natural springs

Jo’s Monday walk : Sitio das Fontes

Time to return to the Algarve for this week’s walk, on the estuary of the Rio Arade.  It’s a good distance from my normal stomping ground, but I had reason to be curious about Sitio das Fontes.  Earlier this year, Dave Sheldrake began to conduct photography walks, for a donation to charity.  I haven’t managed to go on one yet, but my interest was piqued when he went to this particular site.  I had to take a look for myself.

Sitio das Fontes is an area of wild parkland formed around natural springs (or fontes).  Sitting in tidal salt marshes, it’s a wonderful place to explore the diversity of nature.  The tidal mill overlooks a wide stretch of nature in the raw, with birds and bees aplenty.

Captivated by the tiny frogs, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The parkland lies just north of the village of Estombar, and on a sunny weekday in early March I had the place almost to myself. An old waterwheel lethargically guards the entrance to the park.

Follow the path round to the tidal mill, or dally by the spring.  There are plenty of good sized rocks to sit on and contemplate nature, or simply daydream a while.  A new-looking bridge crosses the spring and you can take the long view or gaze deep into the clear waters.

The map at the entrance to the park wasn’t very clear, or maybe I hadn’t been paying enough attention.  It didn’t seem to matter in the stillness of the lovely morning, the snail suspended somnolently on his stilts, and bee on blossom.

Beyond the tidal mill, a path leads off around the estuary.  The water was very low, exposing vast tracts of salt marsh and sludge, but still it was a pleasure to follow.  Shrubs and all manner of plant line the path, so progress is slow as you stoop to identify or smile in admiration.

Incredible to find two different types of bee orchid within feet of each other!  The path ends on the edge of the Arade.   Looking across the estuary I wasn’t sure if it might be possible to cross over the mud flats with the water so low.  Good sense prevailed.  I didn’t really want to end up floundering, but I was curious about the ruins on the far shore.  No great hardship to retrace my steps.

A less obvious path runs along this shoreline, but with the bonus of more orchids, some tiny iris, not yet open to morning, and a large cricket who made me jump.  Beyond the ruins the path begins to ascend quite steeply.  I climb high enough to appreciate the view.

But it’s not apparent where the path might lead.  It’s getting warm, the insects are buzzing and it feels like a good time to head back.  There are picnic tables, a children’s playground and a visitor centre, still closed at the time.  Best of all, the tranquil and lovely spring.

How very different from the thermal springs in Bath, that I wrote about last week.  Yet all part of our strange and wonderful natural world.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s walk.  Details of how to get there are contained in the links, and of how to join me, on my Jo’s Monday walk page . Now for some sharing.  You’ll have your work cut out, because I have heaps of walks!  Please make sure to visit anyone that you don’t know. Many thanks to all my contributors, and to you folk in the armchairs, it’s time to put the kettle on.

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You might like to compare Alison’s walk from a couple of years ago?  Your secret’s well and truly out now, Aly!

Our secret Sitio das Fontes

The most beautiful rainbow and frescoes from Drake this week :

Cruise through idyllic city

AND the bonus of a trip to Monmartre :

On the edge

Lots of garden shots and a cute little bug from Lady Lee :

How does your garden grow?

Sunny California, sunny Jackie!

Day 7 So Cal Bakersfield CA to Las Vegas

Becky always knows the way to my heart, and to some lovely places too.  This one’s in the Alentejo :

A short stroll around the beautiful city of Serpa

This, much closer to ‘home’ :

Thank goodness, a cloudy day

Did you ‘walk’ with Vanessa last week?  This one’s not for the faint-hearted, but shows off Majorca’s true beauty :

Soller, Mallorca, Spain/The ‘Sa Costera’ Hike along the remote and picturesque coastline…

Sue, meanwhile, is tootling gently down Memory Lane.  I hope you’re well now, hon?

Postcards from my Past/3- Cornwall’s Old Mines

Cathy is still busy making memories.  This is fabulous!

Sankei-en Garden & the Shanghai Yokohama Friendship Garden

While Mari shows us how to live a long and happy life in a little known but beautiful part of Andalusia :

Walking in the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Park, Spain

Exquisite prose and the nostalgia of the end of Spring, from Susan :

Park Ridge Trail, Morro Bay State Park

And an English version, with lambs and wild garlic.  Please visit!  This lady is new to me :

Late spring hike in the Manifold Valley

Miriam triumphs in adversity!  You can, too!

Toolangi Trails

And Paula proudly shows off some of her lovely heritage.  Go on- take a look!

Istrian Heritage

Jaspa seems to like our English heritage.  What’s more British than Tower Bridge?

Sam’s Ses Challenge #18: Bridge 

And I bet Woolly is a fan of those famous Austrian tortes.  Double rations this week :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk20_ Vienna

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk21_Vienna-2

Andrew has been striding out in Valencia.  Not like him at all!

Travels in Spain, Valencia City of Arts and Sciences and a 12 Mile Walk

You might wonder what the natural world looks like in Israel.  Take a walk with Lisa to find out :

Nahal HaShofet

That’s it for another week!  It’s a Bank Holiday in the UK next Monday but I’ll still be walking.  I hope you’ll join me.  Take care till then!

 

F is for Fonte (fountain or spring)

Fonte in Largo do Carmo, Lisbon- from Wikipedia, by Rui Pedro Carvalho

There is an astonishing array of beautiful fountains adorning Portuguese towns and villages. Here are just a few I can’t resist sharing.

Fonte de Toural, Guimaraes- from Wikipedia,

Fonte do Idolo, Braga- Nabia, goddess of rivers and water- from Wikipedia

Fonte de Agua Ferreas, Braga- from Wikipedia

Fonte da Rua de Bonjoia- from Wikipedia, by Antonio Amen

Fonte de Leoes (lions), Porto- from Wikipedia, by da Sousa

Fonte de Sao Bento, Corticeiro de Carapelhos, Mira- from Wikipedia, by Jose Olgon

Azulejo, Fonte de Sao Bento

Fonte do Rossio, Lisbon- Creative Commons

Varied aren’t they?  There are hundreds I could have shared.  Do you have a favourite?  I think probably the last one’s mine, but I love Nabia too.  I also came across the term “chafariz” in relation to fountains and am not sure if this refers to a specific type.  Maybe my Portuguese friends can help me out with this?

The word “fonte” appears in many place names in Portugal.  In fact, when we’re directing people to our home in Tavira, we tell them to turn off the E125 at the roundabout signed Fonte Salgada.  In this sense it relates to a natural spring.

Fonte Pequena, Alte

My first sighting of natural springs here in Portugal was in the village of Alte.  Fonte Pequena (little spring) and then Fonte Grande (large spring) and the surrounding lush greenery came as a complete surprise.  It seemed a world away from the Algarve to which I was used.  Alte is described in detail in my Personal A-Z of Portugal, but I came across a lovely snippet of the poetry of Cândido Guerreiro, born in the village in 1871 and commemorated at the fontes:

“As the place where I was born lies encircled by four hills

Through which waters run singing

The songs of fountains and mills,

Waters taught me to speak.”

(Porque nasci ao pé de quatro montes

Por onde as águas passam a cantar

As canções dos moinhos e das fontes,

Ensinaram-me as águas a falar.)

I often go out with a walking group in the Algarve, or rely on a map and my husband, to find local beauty spots.  We found Fonte de Benemola, the Eternal Spring, one February day with the help of Julie Statham’s book, “Algarve-Let’s walk”.   The white faced cistus I love wasn’t yet in bloom and the valley was peaceful as can be, the fonte rippling silently in its depths.  On our way back to the car we spotted the solitary basket weaver, his wares strung along a reed fence.  He rather charmingly demonstrated his whistles and we purchased a small bowl.  A slightly wonky fruit bowl now sits on top of my fridge!

Fonte de Benemola, near Querenca

There is a wealth of natural springs in Portugal, some of which have been developed into health resorts.  The term “caldas” refers to thermal springs, as in Caldas de Monchique in the Algarve.  Further north, Caldas da Rainha (Queen’s hot springs) has had a thermal hospital since 1488, when Queen Leonor discovered the curative power of the waters.  Beautiful Sintra was also a spa.

Fonte in the back streets of Sintra

Spring water is a popular source for drinking water because of its relative purity and high mineral content, believed by many to have health benefits.  Just north of Coimbra, the small town of Luso is home to one of the most famous bottled waters in Portugal.  I seldom go walking without a bottle.

This post is part of my Personal A-Z of Portugal.  I’ve been following Julie Dawn Fox’s challenge for a while now.  If you’d like a look at what’s gone before, and maybe to join in with an A-Z of your own, please follow the links.  I need to catch up with my personal A-Z of Poland next.  See you next time.

A is for Alte

Why Alte?  It wasn’t an easy decision because here in the Algarve I also love the border town of Alcoutim, pretty Alvor with its wide estuary, and the lovely island of Armona.  I expect we’ll visit them later in this A-Z.  I’ll sneak them in somewhere.

Casa d’Alte- sounds like home?

The images that you see everywhere of the Algarve are beaches (of course!), and golf courses, but there’s so much more to the Algarve.  Alte represents that other Algarve- the world away from the coasts, with natural springs and lush greenery.  I’ve heard Alte described as the prettiest village in the Algarve, and I wouldn’t disagree.

We first passed through en route for Monchique 7 years ago, and were charmed by the place.  Coming from the Eastern Algarve we had taken the scenic route along the N124, passing pretty Salir, the endless cork trees and imposing Rocha de Pena.  We were in search of the natural springs that we’d heard about, with very little idea of what that would entail.  On that occasion we saw just a fraction, but the idyll of ducks beneath the bridge, and the azulejo tiled pictures at Fonte Pequena (little spring) delighted us.  The gardens and nearby Fonte Pequena Inn are dedicated to local poet, Candido Guerreiro, whose work is displayed by the springs.

Tranquil Fonte Pequena

Azulejos decorate the springs at Fonte Pequenal

A return visit in May 2009 had us wishing we’d brought swimwear.  It was unseasonably warm and we were amazed at the volume of water in the “stream”.  A lovely area for picnics this.  And then there’s the village itself, with its winding cobbled streets, some of them quite steep.  Everywhere is whitewash and bougainvillea.  Shops and cafes are strewn about the village, a welcome source of browsing and shade in the Summer.

Bougainvilea rules!

Oh for a swimsuit! Too hot at Fonte Grande.

Can’t stay out here much longer!

As with most Portuguese villages, the church lies at its heart.  Igreja Matriz de Alte, devoted to Our Lady of the Assumption, dates from the 13th century.  It was built at the direction of the wife of the Second Lord of Alte, to give thanks for his safe return from the Crusades.  The vault is sublimely decorated with azulejos.

Igreja Matriz

I’ve not yet had the privilege of attending the Folklore Festival and Wedding Ceremony for which Alte is most famous.  It takes place on the second Saturday in August.  Bridal Party and numerous folklore groups parade through the streets, culminating in a toast to the “happy couple” at Fonte Grande (large spring) and a traditional wedding feast.

A Folklore Festival is also staged on May Day and in 2012 I managed to be there.  For a while I didn’t think it was going to happen- the skies opened and the rain bounced for almost an hour.  Patience paid off in the end, and the procession made their way across the lavender strewn cobbles to the stage at Fonte Grande.

Fonte Pequena in May

The littlest ones start the dancing off onstage at Fonte Grande

Then they were a little older

Skirts began to twirl, feet to stamp

Quickly, before it rains again!

Young and old combining expertise

Numerous other celebrations take place in Alte throughout the year, including Carnaval, this year on February 21st.  Confetti is available to throw at the passing floats.

A full list of events can be found on  http://www.alteuncovered.com/events.aspx  together with a lot of useful parking details and opening hours.

This is the first in a series of posts, related to Julie Dawn Fox’s Personal A-Z Challenge. There are links in the logo in this post and in the sidebar to take you to the main site, where you can happily read for hours.

Just to get you started, how about:

http://algarveblog.net/2012/01/12/a-is-for-the-algarve/

http://handsinportugal.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/personal-a-z-of-portugal-a-is-for-anniversary/

http://sami-colourfulworld.blogspot.com/2012/01/to-z-of-australia-is-for-australia.html

http://juliedawnfox.com/2012/01/12/b-is-for-beirao-licor-beirao/

My next task is to start my A-Z of Poland.  See you there!