Pico Ruivo

In this difficult time of lock down and the fact that our walking exercise has been restricted to local areas only means it has not been possible to get out to the places that we have had on our list to walk. So the choice was to either write up about a walk round the block or to think back to a trek we did a while.

Two years ago, Susan and I holidayed on the beautiful island of Madeira, a walker’s paradise where many walks can be taken along any of the 200 Levadas (water channels created for irrigation) or across the mountain ranges. I had it on the holiday list to hike up to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on Madeira. It can be reached only by foot, either by a strenuous hike from Pico do Arieiro (3rd highest peak) or the shorter easier trail that we took from Achada do Teixeira, besides we were on holiday!

Pico Ruivo stands at 1,861 metres (6,106 ft) high and gives some of the most incredible views of the island from coast to coast. We were not disappointed as the August day we chose to do the trek was 30°C+ and clear skies, albeit with a little low-level cloud to the north, it was a hot walk so plenty of water is a must, however being so high means that unpredictable weather conditions can at times make it quite dangerous.

We stayed in Funchal, hired a car and drove round the coast to Santana before taking the narrow winding road inland to Achada do Teixeira which sits at 1582m above sea level, leaving a climb of 304m (1116 ft) to the summit.

On leaving the car park the trail to the top and back is 5.5km (3.4 miles) and steadily ascends along a well-worn track on the ridge that separates the cliffs of Faial and those of Santana. Views from this ridge take in the other great peaks of the central mountain massif towards the south and the coastline of the North including Queimadas Forest park.

Along this first part of the ascent there are several small open shelters where refuge can be taken, as the change in climate can be sudden with the area often becoming covered in a sea of clouds. For ourselves they were ideal places to escape the sun and cool down.

Further along the track is the Pico Ruivo government house, which is now a rest house situated at the junction of three other much longer hiking trails that will take you to different parts of the island.

After a packed lunch and short rest at the government house we headed up the steeper last section to the summit, a bit tougher, but on reaching the viewing platform at the top the views were spectacular and well worth the climb. 

Looking south, the ‘Nuns Valley’ (Curral Das Freiras) can be seen, a huge valley that was either created by erosion or volcanic eruption, however it is so named as the nuns from the Santa Clara Convent in Funchal would flee here with the convent treasure to escape the pirates that attacked the town.

On very clear days the island of Porto Santo lying 27 miles to the northeast of Madeira can be seen and also the uninhabited nature reserves of the Desertas islands that sit 16 miles south east of Madeira.

Looking east the Ponta de Sao Lourenco can be seen and is a headland at the Eastern most part of the island which is also great for walking.

The route back descends along the same track to the car park at Achada do Teixeira where the “Standing Man” can be visited, a basalt formation which can be found down the cliff, just past the Achada do Teixeira government house.

Certainly a place we will return to in the future to explore the levadas and the many other walks the island has to offer.

Blakes Mead Art Trail

Blakes Mead Art Trail (Felpham)

This months trek follows on from the success of the Bersted Park Art Trail and continues the theme by exploring the wooden sculptures situated within the new Blakes Mead housing estate in Felpham. These works of art have been commissioned by ADC and funded by the developers of the estate to bring some magnificent features. 

This local trail is accessible to all, starting at the Felpham Community Centre it takes in eight sculptures that have been created by local chainsaw carver Simon Groves and are designed to reflect Felpham’s connection with the sea, agriculture, nature and William Blake.

The first sculpture situated by the community centre is a ‘Trail Guide*’ that gives details where the other seven sculptures can be found. This route differs from the Bersted Park trail as it is more developed, however this article details the best way to navigate around the trail taking in as many green spaces as possible.

From the community centre follow the public footpath towards Felpham. The first sculpture sited at the end of a grassed area and centred between a triangle of three newly planted Oak trees is a ‘Giant Acorn*’ that represents the wood used for the sculptures and will change in perspective as the oak trees surrounding it grow taller.

Site of Giant Acorn

Continue on the footpath and over a small bridge that is crossing one of the many flood relief tributaries to another small open grassed area where a giant ‘Sycamore Seed’ has been carved out as a bench and shaped as a giant replica of the seed.

Sycamore Seed

Join the cycle track that leads away from Felpham and which borders the western end of the estate to the main A259. At this point a public amenity space is being created and great views can be had of the south downs. Take a right and follow the grassed areas behind the raised tree laden bank which provides a sound barrier from the road. Walking round the flood relief ponds that are extremely dry at the moment to the far end of the recreation field and take a rest on the ‘Animal Tracks Bench’, which is very simple in design but cleverly features the wild tracks of the rabbit, heron and deer all of which can be spotted nearby, particularly so, if extending your walk to the fields beyond.

Continue to follow the northern border, past more relief ponds and on a small grassed circle where paths converge is the ‘The Seaside Totem Pole’ that links Felpham with the sea, it has been carved very cleverly incorporating many creatures and features of the sea, How many can you see?, every time i look at it i find something different.

Still keeping to the edge, cross the entry road and remain on the grass, just before a further play park is the amazing ‘Tyger Tyger Bench’ which is a link to William Blake depicting his famous poem, this sculpture showcases a life size tiger on a bench, that is so realistic it’s unreal. 

From here pass amongst the trees that have been kept in place and once made up the original footpath from the end of Normans Drive to estate edge and follow to the pond that was put in with fountains as a decorative feature to the estate outside the first show homes that were built. Aptly situated by this pond is the ‘Kingfisher statue’, towering above the ducks below. Look carefully as fish can be seen in the pond and herons are often seen here stalking them. The fountains have long gone but the pond remains as a lovely feature.

Kingfisher Statue

A short cut can be taken to the last carving but i prefer to continue around the edge, passing through the trees to the last flood relief pond and back through to the far end of the trail where there is the ‘Way Marker’ indicating local sites in Blakes Mead and beyond, the base it sits on features Felpham’s links to agriculture and farming. Head in the direction of ‘Felpham Rec’ sign and work your way back to the community centre to complete this trail.

* Sculptures not in place at time of writing but are due to be installed soon

Further detail and map can be found at:

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/5229523/Blakes-Mead-Art-Trail