For the last couple of years we’ve tended to head north east for our hill walks, but the other day I thought why not head due north. So we did to the village of Feiteira, high up in the Serra. The walk we had decided to try is called the Reserva Trail (PR5). The version in the Tourism guide is slightly different to the original and both give ‘alternative topographic facts’. As with all alternative facts neither are right! If you begin and finish at the official start you will have a climb at the end no matter which version you opt for. Actually I’m not sure you will be able to take the original trail as all of the signposts are now for the Tourism version and so paths may have changed. However if you are considering walking this trail do take a peak at the original walking leaflet. Not only is the map better but it provides helpful pointers as to where the start is. We drove past it twice before I realised it was on the north east outskirts up a lane.
The guide takes you anticlockwise but you could do it either direction as both ways take you down into the river valley, passing cork oaks, eucalyptus and strawberry tree shrubs. I have deliberately said shrubs as the full height trees no longer exist, due to the devastating forest fires which occurred here nearly 5 years ago. The fires got terrifying close to Feiteira, and were some of the worse fires the Algarve has experienced in recent years. Nearly 30,000 hectares destroyed in just 4 days, and many lost their homes and livelihoods. Five years later nature is slowly reclaiming the land but the signs of the devastation are still all too evident.
At the bottom of the valley there is a river crossing. Fortunately for us there were sufficient stones for us to ford and we were not attempting it after the heavy rain we had this weekend. The crossing point is one you may know if you have ever driven on the EN124 towards or from Cachopo. It is by Fonte de Leitejo, a fountain at the side of road just a few metres from a 300degree (ish) bend on a bridge. Apparently the water is drinkable, and the fountain and bench were built around the same time as the road in 1941. This would be a great place to begin the walk actually as far easier to find than the discovery centre, there is parking and at least you will have a descent at the end of the walk. Plus you can check out one of the fords before you start the walk.
After fording the river the climb brings you to Cerro da Eira da Capa and panoramic views of the hills beyond. It was rather cloudy when we were up here, and very little flora in flower. So we didn’t linger, by March though it will be glorious as there is cistus, asphodelus and lavender everywhere.
For a short while the walk remains high on the Cerro da Eira da Capa, but eventually you descend towards a small reservoir and through what was once a forest. The trees were lost however in the 2012 fire and so now it is mostly scrub. As you climb the next hill you suddenly realise you are leaving the fire zone as the Strawberry Trees are of full height.
After a short break for lunch we began our final descent of our Monday walk. This was a steep drop as we were returning to the river for another crossing. A deep crossing too, but fortunately as before there were stepping stones and our feet remained dry. Unlike the walk we did a few days later, but that’s another story!
It was now up hill all the way back, so I have no idea why the guide indicates a long section on the flat followed by a tiny uphill climb. We were definitely following the correct path, so the topographical diagrams must relate to other walks. On our return into Feiteira I took the opportunity to get up close to the Discovery Centre. The guidebooks make much of the fact these centres were once primary schools, are equipped to enable people to stay overnight and that they provide more general support for all walkers. However the guides make no mention of how to access, so I thought I’d check to see if there was anything on the door or even if it was open. Silly me! I have since discovered the centres need to be booked in advance at which point I presume they will advise you how to access. Each centre has two bedrooms with six beds, one living room with tv and video, toilets, equipped kitchen and solar panels for water heating. More details here if you are interested in booking.
We did enjoy the walk, however it won’t be one we will repeat. Not quite interesting or long enough for us to justify the drive from Olhão. However if you are staying in or near Feiteira (perhaps at the Discovery Centre!) then do try it as this is a very easy walk in the hills and will be beautiful in spring. There is also a cafe in Feiteira so Jo and Jude would be able to get a coffee and cake! Alternatively why not try the other walks which pass through Feiteira, all of which I only discovered after we had done this one. They are all longer, and one would even necessitate a stay at the discovery centre. More details here.