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Quinta da Mimosa

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My husband and I worked at the Sunseed project in Almeria in Spain and loved the relaxed off-grid lifestyle. We decided to save some money and try and buy some land where we could grow veggies and live in a more sustainable way.

We grudgingly returned to the UK to work and lived with parents so we could save every penny possible of our wages.

After a very long feeling 20 months (and with a chunk of money in the bank) we climbed into our Astramax van and set off south to meander around southern France and Spain searching for cheap farms or abandoned villages. We searched and searched and drove and drove, going to places that were recommended or that were at the end of roads on the map. We found some beautiful places but nothing felt ‘right’.

Eventually we ended up back in Almeria. We considered buying in the same village where we had previously worked but whilst in the UK the prices had trebled and our explorations had highlighted how little water was there.

We heard a friend had bought in Southern Portugal and so 6 months into our trip, we crossed the border into Portalegre. The difference was immediate. Beautiful green scenery, mixed broadleaf woodland, running streams, amazing wildlife, incredibly friendly people, cheap properties and 50c beers! We just needed to find the right place.

The area was lovely but as our friends were near Monchique and so we decided to carry on South. Monchique is beautiful with a great community, fantastic water (the most essential thing we had learned when buying a property) and some great hidden valleys. We decided we were not going to use agents but drove around the area, exploring every track we could find and asking the locals we met about empty properties. We must have found, explored and viewed hundreds of places but nowhere ticked every box.

After two or three months of doing this we eventually found our perfect place. Three cottages close together for us and friends, some beautiful land with a stream running past (where we could set up a hydrosystem) in a secluded valley. It was heaven. We visited the financas, located the owners, visited them many times trying to get them to say a price (always difficult!).

Everything was just starting to fall into place when the forest fires swept through. It was 2003 and it has since been estimated that 336,000 hectares burnt that year in Portugal, including a huge area around Monchique and the land we wanted to buy. The owners and all of the locals were devastated. Although the farms all look abandoned, in reality the owners live in towns and work in normal jobs for low wages most of the time, with the farms being used to grow vegetables, crop cork and make the spirit madronha. With the farms burnt, no-one would be having any of the additional income that made life a bit easier for several years.

Our land was destroyed, we had run out of money for searching and so, tails-between-our-legs headed back to the UK. We still liked Portugal but thought we would have to discount it as the fires had made us very wary of living anywhere with so much eucalyptus.

We both started working again and somehow a couple of months later, in a bored lunchtime internet search at work, I found a beautiful looking farm advertised on Pure Portugal. On paper it had everything we wanted. Good water, potential for hydroelectric, an existing barn, planning permission for houses, beautiful looking land and no eucalyptus nearby. It even had a circus caravan!

It had to be worth another trip. We both took a week of leave from work and flew over to stay in the lovely Andy and Sophie’s yurt and look at some more properties. It was fantastic and despite looking at many others, we ended up buying the property I had originally found in my internet search!

I flew home, my husband stayed on longer to sign for the property and we had our beautiful farm.

It can be a difficult life. It can be hard to earn money here and it is very hot in the Summer but it is a real life. My children can play outside and make dens in a way that isn’t possible any more in the UK. My daughter is in the local school and is doing really well, she came top of her class in Portuguese! ? I have dogs, cats, pygmy goats, chickens and baby chicks which I adore watching. There are wild boar, badgers, mongooses, foxes and genets in the woods with eagles overhead.

We can grow anything here as we are on the border between the Mediterranean and temperate climates and so with careful positioning oranges and lemons grow alongside hawthorn and sloes. There are even banana and date palms in very protected locations in the village! Fruit and vegetables leap out of the ground as long you are happy watering lots in the Summer.

After growing up near the Scottish border, I also like the fact that there are four distinct seasons here. I got bored in Spain, just day after day of hot sunny weather where you could never smell the earth! Here we have lots of rain at times but that’s what makes it green, and the Winter feels like Winter with frosty nights even when the days are still sunny.

Moving here was a good decision that has enabled me to live my life in a beautiful place, amongst amazing people with the time to live in a more natural way and look after my children myself. I’m very pleased I spent that lunchtime in the office and found Pure Portugal!

Find Zoe’s Beleza Munda Natural Organic Skincare products in the Pure Portugal Shop!