In this part we propose several excursions at a few kilometres outside the city. You can consult all the available information here and we remind you that, before you start the routes we will now propose, you must give back your multimedia tourist guide at any official centre. The topic of the excursions we will propose now is water and the landscape it has created here together with humans: the meadows.
This liquid element was of vital importance for the creation and survival of Augusta Emerita throughout time. Water for industries - the thermae, the wells, the houses… - brought from marshes through the hydraulic systems show us the level of perfection the Romans achieved in both engineering and the application of the origins of topography.
And water for health - hydrotherapy, which is currently very in - was a common practice among the Romans. Augusta Emerita had a spa where you can still go and enjoy yourself today.
RESERVOIR AND THE NATURE RESERVE OF CORNALVO
After visiting the Nature Reserve Interpretation Centre, located at the entrance of the park, we will have to travel for about four kilometres until we reach the reservoir. This reservoir is located northeast of Mérida at the beginning of the hydraulic system Aqua Augusta, which provided water for the whole southern area of the city.
Between two hills, it collects the water coming from channels and dams built in the Sierra Bermeja, as well as water coming from existing wells in the basin of the reservoir. Then, along a stretch of about 15 kilometres, channels are added to the main system bringing water from different springs like the one of Borbollón for example.
The primitive construction from the Augustean age was made up of a collection tower covered with dressed ashlars which was united to the reservoir wall through a parapet walk over a big semicircular arch. It seems that the original reservoir was constituted of a core of concrete cells filled with compacted earth, covered with a sloping wall of ashlars. Today this is all masked by a construction built in the first quarter of the 20th century. Downstream, the wall rests on a colossal shoulder of land.
The part of the reservoir that is preserved is 200 metres long and 18 metres high. Our visit to the marsh must end with a walk through the oak groves and pastures of the Natural Reserve as well as a visit to the country house of Campomanes, a gift of the people of Mérida to who used to be Minister of Treasury under Charles 3rd.
THE PROSERPINA RESERVOIR AND THE WATER INTERPRETATION CENTRE
At about five kilometres northwest of the city, there is a Roman marsh which used to be called Albuera de Carija and which changed its name to Proserpina marsh after the discovery in the 19th century, of an inscription of a woman calling this goddess of the underworld to punish those who had stolen the laundry she had hung up. Proserpina is now one of the best conditioned fresh water beaches of Extremadura.
Downstream the reservoir rested on a great fill of land. Backed against the reservoir and crammed into the fill, there are two towers used to access the water supply at different heights on the reservoir wall. From these towers, the water went to the hydraulic system which reached the north of the city before crossing the Albarregas valley via the aqueduct of Los Milagros.
If we want to know the importance this liquid element had for life in the Colony, it is indispensable to visit the Water Interpretation Centre located in the surroundings of the reservoir.
A WALK AROUND THE BANKS OF THE GUADIANA
Now we are going to visit the biggest green area of the city: a park which is almost two kilometres long and which is known as “The Island”. It is really a part of the Guadiana that is dotted with leafy islands where you can find a large bird fauna with birds like mallards, coots, cormorants, cattle egrets, grey herons and of course white storks.
The Island passes by monumental bridges from different historical periods: the iron railway bridge built by the engineer William Finch Festherstone between 1881 and 1883; the spectacular Lusitania bridge built by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 1992; the singular Roman bridge which we will tell you more about later on and finally, in the south, we can see the New Bridge built by Carlos Fernández Casado, one of the most prominent Spanish engineers of the past century.
This is where our city was planned and the bloodiest moments of the local history took place. Here is where you can also find one archaeological site after the other and as well as a unique building: the Alcazaba. Finally, you can also see the reflection of the new city in the Guadiana waters with buildings that are the result of famous national architectural studies.
Located east of Mérida, between Santiago and Aljucén Nava. It is a geographical continuation of the Natural Cornalvo which in turn connects with the nearby Sierra de San Pedro. The landscape is flat or slightly wavy, occupied by a mixed meadow of oak trees through which the course of Lácara River, which runs flanked by a gallery forest of ash.
The Dolmen of Lácara, a funerary construction located in the Meadow of Lácara which was part of a dolmen territory covering the mountain rig of San Pedro and which is now the biggest dolmen of the peninsula.