Greenway of the Northwest The Greenway of the Northwest of the Region of Murcia breathes new life into the old railway line that used to link the capital of the region, Murcia, with the capital of the northwest of Murcia, Caravaca de la Cruz. Today it is a long natural trail, which we travel with a sense of pilgrimage (and pass a lot of disused stations converted into hostels on the way). The journey is one of many contrasts: 76.8 km leaves room for plenty of different landscapes. The route sets off from the historic regional capital, Murcia, immerses itself in the fertile plain watered by the River Segura, before following the River Mula through the lunar landscape of the regions badlands. After crossing this semi-desert we reach the high lands in the northwest and are spirits are lifted by the verdant pine woods and almond groves that surround enchanting villages. Finally we reach our goal, our heaven, at the holy city of Caravaca de la Vera.
DEVELOPED GREENWAY Natural trail with contrasting landscape, punctuated by viaducts, tunnels, bridges and stations.
LOCATION Between Murcia (Espinardo University campus) and Caravaca de la Cruz MURCIA Length: 768 km
(Except for some sections). See details in Accessible Greenways (in Spanish) Type of surface: Mixed (asphalt surface treatment and compacted artificial aggregate), tarmac, compacted gravel and sand. Natural setting: Lunar landscape or badlands and mountain countryside with pine and fruit trees. Mula valley and fertile flood plain of the River Segura. Cultural heritage: Monumental city of Murcia. Towns of Mula, Bullas, Cehegn and Caravaca de la Cruz. El Nio Sanctuary. The Lost City of Begastri and the thermal spa waters of Baos de Mula. Seven railway stations refurbished as hostels. Infrastructure: Greenway. 9 viaducts, 1 metal bridge (over the Segura) and 6 tunnels. How to get there: Murcia: Renfe. Madrid-Murcia line Murcia, Baos de Mula, Mula, El Nio de Mula, Bullas, Cehegn, Caravaca. Bus. Empresa Costa Clida. Murcia-Caravaca line. Campus de Espinardo, Ribera de Molina, Molina de Segura, Alguazas. Bus. Latbus bus company. Connections: Murcia: 5 km away from the start of the Greenway Maps to use: National Geographic Institute Map. Scale 1:50,000. Sheets 910, 911, 912 and 913 Ministry of Development Official Road Map Further information in Greenways Guide, Volume 1
DESCRIPTION Km. 0 / Km. 12,4 / Km. 40,5 The Greenway of the Northwest begins where the Avenida Po Baroja meets the Campus de Espinardo ring road, on the outer northwest edge of the city of Murcia, opposite the Claudio Galeno Professional Healthcare Training Institute, on the northern perimeter of the Espinardo university campus. Km 0 The Greenway leaves the city of Murcia behind, firstly with a gentle climb between modern housing estates, which are occasionally hidden as the trail plunges into cuttings with high earth embankments, and later with a long curving descent, also through many deep cuttings, which runs parallel to the dry ravine of Ribera de Molina, through a dry and rugged landscape sculpted by rare but torrential rainfall.
At the exit to the first tunnel along the route (km 3.9), a straight 200 m well-lit affair, we arrive at the station at La Ribera de Molina, whose storehouse has been converted into a bar. At Ribera de Molina the descent down to the flat floodplain of the River Segura comes to an end. But without setting foot on the floodplain, the trail passes through a host of suburbs with numerous level crossings before finally skirting around Molina de Segura and its station (km 7.1).
On leaving Molina (km 7.5) we cross the N-344 road on a zebra crossing controlled by a traffic light with pedestrian button. The Greenway, now with a gravel surface, embarks on a long, straight section through the left hand water meadow of the River Segura. This path through the vegetable garden of Murcia is flanked by cottages and farmland growing a wide variety of crops. A tight left turn takes us to the River Segura itself, which we cross via an impressive, carefully restored iron bridge (km 9.1). This is one of the most striking vestiges of the old railway. On the far bank (the right hand one) the fertile riverside farmland predominates once again.
At the town of Alguazas (km 9.7) the original route of the old railway is no longer available. Instead there is a complicated alternative route through the town, signposted as a Nature Trail. Small signs (white lettering on a red background) direct us to the old station, now refurbished as a hostel and cafeteria, from where we cross over the tracks of the modern Murcia-Albacete railway and head towards the River Mula basin to the extreme west of the town. Km 12.4 On leaving Alguazas we return to the route of the old railway. The surface of the Greenway is now in a worse condition than in the previous section as it climbs through a whitened landscape that has been sculpted by mans hand; the badlands landscape has been terraced and planted with fruit trees. Once past the water treatment plant at Los Rodeos (km 17, the arid landscape becomes wilder and we embark on a long journey through what can only be described as a moonscape. The fruit trees disappear and bare earth dominates a sparse landscape of gullies, dried up ravines and earthy mountains, to which the ruined station of Los Rodeos (km 19.1) serves only to emphasize its harshness. Some distance away we can see how the River Mula forms broad meanders, known as rodeos, with spectacular gullies. A wooden fence (km 20.4) bars the way past an old level-crossing keepers cottage on the MU-531; the cottage is now privately owned so we must make a diversion around its grounds. By a slope to our right we reach the MU-531, which we cross and then drop
down parallel to the road until we arrive at a bridge. Then a slope, again on our right, brings us back up on top of the old railway embankment.
We enter the town of Campos del Ro along Ferrocarril street which leads us to another hostel in a disused station (km 22.4). The original rail bed beyond the station has disappeared. In order to regain it we need to leave the town on the Albudeite road and then turn off it and head up an incline that skirts around a tank of the water treatment plant on our right (km 22.2).
Once again on the original railway route (km 22.3), our peregrination is enriched by a new, exciting experience brought to us courtesy of the trails railway past. Great viaducts supported on lofty arches carry us across deep, steep walled ravines, whose river beds overgrown with wild cane and reeds are the only traces of green in the landscape. On the way to Albudeite we cross the first two viaducts across the Gracia (km 24.6) and Arco (km 25.5) ravines.
The trail skirts around the town of Albudeite (km 26), passing by its old railway station, also converted into a hostel. After what turns out to be a brief parenthesis of fruit trees, the rail bed climbs above the left hand bank of the River Mula, providing a magnificent balcony from which to view spectacular ravines. The trail crosses over a third viaduct, over the Moro or Carrizal ravine (km 28.3) before reaching the ruined station of Baos de Mula (km 29.3). The village it used to serve, one kilometre (downhill) from the Greenway, boasts a wide range of simple but highly appealing thermal facilities. A little later we encounter another major viaduct some 200 m long, spanning the Rambla de Perea ravine at a great height (km 2.6).
After passing under the Autova de Noroeste motorway and taking special care in crossing the C-415 local road (our travelling companion for the entire route), we arrive at the La Puebla de Mula station (km 32). A little later on we cross over another spectacular viaduct spanning the River Mula (km 32.7). The barren, white aridness of the surrounding terrain is in sharp contrast to the valley
bottom with its fertile green fields of fruit and vegetables washed by the waters of the River Mula. At km 34.5 we reach the outskirts of Mula. From here our old friend the C-415 road has taken over the old rail bed to bypass the town. We will avoid the tarmac and take a purpose built section of the Greenway which runs through an industrial estate (be careful at road intersections!). A short distance away we can see the houses of the town of Mula, which makes an ideal stopping point on our route. At km 39 we rejoin the road again, now back on the original route of the railway. Then we climb up towards the El Nio sanctuary, where it has been impossible to recover the old railway route and so our Greenway makes use of some rural tracks which, after a few uphill stretches, take us to the old Apeadero* of El Nio (km 40.5). Km 40.5 After El Nio the route takes us through a number of tunnels (between 60 and 200 metres in length). Beyond the first two the landscape undergoes a sudden change; we enter a countryside populated by pine trees and scrubland, dotted here and there with estates full of almond and other fruit trees, irrigated by channels leading off the River Mula.
After two more tunnels (de 200 m. and 100 m. respectively) we reach the La Luz Apeadero* (km 45.2), now a small hostel-cum-refuge. Next we cross a long viaduct supported by eight arches spanning the River Mula and its confluence with the Rambla de Codona ravine, which takes us to the outskirts of Bullas (km 52), the highest point on the route (630 m.). From here the trail begins a gentle and continuous descent towards Caravaca.
At Bullas we find the same situation as at Mula: the occupation of the rail bed by the road requires us to take another, well signposted detour, through the uppermost part of the town (beware, there are some hills