On 26 March, on the occasion of World Water Day, we demonstrated the potential of Madrid's Manzanares River as an ecological corridor for the city and its inhabitants by walking 30 of its 92 kilometres. To achieve this we joined forces with four organisations: the Iberian Centre for River Restoration (CIREF), Caminar El agua, Botín Foundation's Water Observatory and Wetlands International.
The event was conceived as a free route open to all citizens along the Manzanares River, a total of 30 kilometres divided into four sections of between 5 and 9 km. So, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday 26 March, the inhabitants of Madrid could come and walk on their own, using a map (analogue or digital) of the route, or together with the group by showing up at the time indicated in the event programme at the start of each of the sections.
The beginning of the journey: from the Pasarela de Mingorrubio to Somontes
On Sunday at 10 am we enthusiastic walkers gradually arrived at the starting point of the route: the Pasarela de Mingorrubio, in El Pardo. A bridge inaugurated in 2021 as part of the Restoration of the Manzanares River project carried out by the Ministry together with Water Authority of Tagus Basin, and which consisted of the restoration of the riverbed in that section together with the opening of a river path to walk along the river and which, further downstream, in Somontes, connects with the Green Cycle Ring and the centre of Madrid.
Entering the city on foot: from Somontes to the Puente del Rey
We went up the second stretch around 11:45 in the morning. The start of this route was scheduled from the Somontes car parkwhere at that time there were already a few walkers, fresh and ready to join the group and continue the walk.
This second section is characterised by being the connection between the countryside, El Pardo, and the city, Madrid Río. To reach the city, walkers have to pass under the M40 and M30 motorways and cross those spaces that form part of Madrid's unconscious, those indeterminate, strange and curious places where the Manzanares meets the city and crosses it.
A large part of this section runs along the Green Cycle Ring until it joins the city at the Puente de los Franceses.
Walk around the privileged surroundings of Madrid Río: from the Puente del Rey to Matadero
The third section of the route, which runs from the Puente del Rey to Matadero, is perhaps the best known to the people of Madrid. It is the Madrid Río project, an icon of European landscape architecture of this century. A project that buried the M30 ring road to return the banks of the river to pedestrians through a series of paths, wooded areas, wooden games for children, furniture and granite paving reminiscent of the Madrid mountains. All this combined with the recent renaturalisation of the river, which has exuberant vegetation, with trees up to 14 metres high inside the riverbed and countless different species of birds that fly over the place and fish that enjoy its barrier-free riverbed. Quite a spectacle.
Last stage, from Matadero to Butarque: walking out of town
Along the route people have been joining us and we have heard of others who have done it on their own. In total, between those who have arrived and those who have left, there are 30 walkers with whom we will share the route and the river until the end, in Butarque. We will all meet again around four in the afternoon at the Puente Cáscara del Matadero where we will take the penultimate group photo.
The first part of the last section of the route runs along a new footbridge that is elevated on one side of the river and next to the M30 motorway, which in this section reappears in the city. Once past the southern junction, we reconnect with a more rural setting that reminds us of the landscape of the first part of the route in El Pardo. This is the Parque Lineal del Manzanares, where the river is not channelled and you walk along dirt tracks. In fact, the river is so close to us that we can go to its banks to rest and even to wet our swollen feet after the long walk.
The end is epic. After almost 30 km and with a group energy that has remained high throughout the day, we reached the end, the Pasarela del Trasvase Paseo Fluvial del Manzanares. Although this is not really where the Manzanares ends, but rather, this is where the possibility of continuing walking along it ends, as there are no paths available. From this point to the mouth of the Manzanares River in the Jarama, in Rivas-Vaciamadrid, there are still almost 20 kilometres left to walk, a possibility for the next World Water Day?
Meet the organisations:
Iberian Centre for River Restoration (CIREF)is a group of professionals linked to river restoration in the Iberian Peninsula
Caminar El Aguais an initiative for the scientific and cultural dissemination of water heritage through interpreted routes, educational programmes and audiovisual content.
Wetlands International European Associationis a global, non-profit organisation, dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands
Botín Foundation's Water Observatoryis an interdisciplinary think-tank whose mission is to contribute to current and emerging debates on water resources management