During the Moorish occupation an area known as Torre de los Molinos (Tower of the Mills) was well known for the quality of the flour from its mills and for the abundant year round water that emanated from springs in the hills. Historical documents relate of an incursion into the area in 1432 of one Gomez Ribera who destroyed some of the mills. In 1501, after the reconquest, the City of Malaga was granted jurisdictional rights and privileges over land including natural spring waters and settlements in the area we now call Torremolinos.
In 1700 a licence was given to Joseph de Inca Sotomayor by the Corporation of Malaga to build two mills on land that had a natural spring. Today the mills are not only still there they are still operating using the water from the same spring. The mills are now the centrepiece of an area set aside as a botanical garden.
The mills have been carefully restored using original materials. Photographs taken during the work show how difficult it was to manoeuvre the huge millstones, and that was using modern lifting gear. The horizontally inclined water wheel is a modern day replica work of art and very efficient. Anybody who has been to the ruined mills up the Roman Oasis valley at Manilva will have noticed and wondered at the ‘V’ split water channels that fed the wheels. All is revealed at the Inca’s Mill. Two water wheels power two stones that still grind wheat to produce flour that is then sieved, riddled, bagged and sold. When you see the operation it is impossible not to wonder at the ingenious engineering that is fully 300 years old in the form you see it now with a 5,000 year history of development behind it, more than adequately illustrated in working models in another part of the mill.
Leaving the mill you will find yourself in the gardens that have been created around the spring waters from where they emanate from the hill, down channels and waterways into the mill itself via a reservoir, grandly called Albercon del Rey, commemorating a visit by Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia in 1926, to the outfall pools beyond the mill where the water enters the public water system to feed Torremolinos as it has for hundreds of years.
The gardens are a joy. Yes there are palm trees from all over the world and a good selection of tropical fruit trees, woodland trees and flowering shrubs but they only act as a foil for the underplanting that must have seen the hand of a garden designer. Colour and form blend with breathtaking ease. Carefully maintained paths transport you from one vista to another. The four seasons are represented by classical sculptures positioned to symbolise the circular movement of Time and the celebration of various seasonal rites. Around another bend two stone lions remind us of the value of the water they guard. Alan Titchmarsh would be ecstatic.
Overlooking all its cousins is a magnificent, 50 metre high conifer appropriately named Araucaria excelsa, a synonym for Araucaria heterophylla or Norfolk Pine. This specimen stands at the centre of a small maze that will keep youngsters amused for a while.
The only demerit to the site is the aviaries. There are about a dozen small pagola style aviaries that house, amongst other smaller species, eagles, falcons and owls. The larger birds just do not have the room to fly, which is sad and cruel.
Notwithstanding the aviaries the Conjunto Los Manantiales Jardin Botanico ‘Molino de Inca’ is well worth a visit. The gardens are open 11.30am to 1.30pm and 6pm to 9pm Tuesday to Sunday. Entrance is 3 Euros unless you are under 12 or over 65 years of age in which case it is free. Now the ‘how to get there piece’. Do not look for signposts – there aren’t any. Do not look on a map – it isn’t on maps. However it is easy when you know how, or rather where. Leave the A7 at the Palacio de Congresos, Torremolinos exit. Head towards the town. Take the first road right, it looks like a rough track. After about 1 kilometre you reach an ill defined, large car park. The garden entrance is on your right.