discovery of an
in south Portugal,
and friends report
on their plans to
create an eco-village
also share their
experience of a
sustainability. For me this implies a holistic society – currently though, it is anything but sustainable or holistic.
I feel we’ve got stuck in a rigid parental mind set where anyone who dares to imagine they can change the way things are, albeit for the better, faces a barrage of refusals and objections. So often laws (planning or otherwise) stifle new design and creative energy, but it is nature that when a new baby is about to be born the waters have to break. We can no longer be attached to, or
dependent on, the old structure – it is not in our interest to do so. Society’s values were founded on competition but it is evident that the Earth’s future, and our’s on it, depends on co-operation to restore the natural balance.
We therefore need new approaches to how we live together in the community, to create an experimental bridge between old and new civilis- ation. This is a bridge founded on trust, by which both the Earth and her children can flourish and be cared for.
our friend, Alycone, move to a remote part of Portugal we jumped at the chance. This story is a glimpse of how two quite different pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle are leading to a new future.
In south west Portugal, not far from the wild west coast, there exists a beautiful and tranquil valley abundant with wildlife, indigenous trees and plants, rare butterflies and clear springs.
fertile valley, we come upon rammed earth dwellings and other buildings – most in ruins, nature melting them back into the ground. A village in the middle of Europe all but deserted by its indigenous people – gone to the cities, as they have done the world over. It is clear from a photo album from the ’70s that Alycone and Chris found that some 300 people used to live here. Now perhaps only 30 remain. Tottenique is like a lost valley from a distant land, but it’s actually only 25 miles inland from the Algarve in the less well known Alentejo, the country’s richest source of grains and produce.
It is here in this otherwise idyllic spot that we are helping Alycone set up her new home. In just two weeks we clear away brambles, recover the natural water supply, install solar powered lighting, get to know a little of the local countryside and make friends with its people and nature. As we clear the land, its value emerges. Amongst the brambles which had run rampant for seven years, overgrown orchards emerge with terraces of mature trees including orange, olive, pear, apple, fig, nespera, lemon and peach. Vegetable gardens which were once deliberately protected by briar hedges lie close to springs and the river.
The rest of the land remains wild, in the capable hands of Mother Nature.
The valley is fertile and unpolluted, which is not the case everywhere; Portugal is in danger of becoming a desert – it has not escaped the peril of modern monoculture which strips away the natural trees and bushes that have protected soil and wildlife.
In the valley, though, wildlife abounds. Wild boar, deer, mongoose, badger and fox are just a few of the inhabitants – together with butterflies as big as your hand and a multitude of birds, including nightingales – which flourish in this unique and beautiful landscape. We have dedicated the land as a
paradise. There is much space to grow food. Delicious oranges are already abundant and cork oaks can also provide a small but useful cash crop.
Using traditional materials and the greenest technology, we intend to restore the existing
buildings to provide accom- modation for those wishing to study permaculture design and forest gardening or to simply retreat into a beautiful land- scape. Yoga, meditation, horse riding, swimming and wildlife walks will also be on offer in due course.
At present we are in the process of buying more land in the valley in order to protect it and its creatures from being taken over by monocultures, such as eucalyptus plantations, which destroy these delicate ecosystems and turn the land into a desert. Volunteers are being sought to assist with the project, in return for bed and board on a short term basis. Conditions will be very primitive to begin with and only permaculture gardening and building skills are being sought at the moment.
You can build on the land with far greater flexibility than in coun- tries like Britain. Whilst others are recovering the old rammed earth dwelling, Jenny and I are going to build a Swedish eco- timber house and later a round turf roof earth house.
The Swedish method is easy, environmentally friendly and makes energy-efficient, tough and attractive homes. They are also low-cost and, at £30,000 or so, I consider them better value than even Walter Segal self-build houses. They are quick to build to a standard design (or they can be modified to your own needs) with everything included – even the kitchen sink. We plan to live in it while building the round house and then it’s there for children and guests.
During our time in Portugal we also had a unique opportunity to visit and experience Tamera, an established eco-village.
We rose with the sun dis- solving a thick blanket of mist rising from the lake surround- ing the little peninsula of white dwellings where we have rented a small cottage. We found our way by road to arrive later than intended at Tamera, where the community is holding an open day, to join 60 or more people already at a gathering. Instantly I am listening intently to a talk about the bio-energy and deep ecology of these people as they interact fully with nature ‘with no enemies’. It’s in German but several small groups with trans- lators indicate an international audience. We join in song to end the morning, with memorable words, “Even though you have broken your vows a thousand times, come on, come on, you are welcome into the garden.”
Tamera is 134 hectares (330 acres) of land that includes woodland, natural water and hills. It is evident that the community is creating structure and new biodiversity based on perma-
eroded landscape that urgently needs reforestation across Portugal.
Founded five years ago by six people from Germany who had previously extensively researched holistic com- munity and natural ecology, Tamera now
has 70 people living there, some resident in dwellings, tipis or mobile homes. The children have their own accommodation, a haven all by itself.
Permaculture principles are evident everywhere, not just in growing food, but as people interacting with nature. You won’t see naked earth as you
do in so many fields. Mulching with organic materials, even large timber – a technique bor- rowed from Brazil – creates new soil. Beans, legumes and vegetables are sown directly into the earth. As an experiment to show the increasing fertility of the soil, a sapling has been left to grow seven metres in as many months.
Now in construction is Tamera’s own Peace Garden that shows how people can co-operate in harmony with nature. It is considered normal here to go beyond the concept of companion planting to commune intuitively with the landscape, trees, plants and animals. What kind of plants want to grow here? What skills
used in the landscape in older times are still appropri- ate?
Non- aggressive trust building seems to really work, but your own associated feelings have first to be changed
The vision and impres- sion of Tamera is of a vibrant community of people learn- ing to live together in trust
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