A walk around the fort at Cabanas. Unwelcome Autumn Changes.

Some of my gloom in this ‘post truth’ world was not just the cloudy autumn weather in Cabanas,  Portugal but the very intimidating fence put up to prevent locals and visitors from walking along the small cliffs at the end of the Cabanas broad walk. It took some time and discussions with some exploration to find out about this no access fence.

These are photos I found from a sunny January a few years back where there had been open access and an established path along the cliff, around the fort and down to the far end off the beach by the majestic old pine trees. We have always enjoyed taking friends along this route too. It is part of the natural beauty at the edge of eastern Cabanas.

Along the Ria Formosa it is designated a nature reserve and national park but the edges along the cliffs do seem to be privately owned. We ventured cautiously along the fence and the cliff edge and came to more space in front of the fort. Here it was the path again but just past the fort there was a fence with big signs up again restricting the route along the top path by the pines.
At the end of the pines there is a route down to the beach area of the river lagoon and another leading back past a farmhouse. No one tends to use that path as there is a farm building and barking big dogs at the end of it! It seems it is the owner of this land who after many many years and at least 15yearsmfor us being in Cabanas, has decided to assert his territorial rights. There have been public meetings in Cabanas and there are also rights of access paths. Sadly, battle lines seem to be being drawn.


We walked by the prickly pear border and the fort and met the manager from the fort. The Cabanas fort has been renovated inside and is a delightful place to stay. We were shown around and I would recommend it as a holiday. The owner has a passion for these old buildings and it has been lovingly restored and the visitor rooms are in keeping but modern. It is also a safe place inside for children to play and have adventures.


As you walk out from the fort there is a way back along the road and back to the board walk. Here there are still the signs of the changes in Cabanas. A little old and neglected traditional house is still there. And behind it are the new but unfinished and unsold developments of a garden village. A swimming pool facility and garden was also supposed to be built. The scrub land provides some opportunities for the wildlife. This is also part of the Eco bike route from Tavira. It is worth walking or cycling from Tavira to Cabanas on this route. It then goes up and back to the main road and then back down to the coast to the charming old village of Cacela Velha.
It is also possible to walk along the beach but the closed path does mean you could get cut off when the tide is high. It seems there are some resolutions in place for this ugly and divisive fence to be moved back a bit to return access to the path in front of the Cabanas fort.

It seems a pity that the coastal cliff path has been broken up by landowners wishing to fence off to the cliff edge. Further up from the fort there are some developments with portocabins and fences to the cliff edge. It is near here that I once stood for ages watching a hoopoe preen itself. The natural world has to cope with the challenges of development, irresponsible tourism, our lovely dogs unleashed also can disturb birds and other creatures too. And the rubbish we leave behind.

Could this cliff path ever become a nature trail? Could it be looked after by conservationists and respected by walkers,dog owners, cyclists? The beach below is protected but the cliff edge awaits exploitation of varying kinds.
I have just experienced a very different kind of fence at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire in the UK and a triumph for the conservation of grey seals on the mudflats of the Humber estuary.
That’s for the next post as I arise from the gloom of wintry weather and political uncertainties for the planet. I have focused a lot of time on revising my novel and the chestnut harvest from our very fruitful old trees at Navasola.

Foraging for food. Menu del dia. Fried green tomatoes and gallipiernas

I thought I would write a post about waiting for the rain to come. It has come with its usual torrential downpours through the night and the day. After some frantic wood pile sorting it paid off as we had our first fire. But now it is warm again and the sun is shining with that particular brightness of Anda Lucia. Land of light.

My attempt at a winter veg garden might just work. There is now so much moisture in the air. It seems Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and onions are good, and of course there’s time to grow some more lettuce. I’ve also tried some beetroot. My once hated vegetable from memories of a cold vinegary slice for school dinners. Now I like it in soups thanks to a friend’s recipes. However I am going to have to find ways of using the green tomatoes. It is too late now for this batch to ripen and the rain affects them badly. Fried green tomatoes was suggested. That was such a good film. 


Today has been the first sun after the rain and I have gone out to check on everything, especially the chestnuts. Some have fallen but although it had been dry I have been able to collect some good sized ones from the ground. I have a love hate relationship with chestnuts but at first it is fun to find the bright brown shiny shapes. However I will be lucky to get a euro for a kg even though they can sell at 6 euros or more. I bought some small cooked Chinese chestnuts in the supermarket the other week; a case of coals to Newcastle or chestnuts to the Sierra Aracena. Unfortunately the phrase doesn’t work too well for Newcastle as coal there has become a product of the past.



Sometimes the joy of picking up chestnuts is the fragile Autumn crocus shining from the ground. The damp ground has also produced a lot of mushrooms. This is the time when folk come foraging for the famous wild mushroom varieties of the Sierra. These are the gallipierna, with their beautiful parasols.


So for our meal this evening I will perhaps have the following.

Menu del dia

Primera plato Fried green tomatoes and gallipierna

Segunda plato. Chestnut loaf and salad 

Postre.  Quince tart

All in a days foraging!

Bob Dylan tribute. Dverse Poetry Prompt. To an Artist

This post is a poem in response to the prompt by Dverse poets to celebrate Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Dverse poets.com is the link to find a range of ideas about writing poetry, with good poems to read and stimulating prompts.

A very good friend of ours had some of the lyrics below on a t shirt. We knew it was from a Bob Dylan song but which one. So we went back to our Bob Dylan lyrics book and found it. Bob Dylan’s words and music are truly everywhere even up in our Spanish Sierra on a tee shirt!
‘She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime black’.       Bob Dylan

 

The poem I’ve written is about a very special woman; an artist, woodworker, seeker and above all friend who I have been so fortunate to meet in my life in the Sierra.

Thanks to Dverse and Bob Dylan for inspiring me to put these words together ( and perhaps the t shirt that didn’t acknowledge Bob’s words!)

Painting our lives with the colours of light

Light plays with the trees at the dawn of dusk
She plays with the light in the colours she sees
Sepia wizened trunks with wise worn faces
She’s an artist

Touch of colour at the tip of a brush blends the years
Into the tones of the falling leaves she sees
Wise eyes lighten the cares and fears.
She don’t look back.

A garden of brightness, an orchard of fruit fallness,
A home all in one and a bed built up high,
To rise up through the darkness with a calm wry smile.
She’s got everything she needs.
She’s an artist, she don’t look back.

image

Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger
Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger

 

The photographs are some of her work.

Peep through my inner trunk, all hollowed out with age Adorned with velvet
Peep through my inner
trunk, all hollowed out with age
Adorned with velvet

Faial and Pico. Volcanic island Vacations

To arrive on the island of Faial in the Azores archipelago of nine islands you have to fly or take a very long boat ride.The low carbon emission way would be to sail there. For a land lubber like me who suffers from sea sickness it’s not an option. For those who live on the islands aeroplanes have brought prosperity and may just have halted total environmental degradation of the islands. Ironic , perhaps but tourism is now both important for the economy and for the natural protections needed. Marine research is also based here.

Ahh, there we are. Pico's peak. All in a cloud change.
Ahh, there we are. Pico’s peak. All in a cloud change.

Whale watching instead of whale hunting brings a different kind of work.  EU support for restoration of biodiversity has also brought an end to the total decline of the very special island flora and fauna. It’s a fascinating place for botanists, marine biologists, and all those who love the sea, islands and the power of nature. To be honest, nature needs us to visit and help nurture all these projects as well as the people on these far off islands.

In the mid Atlantic these islands have  been formed from activity deep within the earth along the tectonic plates of the American and European continents. The last volcanic eruption on Faial was in 1958 and there was an earthquake in 1998 which caused damage. On our first full day on Faial and staying in the main town and trans Atlantic sailing harbour of Horta we were taken on a tour of the island by Alda from a local travel firm. As we had not hired a car we took a tour with her. She had grown up in the valley of Flamengos and showed us the local church that had been finally rebuilt after the earthquake. Her mother remembered the volcanic explosions in 1958. We visited the new volcanic land of Capellinos with her.

We also met an American Azorean whose family had left because of the destruction of their town on the North West of the island. His father had hunted whales and it had been the main industry there. 50 years or more later, his son, who was two when the volcano erupted,has returned. He helps tourists understand some of the many innovative projects that have been a part of Faial’s history; such as the transatlantic cables laid down across the ocean.

Tiles in memory of the victims of the Capelinhos volcanic eruption.
Tiles in memory of the victims of the Capelinhos volcanic eruption.

The capital Horta has been a very cosmopolitan place and welcoming port. Sailing and Peter’s cafe are part of the maritime history as well as the whaling museums of the whale hunting past.

A sailing tradition for good luck before sailing on from Horta. Paintings of boats are all over the harbour walls and floors.
A sailing tradition for good luck before sailing on from Horta. Paintings of boats are all over the harbour walls and floors.

The colonisation of these islands by the Portuguese navigators and explorers means that we were welcomed to Europe on one of its furthest points west. For me the islands are a microcosm of our recent colonial histories. All nine islands were discovered by the Portuguese from the 1400s. All were forested and had probably been undisturbed for millenia.

The birds, wind and sea had brought plant and other forms of life to these islands. Human beings brought axes and civilisation.The native forests were cut back and the rich brought exotic plants such as hydrangeas which were used as new hedges. Many types of farming have been tried.

Individual vegetable plots with high hedges to protect plants from the sea salt and wind.
Individual vegetable plots with high hedges to protect plants from the sea salt and wind.
Park in Horta with enmic Draco tree in background and the ubiquitous introduced hydrangea. Blue on iron filled soil.
Park in Horta with endemic Draco tree in background and the ubiquitous introduced hydrangea. Blue on iron filled soil.

Monoculture farming has had and is having its impact. There have been orange plantations but a disease destroyed those and at present it is mainly dairy! There have been changes and for many of the islands it has been tough surviving in these island paradises. But it has also been tough on the unique plants and creatures that first inhabited these islands and evolved here.

Imported Cow culture under endemic juniper tree .Each island produces tasty cheese for export.
Imported Cow culture under endemic juniper tree .Each island produces tasty cheese for export.

Can responsible tourism help restore the biodiversity and be sustainable? I think those who live on the islands would welcome this. Certainly we found everyone there very welcoming.

I shall try and create a series of posts about our trip to Faial and link in with our visit to San Miguel from last January . It was certainly a very welcome break and the beauty of Pico and Faial haunt us. We would like to return.

The other side of life: Pleasances and unpleasaunces or what the blogger doesn’t tell!

I have just had a welcome break from both the pleasant and less pleasant side of staying on our finca Navasola. It is not all sitting back in the sunshine and looking at the butterflies! I was struck by the writer and blogger at the greenwriting room Hilary on the idea of ‘pleasaunces and unpleasaunces ‘ in our gardens and perhaps in our blogs. There was also a challenge by another blogger to write about the ‘stuff’ we don’t always wish to mention.

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So sitting out in the sun in July and August is not one of my priorities. Avoiding it is! At temperatures over 30 and the need to water regularly the glorious sunshine loses some of its glory. But not all. The mornings and the evenings into late nights are wonderful.There is also the reminder to get the wood pile sorted and get more wood in. From November we will need a fire until April. The Sierra Aracena climate varies but we are high up above sea level.

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I have not blogged much about the building work. Perhaps I try and avoid the fact that we have spent almost 3 years with the house being a building site. The end is in sight but also seems far off. There are also some chores or maintenance work. If getting on the roof and hosing down the dusty solar panels seems like a chore. And there is a lot of house painting, inner and outer to do. But the wasps have set up their homes too.

I am trying to create some garden areas, vegetable and flowers but the conditions sometimes thwart me. It can be too hot and too cold and rain a lot for weeks and then not rain at all for months. My triangle outside the house is the living space between the building materials still needed.

Butterfly on marigold
Butterfly on marigold

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I always wish to go and visit family in the UK so keeping animals seems impossible at present. I was happy to have my friend’s dog, the lovely Lotti for a week. That was my dog retreat week. I was on my own with a tibetan terrier for company, and some spiders, our giant moths and one night a gigantic cricket. Lots of walks and at least a dog to talk to. But I will need to keep the burrs and seeds at bay if I am to have a dog. I remember from when my golden retriever came on holiday with us here some years back. Burrs galore and constantly having to check paws and get rid of such a variety of ways of distributing seeds. The lovely Daucus Carota or wild carrot might need to be kept in check. A fellow blogger warned me of these being near the washing. Or a dog! They will stick onto almost anything. Splendid in a photograph though.

Seed pod of Daucus Carota, wild carrot
Seed pod of Daucus Carota, wild carrot

 

Daucus carota= wild carrot thrives in July and August
Daucus carota= wild carrot thrives in July and August

And then we’ve had another holiday. It really has been a break from the heat and the ‘pressures’ of work. Time to reflect in a very beautiful spot. We had decided to revisit the Azores as it was so rainy and cloudy in January. This time to another island; Horta on Faial. More on that later.

Oh No! Back to Work! What work when its a labour of love?
Oh No! Back to Work! What work when its a labour of love?

It’s now back to work time. Finish off more on the building and DIY, hide away some of those unpleasaunces. Another growing season to get ready and more revising and editing of the novel.

Summer journeys almost over: butterflies, bees and boars.

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From a very lush and wet warm summer in London, through the beautiful greens of France, stained glass of Chartres, Cloudy heights of the Pyrennes, Cool air of Bejar, to the hot and dry Sierra Aracena. However, the Sierra is always green in summer because of its varied trees; chestnuts, oaks and various poplars and willow.

The red admiral landed happily on the sunflower planted by my daughter in London. She loves the garden, birds but is not so sure about the flying insect world! The wild bit at the back with nettles helps the red admiral thrive.

Arriving at our finca there were few wild flowers. It’s the wild carrot time and a few yellow mullein. Most was quite dry. Apart from my garden areas where Ruth had admirably kept the plants well watered from the drought and heat of July and August.

A pretty wall brown landed for a while on the echinacea near the house. Bees and other pollinators seem to like this cultivated flower.

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Another long journey. This cricket was on the windscreenwipers. We thought it would jump or be blown off. It stayed on its green home, our car, while we collected our freshly baked bread from our local village. It is an alternative bakery with organically grown wheat or rye flour. A large traditional clay oven is used. The cricket waited.

And the cricket returned for its photo opportunity and chance to be a celebrity in my animal stories of Navasola! We think its pholidoptera griseoptera, a dark bush cricket.  There are so many, and then there’s the true crickets. And the cave cricket. And a camel cricket! It was light brown and the Dominion guide suggests there are several similar species in Southern Europe.

There is certainly a cricket with a high pitched chirp and it keeps me awake at night too. At least its not aircraft noise and it is rather soothing.

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In April and May it was so wet. The rainfall in May filled our pond to overflowing. We went down to investigate the water level in the pond now. There was nothing. Last year it had retained water at a lower level through the long dry summer. Why had it dried out? The evidence was before us. That wild boar family that loved rolling in the mud in May. I guess now they’ve scored an own goal. No more water in the pond. Tusk marks in the strong, expensive, plastic base. Without this, the water did just drain away. We will have to rethink on this one. Seems a shame to put a boarproof fence around a water hole.

We’ve also just been reading about reports of wild boar, jabeli, visiting the beaches in Spain. At dusk I think and still not quite sure which beaches.The report in Spanish was about the increase in the wild boar population. Not enough hunters? I say, not enough wolves! We’ve got 7 more baby boar on our small finca. Perhaps some will move to the coast?

Apologies for not much blogging recently. I think I have been suffering from my own drought. I have been trying to re edit the first chapter of my novel.It’s been quite a journey writing it, literally as it has taken in a quest through Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK. A nature quest! I have also spent a lot of time struggling with rewriting the beginning and becoming anxious about the next stage. There have also been the chores and the DIY and clearing of beloved brambles and the heat! Most needs to be done in the early morning!

Thank you to all who read this far and have been following my journey. I look forward to some more catching up with you all. The weather is a little bit cooler. I have re edited my first chapter!

Chartres: journeys through La Belle France

We are on the move again! This time we have stopped in Chartres to finally visit this most elegant and spiritual cathedral. With its stunning stained glass, lofty towers and the very special labyrinth, it is a a must to visit. And I feel to return to. The son et lumiere on the rose windowed portal at night was also delightful. Quite a show.we have chatted with visitors and tried a bit of French! There seem to be less visitors at present but our hotel is full. Whenever we visit France there is always something so beautiful to see. On our way to our London home we saw the Osprey in Orleans Forest. Now we see this special place for the first time instead of just passing by. Soyez courageux. We should show our friendship with France and make sure we visit when we can!

On the road; approaching our destination. Chartres Cathedral on the horizon.
On the road; approaching our destination. Chartres Cathedral on the horizon.
West face of Chartres Cathedral
West face of Chartres Cathedral
Detail from stained glass and a reminder of goodness in people and not to be prejudiced.
Detail from stained glass and a reminder of goodness in people and not to be prejudiced.

Nature needs Nurture

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