Central Algarve: the potteries of Porches

Olaria Pequena has such an enticing exterior

I’m still relatively new to this outdoor writing lark; however, the one thing I learned from Harri is it’s essential to get the route right. This is true whether you’re hiking in South Wales or walking in and around Armação de Pêra.

Making do with a route just because you’ve put in the miles simply never works. The ‘naff’ bits will niggle at your brain continually.

When Harri was writing his Wales end to end – O Fôn i Fynwy , we walked the entire length of the country in 22 days, following a carefully planned route. Back home, he began writing up the instructions; however, he remained unhappy with one particularly boggy section in mid Wales. A month later, we returned to the area. Harri had devised a new route less prone to flooding. In the outdoor writing field, as in life generally, it’s never wise to settle for second best.

Bar Bacchus Cafe and gardens at Porches Pottery

Which is how I found myself re-walking a planned Walkingworld submission in 28 degrees. My original plan was to devise a walk from Armação de Pêra to Porches and Porches Pottery, and back. I walked the route on March 4, just ten days before lockdown. In the spirit of multi-tasking, I’d combined the walk with a meeting with Tomorrow‘s sales rep Janine at Porches Pottery.

Nearly three months ago, my knowledge of the area around our home was still rather patchy, hence my recorded route saw me following a rather convoluted route around Porches. Hot and bothered, I arrived late for my meeting. My carefully planned return route worked fine on the map, but in reality there was too much road walking.

Views from the Ecovia towards the mountains

I told Harri I was unhappy with the overall walk. He suggested I join the Ecovia – a long-distance cycle and walking path – sooner and stick with it for longer. I studied the online mapping and decided I liked this slightly longer route, which included a short stretch of coast path walking.

There are several potteries in and around Porches

While Porches Pottery is delightful and a destination in its own right, I wanted to attempt a ‘themed’ walk. My new route would include visits to four other potteries and handicrafts stores in and around Porches. I counted on people not being put off by the longer stretch of walking alongside the E125. There is plenty of room at the side of this busy road for pedestrians to walk safely.

It’s hard to miss this life-size elephant on Porches roundabout

Olaria Pequena (the Little Pottery) has an enticing exterior and marvellous reviews on Tripadvisor. Next door, there is a metal artist called Miguel. His  garden showroom is eclectic and currently boasts a huge iron elephant and (I think) a bison. There is a globe and a giant ant. I peered through the fencing. This looked like a place you could visit endlessly, and still discover something new tucked behind a shrub or a fence.

I’m looking forward to Casa Algarve reopening

I strolled past Casa Algarve Arte Regional Porches, which was closed. This stately building with its shabby chic appearance fascinates me. I long for the time when I can step inside, browse the azulejos and ascend the marble staircase. An arthritic tabby cat strolled over to say ‘hello’ before ascending the stairs in a painfully slow fashion. Outside, there was a line of enormous terracotta pots in various states of repair. I sensed this place had once been rather grander than its current state suggested, yet there is so little information on its website (though some great photographs), it’s hard to tell.

Casa Grade sells garden ornaments

After Porches Pottery and Casa Grade (on the opposite side of the E125), a quiet road returned me to the peacefulness of Algarve countryside. Once I was on the Ecovia, my surroundings were mostly familiar. Unusually, I was heading into Armação rather than going directly home. I was able to turn right into a lane which has always fascinated me. It didn’t disappoint and for a while I strolled along in perfect solitude, with countryside all around me and the twinkling ocean ahead.

Where are the tourists?

The Ecovia delivers the cyclist – or walker – to the delightful area around Alporchinhos, where the Capela da Nossa Senhora da Rocha is undoubtedly the most photographed religious monument in the Algarve. I meandered along empty roads, devoid of cars, people and everyday sounds. In late May, this part of town – with its modern apartment blocks, hotels and restaurants – would usually be buzzing. I hope soon to be walking in and around a bustling Armação de Pêra. Then, I will look at photographs of these deserted scenes with disbelief.

The empty streets next to the Vila Vita Resort

I headed towards the coast, strolling between the beautifully landscaped five-star resorts of Vila Vita Parc and Vilalara Thalassa Resort. With nobody around, I peered into the grounds and wondered which one I’d choose? I mean, if I were to splash out the necessary several hundred euros per night. It would have been so easy to ignore the Privado signpost and steal into the deserted grounds of the Vila Vita Parc, but I did nothing of the kind. I exhibited an iron will and continued on my way.

Deserted streets at the end of May

My Walkingworld route finished at the car park at the western edge of Armacao; however, I still had to get home. Wishing to avoid the steep hill from Continente, I made the unwise decision to cut ‘across country’. Unsurprisingly, I passed no-one as I plodded along past one shuttered villa after another. It was 1.30pm when I limped into our home, hot, sweaty and thirsty. I’d been walking in and around Armação de Pêra for roughly four and a half hours, yet it felt like I’d completed an epic hike.

Vila Vita Resort, Armacao de Pera, Algarve
Not a soul in sight at the Vila Vita

I’ve now published eleven routes on Walkingworld.com covering Albufeira, Silves and Lagoa municipalities. I have another two routes ‘in progress’ including this one. Several of my walks involve walking in and around Armação de Pêra. Had COVID-19 not happened, I’d have submitted more than double that number. I was lucky to have had several walks in reserve when lockdown began, including three waymarked PR routes around Paderne. As things gradually return to normal – or as close to normal as people’s safety will allow – I hope to add more routes in this central region of the Algarve. I might even venture into  into the hills.

And if I’m unhappy with any of my routes, then be sure I’ll walk them again and make those necessary changes.

PS If you hadn’t noticed, I’m experimenting with SEO. I’ll try not to be so clunky next time!







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