Upon deciding to leave the Algarve behind us, we called Herdade das Barradas da Serra in the morning and were promptly invited the same afternoon to interview Francisco, son of the family who runs the Herdade. Francisco collected us with his pickup, his Bernese Mountain Dog riding along in the cargo area. We packed all our gear and drove along the perimeter of the property, up the hill further and further until we reached a spectacular viewpoint, allowing us to take in the vastness of the Alentejo countryside and the mesmerising beauty of the Portuguese flora and fauna. The touch of the cork trees under our hands was rough and coarse. Francisco explained agricultural processes and environmental conditions to us with an impressive expertise and knowledge and showed us not only around the forest and cork trees, but also around the old ruins dispersed across the property. It gave us a chance to see old Alentejo construction methods first hand. We were accompanied by the trotting dog all along and it felt like an exciting group hike in the Portuguese countryside, full of new information and unexpected facts, accompanied by the fresh smell of wet earth beneath our feet.
During our interview up on the hill, Francisco spoke to us about the life cycle of cork trees, the beauty of harvesting them and about the importance of maintaining forests that adapt to the rapid climate change that drastically influences not only Portugal’s countryside.
Francisco Dias grew up among cork trees in Grândola and knows his family’s property Barradas da Serra by heart. After studying management in Lisbon he came back to a life in the countryside, taking care of the Herdade’s business, agriculture, plants and animals.