QUINTA DAS ABELHAS
In 2016 we purchased 25 acres of land near the Serra da Estrela in Central Portugal. It consisted of pine monoculture and degraded grassland. We are creating a haven for the honey bee and all pollinators, bringing back wildlife and native forest to this abandoned farm. We are one of 8 projects in our valley who are collectively bringing change covering approximately 50 hectares.
Over a short period of time we have been observing how, with strategic human interventions, transformation can occur quickly. We began by removing the pine monoculture to allow light to return to the forest floor, and we witnessed the native trees such as oak and chestnut returning.
Then, through interventions such as composting, mulching, water retention strategies and seeding, we witnessed a significant increase in the number and diversity of wild flowers and plants. This has led to many more pollinators such as butterflies and bees. In turn, the bird life is increasing rapidly, and this year we have witnessed more birds breeding on our land. For the first time, we have seen the exotic hoopoe rearing their young, as well as an increase in the bat population.
In 2019, we witnessed the pine monoculture across Portugal being hit with the nematode disease which is killing off these trees. This has sped up the urgency of our work to save some of the pine so they are part of the mix of trees in a healthy biodiverse forest. The next phase will consist of felling more pine trees that are either dead or dying. This will allow even more light to penetrate the forest floor, which in turn will encourage the small self-seeded native trees to flourish, so more can rise up from the seed bank existing within the soil. We are supporting this with additional tree and forage planting to provide extra all year-round forage required for the bees, butterflies, bats and birds on the land.
Retreat with Nature
If you would like to experience time on the land and learn more click here.