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West Essex Goes to West Portugal

 In mid-May forty-nine West Essex and three Redbridge members set out on a walking week in the north-west corner of Portugal, organised by Ramblers worldwide Holidays.  The Costa Verde is an area known for its high hills, verdant countryside, extensive unspoilt beaches and fascinating old towns and villages.

 On our arrival in Vila Praia de Ancora there was a festive atmosphere with the town streets festooned with colourful paper flowers – did they know we were coming?  In the main square folk dancing and singing took place.  Later a fado performer entertained the crowd and the musical celebrations went on until midnight.

 After this rousing start our walking programme commenced.  With three rambling options on offer each day there was something for everyone, whatever the walking ability.  There were beach and coastal trails and more strenuous excursions into the flower-strewn Ancora Valley.  In the Serra D’Arga mountains we used old tracks that linked local villages.

 A highlight for many was the day we crossed the Rio Minho by ferry into the Spanish province of Galicia.  On this two-country walk most of us climbed to the top of Santa Tecla Mountain, where we had incredible vistas over the Portuguese and Spanish coastlines.  An unforgettable experience.

 Amidst all this rambling activity there was even time for some sightseeing in delightful towns such as Tui, Valenca, Caminha and Viana do Castelo.  Some of us visited the latter town on our last morning and were treated once again to folk dancing and singing.

 Not surprisingly, holidaying in an area known as the Emerald Coast there was always a chance of changeable weather.  After five days of glorious sunshine conditions became unsettled for the last part of the trip but this did not stop the walks.

 Hotel Meira provided a comfortable and relaxed base after our rambling endeavours. The wide choice at breakfast certainly sustained us for the daily walks ahead.  There was even port available at this early hour for those desiring it.  The evening meals were accompanied by another local ‘tonic’ – white and red vinho verde!

 Accolades must, of course, go to our three leaders:  Mark and Tina Riley and Steve Allen.  Mark and Tina live in Portugal and their knowledge of walking and leading in that country extends over a considerable number of years.  The programme options offered were many and varied and our grateful thanks go to all three for their contributions to a vastly interesting and enjoyable week.

John Juchau