Via Verde of the Campiña
Spain´s longest vía verde (Railway Path) at 91km, this route crosses the gently rolling campiña (countryside) between Valchillón, just southwest of Cordoba, and Marchena in Seville province, 60km from Seville. It passes through the valley of the Guadalquivir river, with its fertile plain and cultivated fields of cereal crops and olive groves. Make sure you have enough time to explore towns and villages along this route, particularly Cordoba city and Écija. The greenway is suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, but not wheelchair users since it is uneven in many places.
The railway line was constructed in the late 19th-century by the Andaluces company to link Cordoba with Cadiz without having to pass through Seville, which had a notoriously congested rail network. But when Renfe (Spanish National Railway Company) took control of the national network in the 1940s, the Cordoba-Seville line was given precedence over this one and in 1970 it was closed.
If you want to start from Cordoba, head to the Amargacena industrial estate on the southwestern edge of the city. From here, you can walk along the minor road that runs alongside the Guadalquivir river to Valchillón.
The vía verde begins at the grain silo at Valchillón station. At Km 2 there is a bridge over the Guadajoz river, a tributary of the Guadalquivir. Five hundred metres further on, at Finca La Reina, the route starts the climb up from the flat river valley, in sweeping curves and with a rough, rocky surface. If you′re on a bike, it′s worth dismounting and taking the steeper route uphill via a dirt track that branches off to the left; this rejoins the greenway closer to the top of the hill just over 1km later.
At Km 7 is the only tunnel along this route, called Las Tablas. When the railway closed down the tunnel was used, unsuccessfully, for cultivating field mushrooms, and for this reason the tunnel has some rather incongruous partition walls that you can still see today. If it′s been raining heavily, it′s better to avoid the tunnel altogether and go over the hill, taking the track on the right-hand side of the tunnel entrance.
Just after the tunnel at Km 8 is the halt for Las Tablas, marked by a small derelict building. The route continues through the gently rolling countryside, bordered mainly by fields of cereal crops, and crosses streams via narrow bridges. From the bridge over the Temple stream, at Km 10, you can just make out the castle in Almodóvar del Río, in the distance to the right.
Once over the bridge of La Torvisca stream, you arrive at the ruined station of Guadalcázar at Km 16. Just after Km 20 is a pleasant picnic area, the Parque de El Hecho, which is shaded by pine trees. The condition of the vía verde after the park has deteriorated due to flash flooding and landslides on the embankments. At this point you can take a track that runs parallel on the right-hand side of the route.
The former halt for Las Pinedas, a hamlet only a few metres from the vía verde, is at Km 22. At Km 26 is the abandoned station named after the village of La Carlota, located 6km to the south, but it is the hamlet of La Fuencubierta that is situated next to the route.
After La Carlota station, the greeenway starts a gentle climb and enters Seville province. The Navalagrulla station used to stand at Km 33, where today only a few palm trees remain to mark the spot. Approaching Écija, you can′t miss its celebrated skyline, bristling with Baroque bell towers. The greenway crosses the Genil river over a steel bridge and passes an area of parkland before turning south towards Écija.
Although the route skirts around Écija, don′t miss the centre of town because it′s crammed with architectural delights. Apart from its many magnificent churches, there are numerous handsome mansions, convents and the remains of fortified walls. When you rejoin the greenway, look out for Écija station at Km 47, which now houses the town´s police station.
The next stretch beyond Écija runs parallel to the A4 Seville-Cordoba motorway until the village of La Luisiana. Like the site of Navalagrulla station, nothing remains of the Estación de La Luisiana except palm trees. Nearby are some fascinating Roman baths, with what is thought to be the largest Roman pool in the Iberian Peninsula. Just after La Luisiana the vía verde passes under the A4.
A few kilometres beyond La Luisiana is a rocky stretch of the route, but you can opt for the parallel track all the way to the next village, Fuentes de Andalucía. Once in the village, take the first left that leads to a street called Explanada de la Estación, formerly part of the station but now an attractive park area planted with many trees. At the end of the street is the old station building, which has been converted into flats.
Take the street to the left-hand side of the station, which continues along the route of the former train line through the village. After crossing the main road, the greenway heads towards the cemetery 1km further on. Beyond the cemetery the route dips down into the Raspa valley. There are a few missing bridges around Km 80 but you can take the parallel dirt track instead. On the banks of the Salado river at Km 85 is a ruined farm, the Rancho de los Galindos, where there is bridge over the river, followed by another over the Corbones river 1½km later.
Once over the Corbones river, the vía verde descends via an embankment, before climbing around the lower slopes of the Cerro del Birrete. Just before Marchena is a deep cutting that floods after heavy rains; if it′s impassable, take the parallel track around it. You can also take the track to avoid the particularly rocky surface of the vía verde on this section.
At Km 91, you arrive at a grain silo near the Renfe railway line, which marks the end of the vía verde and the town of Marchena, which has some fine churches, well-preserved town walls and a museum of paintings by Francisco de Zubarán.