It’s not all about writing but about creativity and action –going walking in the Portuguese landscape combined both!

The writing retreat comes alive with a dash of sunshine

The writing retreat is just beginning to come alive. Today is the first day it hasn’t poured with rain for weeks and it was only a while back we were fighting forest fires in the area! Does this sound like a great advert? If you are looking for drama in your writing it probably is!

The retreat courtyard is brimming

Let’s start again shall we? The retreat courtyard is just brimming with horticultural possibilities and flowers are gingerly coming into bloom. This morning clematis and roses are doing their thing and there are many waiting patiently in the wings to take their turn in the spotlight.

I talk a walk after a week’s writing

On Sunday I took a walk to clear the brain and work the legs after a week spent sitting at the computer writing all day and every day. It was an extraordinary experience to be striding out and the weather was kind with clear blue skies and sunshine which was gentle enough for a determined hike.

Spectacular Views And A Knowledgeable Guide

The writing retreat is set in a spectacular part of Portugal and it’s easy to get blasé about what is on offer. The walk I took underlined the beauty of the landscape in no uncertain way and with my Portuguese guide who is also my closest friend I knew we would end up somewhere awe-inspiring. A walk, as we all know is so good for the brain and that rhythmic pace somehow allows for a freedom of thought which is often missing as I stare at a computer screen. She is always full of stories about what happens and what used to happen and she regaled me with tales of three rich brothers who never married but lost their money to a woman who appeared in their lives and died penniless. She talked of the long walks lovers would have to undertake as there were no roads or transport, just 30 years ago. I feel I cannot compete and simply keep asking questions.

Ammonites And Wildflowers Just Beyond The Writing Retreat

I returned home with an ammonite fossil, some Tradescantia cuttings and a character for a story and a tiredness that threatened to overwhelm me on the spot! The walk was extraordinary as much for the views as the plethora of wild flowers which have sprouted everywhere. The air is loaded with the scent of jasmine and broom and if there ever was a reason needed to celebrate being alive a walk out here does the trick. Wild irises, gladioli, broom, gorse, rock roses, orchids, poppies, the list is seemingly endless and offers up treasures whatever the season.

Memories Of A Cornish Countryside

We trekked through unmade tracks between dry stone walls, that exude a hint of the Cornish countryside but have subtle differences shot right through, like the lizard I watched sun bathing and the rock structures themselves – igneous rocks, well-weathered and exposing great holes in their composition. One assumes produced by trapped gases which expand in a rapidly solidifying lava if I learned anything from my geological education. There is a plugged volcano nearby so that would make sense even to someone like me. Oh for a geologist!

We walked through these tracks, up and down hills and into one deserted hamlet after another, picking our way through derelict stone buildings sharing stories. Eventually we ended up in a clump of building with just one inhabitant already in her 90s. Her house overlooks a derelict chapel bearing the date 1716 on the stone above the entrance arch. We stopped to chat and she stood holding her black apron which was filled with freshly picked peas. The birds were singing, two dogs barked somewhat mournfully and a goat watched us through a large crack in her shed.

Possibilities Of A Plot Line

As we finally said goodbye and she settled down on some upturned roof tiles to prepare her peas we refilled our water bottle from the local fountain which runs clear and fresh although the council have tacked up a sign saying: ‘Agua sem vigilancia’. All the while my mind was turning with the possibilities of a plot line. As I walked, my drama script was uppermost in my brain and I was picking shots out of the scenery in a wonderful daydream.

Beyond The Writing Retreat Gates

The wonderful aspect of this location is you can walk into the countryside within a minute of closing the writing retreat gates and be out in the wilderness all alone. In two hours two cars passed us and we saw one other person. I came back on Sunday too satisfyingly weary to begin a writing exercise but my head is stuffed full with possibilities, wild flowers and a woman who is standing in a black apron outside a stone chapel.

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