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So …, how’s it been for you?

This year’s been a trifle daunting to put it mildly, don’t you think, and I apologise for beating a drum, but I must get something off my chest. I have never written a blog before that was not up-beat, but there has to be a first time for everything. Personally those of us who live and work here at the Quinta and those of us who run “Birding in Portugal” are happy, in good health and thriving, but I have a deep, dark well of anger that I am keeping bottled up inside. This post will alleviate it a trifle.

A pandemic that has swept the globe has been handled with the utmost crassness by several “leaders” of the world’s economic powerhouses. They responded firstly by minimising its threat and followed this up by valuing their economies higher than those members of the population who contributed with their lives’ work towards making those economies successful, all the while sending contradictory and vague messages that reassured no-one and which have materially prolonged the devastation.

When the world needed leaders, those in charge of the wealthiest economies were found wanting and a pandemic that could have been beaten was left to run riot through sluggardly action. 

I feel deep sorrow for the many thousands who have had their lives cut short, and for those other thousands who will face debilitating consequences to their health for the rest of their lives. Add to these the millions who will be affected by the global crash brought on by these leaders’ ineptitude and my anger at the charlatans who are responsible is limitless.

I sympathise with anyone who has not been as lucky as us, those unlucky souls trapped in a flat for months on end, those trying to cope in inhospitable conditions, those with no access to the outside world. They have drawn a very short straw and from everything I have read to date it appears as if this virus attacks the “poor and packed” to a far greater degree than the rich. It makes me feel guilty to admit that we have actually enjoyed the last six months. 

We have not missed the ringing of the telephone, nor the eternal emails. We have missed seeing people of course, but this has been more than offset by the joy of having the Quinta all to ourselves for once. We have had plenty to keep us occupied and plenty of space in which to attack many projects that have been staring us in the face for far too long. The business has suffered hugely but we have continued raising money for conservation, and I am confident that the business to which I have given the majority of my working life will survive. We’ve been through this kind of thing before, we survived then and we can weather this one out too, but I feel very sad for those who will not be as lucky as us, those who took a punt at just the wrong time, those who had a dream and have seen that dream crumble to dust through no fault of their own, their hard work or their commitment.

There have been very few immediate impacts of Covid-19 as far as the Quinta is concerned. Portugal as whole “went hard and went early” and social distancing and the obligatory wearing of masks in all public places was implemented throughout the country in March with general acceptance by the populace.  Why the devil the USA and the UK have not taken this obvious step is beyond me – and everyone else in the world quite frankly. Too little too late and  … oh, I must stop, but it beggars belief. I suppose the biggest difference is that there’s a culture here that is best described as “us, us, us” as opposed to “me, me, me” and this was obvious from the word go.

I’ll just put this one out there though … in the whole of southern Portugal, the Algarve and the Alentejo combined, we’ve had 25 Covid-19 deaths, despite the vast majority of the population registering most decidedly in the “at risk” group, having an average age of 65. Obviously population density has a large hand in this, but that cuts both ways as the local infrastucture is nowehere near as comprehensive or advanced as areas more densely populated.

And that’s enough from me. I believe passionately in positivity and always look for the bright side – and there has been one for us – but I have seldom felt so angry. It’s good to have lanced that particular boil just a little as the various lockdowns come to an end and the Quinta fills up once again with our many guests and friends.

It pays to have a flutter!

We’re very proud to say that in 2019 the Quinta raised over €40,000 for conservation efforts worldwide!

Every year we donate a holiday here to the Birdfair that takes place during August in Rutland, UK, but last year we also donated one to the British Trust for Ornithology and they used it as their top prize in a raffle; together, these two donations raised the princely sum mentioned above – so this year we’re doing it again! Read on for how to win one of these holidays, but first I should mention the lucky winners.

Chris & Derek Allnutt won the BTO Raffle and Ian & Debbie Dury won the Birdfair Auction

If you want to see some of the species we saw when we took them out birding then pop on over to our Birding in Portugal site and look at yesterday’s blog.

So, do you fancy your luck? Go on! Both options contribute towards Conservation.

If you want to go for the Birdfair Auction you’ll have to wait till August and travel to Rutland – worth going to the Birdfair in any case! – but the BTO Raffle is current right now and you don’t even have to leave your chair. Just click on the link – it’s not just the birds that can have a flutter!

Retreats for All!

Shala Group 6578

For those wanting to find a Themed Retreat, we have plenty to choose from during 2020

There’s no problem coming on your own or with a group of friends, all ages and proficiencies are welcomed and we have Wellness Retreats throughout the year.

As regards other Retreats, following our successful Batik’n’Birding Weeks and Printing with Birding Weeks over the last few years we’re running some more again in 2020 with  Marie-Thérèse King and Lucy Gell 

Marie Theres King Lucy Gell

Marie Thérèse King & Lucy Gell

They’ll be sharing a “Batik and Printing with Birding” Week for the seven nights of 4th to 10th July. Included will be the option of 2 local walks or hide Birding mornings with Frank as well as the optional extra of a visit to a local potter and a Chocolate Museum. There’s limited space so book early!
Later in the year Marie-Thérèse returns for the seven nights of 3rd to 9th October for a Batik Week where she’ll be bringing along her own Yoga Instructor, Sally Padget.

We also have a couple of weeks for those interested in having a week’s holiday whose primary focus is Yoga and Wellbeing. 

Jamila Pumm

Jamila Pumm will be leading a “Yoga of Bliss” week for the seven nights of 31st May to 6th June, 

followed on the 9th June by Louise Brown 

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who’s running a five night workshop, “Relax, Restore, Reset”. This will include twice daily yoga + meditation (2 hour dynamic practice in the morning, 90min Yin and Yoga Nidra in the late afternoon), as well as one inversions workshop and one arm balancing workshop.

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The following month Rosie and Emma Markwick 

Rosie Emma Markwick

Rosie & Emma Markwick

will be leading a “Deep Dive Retreat” for the six nights of 12th to 17th July.

Later on in the year Wendy Palmer-Grove will be leading a “Wellbeing through Nature” retreat, (including Tai Chi Qigong, Mindfulness walks, meditation and yoga, Breath exercises, local Nature Walks and Coaching, all with no experience required) for the seven nights of 11th to 17th September.

Wendy Galapagos

Wendy Palmer-Grove

This retreat evolved through the passion and knowledge that she has for the great outdoors. These bespoke retreats harness Wendy’s professional therapeutic experience with the holistic benefits that nature has to offer. The retreats are run in partnership with her family’s business, “Experience Nature Holidays”, a well established wildlife watching holiday provider which ensures your holiday booking is professionally covered, ABTA approved. She is the founder of Coachgenie.uk, an established wellbeing consultancy, supporting clients to develop self-management skills for positive mental and physical wellbeing as well as being a clinical Mindfulness Teacher, Wellbeing Coach, and practitioner across five holistic therapies. Her programmes in Mindfulness are accredited by the British Psychological Society and Tai Chi Qigong is accredited by CIMSPA. 

So, just for clarity, the Activity and Retreat breaks we have for 2020 are as follows:-

7 nights of 31st May to 6th June inclusive Jamila Pumm “Yoga of Bliss”

5 nights of 9th to 13th June inclusive, Louise Brown, “Relax, Restore, Reset”

7 nights of 4th to 10th July inclusive Marie-Thérèse King and Lucy Gell “Batik and Printing with Birding”

6 nights of 12th to 17th July inclusive Rosie and Emma Markwick “Deep Dive Retreat”

7 nights of 3rd to 9th October inclusive Marie-Thérèse King “Batik with Yoga”

7 nights of 11th to 17th September Wendy Palmer-Grove “Wellbeing through Nature”

7 nights of 19th to 25th September Travelling Naturalist “Birding the Alentejo and the Algarve during the Autumn migration”

Birdfair Raffle Winners

Have you been hanging around waiting to see who won the Birdfair Raffle? Well, the first prize out of the hat wasn’t claimed so here’s the second draw

The first prize of a week’s free accommodation for two people in a double or twin bedded room at Quinta do Barranco da Estrada anytime during mid season 2019 or 2020 is Rachel Cross.

The 2nd and 3rd prizes of three free midweek night’s accommodation for the same amount of people during the same period have been claimed.

Rachel should contact me via the email address in the “Contact” page of this website, (using the same address furnished at the time of the raffle at the Birdfair), by 25th September to claim her prize.


This has got absolutely nothing at all to do with the Quinta, apart from the fact that I’m quite partial to photographing Nature – and birds in particular, as you can see from the Quinta’s other website, www.birding-in-portugal.com.

However, at the risk of muddling those who read this blog with no interest at all in our avian friends, I find these two shots quite interesting …

A few months ago Daniela and I were in Thailand chasing birds – what else?! – and the day before we left I was lucky enough to get a lovely picture of an Indian Roller …

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)

… and then yesterday I was out guiding a birding trip from the Quinta and I managed a very similar shot of a European Roller.

European Roller (Coracias garrulus)

And they say that European birds are all “brown and boring” … I dunno about you, but they sure as hell rock my boat!

We’re over the moon!

Why? Let me tell you …

Male Montagu’s Harrier

Here at the Quinta it’s well known that we’re pretty “pro-nature”, but it’s not just because we have the most wonderful sights of Nature all around us on a regular basis that we’re so happy right now. No, it’s more than that …

In these days of the “Trash Tag” craze we like to remember that we’ve always done our bit for the environment over the years, raising awareness of conservation issues and living a sustainable life as far as possible. We’re lucky and there’s not so much trash around here so we raise a fair amount of money for charitable causes instead.

Southern Brown Argus

For example, last winter we donated to CABS, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, who run proactive campaigns against poachers and the indiscriminate destruction of our avian heritage, and every August we donate at least £500 to the Birdfair to help them with their conservation goals … but this year we’ve hit the jackpot!

Male & female Sardinian Warbler

The BTO, (British Trust for Ornithology), have just been in touch to let us know that the week’s holiday we gave them from “Birding in Portugal” as a first prize in their annual raffle has raised over £34,000.

That’s right, over £34,000!

Now you know why we’re over the moon!

Cool Bananas! 7th year running!

Yes, our team has done it again! For the 7th year in a row we’ve been awarded a “Certificate of Excellence” by Tripadvisor! To say we’re proud is an understatement as this Certificate is officially “the business” in the hospitality trade and we’re over the moon. Not only that but we’re officially in their “Hall of Fame” as having received this award for just 5 years running.

My personal thanks go to the Quinta Team, led by the wondrous Daniela who has the sterling help of Fatima – with us now for over 30 years – and the new girl Dulce, who’s only been here 10! Of course we’d also like to thank the commitment of our volunteers over these years and the strength and support furnished by our family and many friends! We’ll raise a glass or two to you all!

While I’m here it seems the right time to remind everyone about the Printing and Batik with Birds Course we’re running for the seven nights 8th to 14th June. Lucy Gell and Marie Therese King are coming back again following their successful courses over the last few years and it promises to be another week of fun and learning.

Full details can be found on either of their two websites, and yes, we’ll be having more of their courses in September and October too.

Introducing the Quinta’s new Shala and some dates for 2019

We’re proud to introduce the Quinta’s new Shala!

The Quinta's new Shala

The Quinta’s new Shala

I’d like to take the opportunity to announce that we’ve completed our large new Shala, so if you know of any Yoga or Retreat organisers we’d feel very grateful if you passed our website on to them.

We actually completed it at the end of last winter and it’s been in use a great deal during this last season. Of course we’ve had Yoga retreats on it …

Yoga's for all ages and proficiencies ...

Yoga’s for all ages and proficiencies …

… both for adults and kids …

... right down to kids too!

… right down to kids too!

… but it’s not just been used for those who want to stretch their limbs – we’ve also had a couple of weddings too, for those who wanted to stretch their lives!

Weddings come in all shapes ...

Weddings come in all shapes …

We’ve found that it’s just the perfect setting for more formal occasions like that above, as well as having that adaptable ambiance suitable for those wishing for more of an alternative ceremony, like that below.

... sizes and colours!

… sizes and colours!

The beauty of the Quinta as a venue though is that more often than not the weddings we’ve had here last a whole week full of fun, good food, good wine and wonderful memories – and the price is still cheaper than the average cost of one in the UK. No problems either with neighbours complaining about the noise!

Now, while I’m here I should let you know about some of the Retreats we have planned for next year …

Of course there’s the Birding as usual at any time, (but predominantly during the Spring and Autumn migrations), but as well as this we’re running two weeks of Yoga with Michelle Surya, the first to coincide with the official start of Spring for the nights of 16th to 20th March, and the second for the seven nights 15th to 21st June at the beginning of Summer.

Michelle Surya

Michelle Surya

These weeks already have some participants so please get in touch with us smartish if this rings your bell. Dates for an Autumn week are in the pipeline, so if you’re interested in this one just drop us a line.
Added to this we have Marie-Therese King and Lucy Gell returning once again for a mixed Batik and Printing week, 8th to 14th June.

Lucy Gell

Lucy Gell

Lucy’s returning to run another Printing week from 31st August to 6th September, (only two spaces left), and Marie-Therese runs another Batik and Birding week from 5th to 11th October.

Marie-Therese running this year's Batik Week

Marie-Therese running this year’s Batik Week

Quite honestly it’s going to be difficult to fit it all in and it sure looks as if we’re going to be busy again, so, as the saying goes, “Book early while there’s still space!”

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy …

… but sadly it’s coming to an end and the migration’s already in full swing as the birds head south again.

Eurasian Jay with terrapin

Eurasian Jay with terrapin

Some’ll stay, like this Eurasian Jay, but the Nightingale below that we saw a month ago will go soon if it hasn’t already.

Common Nightingale

Common Nightingale

Another shot from a few weeks ago was this cracker of a Common Nightingale flying past a Water Rail, both species not that easy to see – just a pity it was on the shady side of the river.

Common Kingfisher with Water Rail

Common Kingfisher with Water Rail

That’s usually not the problem with Cattle Egret who relish as much exposure as they can get, and talking of exposure, I’ve published the names of the Birdfair Raffle winners on the Quinta’s Birding Blog, so if you took part pop over there to see if you’ve won.

What’s on the horizon … Retreats and Birding dates for 2018

No rain - but that hasn't stopped the narcissi!

No rain – but that hasn’t stopped the narcissi!

Being in the middle of a serious drought means that we’re constantly scanning the horizon for clouds of any sort that might signal rain, but sadly, so far, there has been little to get excited about and we’ve had precisely two days of showers and one small thunderstorm since May … but are we down-hearted? Nay! Never, and neither is the garden. The narcissi above started flowering even before the ash trees lost their leaves and they seem to be making the most of the sunny days.

Of course these winter months are filled with maintenance and building projects for Daniela, I and the Quinta team. Painting and weeding and chopping down and clearing up, and re-organising and re-re-organising – it never stops. This year the big plan is for a new “space”; we’re calling it the Yoga Shala as it will be used for that especially as it faces due east to catch the rising sun, but it’ll be used just as much for get-togethers and for hosting our increasing number of Retreats. We’ve always been a bit stymied for space for these so a new shady space measuring 20 mts by 8 mts should fit the bill nicely. While I’ve been building it I’ve noticed that it’s even good for Dartford Warblers and other friends so I’m sure it’ll be a good place also for our birding visitors.

Marie Therese is always on hand - and what better place to learn Batik than the Quinta!

Marie Therese is always on hand – and what better place to learn Batik than the Quinta!

Talking of Retreats, here’re some dates for next year …

We have Marie Therese King returning for more Batik’n’Birding on two dates; the first is seven nights from the 26th May and the second is for seven nights from 6th October. These have proved to be a great success over the last few years and as space is limited I suggest an early enquiry to Marie Therese should you be interested in learning or perfecting this interesting and innovative technique.

Following on from one of Marie Therese’s weeks and starting on the 2nd June the Quinta will be hosting Lucy Gell who will be running a Print’n’Birding week which promises to be fun. Once again, places are limited, especially as she will be covering techniques including drypoint etching and linocut, giving participants the opportunity to produce a number of prints as they learn to improve their line and texture in these exciting mediums, so book early to avoid disappointment.

There are other Retreats too, notably Todd Acamesis’ Spiritual Underground Retreats which’ll be running twice next year at the Quinta, both times for five nights, the first from 27th June and the second from the 5th September. Here’s a link to the article about his OBEs from August this year.

Of course we also have our normal nature-orientated agencies as usual if you want to bird with like-minded people in an organised group; you might even be lucky enough to see Great Bustards fighting like in this Youtube clip from one of Frank’s Guided Birding Trips

Ornitholidays have two weeks and Travelling Naturalist also.

Ornitholidays will be coming out for a week from 6th May and again for another week from 16th September and Travelling Naturalist also for a week from 7th April and again from 23rd September. Both of these companies are leaders in the field and have both been working with us here at the Quinta for many years.