This evening my wonderful friend Jo arrives in her beloved Tavira and so I thought I’d set her a mission in case she has a spare moment during her lengthy stay this Autumn! I am curious about the river which runs through Tavira, as at the Ponte Romana (which isn’t Roman by the way!) the river changes its name from Rio Séqua to Rio Gilão. There cannot be many rivers that change their name almost at their mouth. I’ve been unable to determine why, so am hoping Jo might find out for me this Autumn. Over to you Jo!
Whilst we await Jo’s advice I thought I’d share the little I do know about the Séqua/Gilão. It rises 56km kilometres away in the Serra do Caldeirão, and is fed by the Riberias Alportel, Asseca and Zimbral. In the 16th and 17th centuries Tavira was an incredibly important port for the Algarve and Portugal. It was also a tuna fishing centre and further upstream there were apparently many watermills along its banks. However the fisherman and merchants were fighting a losing battle with the river. It was gradually silting up and by the 19th century it was no longer a thriving merchant port. It remained one of the main tuna fishing centres though for another hundred years, but even that eventually disappeared in the 1970s when the shoals found a new route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
There are still a few small fishing boats coming into the city, and on low tides it is not unusual to see the egrets and gulls joined by fisherman in the river. I’d love to know what this fisherman was gathering, we sat watching him for quite a while but couldn’t quite work it out. I am guessing molluscs but what do you think?