Casa do Sobreira

Peneda-Gerês

A visit to the country’s only National Park can serve to fill the lungs with fresh air and green eyes. And it can also reveal to us the dreamlike dimension of Nature, offering us places that emanate charm and mystery “

The Peneda-Gerês National Park comprises more than 70,000 hectares of protected territory, which covers the Amarela, Gerês (best known) and Peneda mountains. The landscape is so varied that one quickly understands that the point of convergence is, quite simply, the need to protect this area.
The Peneda-Gerês National Park is an example of the balanced interaction between man and nature, which for several millennia have lived in near perfect harmony. Due to the mountainous relief of the lands of the Northwest of Portugal, that goes from the Municipality of Melgaço, in the plateaus of Castro Laboreiro, passing by the Serra da Peneda and Serra do Soajo in the county of Arcos de Valdevez, Serra Amarela and Gerês in the municipality of Terras do Bouro, moving towards Trás-os-Montes to Pitões das Júnias and Tourém in the municipality of Montalegre, the life of human communities adapted to the rigors of geographical relief, interacting with natural resources, learning to take from them the necessary survival in equilibrium with the medium.

These communities learned to respect and enjoy what nature itself taught and taught, and here and there the symbiosis between the rocky and natural relief of the landscape is confused with the human occupation. Thus, today we can enjoy unique landscapes where the clear and pure, although cold waters, even in the middle of summer, invite many people who visit these places to take a dip in the natural lagoons of the Gerês and Man rivers. Thanks to the respect that man has developed over centuries for the natural balance, a very preserved ecosystem has come to us, having all the characteristics to go forward to the creation of a national park, whose objective is to maintain the characteristics of this ecosystem and thus to do to perpetuate a legacy that the past generations allowed to reach us and that, we must make its conservation perpetuated for the next generations. Thus, in 1971, the Peneda-Gerês National Park was created, which has an area of 72,000 hectares of indigenous conservation where human presence has not interfered with ecosystems.

In this Park there are species of animals and plants but unique, very rare on the planet. 235 species of vertebrates, 4 species of fish including trout and eel are inventoried. In addition, the moor (Galemys pyrenaicus), the otter (Lutra lutra), the blackbird (Lacerta schereiberi), the Iberian frog (Rana iberica) and the lusitanian salamander (Chioglossa lusitanica). As regards avifauna, 147 species have been identified, among them the royal eagle (Aquila chrysaetus), the red-legged kingfisher (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), and the bufo-real, 15 species of bats, the squirrel-red marten (Martes martes), ermine (Mustela erminea), vipers (Vipera latastei and Vipera seoanei), wolf (Canis lupus), and the symbol of the National Park, the buck (Capreolus capreolus). Peneda-Gerês offers oaks, marshes and riparian vegetation, which is essential for the development of biodiversity in aquatic systems and the retention of hydronically eroded sediments. In this vast diversity with about 627 species of plants inventoried within the National Park, we can speak of some examples: the gilbardeira (Ruscus aculeatus L.), the parrot (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) and the azereiro (Prunus lusitanica L. lusitanica ), cranberry (Vaccinum myrtillus L.), arbutus (Arbutus unedo L.) and holly (Ilex aquifolium L.) among many others.
But, as we have already said, man is also an integral part of this natural space. How have local communities been organized and what contributions have they made to the interaction and conservation of ecosystems? The isolation to which these communities were subjected, determined how to see and interact with the environment, making it balanced, leading them to value and learn to take advantage of existing resources. Thus, the activities of agriculture and livestock were developed, with the creation of animals for consumption and an agricultural activity based on the cultivation of cereals (corn and rye) potatoes, beans, horticulture, forestry, beekeeping, pastoralism, in which highlight the creation of quality animals still recognized today by the traditional way of feeding them with native species. Among them are the cattle barrosão, and the cachena, the wild goat and the sheep-bordaleira. In addition to these animals that traditionally were part of the local diet, we have the creation of pigs that give rise to traditional smoked sausage, with their sausages and hams of national reputation and across borders. However, among the most emblematic domestic animals that until the communications revolution served as a means of transporting people and cargo, we have the Garrano, who is a small horse but very well adapted to the mountainous area of the National Park area.
Today, these animals live mostly in freedom, in wildlife, delighting the travelers who have the privilege of crossing with them in their hikes along the mountainous routes that connect isolated villages and, or, places of beautiful protected landscape in the dominions of the park.
To speak of the communities of the PN is to speak of Castro Laboreiro, Peneda, Soajo, Lindoso, Terras de Bouro, Campo do Gerês, extinct but emblematic Vilarinho das Furnas, Caldas do Gerês, Cabril, Pitões das Júnias and Tourém, which, organizational and social form. Naturally, I will not elaborate much on these aspects, just give some tips that will develop in future editions of Geo-Lusitanum, dedicated in particular to each of the representative villages of the PNPG. But, in a general way, the populations here residing for time immemorial, developed communitarian structures that, not being specifically of somebody, were of all. The vacant lots were kept and managed by the communities so that they served the population, taking them out, firewood, wood, the bush to make the beds of the animals, and finally fertilizer for the farmland. This balance allowed these lands to reach us very well preserved from an ecological point of view. However, the forms of organization of the communities, in a wild environment, such as what we find in these places, where in winter the temperatures are around the negative ones, frequently occurring frosts and snowfalls, have led to a set of territorial organizational practices such as those occurring in Castro Laboreiro with the existence of soft and invert, places where the pastoral populations move according to the time of year. The milder ones, located at higher altitudes that can reach over 1000 meters, are the places where they spend nine months of the year, from the entrance of Spring to the end of Autumn, from where they move to the inverneiras, places where the altitude is below 900 meters and there will spend the remaining three months of the year.
One of the most emblematic places was that of Vilarinho das Furnas, whose community had a very own social organization, but that was lost with the construction of the hydroelectric dam, whose reservoir submerged the village, leading to the translocation of this population to other neighboring villages. Of course, many of these ancestral forms of organization were due to their isolation from the remaining cosmopolitan society of large urban centers, where isolation was, if not void, almost null.
All this preservation lies behind the beauty that PNPG possesses and delighted us when we visited him. The landscapes that we can enjoy in any season of the year are endless beauty. The Castro Laboreiro Plateau, Serra da Peneda, Soajo and Lindoso with their famous communal granaries, the Caldas do Gerês and its surrounding mountain with the Man and Gerês rivers, the Carris near the highest point of the PNPG, with its silence and very beautiful landscape, make it rejuvenate the psychological energies of any visitor who dares to make the march of 12,5 km, between the entrance of the way next to the border of the Portela of the Man, where one walks several kilometers, about half , with the Man River by company. If the experience of orientation allows us to continue the journey, we could walk to Pitões das Júnias along paths already half erased by the erosion of time and by the hard work of nature that covers the places of vegetation. But speaking of the landscape heritage of the PN is a great feat, since in every corner of this territory we have a number of beautiful panoramas to enjoy.