Volunteers bring new life to a local property in Western Iberia

This October, a group of volunteers from the Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN), partner of Rewilding Europe in Western Iberia, participated in a work camp where they recovered a ruined house in Ribeira do Mosteiro nature reserve. The restoration of the property will continue and once finished, ATN will use the house for their various activities.

Land abandonment in the Faia Brava reserve, Western Iberia rewilding area, Portugal.

Land abandonment in the Faia Brava reserve, Western Iberia rewilding area, Portugal.
Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Encompassing the land between the Douro River to the north and the Serra da Malcata in the south, the Côa valley in Western Iberia rewilding area is a spectacular mix of riverine gorges, oak forests, rocky heathlands and former cropland becoming ever wilder. In Western Iberia’s recent history, many people left their villages, trying to find better lifes in big cities. Rural depopulation and land abandonment are still ongoing, leaving many small villages deserted. Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN) is turning this threat into an opportunity by fostering the comeback of nature and wildlife into these abandoned rural areas.

Abandoned house selected for restoration work in Ribeira do Mosteiro nature reserve.

Abandoned house selected for restoration work in Ribeira do Mosteiro nature reserve.
Agnelo Neutel/ Volunteer

The abandoned houses are monuments of past lives and, while wildlife is returning, the local rewilding team decided to also bring life back to these forgotten homes.

After acquiring the land of Ribeira do Mosteiro, the second biggest reserve in the Coa Valley, the main rewilding area in Western Iberia, the local rewilding team found several ruined houses, one of which showed a good potential for recovery. The team selected this house as a starting point for the recovery of the properties in the area.

The revitalization took place in three reconstruction phases. The first preliminary works took place during this summer and concentrated on lifting a foundation wall and the reconstruction of the roof. The second phase took place this October, starting with the arrival of a group of seven volunteers from Portugal and Germany, who spent almost two weeks working on the house. The volunteers, led by Agnelo Neutel, used traditional techniques of eco-construction and worked with quicklime, clay, and wood.

Volunteers from Portugal and Germany applying traditional techniques of eco-construction.

Volunteers from Portugal and Germany applying traditional techniques of eco-construction.
Agnelo Neutel/ Volunteer

— “I had a truly amazing and a unique experience during my stay in Ribeira do Mosteiro, as I have never done this before’’ says Margarida, one of the volunteers. ‘’For two weeks, we all lived in and with nature, sleeping in a rehabilitated watermill, using river water to drink and wash up after a day of work. We cooked on gas bottles that we were carrying with us, as we spent a lot of our time working on the abandoned house”.

Beside the construction of walls and the production of clay, the volunteers built a foundation for a vegetable garden. The garden’s completion is a part of the third phase of reconstruction, planned for next spring, when all the remaining works will be finished, the house will be ready to become a base for the rewilding team, volunteers, interns, and visitors.

If you are also interested to join the working camp, see here the web page section of ATN and read about various volunteering opportunities.

Blog entries express the views and opinions of their authors, which might not always fully overlap with those of Rewilding Europe.

Daniela Maria António

Western Iberia Communication officer

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