A stroll in the Barrocal

It has been a while since I took you to the barrocal, I think the last time was when I was struck down with orchidelirium! Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) there was no risk of this the week before last as not only was it too early for orchids but we were meeting up with friends for lunch.

Terrace view
view from the terrace

And it was not just a delicious lunch we enjoyed with them on their terrace, they also took us out for a rather splendid stroll in their wonderful valley in a part of the Algarve known as the barrocal.

There are three main geographical areas within the Algarve – litoral (coastal land) in the south of the region, the serra (mountainous) in the north and in the middle the barrocal. The barrocal, a narrow stretch of rolling limestone hills  begin in Sagres in the west and spread across to Azinhal in the east. The widest section is north of Loulé.

Our friend’s valley is near Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo, and typically has over the years been cleared of the matos (and possibly holm oak forests) for agriculture. Fortunately though in their valley the farming is all small scale, in fact most English or Americans probably wouldn’t even recognise this as cultivated land!

Their river below

There are some unwelcome aliens in the valley, such as the Century plant, Australian mimosas and the widespread Bermuda Buttercup. Fortunately though there are not too many of these interlopers and most of the flora is native. I was though surprised to see so much erica (tree heath and Spanish heath) and also the strawberry tree as these plants are acid-loving and therefore tend to be found further north towards and in the serra. Maybe however the geology in this this valley is more varied than my flower book suggests.

We were not out walking for long as we decided the hike version would be too much in the heat plus lunch was calling! We did though experience a detour as the river was much higher than expected, and not only did it mean we get to enjoy more walking but our friends discovered views they had not seen before.

It was so lovely exploring the barrocal that it has left me with an urge to return very soon. Maybe I’ll persuade MrB that we should squeeze in the wonderful stroll to the spring next week as it is one of the best walks for orchids. It may still seem too early for an onset of orchidelirium but we spotted Sawfly Orchids last week in the litoral so I am hoping there may be lots now in the barrocal. I’ll keep you posted! In the meanwhile why not keep walking and join Jo for her Monday Walks. She was in the serra this week.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

26 thoughts

  1. It looks an interesting area. I wonder about the geology and the madroño or strawberry trees. They are part of our valley but only on one side where it is quite acid. The other has different flora. Spring is out here in Marple with wonderful blossoms and seems early for so near Manchester. We arrive to a rather ‘cross’ country or the drivers seem to be!

    1. PS we’ve now sussed out the geology – more Serra than barrocal as just above the clay. Explains much!

  2. Hi Becky, my part of the world too. It’s a very special ecosystem and quite unique. I am also awaiting the major flush orchids which have started here near Benafim a few weeks ago

    1. Yay they have started then . . . . but by the sounds of it maybe I should wait another week before I come exploring? You are so lucky to be in this area . . .the stretch between the barrocal and low serra, which I guess this is. Perhaps even more serra than barrocal is so beautiful.

      1. So why not buy the forever home there then? Probably get more for your money. Or do family ties draw you back to England? I’d find the summer there far too hot for me, but I could easily spend November to March in a warmer climate.

        1. It is so cheap to rent, and like you could never cope with the summer heat. By the time we leave I will be complaining it is too busy and too hot, and rushing to return to England. I think after our week I am just in that ‘phew, I am back and it is gloriously sunny’ mode!!!

  3. Another lovely stroll Becky. I even took my cup of tea with me and didn’t spill a drop 🙂
    I must correct you on one thing though, Mimosa is a native of tropical America. Mimosa is a weed of significance here as it has spread – Mimosa now occurs on an estimated 85 000 ha of wetlands across northern Australia. It has spread to some of the main river systems in the Top End of Australia.
    Perhaps it was something else. A lot of plants are called Mimosa but aren’t it is not the same plant as the commonly-called mimosa bush Vachellia farnesiana
    End of my botanical lesson for the day 🙂

    1. Excellent about the tea, and fascinating about mimosas. It’s a term used regularly here including by wildflower experts! They are using it to refer to Acacias such as retinodes, cyanophylla, pycnantha and longifolia. I’ll call them acacias or wattles from now on!

  4. What a lovely surprise! 🙂 🙂 Was it Christian you were out with? We had a quick word at t’ai chi last Saturday. I keep meaning to look up A House in the Algarve and forgetting. It won’t be tonight as we’re having a farewell supper with our ex-neighbours. Walking at Fonte Felipe tomorrow and Quelfes on Sunday. Did somebody mention no rest for the wicked? And the Garden Fair at Silves on Saturday, of course! Yay- orchids! Can’t wait 🙂 Thanks a lot, hon!

    1. You busy bee, sounds like you have started March in brilliant style!

      And yes it was 😊 they are such a wonderful couple.

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