View over Sobral Pichorro
This project is spearheaded by Lizzie Daisley-Smith and her partner
Tony Conway. Both from UK. It is focussed around a derelict “solar”
(manor House) which has a small chapel attached - in the village of
Sobral Pichorro. Above this is a mountainous hill covered with mixed
forest which includes edible chestnuts and coppice fire wood. The valley
below includes an abandoned undershot watermill in a large derelict mill
building. Adjacent fields have been earmarked as building and food-growing
plots for future eco-village residents.
The veggie Gardens
Vale das Lobas - the valley in which the project is situated - is
high in the Beira Alta region, in the foothills of the Serra de Estrela
(Star Mountains), the highest mountains in Portugal. It is at the eastern
edge of the Dao wine region, and the main products are olive oil and wine.
There is also an abundance of apples, pears, oranges, lemons, limes, figs,
peaches, cherries, plums, persimmons, quinces, strawberries and more.
Maize, rye and other grains are also traditionally grown here.
The seasonal river, the Muxagata, runs along the valley, between
the villages of Aldea Nova, Fuinas, Maceira, Sobral Pichorro, Mata and
Muxagata. Five kilometres upriver is a hot sulphur spring, still
unexploited. From November to May, the mountains are filled with
rainwater, and rivers and waterfalls cascade down the valley sides, and
tumble towards the Rio Mondego. Above the valley is pure wilderness, there
is no agriculture, no populations. The water and the air in here is free
The whole region is dotted with dark granite boulders, balancing
rocks and ancient dolmens. Views from the village are inspiring. The
energy is high, and I saw a lot of silica and pure white quartz laying on
the ground during my walk up the hill and into the chestnut forest.
The land which is being subdivided for future ‘buy-in eco-villagers’ is
lower lying, by the river, though Tony told me there is also some land
slightly higher, on the other side of the river.
The Old Mill
I explored the old
water-powered mill (small hidden undershot turbine)which
was little more than a shell. It will take a lot of work to restore to
their vision of a working mill plus craft workshops/centre. I traversed
some of the land err-marked for the eco-village, but since I had no guide
I did not know where any specific plots were. I did not feel as drawn to
this low-laying land as much as I was to the higher land and the village.
I did see a few derelict buildings in the village and one in particular
There is as yet, no habitable accommodation owned by Lizzie and Tony, so
they rent two houses in the village. One for themselves plus Gary, a
builder from London, and Bruno (architect) his wife and baby, and the
other for volunteers and visitors. Another student architect and myself
were camping in tents.
Personally I have had health problems for a while; chronic fatigue which I
am mostly on top of, and shortage of breath when
walking up hill or climbing steps. Here, at Korashan, I had plenty of both
– but I found my energy and lung capacity both increasing as the days
passed, and I can say that I have not felt so energised for a long time!
Stairway to Heaven!
I liked Korashan very much. I felt very at home there – a sense of
destiny even – a sense of “YES, this is where I am called to be.”
I worked with the two volunteers clearing overgrown drainage
channels and undergrowth around the Solar building ready for scaffolding
to go up to repair the roof. Gary, the builder, started knocking down an
added-on long-drop toilet and its roof in preparation for accessing the
main house roof. Large granite blocks lay strewn around so I amused myself
in the late afternoon shade moving these aside using a special lever/hook
I constructed and left for future block movers.
Shady Walk up the Chestnut Forest
I explored the
chestnut forest way up the hill behind. It was very peaceful and had a
lovely energy. Coppice groves provided shaded walkways from the hot sun.
There are plans to build one or two retreat cabins up there. I’d love to
live there! But the idea is that these will be for visiting retreatists.
Village sounds were minimal but never-the-less there were noises of
the occasional car or motorbike, the three chiming church clocks, (all
slightly out of sync!) twice daily van deliveries of bread and meat who
hoot their horns and at night, until settled, distant dogs barking.
Topless Builder Gary, Architect student and Lizzie with hair in buns
Lizzie and Tony
went off to Spain for three days to meet a man who is donating a
collection of 5,000 esoteric books to the project. As they were leaving I
shared an idea that I wanted to discuss when they got back - that rather
than jump in and invest I would be happy to volunteer for two years. I
don’t know why I said that and I later revised my offer to two months – so
that we would have a chance to get to know each other before committing to
a longer period or buying in to the project.
However, on their return, Lizzie and Tony made it clear to me that neither
offer was what they are looking for as they are looking for
investors to buy plots on which to build their own eco-homes and grow
their own food. They are also gathering skilled tradesmen and architects
for an eco-building crew and Tony listed the people who are on their way,
and by implication I felt he was saying that there were no openings for me
there either. I got the impression that a decision had been made that I
didn't fit and there was no opportunity given to discuss further what
contribution I felt I could make. I actually felt that I have a lot of
skills and wisdom to offer, and that the project is going to need a lot of
these to bring to any state of fruition. My "inner" tells me that this is
a powerful place with a significant future ahead for transformation at all
levels, and my sense is that I will be back - even as I look at the
picture below, I feel called to be there.......
The Toad Rock
The next morning,
packed early, and with time on my hands I clambered up a track I had not
been up before which led me to a ‘toad-like’ rock – a large rock with a
flat slit cave underneath. I turned and looking down the hill between
trees saw THE derelict house that I was interested in maybe purchasing
directly below. This seemed somehow significant and as I thought to
take out my
camera to record the moment a cat meowed to my left. As I turned a black
and white cat emerged from under a large vertical pill-shaped rock and
jumped up onto the stone wall next to me. Shy at first, after a few
moments was rubbing itself against my leg.
Before departure I
had a good chat with Lizzie for half hour - which touched on things
deeper to heart – since I had a strong sense that
‘other-worldly’ forces were at work there and somehow connected with this
project. I went for a stroll up to the derelict house and back down the
next lower road where I came upon a huge dark grey flat protruding rock
with two rectangular holes carved in it and adjacent, on the rock, a 50
year old memorial/shrine, which, in its rear side behind metal bared door I spied
a crucified Jesus and a large Black Madonna! (see * at
bottom of page)
This was my last
experience before departure to the train station….very interesting! I
realised that the rock had undoubtedly been a ‘sacred site’ for aeons and
at some point held a wooden structure which located in the rectangular
post holes. I would love to dig deeper into the history of this
rock and monument.
The only video I watched whilst there was offered by Ricardo, a
Portuguese volunteer. It was on Trepanation
- the ancient art of boring a hole in the skull to
improve pulsations of blood in the brain and supposedly increase
consciousness. Hence the term, “I need
this like I need a hole in my head!” – but some people find it
Or Google “Trepanation” and be prepared to be shocked!
Not the actual black-Madonna,
One of the symbolic painted
but similar - less the crown.
panels in the chapel
(*) Re The Black Madonna at
The Queen of the south is the title of the Countess of Toulouse, city
whose Black Virgin La Daurade, was originally the goddess of wisdom
"I am, black but beautiful" (Song of Solomon 1.5) We are told she is a Shulamite - one who has found peace, perhaps the counterpart of Solomon
whose name also contains the word "shalom".
"The Black Madonna cult is central to the Priory of Sion. . .To them at
least, there is no doubt about the significance of the Black Madonna.
Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair writes explicitly, 'The Black Virgin is
Isis and her name is Notre Dame de Lumiere [Our Lady of the Lights]."
Roman Catholicism has reverted to the worship of the Black Madonna in many
countries throughout the world. A Time Magazine article states that one of
most-heavily visited shrines in the world is the shrine of the Black
Madonna, in Czestochowa, Poland.
Of course, this Pope, John Paul II, is from Poland. Kathleen O'Hayes, of
National Christian Research, states in her tape of the coming global
Marion Apparition, that Pope John Paul II considers himself "the slave" of
the Black Madonna. Kathleen further states that the Catholic Church placed
Poland under the protection of this Black Madonna early in the 1950's.