In which we meet Poupa the Deer and his Rather Goaty Step Mother:
An estate of around 4,000 in the heart of the Tejo Internacional Natural Park, Herdade da Poupa is named after a curious bird called the Poupa or Hoopoe (for its onomatopoeic call). We arrived in the late afternoon and as we drove up to the hotel, we were followed. First by a black goat…and then by a young deer.
Curious, we got out and started to unload bags to be greeted by both goat and deer who seemed to think we might have brought something nice for them – and obviously hidden it very well in the cases. We learnt later that the deer had been found abandoned as a fawn, rescued by the hotel staff and named Poupa. The friendly goat was employed as wet nurse and adopted the fawn. Now devoted to each other, it will be interesting to learn how things progress and whether the deer named after a bird who thinks he’s a goat gets over his identity crisis.
A few minutes to wash and tidy up, then we set off in the back of an open jeep for a tour of the estate. Vast areas of unspoilt Mediterranean scrubland and meadows, it was clear that this area is a perfect home for wildlife.
We did see a few very special birds from the back of the jeep, including the rare Bonelli’s eagle. And, we found a tortoise who seemed to be trying to get us to stress test his shell by making his way extremely slowly across the track. But, if you are a keen bird watcher, better to plan a longer stay and find out more about the opportunities for birdwatching at Herdade da Poupa. With more than 154 varieties of birds breeding there, the area is perfect for a birding trip and the hotel has already set up a range of hides (fixed, mobile and semi mobile). We were also told that there are plans to develop some very special comfortable permanent hides, with beds, toilets and kitchen facilities. The park is home to important nesting populations for a whole range of rare and threatened birds – four pairs of black storks, 3 pairs of Egyptian vultures, 2 pairs of Iberian imperial eagles, 2 pairs of gold eagles and a pair of Bonellis eagles, to name a few.
But, while it may be a haven for Birdwatchers, the hotel is luxurious and the food exceptionally good, making it a perfect place to stay and relax or explore the medieval villages, the countryside and the food and wine that make this such a special part of Portugal
A steep descent to about halfway down the Tejo Valley took us to a large building, refurbished and available for use through the hotel. It would be a wonderful place for a wedding or special celebration, with views out over the valley. A table was laid out with welcome aperitifs of local wines and more with a fantastic selection of canapés.
So good in fact that at a certain point we all needed reminding that we would return to the hotel for dinner! And, watching more eagles and vultures across the gorge might have been enough of a highlight were it not for a Nightjar who decided to pop in and say hello as the evening light faded.
After dinner we had a short presentation from one of the local experts, wildlife photographer Goncalo Rosa. Some of his photos are published on his own blog – well worth taking a look to see more of the birds you can find at Herdade da Poupa.
Waking the next morning to look out into the vast landscape from my own private balcony, I felt a million miles from London. It is an extremely comfortable hotel, with well designed bathrooms and luxurious beds. And I’d happily have spent the day lounging by the infinity pool, looking out over the park. Or just watching the house martins making themselves comfortable (we counted 27 nests).
But, there was more to see. So despite the goat putting on a tabletop protest, we had to leave!
- Casa das Penhas Douradas offers double rooms including breakfast from €88
- Herdade da Poupa offers double rooms including breakfast from €110
- Casa dos Poços offers double rooms including breakfast from €88
- TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932, www.flytap.com) flies from London Gatwick to Porto from £126 return including all taxes and charges
- For more information on Centro de Portugal visit: www.visitcentro.com/en/
- For more information on Portugal visit: www.visitportugal.com
I travelled as a guest of Centro de Portugal