Six Senses Douro Valley ‘Movie-Set’ Location named ‘Historical Garden of Portugal’

25 06 2020

OrganicGarden2-sThe famous movie-set location Six Senses Douro Valley has been officially awarded a quality seal by the Portuguese Association of Historical Gardens (AJH).

The historic wine estate Quinta de Vale de Abraão was immortalized in the 1993 eponymous screenplay by Manoel de Oliveira. Now operated as a hotel by Six Senses Douro Valley it is located on a UNESCO World Heritage site within the world’s oldest demarcated wine region. The site will now be integrated into the AJH’s ‘Historic Douro Gardens Route’ under a program financed by Turismo de Portugal.

“The Vale de Abraão estate has a truly fascinating history dating back to the 18th century when it belonged to the nobleman-knight of Casa Real António Correia Leitão da Fonseca, an ancestor to the Serpa Pimentel family,” said Six Senses Douro Valley General Manager Nick Yarnell. “It passed down through many generations including influential landowners, playwrights, poets, viscounts, wine producers, agronomists and presidents of the Port Wine Institute. It reached iconic status in the panorama of Portuguese culture when Agustina Bessa Luís published the novel Vale Abraão in 1991, which was later adapted for the silver screen. In 1997, the property was ravaged by fire before being sold by the Serpa Pimentel family ten years later.

In 2013, the estate was purchased by Explorer Investments of Lisbon, which contracted Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas to manage the hotel. Six Senses was chosen for its management philosophy, which revolves around sustainability and wellness, and its desire and ability to deliver a series of programs to protect precious local ecosystems, including a ‘community forest’ initiative and extensive permaculture and forest garden operations. This includes the protection of 11 acres (4.5 hectares) forest park containing 3,500 botanical species.

Community teams have helped nurse the estate’s surrounding parkland back to health, and in recent years the return of healthy soil has led to a dramatic increase in biodiversity, from fungi, bee hive operations, hundreds of fruit trees, insects, bird life, wild boar and genets. Two quarter-hectare organic gardens grace the property, providing thousands of kilos of delicious and healthy herbs, fruits and vegetables for the restaurants, bars and Six Senses Spa.

This listed park is a highly distinctive element of the Douro landscape, otherwise dominated by vineyards. Tree species include oak, arbutus, acer, blue cedar, Atlantic spruce, exotic palms and giant fir trees.

Six Senses Douro Valley’s landscape architect Joana Neto said: “The forest is a rare example of the classic 19th century forest gardens popular at the time. While preserving the spirit and fundamentals of the forest, which included 10 follies, a waterfall and pond, we have added secret rest and picnic spots for people to enjoy.”

Six Senses Douro Valley is now organizing exclusive tours to both its gardens as well as those of other stately homes belonging to the Historical Gardens association, thereby helping to preserve this unique heritage. The AJH was established in 2003, bringing together owners of historical gardens across Portugal and expert professionals. The initiative is funded by Turismo de Portugal.

AJH President Teresa Andresen said historical gardens are scattered throughout Portugal. However, they are difficult to preserve and value, largely because this kind of patrimony is fragile and requires a great deal of financial resource and specialized training. “We are delighted to award Quinta de Vale de Abraão an official quality seal recognizing its historical garden importance,” she said. “We will work closely with the Six Senses Douro Valley team to help protect and nurture the estate. They will benefit from input and knowledge from other institutional managers of historical gardens and professionals in complementary areas including landscape architects, architects, art historians, agronomists, foresters, lawyers and economists.”

The AJH delivers a range of activities to promote and protect Portuguese heritage sites including conferences, conservations training courses and cultural trips.


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