"POLA DE LAVIANA" Pola de Laviana by AsturArcadia
Pola de Laviana Travel Guide: 0 reviews and 54 photos
This is one of numerous batches of pages and travelogues featuring photos taken in the mining basins ('las cuencas') of central Asturias, to the south of Oviedo. The industrial take-off in this district really got under way in the 1850s, with the completion of the 1,440 mm gauge Ferrocarril de Langreo linking the latter town with Gijón. The line was later extended up-valley to Pola de Laviana, and the Norte built a 1,674 mm gauge branch from Soto de Rey to El Entrego. Until the 1920s most of the mines were of the hillside adit type, linked to the valley floors by inclined planes, and with a plethora of narrow gauge railways, most of them of the rare gauge of 650 mm (at least eight different gauges existed in the 'cuencas'). The development of shaft mines resulted in a reorganisation of the transport networks, with huge underground railway systems evolving, and of course the landscape changed too, as headstocks for the winding gear were built. The decline started in the 1950s, and was protracted. By the time I made my first visits, in the late 1980s, the best was over, and 'restructuring' (in other words, planned running down of the industry) was in full swing.
The industrial railways had disappeared, some delightful little steam locomotives were left plinthed outside the various mine offices (by then all the mining was realised by the state-owned concern HUNOSA), and there was still plenty of atmospheric grime and coal dust. But the various steelworks had closed, having migrated to Avilés (Trasona) and Gijón (Veriña) on the coast. By 1993 the huge washery at Carrocera, near El Entrego, lay abandoned, and a few years later was razed to the ground, to make way for an Auchan (Alcampo) hypermarket complex. Even the lovely aromatic garden (herbs) disappeared. In the mid-19th century salmon used to form part of the miners' wages. The salmon disappeared when the washeries were built, towards the end of the century, and the rivers turned black with coal dust. In 1988 the Nalón, below Pola de Laviana, was still black, but today the waters are crystal clear . . . perhaps the salmon will return.
Pola de Laviana is the upper terminus of the FC de Langreo, and at the eastern end of the main mining area. To the south of the town, on the opposite side of the river, was the huge Compañìa Mineral del Cotos del Musel mining complex, served by a 3.5 km network of 600 mm gauge railways and inclined planes, and owned by one of the concerns that eventually merged to create the Altos Hornos de Vizcaya steelworks complex between Barakaldo and Sestao, on the left bank of the Nervión, downstream from Bilbao. Most of the coal left the valley by rail, descended to El Musel, and was shipped thence to the AHV works. Cementos Fradera, which owned the 650 mm gauge steam tramway linking Pola with Rioseco, had various small mines, rail-served, in the Villoria and Taraña valleys, to the south of Puente de Arco and Entralgo. But Pola was where the industry was left behind, and where the magnificent highland landscapes of the Cordillera really began to dominate.
Pola, as we shall see, is a town of diverse and contrasting character. You may be tempted to simply drive past it on the expressway which was built up the valley from the A 66 motorway in the mid-1990s, and make straight for the pretty villages that are situated further up the valley. A mistake I confess I often made - it always seemed to me the least interesting of the string of mining towns, and before the new road was built the main street was a nightmare, car parking close on impossible.
Finding a parking space is still quite a challenge - car ownership in Asturias has mushroomed since the turn of the millennium. There is an hourly train service from Gijón and El Berrón, together with several through trains from and to Oviedo. But if you do arrive by car, why not leave your steed up at Entralgo, and walk down to Pola along the riverside path?
That is precisely how I plan to introduce Pola to you in this suite of Travelogues . . .
Most of these photos were taken in May 2009. A number date from November 2008, and a few from December 2009 (these mostly on the first Travelogue page).
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