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Saturday, 20 March 2010

By the fountain down the road

Water features are everywhere in Portugal; decorative fountains in the towns and in the middle of roundabouts and features to provide water to homes and industry. Facing the Atlantic, water is not as scarce as it is in much of Spain, but it is still clearly a managed resource; the newspaper has a list of reservoirs and what capacity they are at every day. These reservoirs, or Barragems, are dotted around the hilly areas of Portugal; many of these are vast lakes, spectacular country roads cross them and hug their shores and they are widely used for water sports and fishing.

In the villages you can still see water features from the time when there was no running water in people’s homes; most villages still have communal taps with tiled surrounds or village pumps, Carol is getting some exercise turning the mechanism for the pump in a village near Poco Redondo. In the fields mechanical water pumps for agriculture are disused and rusting; on walks we pass old wells with no fencing around them just waiting for someone to fall in and the remains of old water wheels can be spotted. Towns often have a large water tower, sometimes colourfully decorated; the water tower in Poco Redondo was painted pastel pink.

Evora and Serpa both had a fine aqueducts and the Convento de Cristo in Tomar, the HQ for the Knights Templar, has a 7 km long aqueduct built in the 17th Century to provide water to the Convento. This impressive monument is built high above the valley and, typically for all of main-land Europe, you can walk along it without the benefit of a hand-rail.

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