One of the fountains at the Parque Enrique Tierno Galvan
So I was intrigued when an attendee at my Friday evening English Speaking Group mentioned “her” favourite park and I hadn’t heard of it. She told me of its tranquillity, of how she would go to peacefully read or study. I was even more astonished to find it was in my part of Madrid - well four stops on the metro, so it’s not far.
Following her directions I took the metro to Suanzes (line 5) and emerged on to Madrid’s longest street, the busy Calle de Alcalá and according to her I was there, at the park. But there was no park to be seen. Just a high wall painted in fading pink with an inset building with barred windows. However, my heightened powers of observation noticed that some of my fellow alighting passengers were disappearing through an arch in the wall. So I followed.
In fact the arch is a short tunnel which opened into a small courtyard lined with shady trees and pink flower beds. The height of that hideous pink wall and the narrowness of the tunnel effectively killed the noise and the bustle of the Street outside. It was like entering a secret world.
Before me stretched a long avenue of trees and on either side spread twenty seven hectares of green lawns, small, shady spinneys and wide walkways of peace. That’s about 67 acres for my US readers.
I was in the Parque de la Quinta de los Molinos.
Leaving the small courtyard and following the slightly inclined tree lined path ahead leads you wide open areas, an orchard of almond trees, a hidden depression, a temple. Before the park came into public hands the Quinta de los Molinas was a private garden. Here stood the home of César Cort (y) Boti.
Cort Boti was an architect and considered a pioneer in the contemporary urbanisation of towns in the 20th century. His work can be seen around the Plaza de Olavide in the Trafalgar district and he was professor of Urbanisation at the Madrid School of Architecture. In 1928 he worked on the expansion of the city of Murcia and later reformed the town centre of Valladolid.
For most of his life he worked and lived in Madrid, but he was born (in 1893) in Valencia and arranged to die (in 1978) in Alicante. Whether by whim or perhaps through a feeling of homesickness for Catalonia, when he designed his garden in 1925 he stocked it with plants indigenous to the Mediterranean coast.
I know nothing about the names of plants or how they grow, but I like surrounding myself in their tranquillity. The nature of Cort Boti’s selction of trees and plants meant the park reached maturity quite fast and in places seems overgrown and tangled. The park authority must work hard to maintain it, but it is far removed from the showpiece landscaping of the Retiro.
Also, before I get too bucolic I should mention that despite the peace you can find there, the grounds are over-looked by high apartment blocks and that at the northern end the city encroaches, as the agreement between Cort Boti’s family and the Madrid Ayudamiento allowed for some land to be retained then sold for building.
Apartment blocks peer down through the trees.
The land dips and rises, the paths take unexpected turns. When I explored a charming small gateway I found myself cruelly cast out into the real world of suburban street life. But there are hidden corners where I found a student spread out with his books and unwittingly intruded on a courting couple’s privacy. There are areas to sit and think and flowerbeds to contemplate.
A small pond with a central fountain cast my mind back immediately to a similar area in the park in my English home town. A stream bed lies nearby; dry when I went, but showing signs of activity when it rains. And just beyond that a small grotto for secret trysts and, unfortunately, graffiti artists handiwork.
The secret grotto cut into the rock.
"Welcome to the Jungle". I am pleased to see the Graffiti painter learned something at school.
It is a well used park. Footpaths criss-cross the grassed areas to allow passage from one barrio to another. Joggers run and dog-walkers amble. A row of exercise apparatus runs along a wide path along the central crest. They come with instructions though I saw no one using them.
All you have to do is find it.