Yoga & ayurveda holiday in Portugal

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2018: 22 Apr, 22 Jul, 19 Aug, 2 Sep, 16 Sep, 23 Sep, 30 Sep, 7 Oct, 14 Oct, 21 Oct
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Yoga & ayurveda holiday in Portugal

Environment

We came from London with a mindset of “light footsteps” to produce the minimum environmental impact possible. However quite quickly we grew to realise that what we actually wanted to do was have the maximum possible impact on the environment through our life here. By managing the forest responsibly, clearing the bush vegetation on the forest floor to enable the larger trees to thrive and at the same time protect the forest and village from the ravages of fire. By producing tractor loads of our own compost to enrich the soil. By nurturing and encouraging a much larger array of biodiversity in the plants and wildlife. We have planted thousands of trees, shrubs and plants with the sole purpose of encouraging more bees, insects and birds to be able to make their homes in this part of the forest. Along with hundreds of deciduous woodland trees that will alter the micro climate of the valley as they grow tall, wide canopied and strong over the next few decades.

Gardening and Farming: We are learning, through experience and through the wisdom of our elderly neighbours, most of whom have lived off the produce of these valleys all their lives, how to live more in balance with the resources of the forest. To this end for the last 10 years we have managed to grow a substantial quantity of organic produce to feed ourselves, family and guests. We will be planting many thousands more forest trees with species that we hope overtime will increase the biodiversity of this largely mono-cultural forest and encourage the development of a deciduous woodland floor and to stimulate a growth in woodland bird populations.

We live on the edge of wilderness and are privileged to share this forest home with a number of other wilder inhabitants whose families have lived here for generations: wild boar, stoats, foxes, badgers, rabbits and partridges all make regular appearances. The lberian lynx and a mature stag spotted rarely.

The four original stone cottages were all renovated according to the traditional Portuguese methods of building with clay, stone, wood and lime and are excellent examples of this environmentally appropriate approach to the hand built shelter. We have added a few creature comforts of modern living too.

Water and Energy: The water to all the houses comes from our bore hole and is pure rock filtered spring water straight from the mountain. It's fresh and full of vitality. We are increasingly using the traditional water sources gravity fed from the river and the Moorish water mines to irrigate orchards and crops. All grey water from the houses is also used to irrigate trees and ornamental plants, so we ask our guests to choose carefully the products they bring with them. Ironically, Environmentally friendly branded products are not always the best for irrigation as many have high salt content, good for the oceans but harmful for plants in the gardens.

Water is heated using Thermo Dynamic panels that work efficiently all year in rain, wind and sun. Central heating in the houses during winter is from a number of wood burning stoves using firewood from our own pine, eucalyptus, willow and olive trees: trees are the best solar energy converters around. Research has shown that forests thrive where they are managed sustainably like this.

Electricity is currently from the national grid, although Portugal is one of the pioneers of alternative energy in Europe – wind, wave and solar. We are surrounded by wind turbines on the ridges of all the foothills for miles. One day we hope to be completely off grid by harnessing solar and also water energy from the 2 rivers that run through this valley.

Waste: Our local council of Oleiros provides excellent recycling facilities in the village of Amieira, which makes it easy for us to recycle the plastic, glass and tin packaging we use. All degradable waste is composted on site. Cardboard and some of our kitchen waste feeds the worms in our worm café, who work hard eating all year to create the best liquid fertiliser for our kitchen garden crops and once a year provides a tray of perfect compost to start out the Spring seeding.

The rest of the kitchen waste is composted along with the contribution of our guests in the delightful dry toilets here. Our indoor dry toilets, made from the chestnut panels of old wine vats and marble, use sawdust and chippings cut from the heathers and shrubs in the forest. When added with all kitchen food and garden waste in our compost structures, stored for a year, it turns into tractor loads of nutrient rich compost for the orchards and newly planted woodland trees. It takes a little more human effort on our part, but we suspect our trees are much happier as a result. The land here is stony and much of its soil’s nutrients are therefore washed away in the winter rains. For those trees and plants to thrive It is essential we regularly add back nutrients so along with our own compost we buy lorry loads of goat, chicken and rabbit manure from our neighbours each year.

Transport: It is not easy to arrive here using low carbon transport. We are a remote retreat space in the geographic centre of Portugal. Our local town is supported well by coaches from Lisbon and Porto, although the nearest train station is an hour's drive away in Castelo Branco with an infrequent and slow local bus service to Oleiros.

Community

The best people to ask about our community involvement would be our lovely Portuguese neighbours and the 8 local people we employ full time on our teams. They'll tell you what they think about us when you arrive. We're proud to be considered their friends, but in reality it often feels like we're their students. They have been our best teachers since we arrived, always with open houses and gardens ready to show us how it's done, teach us their language and tell of their history. In return we help them with their olive, wine and crop harvests. It's a great honour to now be able to buy their produce too for our yoga retreat menus. Our own olive oil is delicious, but their's has a few more tasty decades worth of experience.

Eventhough it is possible for us to source cheaper building materials, plants and food from further away, we have always chosen to support our local town economy too wherever possible.

We buy local. It has always been important to us that our local economy benefits directly from our family life and retreat business in Portugal. All the building materials and manpower used in the 4 year restoration work on the 4 small stone houses were sourced locally. We employed, and still do, our neighbours to help us build in the old traditional Portuguese ways with natural materials of clay, stone, straw and wood, and to clear and manage the forest around us. We buy the majority of food for our yoga retreats from the local shops in our nearest town of Oleiros and also as mentioned directly from our neighbour’s own produce – their tasty olive oil, potatoes, onions, salads, beans and corn. We grow our own herbs, salads, fresh beans and tomatoes.

We seek to distribute the revenue made from our retreats directly to our community. We are partnering with Mossy Earth to be one of their reforestation and rewilding sites in their carbon offset service.

There isn't a day that goes by where we don't give thanks for what the Portuguese families built with their hands in this valley a hundred years ago. The stone work in the terraces and river walls run for miles and miles in every direction. The daughters of the men who built the original farmhouses that we renovated are still alive and living in our village up the hill. A documentary will shortly be coming out that capture some of the stories of our neighbours born in the houses we now live in. We feel very connected here.

Wider afield, the kids have helped us all integrate quickly at the beginning by being such fantastic contributors to their local school in Oleiros. It's a small town of less than 5000 people spread over 465 sq km (population density 1 person per 4 square kms), and it hasn't taken us long to feel really part of it.

You will be warmly welcomed in any café or restaurant in our town. It's a region of Portugal famous for its hospitality.

2 Reviews of Yoga & ayurveda holiday in Portugal

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 21 Aug 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Swimming in the river

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Inquire well about your room. As some have no windows or are tiny and not everyone likes that.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I would give it a 7 out of 10.
The people are really nice, food is superb if you like vegan. Rooms are rustic and basic. Great yoga shala and piece and quiet can be found everywhere!

Reviewed on 11 Jan 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


I had such an amazing time at Yoga at Moses, I don't think I could pinpoint my favourite moment, but the things that stood out the most were: the beautiful morning walks and yoga sessions overlooking the valley, the copious amounts of delicious, nutritious food, with loads of variety at every meal, the completely horizontal feeling of relaxation at Moses and the welcoming and accepting attitudes of the Winter family.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Just come as you are and be open to being welcomed in to the fold.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - the team at Moses were cautious with water consumption and how they drained it, bought all their produce locally or grew their own where they could. They employed local drivers to help with collecting people, and introduced us to the people of the village nearby where we joined them for coffee and beer one afternoon. They were also committed to caring for their land, clearing areas out and planting new trees around the valley.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Absolutely amazing. Completely rejuvenating, relaxing and full of opportunities to learn - emphasized through the yoga which was of a high standard of teaching, but also through the variety of people who passed through and the Winter family themselves. I would (and have already) recommend this holiday for anyone with an interest in yoga or a need for peace and laughter.

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