Cattle routes

  • Physical accessibility
  • Pets allowed
  • Suitable for children
  • Historical heritage

The public routes connecting us from North to South

Glens, tracks, lanes and paths are intertwined and take us, walking with our cattle or without it, to any place in the peninsula we want to go to.

Ancient routes made by men, by his constant passage, are one of our most cherished and valuable legacies. And, although their use is changing with the times, their immemorial existence is part of our cultural heritage, then and now.

Cattle routes are the most important paths we have and, as the rest, have been protected since the Fuero Juzgo (Judicial Charter), back in 654, as well as by King Alfonso X who, in Las Siete Partidas (the Seven Games), in 1265, ratifies that ‘they belong to all men communally’.

Despite the threats they suffer from neglect and occupation, do not forget that the cattle trails belong to us all, they connect us, they are our natural, historical and cultural heritage to which we owe a great deal, and it is in our hands to enjoy, conserve and defend them.

The importance of cattle routes

Some information to get you to know the richness of these paths and even more, the ones in Manzanares El Real

Our most recent heritage of cattle routes, as we know them today, began in 1273, when King Alfonso X made the first regularisation of these paths and created the Real Sociedad de ganaderos de la Mesta (Royal Society of stockbreeders of la Mesta), which brought together all the herders and stockbreeders of the kingdom. Its final regularisation would come with Alfonso XI, in 1374, under the name of Honrado Concejo de la Mesta (Honourable Council of la Mesta), in response to the need to put an end to the conflicts between farmers and stockbreeders due to the damage caused by livestock during transhumance on the lands of the former as they passed through in search of new pastures.

The Mesta became an essential institution in the economy and power of Castilla vis-à-vis Europe, as it was one of the most important sources of income from taxes on the passage of livestock and, especially, from the sale of Merino sheep wool that left Cantabria to the ports in England and Flanders.

The decline of the Spanish Crown’s wool monopoly and the new liberal political system affected the Mesta, and in the 18th century it gradually lost its privileges until it was definitively abolished by the Cortes of Cádiz in 1812. It was not until 1836 that this association of stockbreeders re-emerged, although with changes and restrictions, under the name of Asociación General de Ganaderos del Reino (General Association of Livestock Breeders of the Realm), which would operate until the Civil War. After which, the Sindicato Nacional de Ganadería (Sindicato Provincial de Ganadería in Madrid) took over the helm until it was abolished in 1977.

Since then, the kingdom’s livestock farmers have gathered in countless organisations in defence of their rights and those of the cattle routes and, strange as it may seem, they still use these roads with their animals during the transhumance season.

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As it could not be otherwise, one of the most important cattle routes in the peninsula had to pass through Manzanares El Real. Being the head of the Infantado, it had to be perfectly communicated, taking advantage of the fact that, since time immemorial, the Cañada Real Segoviana (Royal Segovian Rovers’ Road), which connects Extremadura with La Rioja, crosses its territory.

Our municipality is crossed not only by this royal cattle track, but by dozens of livestock trails such as lanes, paths and other glens which also connect us with our neighbours in the region. Some of those tracks that go through our town centre are the Cordel de los Toros (the path of the Bulls because it was used to bring the bulls during transhumance), the Vereda de Corteceros (the Corteceros Sidewalk), the Cordel del Hotigal, and our beloved Cañada Real Segoviana or de las Merinas (Segovian Royal Drovers’ Road).

Outside the urban area, due to the large size of our municipality, we have dozens of other routes: the Colada de Manzanares El Real to El Boalo, the Cordel de Campuzano, the Cordel de La Pedriza, the Vereda de los Mesones, the Cordel de Prado Herrero, the Cordel del Arroyo Mediano, the Colada del Camino de Manzanares a Miraflores, the Colada del Prado Moñigal, the Cordel de San Buriel y Navalcollados, the Cordel de Fuente las Liebres, the Cordel del Vado de las Carretas, the Cordel del Espinarejo, and many other paths.

All these cattle roads were used by neighbouring herders, especially goat herders and sheepherders, to take their animals from one place to another in the mountains, depending on the time of year. Few shepherds can be seen nowadays, but there are still some and they walk through these paths that we use as recreational and leisure areas.

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Originally, cattle routes are part of our Ethnographic Heritage, both tangible and intangible, as their importance lies in their existence as a manifestation of the ancestral human traditions of transhumance and transtermitance. These public domain paths, stretching for thousands of kilometres, are by law inalienable, imprescriptible and non-seizable, as well as the elements associated with them and their tradition: folds, small huts, drinking troughs, holding pens, bridges, etc.

Our society has changed over the years and so has the use we make of things, as it has been the case with cattle roads. Nowadays, with shepherding traditions gradually disappearing, public paths are imbued with idleness and naturalism. As they stretch through rural areas for the most part, they are the perfect place to practice non-motorised sports such as cycling, hiking or running, as well as activities based on the observation and enjoyment of nature, such as mushroom and fungi picking, photography or birdwatching.

It is just that cattle roads are an oasis of greenery on their sides, where plants, mammals, insects, reptiles and birds thrive undisturbed, precisely because these paths allow us to enjoy this wealth of life without treading on it or mistreating it.

Let us keep on using them to conserve them, so that they connect us, so that we can continue to experience nature while respecting and learning from it, so that our millenary heritage does not disappear.

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In pictures

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Activities in Manzanares El Real

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