The Vegas del Guadiana Greenway begins at Villanueva de la Serena Train Station and runs towards the tanks that supply the locality and Ronda de la Hispanidad with drinking water.
Beside the flyover on the road to Don Benito (Ronda de la Hispanidad), the Madrid-Badajoz railway line and the Villanueva de la Serena-Talavera railway line, whose building work was never completed, split. This point (marked as “km 1”), which features a rest area, is where the greenway begins and acquires its characteristic appearance.
Leaving Villanueva de la Serena behind, the greenway turns right and enters a deep, damp red-coloured railway trench. This section crosses the Zújar canal and its parallel road (km 2.3). However, the linearity of the railway route is interrupted by a wide, compact dirt track crossing it (km 5). Since the impassable railway platform is overgrown with undergrowth, the greenway abandons the original railway route, turns right and continues along this dirt track, sharing an unchanging landscape with other vehicles. Without leaving the dirt trail, we come to a second transversal trail: the left branch takes us to a level crossing with the busy BA-060 road (km 6.3).
On the other side of the road, the dirt trail becomes an asphalt road leading up to the hill called El Ventorrillo. Here an impressive panoramic view opens up before us. The greenway goes down a steep slope towards the Guadiana, enabling us to see the striking viaducts that, supported by aesthetic concrete arches fastened to robust pillars, cross the large river. The descent and asphalt end when we reach the first iron viaduct (km 7), connecting once again with the original railway route. Here the section shared by other vehicles also ends and there begins a section supported by three tall viaducts, which are extended by means of a tall embankment.
The almost aerial section above the plain of the Guadiana ends at an underpass below the N-430 road (km 8.2), leading to an open landscape made up entirely of farmland. At km 9.6, the ruinous Rena Station appears and, further on, its loading bay crowned by stork nests, the first of many along the way.
After passing the station, the greenway ascends alongside rows of fruit trees on both sides, gradually becoming an embankment leading to the bridge over the Gargáligas River (km 10,4); this setting is shared by anglers and birds, featuring a bird-ringing station. At km 13, a flyover rises up on the road leading to the district of El Torviscal, about 300 m from the greenway; and at km 17, another flyover appears, after which the silhouette of the locality of Palazuelo filters thorough a green tapestry, formed by the black poplars and eucalyptus trees populating the banks of the Ruecas River.
At around km 19, the greenway enters the province of Caceres and we come across Campo Lugar Station. The striking and ghostly brick passenger building still has a certain elegance. The roofless depot is decorated with stork nests, while the rest area provides travellers with a pleasant place for enjoying a break along the way. At this point, and discontinuing the plain’s inherent linearity, the greenway turns to enter two long, tall trenches with soft walls covered by brooms, rockroses, brambles and lavender; they are divided by an embankment providing an exceptional view of the Ruecas River and its trail of ash trees, holm oaks, bulrushes and eucalyptus trees. It then turns to the right, along the Dehesa hillside, before entering an endless straight section featuring modest embankments and trenches.
In this stretch, we will come across the abandoned town of Cristóbal Colón (km 23.3), an example of the localities that arose due to the Colonisation Plan.
We cross, successively, the Orellana canal, its service road and the bridge over the Ruecas River (km 25). The water from the canal passes under the greenway thanks to a syphon and continues along another canal as far as Madrigalejo. This locality, located 4 km from the greenway, offers refreshment, food and accommodation. Running alongside the canal is its narrow, winding and flat service road, which makes it easy to access this small town. Back at the bridge over the Ruecas, we witness a new change of scenery: the flat rice fields are back again; the railway platform now goes through these fields on top of a medium-sized embankment featuring views, far in the distance, of the wall keeping the Pizarroso River inside the Sierra Brava Reservoir; this forms a very important ecosystem due to the presence of ducks, coots, stilts, herons, cattle egrets, cranes or white storks –a real birdwatching paradise!
The metallic footbridge crossing the EX-355 road announces the arrival of Madrigalejo Station (km 29); from here, the route enters another long, flat straight stretch through the Special Protection Area called Llanos de Zorita and Sierra Brava Reservoir.
We have left behind the tilled land, rice fields and plains for good. Ahead of us lies a long, flat straight stretch through gently sloping wooded pastureland, the ecosystem where many common cranes choose to winter.
With this new incentive, the greenway goes deeper into this scenery featuring a view of the Cabos Negros hill, the wide crowns of the holm oaks full of stork nests, the hello and goodbye of the Ruecas River and the sudden appearance of the tall embankment that supports the Dehesas Canal (km 38). This will be an exceptional hillock throughout the extension of the endless straight stretch and the wooden pastureland surrounding the greenway.
The ruinous station of Zorita Lavadero (km 41.1) owes its double-barrelled name to the distant locality of Zorita and the “lavadero” (washing place) linked to the nearby, derelict Convent of Malillo. Under the ownership of the Monastery of Guadalupe until the 19th century, Malillo was used by the Guadalupe monks for resting and for breeding merino sheep.
After passing the solitary station, the greenway follows the winding course of the Ruecas River as far as the tall embankment at km 44, where the river splits into two: the right-hand course, the Ruecas itself, flows towards the concrete wall of the reservoir of the same name; the left-hand course (the Grande stream) will accompany us to the end in Logrosán.
The greenway bends alongside the Grande stream through wooded pastureland featuring a higher density of holm oaks. Upon reaching the flyover at km 46.3, it heads towards another long straight stretch with a moderate slope. There is a series of medium-sized embankments after km 47, which provide us with a more aerial view of this tongue that carpets the stream in spring. The straight stretch ends in a huge trench excavated out of rock at km 49 and the scenery changes: the gentle slopes are replaced by a wild Mediterranean mountainous area of scrubland, populated by little and great bustards, partridges, thrushes, rabbits, hares, wild boars, and red and roe deer.
The route of the railway line continues with a view of the Guadalupe mountains on the horizon; the greenway crosses the Grande stream (km 53) and goes up the slope of the San Cristóbal mountains, passing by several posts crowned by finely balanced stork nests. Later, the route turns right and crosses through trenches surrounded by small vegetable gardens and farms. These are the first signs of urban life before entering the final straight stretch leading to the town of Logrosán, adorned by the silhouette of its belfry.
Finally, the greenway ends in the old station of Logrosán (km 57.7), where the last rest area enables us to get our strength back, before going up the ramp leading to the town centre. The station was conceived as a provisional terminus of the railway line. The passenger building stands out in a line with no two buildings being the same. The station features a motorised turntable to turn locomotives around and a water intake, which is still visible, to supply the steam boiler.
Although the greenway ends here, it is possible to continue. However, it is more difficult from here on since the “Camino Natural de Las Villuercas” route, which links this greenway and La Jara Greenway, no longer follows an old railway line. It is an itinerary of almost 70 km between the former stations of Logrosán and Santa Quiteria, Toledo, with a branch reaching as far as Guadalupe, whose Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe is a World Heritage Site. In Logrosán, it is worth visiting Costanaza Mine.
There has been a railway presence in the region of Las Vegas del Guadiana since as early as 1865, when the tracks of the line connecting Madrid and Ciudad Real with Badajoz arrived here. For decades, the MZA company’s trains were the only ones operating in this area. However, something just over 50 km from Villanueva de la Serena Station caught the attention of railway businessmen: the phosphate mines in Logrosán, which started operating in 1917. This mineral proved to be miraculous for agriculture and “La Costanaza” mine –which is now open to the public and a highly recommended visit– stood out nationwide: up to its closure in 1946, 50% of total Spanish production of this fertiliser was extracted from its galleries. Connecting these pits with the rest of the railway network was therefore considered very interesting from a business point of view.
That same decade saw the creation of the Guadalhorce Plan, which was aimed at covering large areas of Spain lacking a railway and, at the same time, establishing a network based mainly on a radial design. The railway tracks would therefore not end in Logrosán but continue northwards, crossing the Caceres region of Las Villuercas and the Toledo region of La Jara before linking up, in Talavera de la Reina, with the Madrid-Caceres-Portugal railway line.
Construction got off to a quick start in this first section to Logrosán: it was the most profitable and the easiest to build. The railway line was completed by the late 1950s and started carrying trains loaded with materials for the next section under construction, as well as some agricultural traffic. However, paradoxically, this railway line never became commercially operational. In 1963, a World Bank report, which condemned many railway lines under construction to death at that time, also announced a tragic end for this one.