SIERRA NORTE DE MADRID
The Sierra Norte has a magnificent ethnographic heritage with a lot of character due to, among other things, to its location on the natural border that forms the Central System. This geographical situation has led to history in many phases being placed in a kind of no-man's land, where its inhabitants have been forging their own identity.
Culture has developed from some ways of life on the mountain, subjected at many times to isolation and greatly influenced by livestock, agriculture and grazing.
All of this has greatly conditioned the architecture, starting with their own casas of the inhabitants, built with the materials they had at hand, Mainly, Stone (Granite, Slate, Schists) and wood (pine and oak mainly). The structure of the houses also reflected this mountain life, overwhelmed each other to avoid cold, thick walls, small windows, and gabled roofs with Arab tile to quickly evacuate rainwater. Houses, South-facing, consisted of two floors, in the first, stood the block, the living room and the kitchen, where family life ran around the light, and in the second were the bedrooms and a room to store the harvest and the tilling tools.
Related to livestock and grazing and spread throughout the Sierra we find the Majadas, hillsidey places, where there was a Chozo, that the shepherds used to condition to spend the months of exhaust, like the Aprisco rustic constructions to store livestock, especially sheep and goats, in case of inclement weather and prevent the attack of predators. Sources and Springs, some more worked and adapted to feed livestock forming watering watering watering rams or pylons. To these we must add those of the peoples, essential for life and more adapted for human consumption than for animals. Some are real works of art. Another element associated with livestock and mountain villages is the Smith of, present in almost all of them.
Associated with agriculture, we should highlight the regueras, authentic hydraulic engineering works, some more than iv centuries old. Water is taken from the headwaters of the "mother" streams and channeled through ditches to villages or growing areas, traveling tens of miles in some cases. For the distribution of the waters, irrigation shifts were established, and for this in some villages a sundial was used, also called Stone of the Times.
Also associated with water, other communal constructions were the Mills, fundamental to the livelihoods of the inhabitants and of which we will talk more widespread in future reports of this website and the Laundries where the mountain ranges in the cold waters that come down from the mountains and that even today we can see some as in La Acebeda or in Berzosa.
But certainly, the Most Important Hydraulic Heritage of the Sierra, and vital for the city of Madrid, is the one made by the Elizabeth Ii Canal, with 5 Reservoirs in our mountains, among them the Atazar, the largest of the Community of Madrid. Apart from siphons, beacons, pipelines and canals to bring water to the capital of Madrid.
Another common element in several Mountain villages is the roll, we can see them in those towns that had the status of villa, its purpose was to warn outsiders that the city had mayor and judge its own, to try crimes in the first instance.
A treasure, sometimes hidden, but of fundamental importance, at the time when grazing and herds, especially merine sheep, were the foundation of the mountain economy, are the medieval bridges. Essential for the driving of herds and goods to the different parts of the mountain range. Numerous examples are spread throughout the Sierra Norte such as the Puente del Perdón (Rascafría), Congosto (Lozoya), Canto Bridge (Canencia)... These bridges would lead, in addition to the different majadas in which the herds were distributed, important industrial constructions related to wool, such as shearing ranches, wool laundry rooms and auxiliary potholes. At the foot of the Sierra, according to the description of Antonio Ponz, Towards 1770, there would be more than twenty ranches or shears.
"Around livestock, a number of infrastructures needed for the work related to it arise. In Buitrago we are aware of the existence of seven shears, four of them of small size and importance and of the remaining three, we know that in two he sheared more cattle than that of the owner family himself, (...) Finally, there was another great shearing on the El Bosque estate, across the Lozoya River, next to the Palace, both owned by the Duke of Infantado, who sheared exclusively the duke's cattle given the large number of heads he possessed. Of the same owners is a large wool laundry room whose ruins still exist on the other side of the river in the laundry that goes to the port of Linera."
Hopelessly related to bridges, another fundamental heritage in the Sierra is that of the Historic Ways, linked to grazing and other historical activities and vicissitudes, the roads of the Sierra hold a rich heritage, some of space importance like the Cañada Real Segoviana that crosses the Sierra from North to South. This heritage worthy of preservation and rehabilitation in some cases, Is, to this day, a priority for many of the people who live in the Sierra, true platforms for sustainable tourism and a fundamental tool for environmental education... from which we ALL benefit.