Every month we post an interview with someone who lives in the Algarve from a range of professions, maintaining tradition practices, artisan crafts and promoting the region.

Mission (not) Impossible - Stephen Heard (Ste to his friends), avid walker and explorer tells us all about his challenge to locate all of the 14 Geodesic Vertices on the “Route Gago Coutinho A Geodesy of Sao Bras de Alportel”

April/May 2022

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Thank you so much for giving up your time to tell us about one of your adventures. Whilst a resident of the Algarve now, may I ask where you originate from please?

 

Stephen: I originate from a small town called Ramsbottom in the North West of England: it is located just 19 Kilometres (12 miles) North of Manchester.

What attracted you to the Algarve where you now also live?


Stephen: Once a frequent visitor to Portugal over the last two decades, 2001 being the year of my first trip I have to state that I have never looked anywhere since for my ventures overseas, I had travelled to many places before but even to this day I still cannot put my finger on why I love Portugal so much:  maybe it's the Portuguese people who are so friendly, the local cuisine, the beautiful scenery along the rocky Western coast of the Algarve or the miles and miles of golden sandy beaches along the Eastern coast of the Algarve. With the wall to wall sunshine that Portugal endures most of the year or the inner beauty of the Algarve up in the hills which give spectacular views as far as the eye can see. I would state all but for me it's the latter, it's the inner beauty of the Algarve which most visitors do not know exist.

You are obviously passionate about Portugal and the Algarve. It seems that you have been able to document much of this passion in your photography too which we can see from your Instagram account and the challenge to locate all of the 14 Geodesic Vertices on the Route Gago Coutinho A Geodesy of Sao Bras de Alportel is a fantastic record. What made you decide to go for it?

 

Stephen: Now living in Portugal for the last 4 and a half years I have had more time to roam and explore. Being an avid Walker also helps, it's a passion of mine albeit not quite the hiker as such.

I needed a challenge, something to get me out of the house, somewhere or something new, I found that challenge.

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How did you find out about the 14 Geodesic Vertices?

 

Stephen: I was down at the Igreja Matriz de Sao Bras de Alportel when I saw the large sign at the entrance to the car park there. On it was emblazoned with "Route Gago Coutinho A Geodesy of Sao Bras de Alportel": it consisted of 14 Geodesic Vertices that are located in the Municipality of Sao Bras de Alportel. My mission was to locate all 14 of them. The first was to be found at the church itself, unlike all the other 13 which are monoliths this Geodesic vertice is actually the Weather Vane at the top of the clock tower.

Over a 3 week period in March of this year my quest was on to find the remaining 13 vertices and so it began, I searched and found them all.

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It is an incredible achievement and certainly by sharing your mission through your photography whilst we may not manage to visit them all ourselves, this is a wonderful way for others, whether already living here or visiting to explore as you say the inner Algarve. Do you mind sharing the information on the route?

 

Stephen: No, not at all. The list is as follows:

 

1. Bengado (Bengado) 319.23 metres.

2. Bispo (Bicas da Serra) 479.69 metres.

3. Botelho (Cerro do Botelho) 383.55 metres.

4. Bico Alto (Bico Alto) 366.41 metres.

5. Cerro dos Mouros (Cerro da Ursa) 498.97 metres.

6. Barroqueira (Peral) 261.16 metres.

7. Sao Bras (Igreja Matriz) 241.22 metres.

8. Arroteia (Farrobo - Portela) 389.70 metres.

9. Atalaia (Alportel - Cartaxo) 425.97 metres.

10. Corte (Pero de Amigos) 471.16 metres.

11. Aguia (Javali) 429.39 metres.

12. Loule (Javali) 514.16 metres.

13. Quatrelas (Parises) 520.98 metres.

14. Rocha (Malhao - Cerro de Legra) 378.5 metres.

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Would you mind telling us how accessible the 13 that are not a church weathervane were to access please? 

 

Stephen: All were relatively easy to access whether it be by bicycle or by foot, except for one which I left to conquer the last:  it was Rocha, the access was obstructed by stone boulders, thistles and bracken and no footpath or trail to follow, which is just perfect for the avid hiker. 

When reaching the monoliths you are greeted by stunning views stretching across the Algarve.  Of course I had my favourite and that was Bispo, it was a long trek but well worth it on arrival. The longest trek was the Loule Vertice, it seemed to take an age to reach, the worst has already been mentioned (Rocha).  Apart from the nearest being the church the next two nearest are Bengado (by the Windmill) and Arroteia which is hidden up on Miradoura do Alto da Arroteia. Most monoliths are visible when approaching however there are a couple hidden away surrounded by bushes or trees just to make the trip even more intriguing.

Do you have any advice? 

Stephen: I certainly recommend on these visits good walking shoes, water, food Snacks and sunscreen and finally of course a Camera and/or Binoculars. 

Thank you so much for sharing this with us and I am sure everyone reading this will be fascinated. Your photos are a fantastic record.

 

For those of you reading this we would like to take the opportunity to share Ste’s pictures together with a map and useful link. To see more of Ste’s photographic record of the Algarve do check out his Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/they_call_me_ste


 

https://www.visitsaobrasalportel.pt/pt/pt/menu/1660/rota-gago-coutinho.aspx

Interview of the month - February/March 2022

Every month we post an interview with someone who lives in the Algarve from a range of professions, maintaining tradition practices, artisan crafts and promoting the region.

Beekeeper with Bees

Beekeeping isn’t just a professional occupation, it can also be done as a hobby. We managed to chat with Miguel Pedro, a beekeeper and owner of Natural.come - an Ice Cream Parlour and Food Shop in Sao Bras de Alportel who gave us some more insight into the fascinating world of bees and beekeeping.

Miguel, thank you for finding the time to chat with me. May I ask what made you first go into beekeeping and how long ago?

It was about 10 years ago. Loving nature and having an Uncle who was a beekeeper were the reasons.

Why do you do it and what are your favourite things about it?

Contributing a little to the survival of these fantastic beings and being able to extract natural products is a privilege.

Please do tell us about how you use the honey from your bees.

A good part is destined to the artisanal production of ice cream. The rest is for local sale. There is still some left for family use and to feed the bees.

We are reminded constantly that the world's bee population is under threat but what do you think are the biggest problems bees are facing specifically in the Algarve at the moment?

In general, all over the world, the survival of bees is a very serious matter. Climate change, Wasps and Varroa (a parasitic mites associated with honey bees) are the main causes. For example, in the Algarve, long hot months without rain alter the quantity and quality of plant flowers.

Do you think there is enough awareness being raised locally about these problems and if not how best could we go about raising awareness in the Communities of the Algarve?

I feel a lot of concern on the part of Beekeepers and some more sensitive people with these issues, but it just boils down to this. Unfortunately at the government level, I don't see any measures.

How would you advise the general public to make their home environment more bee-friendly?

Never kill a bee!!  They only react when they feel threatened. With the help of a beekeeper, it is possible to have one or more colonies of Bees and in this way, make a practical contribution.

If someone is interested in beekeeping and wants to start, what advice would you give?

To understand that it is an activity that is very hard, both in terms of work and mentally, with the question of the death of many bee colonies. But it is a very enriching experience.

Equally, if someone would be happy to have beehives on their land but they are worried about the care of the hives and the bees being undertaken by themselves, are there organizations in the Algarve that will assist them with this?

There is a regional association that supports rules and good procedures being Melgarbe - Association of Beekeepers of the East Algarve. But in practical terms, it is down to the individual to follow good practices with their colonies

Moving on to the bees themselves, as I am sure the public are curious, when the hive lids are lifted and the bees start to fly around do they sense our intrusion and react accordingly?

Bees react when they feel threatened. There are, however, some factors to take into account. The time of day, wind conditions and especially times when there are a lot of eggs and baby bees - this is when they react especially aggressively.

Life in a hive seems very busy. Are there certain roles undertaken by certain bees?

There is a Queen, who is specially defended and well treated. She manages the population of the hive, laying fewer or more eggs depending on the work forecast: the rains before Spring are an indicator that the population should increase. There are the Worker bees, the Guards who are especially concerned with possible invaders, a security group that accompanies and defends the Queen and the Drones who are lazy and whose only role is to mate with an unfertilized Queen.

What is the average lifespan of the Queen bee and how many eggs would she lay in her life?

The Queen can live up to 5 years, but from the age of 3, she starts to be less productive. In a lifetime it can reach close to 1 million eggs: about 1500 to 2000 per day.

What is the average lifespan of a normal bee?

The lifespan of a bee depends on the time of year, with greater or lesser activity. It could be 6 weeks when there is a lot of activity or 3 to 4 months when there is less activity.

Are there specific plants and trees that are particularly good for bees in the Algarve?

There is a great diversity of plants, but their great preference is called Rosmaninho.

Whilst we are very lucky in the Algarve with the amount of wide open spaces and vegetation, if their natural habitat is being threatened (fires I assume in the Summer can cause havoc for the bee populations) what can we do as individuals either with just a garden or if lucky enough to own land, do to ensure we are promoting the right vegetation for them?

We can always contribute with small water points and with some domestic colonies. Regarding vegetation, we have great diversity: we do need rain. We must bear in mind that the bees, if necessary, can move up to 3 or 4 km away. And they have a GPS/navigation system that allows them to return home.

Natural.come

Why not enjoy the delicious selection of ice creams and much more on offer at Miguel Pedro's establishment in Sao Bras de Alportel.

Location: R. Boaventura Passos 26 28, 8150-121 São Brás de Alportel

Tel: 00 (351) 966716143

Email: geladarianatural.come@gmail.com

Follow on Face Book: Natural.come | Facebook

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Image by Leon Škrilec
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Image by Massimiliano Latella
Image by Damien TUPINIER
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Bee video for interview
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