In the valley below
Manilva are the Roman
Sulphur baths of Hedionda.
The high sulphur content is due to a sulphur spring which flows from a
limestone outcrop above the valley. It attracted the attention of the
Romans 2000 years ago and an arched bathing complex was created of which
four chambers still exist, although other adjacent water channels can be
seen which suggest the complex was once much larger. A
small first chamber leads via an archway and tunnel to a much larger
Sulphur is one of the elements essential to life as a constituent of
various biologically active compounds. Pure sulphur is odourless but when
combined with hydrogen to produce hydrogen sulphide it has the
odour of rotten eggs. Nevertheless sulphur has long been renowned for
its medicinal properties. Bathing in sulphur springs to maintain or
improve the condition of the skin or to cure some epidermal complaint is
a ancient tradition. Julius Caesar is said to have cured himself of a skin infection by
bathing here between 63 and 60 BC.
In fact the baths are quite popular on fine Sunday afternoons. Families
from the village picnic on the surrounding grass under the shade of
eucalyptus trees and the children take over the baths. The Roman Oasis
Restaurant is a popular family destination which is famous for its BBQs.
Across the river from the baths there are ruins of 18th century farm
buildings which re-used Roman masonry. It is clear that some kind of
service settlement did evolve around the complex. To find these follow
the river downstream about 75m until you come to an old but recently
restored single-arch aqueduct. This was used to help irrigate the
fertile valley further down and its course can be traced for much of the
way. This irrigation system is certainly Roman in origin but much of the
infrastructure was rebuilt during the Moorish period.
Two km upstream towards Casares, there are some interesting mills and
irrigation channels. Access is gained by following the stream bed and
this makes a pleasant walk as the river valley closes in. The valley is
made for the adventurous hiker. It ultimately connects with the mills of
Casares but it is an all day walk and scramble.
The baths can be reached carefully by two wheel drive car by turning off
the N340 by the "Andalucian Dream Homes" Estate agents just west of Sabinillas and following the
road upast the Sunday Market an up the valley and under the new toll motorway