The Surrounding Area
Some historians estimate that, on the site of the present city, there was a small Roman settlement, but they all agree that it was the Moors who made farming a possibility by holding back the waters at La Contraportada, a real feat of engineering to be found 7 kilometres from Murcia at Javalí Nuevo: a weir or dam which retains the water of the River Segura and distributes it by means of two main irrigation channels, la Aljufia to the north and Alquibla, to the south, which in turn have ramifications in the shape of many side channels and ditches. On our visit we can see two of the many water wheels which dotted the valley: the one known as the Alcantarilla wheel, with the ethnographical museum nearby, and the La Ñora wheel, which takes water from the La Aljufia channel. The water wheel is of Greek origin but was popularized by the Moors. In Guadalupe, a nearby village, stands the monastery of Los Jerónimos, which is commonly known as the Escorial of Murcia. Building was finished in 1783 and it was declared a National Monument in 1981; at present it houses the Catholic University of San Antonio.
To the east, on the old Alicante road stands the Caste of Monteagudo, which was the summer residence of Alfonso X and was guarded by royal troops until the reign of Carlos I? It was built in the 12th century under the orders of Ibn Mardanix, known as King Wolf, a seasoned warrior who had another leisure palace in Los Alcázares and a hunting lodge in El Castillejo, an archaeological site about 400 metres from Monteagudo.
Work on the Fuensanta chapel began in 1694. The building, of the typical Murcia baroque style, has a wide nave with a crossing and dome; the doorway in the Churrigueresque style is flanked by two towers and is the work of Jaime Bort. The paintings, which adorn the inside of the dome, are by Pedro Flores and the biblical relief’s are by the sculptor Gonzalez Moreno.
It is situated in what is today the El Valle Natural Park, a mountainous area of some 1,900 hectares of great value because of its landscape, ecology, culture, history and leisure facilities. As it has no extremely high peaks, it is ideal for walkers: it has excellent access routes, camping and recreation areas, lodges and forestry commission huts.
About half a kilometre away an Iberian temple has been discovered just near the La Luz hermitage, a popular place for religious gatherings among the villagers, where the chapel is in regular use; the monks who run the La Luz convent are well known for their friendliness and traditionally cairned their living making brooms and chocolates. The mountain area holds many remains dating right back to the Bronze Age, from periods such as the Argarican, Iberian Roman, Gothic and Moorish ages, especially religious sites such as the Iberian temple, the La Luz hermitage, the Vizigothic basilica at Algezares, the convent of Santa Catalina del Monte and the hermitages of San Antonio el Pobre and San José de la Vega. Once over the Puerto de la Cadena pass, in the Sierra de Carrascoy, we find the El Majal Blanco municipal park, an area of 636 hectares with important nature reserves, protected species and different microclimates. The Carrasco pine is the most frequently found in the wooded areas, but the jewel is the seven cork oaks, the last natural examples in the Region. The park has a Nature Centre, an ecology education area and well- marked trails and other facilities. From its mountaintops, the whole Segura river valley can be seen. At dawn, Murcia can be seen through the mist, shrugging off sleep among its garlands of flowers and fruit. At night the clear dark sky glistens with a myriad stars; sometimes the Moorish moon rides in the firmament ad tinges it a mysterious blue.