As part of my studies “International Forest Ecosystem Management” I spent three months at the Moinhos do Dão, focusing on the forest restoration work in the Micro Reserve.
Its been a great learning experience to spend that much time on this hill. Getting to know the soil, the plants, the heat and drought in summer, as well as the heavy rains and frosty nights in autumn. And with all these impressions, trying to envision a transformation into a more resilient and diverse ecosystem. Trying to find the role that we as humans can play in supporting the change. It’s been a gift to hear about the experiences that Freya and Steven made in the last years, to learn about their methods and to evolve new ones together. There is lots of space for new ideas and suggestions!
After many hours of pullerbearing, bramble-removing, mulching, seeding and planting, it’s amazing to see how the land has changed. From a non-accessible hill that is covered with tall broom to a rocky landscape with little paths that I love to walk on. Amazed by all the life that is found under that layer of broom: Saplings and larger trees of endemic oak species, strawberry trees, pines, hawthorns, an olive tree, native blooming shrubs and wild roses. Seeing these plants is what kept me going during the work. What gave me patience to dig up one bramble after the other, and perseverance in fighting with broom in the heat. Sometimes it felt quite destructive to pull out so many plants by their root, burning them, basically clear-cutting an area. To see these trees and saplings that are there already, and that now have light and space to grow tall, to spread their own seeds and to eventually form a self-regulated forest ecosystem that provides habitat for many more species. Seeing how easily broom and brambles catch and spread fire made it more understandable why we burn some of the woody material.
I loved to walk through the surrounding forests, collecting acorns and little trees to transplant them. It feels good to give something back to the soil, to plant something into each hole that we create.
A beautiful experience was to spend a full moon night on the hill together with Mary Ellen and Rory. To wake up on that hill and spend a day there without doing anything but observing and enjoying what is there and what has changed the last weeks. Realizing again the beauty of this place and dreaming of the forest that might establish here in future.
I hope there will be many more people to come and learn from and with this beautiful hill!