañada Real
It is a long way which crosses the area from north to south. In the past, it was used by farmers to lead their cattle.
6. Santa Lucía's fountain
This fountain was probably built in Roman times. It was known as El Garrobo fountain in the Middle Ages.