A Fire Walk - 4 months on.......
October 15th was a monumental day for everyone here in Central Portugal, The unusually dry and hot spring and intensely hot summer blended with the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia and culminated into an inferno right on our doorstep. It came out of nowhere, nothing could have prepared us for the scale of devastation and there was little or no press coverage outside of Portugal.
This is what you all saw, a photograph of the sun all day on the 16th October in the South West of England, very pretty, but if you really knew what caused this red sun you would not feel quite the same way. A short drive around our area, even now, and it looks like someone has taken a hugely powerful blow torch to the countryside, nearly every area of forest or trees in villages or in farmland have been burnt. Many houses too, especially the rather splendid big old abandoned houses which this country of large-scale rural depopulation is littered with. Some factories and warehouses too. Our part of the country is like a war zone. The Avo valley, a steep river valley, once very picturesque despite the ever-present eucalyptus is now a blackened ruin of a landscape. All in all, a terrifying prequal of what might become much more common with climate change.
On Tuesday 6th February I decided to take a walk and explore the area around our Quinta, something I have not done since October 15th. Its amazing that I have not walked around our area, our valley and slightly beyond for almost 4 months I have always loved exploring, finding new places and new tracks. The fact that it has taken me so long to do this is probably because I just did not want to see beautiful, familiar places destroyed. I also did it because I desperately wanted to see signs of things re-growing.
Extraordinary scenes of devastation. A lot of clearing has been going on and many trees are now gone. We are very lucky here, Eucalyptus is not grown in huge plantations in our area, our Town Hall has a very good policy of not allowing this to happen, strange then that our area (Oliveira do Hospital) is one of the worst hit. Lots of conspiracy stories abound, fires started deliberately, drones used to start fires and spray areas with incendiary materials - who know what the truth is?
The sad thing is that our area is, and will remain black and damaged for many years to come.
One thing that is very interesting, we now get to see many ancient areas that are normally abandoned and completely overgrown. The terracing, tracks and ruins are now all there, right in front of our eyes. I did some research when I was building our website and, as part of that, I started to look at ancient history and the marks made on the land in Portugal from pre-history to the present day. One of the famous sights are the ancient cart tracks made by Oxen and donkey carts, many of which are thousands of years old. I did not realise that we have much better tracks than those documented and so close to our house. They have been abandoned and covered up for so long but now are clear for all to see.
Despite the sad views all around us there is hope, I found some beautiful winter crocus and signs of re-growth of oaks and the odd eucalyptus. Also, our lovely house sits in its own green oasis and, despite the fires, it is looking lovely and the signs of spring are all around us. We will survive and carry on, the garden is coming back to life, the animals are all happy and have plenty of grazing.
Quinta do Cobral, a beautiful place to be and a place that is still perfect for relaxing and enjoying peace and tranquility. Please don't worry about coming to visit us, yes things are different and we are still waiting to see how much of the land around us will re-generate this spring. Nature is amazing, fires have always been a feature of our landscape, we will recover and grow and continue to bring our beautiful home back to its wonderful best.
Please leave a comment if you have been here, we would love to hear what you think XX