Distrito / Concelho: Guarda, Seia –
Over 50 hectares of extensive land, about 20 workable agricultural terraces, tranquil riverside woodland, an expansive wilderness containing wild bush and large boulders, many tracks and secluded natural areas, springs, and glades. It has four registered buildings and room for many more.
The land itself is a north facing valley in the foothills of the Serra da Estrela. Its northern boundary is the Rio Seia (315m) and to the south by the camino antiguo from Sameice to Travancinha (417m). The Rio Seia valley is classified as an ecological reserve.
The landscape is one of large granite boulders and a sandy fractal soil with regenerating Portuguese oak woodland on the terraces and pine/medronho/sobreiro/pyrenaica on the ridges. A forest fire in 1985 led to the land being abandoned except for use by shepherds and their flocks. In the whole length of this rural valley at present there are only seven occupied houses and a few quintas that are minimally managed. As a result the land is a wildlife haven for many species including wild boar, otter, owl and genets.
We have also seen Swallowtail butterflies and Lesser blue’s in the natural wild heather, a variety of wild bees, perhaps two varieties of kingfishers, many types of frog and small blue and rainbow lizards, not mention the tall Blue Heron, and perhaps heard the otters chirruping by night if you are out at the right time …
The site has seven primary valleys running south to north. The four western valleys run from the top of the ridge to the river. These are the least developed valleys with terraces only to the lower end. The three valleys to the eastern end are more developed with terraces from top to bottom.
The riverside is lined with alders, ash and oak with three dams (suds) and their levadas feeding over 1km of river terraces and at least two mills (moinhos) plus the remains of many more in and adjacent to the river. The woodland is mostly made up of young oaks, though along the riverbanks you will find the protected White River Alder growing tall with its roots in the river itself.
The site may be viewed as a large teardrop, with the drop itself being to the West, the four existing buildings to the East. The Eastern boundary is marked by a 10+ metre high dam. Work was completed in the summer of 2017 to clear the lake upstream from the dam.
A track was cut to provide access on the southern side. The first winter rains of 2017/18 made this only usable by robust 4WD vehicles.
The boundaries were confirmed during the Cadastra exercise carried out by the local authorities in 2016. The principal change was to extend the southern boundary to the camino antiguo rather than the existing track which was built later. Cart tracks are still visible in the stones along the camino antiguo.
The second dam is near to the second of the rebuilt houses, the Casa da Ribeira. The small lake is often used for swimming.
The levada fed by water from the dam was re-opened in the winter of 2016. Repairs have still to be completed to the full 50 metres. or so length of the levada. The flow in winter could provide hydro power to supplement the solar generation.
The third dam is in another gorge further downstream toward the Western end of the property.
Near to the first rebuilt house and large ruin are two wells and a water mine. A 50,000 litre water tank has been built to hold water pumped from them. Six locations have been identified as providing access to drinkable water which will flow throughout the year. These are to the East and to the top of the valley, away from the existing houses.
Access is from the camino antiguo running between Sameice and Travancinha. It is also a designated cycle track. During the work to provide access to the Eastern dam a new track was opened to this track from the site.
The building has two floors and a mezzanine with a footprint of c65 sq. mts.. To the left of this image is the site of the moinho (mill) which is registered as the fourth building on the site. Work is yet to commence on the structure.
This was the original house serving the needs of all who worked at the Quinta. It has a footprint of c300 sq. mts.. Outline plans for a two level conference centre were discussed with the Seia council in 2016 and received favourable support. Discussion took place about using alternative materials such as straw bales, cob etc. rather than stone or other materials. The original stone door and window frames have been stored on site.
The first ruin to be rebuilt was that adjacent to the original main house, the largest of the ruins. It has two floors and a footprint of c50sq. mts.. There are two storage and equipment spaces under the house.
The management equipment and batteries for the solar system are sited underground.
On the left is the entrance to the small dome, the wood is for the “henge”, the big ruin is on the right
The wood in the above image is now part of the “henge” structure. Designed as a community space this has a double reciprocal roof (only one other has been located during a global internet search) and made all from wood cut from the surrounding area.
The basic structure and roof are complete, the final covering of cardboard then hessian and vinyl need to be laid on the timber. It will then be possible to cover with earth and so grass. Current work includes completion of the outside kitchen as well as a small shower and washing block.
Two concrete geodesic domes have been built into the space in front of the first house. The small one is complete and has been used for to hold workshops of 8 to 10 people depending on its nature. It also used as sleeping accommodation for volunteers when conditions are not suitable for camping.
The larger dome is currently used for storage, including refrigeration, waiting for a commitment as to its use
From the outset the site was intended to provide individuals and groups from the local area and cities across Portugal and Europe the opportunity to stay in a peaceful, beautiful and rejuvenating setting.
These visitors being served through flexible workshop and conference facilities created in the heart of the valley. Other accommodation could be provided in comfortable, though seemingly remote locations around the site. These to be built into the landscape to maintain the sense of tranquillity and peace it provides.
The ethos is to live as much as possible from what is provided by the land. Whilst some vegetable growing has been initiated, to date most volunteer effort has been focused on the building and construction aspects rather than agriculture.
EU funded support for projects to plant fruit and nut trees as well as to re-afforest is available.
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