A LATE AFTERNOON TRIP TO MATA DA MARGARAÇA
The enchanted forest
Mata da Margaraça is a spectacular forest and one of the most notable deciduous forests in Portugal set in mountainous landscape. It is situated within the protected landscape of the Serra do Açor, Arganil and is classified as a Natural Reserve and Biogenetic Reserve of the Council of Europe. It is managed by ICNF: Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas. We passed by this glorious 62 hectare forest on our way home from Fraga da Pena waterfall and I said to hubby that we must go back and get lost in this forest for a few hours. As it’s only a short 18 min drive/11km from our home, we decided to visit after work one day when the weather is cooler. There is plenty of parking spaces in the car park.
It has amazing altitudes and several hectares of forest to explore. There are beautiful oaks, chestnuts, walnut cherry, elm holly, ash and laurels including various rare species. It’s also home to some amazing orchids hiding in the forest. Apparently there are over 70 species of mushroom growing which will delight hubby as he hates mushrooms. Just magical (not magic mushrooms) – ha ha. It is bursting full of nature and there are many species of wildlife to view including the chestnut wasp. If you are lucky you might see an owl, hawk, round-winged eagle, black rook, wood pigeon, woodpeckers, jays, dove or bullfinches. There are also the delights of wild boar, salamanders, frogs and squirrels. My daughter calls squirrels, swirls (ha ha). If you love plants, birds and reptiles, this is definitely the place for you.
Cyril the crazy ass squirrel
I am slightly afraid of squirrels as I had a bad experience in the U.K when my son was a baby in his pushchair. I was waiting outside the mother and baby clinic to get his weekly weigh in and this cute squirrel came up to us. Before I could finish saying “Josh, look at the cute little squirrel” it flew through the air straight for his face and I batted it off mid air like some protective super mum. I still love squirrels, I just don’t trust them. Do not be lured in with their cute little chocolate brown eyes and bushy tails.
The forest was once one of the most important agricultural areas in the parish of Benfeita, Arganil, where it is still possible to observe a horizontal rotating mill next to the stream, as well as an old dam and a water drain. Mata da Margaraça has been documented since the second half of the century. Wood from the forest was used for the altarpiece of the Igreja da Sé Nova (Coimbra) and for the construction of an old bridge over the Mondego in Coimbra. It also supplied wood for the construction of the Santo António Convent at AX Vila Cova do Alva.
In 2017 it was seriously affected by the forest fires but is rapidly recovering to its former glory. This is fantastic and a living example of the resilience of this native forest/ecosystem. The results of the comparison from surveys carried out before and after the fire, show that the fire had an impact mainly in terms of the abundance of birds, more than in the variety of species present and in the entire structure of the bird community. This is fantastic news. It was clearly visible that the forest has had a historic fire, which is a bit sad. Some trees are still charred yet re-growth is evident. I was a little disappointed not to see more wildlife and am not sure if this is due to the fire or the time of evening we visited.
I really enjoyed exploring the forests woodland and it’s green and fresh flora. We followed the blue trail but got a bit lost as usual. From the trail we took we could see the village of Monte Frio nestled in the hilltop. There is one huge house situated on a hillside in the middle of no where. I wonder who lives there? It’s a crazy drive to get to the house but a glorious setting. The little stream and waterfall were very pretty and there are a lot of old ruins dotted around which are always nice to view. I managed to see butterflies, woodpeckers, a few bugs and some grapes growing on a vine. The cloud formations against the trees were magnificent. We were the only ones there on foot, a few cars passed through and we saw one cyclist but other that that we had the forest to ourselves which was a luxury but a bit eery! It was a lovely evening taking in all the sights and breathing in the smells of nature. It made a real change to all our recent river beach trips. It’s a hidden gem and perfect for a picnic with a few picnic tables dotted around. We had a great hike in the enchanted forest and I wore a neon top just in case we fell off the hillside into a ditch and had to assemble a make shift flag (ha ha). There are so many trees for shade so it’s still an enjoyable trip on a hot summer’s day. If you get too hot you can always visit the nearby Fraga da Pena waterfall for a cool dip in the water.
I am super excited for our pending visit to Peneda-Gerês National Park which covers an area of 70,000 hectares and comprises 22 rural villages divided through the towns of Arcos de Valdevez, Melgaço, Montalegre, Ponte da Barca and Terras de Bouro. Apparently you can view Iberian wolves, wild horses, ibex and deer. God help me if I come face to face with a wolf, I can barely fight off Cyril the squirrel, I think my tactic would be to scream, run and climb a tall tree (ha ha). I also would like to visit Buçaco National Forest as it looks stunning, a green jewel in Central Portugal. One thing I probably should not have done was watch the Netflix horror film ‘The Ruins’ the night before we visited the forest. The forest has tons of ivy and vines and it reminded me of the film where an idyllic vacation in Cancun takes a dangerous turn for four young Americans when a mysterious tourist persuades them to join an archaeological dig. This ivy creeping type plant kills all of them except one by consuming their bodies and there is a scene where they have to chop off one of their mates legs. It’s very dramatic and I kept saying to hubby “Don’t touch the ivy, I don’t have a pen knife” (ha ha). Apologies if you were going to watch that film, I have spoiled the ending but I’ve saved you wasting 90 mins of your precious time that you could be spending in an actual forest amongst beautiful nature (ha ha).
I think these photos are beautiful and they were took between 6pm-7pm. It’s still so sunny in the evenings here and I love the fact that we can still explore local delights after work so don’t have to cram everything in to weekends.
Latitude: 40.2161249 Longitude: -7.9191574