The Sierra Espuña snow wells will be declared a Site of Cultural Interest (BIC) with the category of Place of Ethnographic Interest. The Ministry of Education and Culture has just started the administrative procedure that will culminate in the protection of a set of 26 stone refrigerators, together with twelve annexed buildings – houses, warehouses and a hermitage -, two roads in the network of natural trails, one livestock route and two sources, all in the municipality of Totana. The two wells of Alhama and Mula are excluded because they are far from the main complex, according to the resolution of the General Directorate of Cultural Assets.
This great artisanal system for storing ice by pressing snow, the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean, was built on the heights of the Sierra Espuña Regional Park between the 16th and 18th centuries and remained in operation until 1926.
The cold industry mobilized dozens of laborers in winter to supply shops and hospitals in Murcia, Cartagena, Lorca and Orihuela. Snow was collected and accumulated on the ground next to the large structures dug into the ground, where it was introduced and crushed using the vegetation of the land as a separating element. In spring it was cut into blocks and descended from the mountain on donkeys and mules.
Natural and landscape values
The historical testimony of this activity is not only the wells, but also several auxiliary buildings where the workers slept or kept tools, the paths they used, the chapel where they prayed and the sources from which they were supplied during the hard working days in the summits. And all in an environment of great natural and scenic value.
For almost a hundred years of neglect, almost all the domes have collapsed and there has hardly been any intervention to recover the original appearance of two of them in the complex known as Pozos de Cartagena or de los Zurdos. About 500 meters away in a straight line, on the other side of Col Mangueta, are the Wells of Murcia or Tío Cola.
The declaration as BIC, requested last year by the Tourist Association of Sierra Espuña and the Association for the Conservation of the Huerta and the Heritage of Murcia (Huermur), will be the previous and necessary step to address a restoration program defined in the Plan Director of the Sierra Espuña Snow Wells, prepared by the Ecoproyecta Arquitectura Sostenible studio commissioned by the General Directorate of Cultural Assets of the Autonomous Community.
Ten years and a million euros
The Master Plan for the Sierra Espuña Snow Wells signed by Ecoproyecta, under the direction of the architect Pablo Carbonell, proposes the comprehensive restoration of four of them – two in Murcia and another two in Cartagena – and actions valued at more than one million euros for a decade, as THE TRUTH advanced. In the other wells, consolidation works and improvement of safety for visitors are proposed. The complete rehabilitation of two of the auxiliary buildings – one in each area, with its historical furniture – is also planned, together with the signage of the entire complex and the installation of tourist equipment to prepare a tour of the new Asset of Cultural Interest. The annual maintenance cost is estimated at 15,000 euros. In the event that the start of the works is delayed, the General Directorates of Cultural Assets and Natural Environment have committed to address as soon as possible the restoration of well number eleven, the largest of the twenty-six, and the consolidation of the refrigerators that they are in worse shape.
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