From the birth of European history
The first Britons? Gerald Brennan tells the story…
Thousands of years ago, at the time of the Pyramids, palisaded settlements were erected here by a short, long headed, dark haired people who wore linen, smelted copper and baked round bellied pots of a type made in the Nile Delta. The pasture being poor and with new immigrants flooding in from Africa, they set off in search of better watered lands. After many generations, they came to the English Channel, then much narrower than today, which they crossed in skin coracles. Settling on the chalk downs, building their palisaded villages, these same people wove their linen garments and baked their round bellied pots, and after the due ceremonies had been observed, ate one another, thus introducing the arts of civilised life to the British Isles.
Villaricos, Phoenecian trading town…
This land has been mined for copper, silver and gold since the third millennium Be. Some 2,000 years later, Villaricos has become a major trading port of the Phoenicians, who introduce the written language to Europe and sacrifice their first born to the Goddess Tanit. Their successors, the Carthaginians, despite the efforts of Hasdrubal, Hamilcar and Hannibal, eventually yield Villaricos to their mortal enemies, the Romans who in turn, but centuries later, are driven out by the Vizigoths. Meanwhile Greco-Byzantines build a fortified redoubt up in the hills behind the town to protect their trade. Not much is left today, except abundant fragments of ancient pottery and traces of the same silver and gold traded to the Minoans and used by Hannibal to pay his armies marching on Rome.
Silks and Swords…
1,500 years further on and the Moors and Arabs hold sway. Almeria, the “Mirror of the Sea”, is one of the richest and most powerful city states of Spain, famous for its silks, swords and precious metals. Nevertheless, the Almanzora is torn apart and the valley is the frontier between the last Nazarite Kingdom of Granada and the aggressive Marquesate of Velez.It is a region of constant border skirmishes. The Arabs build an ‘atalaya’, a watchtower, high above Villaricos, and overlooking the Almanzora Valley. After the victory of Ferdinand and Isabella in Granada and a savage rebellion or two in the Alpujarras, the Moors are sent back to Africa.
Gold and Silver…
Another 1,000 years on and Villaricos is the centre of a Californian style silver and gold rush. The 19th Century mining boom brought thousands of fortune seekers; the population was then five times greater than today. Villaricos becomes famous and its mines are quoted on the European stockmarkets. Evocative ruins of this period can be seen everywhere. With the flooding of the mines at the turn of the century, came decline and depopulation. Villaricos collapsed to become a tiny impoverished fishing village, in which form it more or less survived into the late 1980′s.
To the 21st Century
When everything changed again!
Better communications with Northern Europe led to an agricultural revolution and the designation of the region as “Objective One, Priority One” for European Structural Funding has resulted in the Almanzora now being equipped with one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date modern infrastructures in Europe, almost all of it underused, due to the tiny population and lack of tourism.
It now has excellent communications with a brand new International Airport in Almeria, 45 minutes easy drive along a new, almost empty, motorway. Also served by Alicante International and Murcia, under two hours away, there are flights from all parts of the UK and Europe. It has good roads, a modern telecommunications system and new power and drinking water supplies. There is a brand new regional hospital, as well as private hospitals and clinics and an expanded University in Almeria. Every village has new schools, new sewerage and water reclamation plants. There is hardly an area of public service that has not been rejuvenated.
This new and comprehensive provision of modern infrastructure guarantees a high quality urban environment which in turn underpins future values