Rural Heritage

Photos by João Cosme

The contemporary network of villages and small towns have their origin on the early Middle Age, when the first peninsular kingdoms where formed. Since then, traditional ways of shaping the land have been developed by grazing and ploughing, creating an unique landscape where traces of human activity can still be found. The uses of the river stream, once essential on human activities, can be seen across the valley - ruins of watermills, waterwheels, traditional walls and river passages. The main cultures remain – olives, almonds and wine, as well as some grazing with sheep and goat. The bovine culture is also present, with wide areas of extensive grazing, and important celebrations where the bulls are the core, such as the Capeia Arraiana and the use of forcão.

Memories of ancient times can still be heard, told in first person, in a bench at the main square, or at the church's front door. The flavors remain, travelling across generations, and the traditions are still celebrated on the many festivals and pilgrimages across the Côa valley.


"Engine Mill", Sabugal, photo by João Cosme

The waters of the Côa are capable of moving devices for the performance of mechanical work. The water impulse triggers the movement of the shovels, axis, turbines…
A mill and a factory form the complex known as "Engine Mill", situated south of the village of Vale de Espinho. With art, and appealing to the bravery of the waters, this device would put the turbines and the factory on the run.

The energy generated was used to produce blankets, but not only. It was here that for the first time in this region electricity was produced, enough to serve Vale de Espinho, as well as other places, including the city of Guarda.
Twelve watermills are known in Vale de Espinho, of which only two are functioning.

Dmoinhouring autumn, each available piece of land was sowed with wheat or rye. In summer, people would sleep in the field, protected by straw shelters, and day and night all family members would be working in the harvesting. Then, mules and oxen would go up and down the hill, carrying bags either with cereals or flour. At the bottom of the valley, mill and miller would carry on their work of transforming the cereals, receiving a "maquia" in exchange, a certain amount of the same cereals.

At all villages, bread would never be missing from the table. It was for centuries the main food of the people.

Stage 1 and 2 walking | Mountain Bike stage 1

Zé Ricardo's watermill, photo by João Cosme


nora1The waterwheels, used to take water from wells, were introduced in the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs, which is why its Portuguese word ('nora') is derived from the Arabic term '"na'ûra".

Oxen or donkeys would move around the engine, making the vertical axis to turn, which then would make a set of metal pots to move. In an up-and-down movement, the pots carried water from the bottom of the well to the surface.

While leaning to restart its downward trajectory, the pot released the water to a board which would channel it to its destiny, either to another well, to a plot of land or to a drinking trough for the livestock.

Stages 1 and 2 walking | Stage 1 Moutain Bike

Waterwheel, Vilar Maior, photo Júlio Marques


Fojo da Cabrita, photo by Eduardo Realinho

curraldelobos2Under the shade of a tree, a shepherd watches the livestock grazing on the slopes. At night, he takes the animals back to the village, to protect them from the danger lurking around the woods.

In this land, since immemorial times, humans share their territory with wolves. When natural prey is scarce (roe deer and wild boar), the wolf feeds on off-guard cattle.

Before the generalized use of firearms, human communities built stone traps called "fojos". The wolf would be enticed to the inside of those stone walls through the use of live bait, usually a lamb. Once inside, the wolf would be trapped, and then killed. This "fojo" found here, located between Mangide and Vale de Madeira, is called Curral de Lobos ("Wolf Corral") or Fojo da Cabrita ("Baby Goat Fojo").

Today, the wolf is a protected species, due to the reduction of its populations. It is illegal to hunt it and to kill it.

Stage 6 WESTwalking Stage 2 WEST Moutain Bike

Fojo da Cabrita, Eduardo Realinho


fornoMuseuComunitarioThe communitarian oven was used by everyone to cook the bread, and also functioned as an incentive for gatherings, sharing and cooperation. It was also a comfort for the body and soul for the more needy. Its warmth, its aromas and its ability to satiate hunger built a sense of well-being in the community, a contentment which would endure until the last flicker of the embers was gone.

Theses ovens were common in former times and each village had at least one. Today they are less abundant, but initiatives of heritage preservation are allowing their recovery. In some cases they are gaining an educational role. The Malcata oven is such an example, since it was converted into a museum.

The ovens had generally a circular shape, built with terracotta bricks, and were topped by a dome, covered with a clay layer to preserve the heat. The exterior wall was covered with the most abundant type of stone available.

Stage 2 walking| Stage 1 Moutain Bike
Malcata oven, photo by João Cosme

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