Spring Break, Retreat to Nature
Research shows time spent in nature can reduce stress and improve the body’s immune system and mood. According to a report from the University of East Anglia in the UK, exposure to green space can reduce the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. So with this in mind and the notion that nature soothes, heals and can help restore balance we can take a digital detox and use the spring break to get outdoors into parks, fields, forests, and gardens to rejuvenate and calm the senses.
I’m finding the mountains (Serra de Monchique) just beautiful at this time of the year as trees show off their blossoms and beauty before they drop their flowers and in turn, bear their fruits for the new season. Poppies are literally popping up like splodges of paint across the landscape the red and purple varieties standing out from the green background. Growth, renewal and a freshness to the air gives us plenty to be grateful for as we anticipate summer. Its perfect weather for hiking and I’m managing to go out three or four times a week. Here is a snapshot of some of the spring flowers and landscapes that have given me pleasure along the way.
The medieval town of Silves is the hottest part of the Algarve and it is known for its oranges and clementines. The beauty here is the orange tree holds it blossom and fruit at the same time and the blossom gives off the most amazing aroma attracting bees and insects reminding us spring is here bringing everything to life.
Oranges blossoms near Silves
Takeaway: Orange blossom raw honey on fresh bread is delicious or try Portuguese orange cake (bolo de laranja) perfect with a cup of tea.
This mountain range in the northern Algarve boasts a variety of trees including cork oaks, eucalyptus, pine, almond, carob and as seen here fig.
Figs emerging from their shoots
Takeaway: When the figs are ripe we can look forward to a homemade sweet or spicy fig chutney which pairs beautifully with a goats cheese
The mountains and forest are linked with tracks and trails and the Via Algarviana runs through this area with signs to follow connecting you from east to west. This section is full of lush vegetation set deep into the forest and mountain where in winter and spring waterfalls can be accessed. Even in the hidden depths of the forest, the sun slips through the cover allowing the flowers to grow
One of many waterfalls
Takeaway: Water holds negative ions that can have a positive effect on our mood and concentration. Next time you are near flowing water pay attention to how it makes you feel. As the water cascades awakening your senses, you should feel tranquil, the same as listening to the sea or bringing a water feature into your home or workplace.
Spring flowers are in abundance and include wild iris, orchids, lavender and lupins.
Lovely lupins (Lupinus) scattered all over the mountain
Takeaway: The dried bean is a popular snack when soaked in salt water or roasted raw. We can find this highly nutritious legume sold in jars in the supermarkets across the Algarve.
Poppies rise up in front of a cork oak forest
If you are visiting the Algarve and are looking to spend time in the hills contact me for guided hikes, walks, food tours or just quiet time, connecting with nature.
My secret place
And if you are feeling the pressure of deadlines and a heavy workload and can’t get outdoors, evidence suggests bringing plants, imagery and the colours of nature inside, into your surroundings can also boost your mood and levels of wellbeing.
Science Daily, July 2018, Its Official Nature is Good For You, University of East Anglia
U.S National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health. Healthy Workplaces: The Effects of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health, Erin Largo-Wight, Ph.D. W. William Chen, Ph.D. CHES, Virginia Dodd, Ph.D., MPH, and Robert Weiler, Ph.D. MPH