The interior of Galicia always had one raw material in abundance: water. And the Galicians learned to take advantage of it early on. All you have to do is walk along the banks of any river, large or small, to find the remains of mills that until recently were one of the main sources of wealth for the interior and coastal towns. In them the grain was ground to later make bread. In addition, mills were the centre of the social life: the most well-known festive dance of the Community is called “muiñeira”, or miller. The modest mills were true protagonists of the Galician life for many centuries.
Now that they have fallen into disuse, many of these buildings have been recovered as ethnographic elements, many times around very attractive hiking routes. This is the case with the popular path of the mills of Folón and Picón, in the council of O Rosal, which allows you to tour in approximately one and a half hours one of the world’s largest concentrations of these hydraulic systems.
Folón and Picón are just two streams compared to the width of the nearby Miño river. However, some sixty mills took advantage of their strength to work. In a signposted route of less than four kilometres you can find buildings of all types, sizes and varied state of conservation. In them, over the decades the stonemasons and the owners engraved property marks that still remain today. The mills were built between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and have been recently restored.
To face the route you only need good boots and a little care, so the visit can be made with children, always keeping an eye on them through the most complicated places. The first half ascends along the Folón River. A narrow path passes almost forty buildings arranged in a tiered structure on the hillside: an authentic show of popular architecture that few resist to portray. It is the perfect background for a memorable photograph. At the top is the so-called Chan da Cereixeira and the little church of San Martiño, and it is at this highest point that the canals divide to give water to the two rows of mills.
The route is circular and, therefore, the second part is done downhill, by the Picón, around which are about twenty mills. Here you can see the remains of a road made with monumental stones and engraved by cart wheels over the centuries. Along the way it is also possible to enter some of the constructions, restored to show how once worked. It is also very curious to see the different channels and the many detours, almost always made of stone, which were built to make the most of the force of the water: Folón and Picón might have been minor streams, but they were enough to feed a whole industry of considerable proportions. It is tempting to sit down for a moment by one of the streams and try to imagine what life might have been like when the mills were running at full capacity, with the neighbours carrying grain sacks up the steep slope to the mills.
The mills of the Folón and Picón rivers are one of the most important attractions of the Concello de O Rosal, but not by far the only one. The municipality is well known for its wines and is one of the subzones of the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin, so it is not a bad idea to go down to the town once the walk is finished to refresh yourself with an excellent white.