Rural themes are not exactly limited to Jersey! In the start of a new series for the RURAL magazine website and RURAL POST e-mail newsletter, Philippa Evans-Bevan launches a new feature- RURAL REACH, taking readers off the Island to international locations,. The first ‘past the RURAL POST’ in the series is:
Madeira has such a special relationship with Jersey. It is an archiplelago forming a region of Portugal, 55 miles west of Casablanca and the coast of Africa. The main island of Madeira is more than six times the size of Jersey and has over 267,000 inhabitants.
The first Madeiran arrived in Jersey in 1937. Ever since the end of the war Jersey has developed strong connections with the Portuguese community.
Many people in Madeira have either been to Jersey or know someone who lives here.
The climate of Madeira is semi-tropical. It is a rich little universe created five million years ago from volcanic explosions. The island remained uninhabited until Portuguese navigators arrived to find an island of kaleidoscopic richness, rough mountains and lush slopes slapped by Atlantic breakers with emerald forests.
The Portuguese word madeira means wood, because forests covered the island when navigators first settled its shores in the 15th Century.
Until relatively recently, exploring the island was arduous, but in 1986 Portugal joined the European Community and gained access to development funds. It is now possible to explore Madeira by car between the agricultural terraced slopes into the heart of lush landscapes of violet hydrangea and tropical greenery.
Crops grown in Madeira include sugar cane, sweet potato, figs, corn, wheat, rye and barley. Fruit trees abound in the valleys, and tropical species include bananas, custard apple, mango and passion fruit.
Most famously however, it is this same rich volcanic soil, which gives unique features to the world renowned Madeira wine. Blandy’s Wine Lodge in Funchal is a perfect place to taste the different Madeira wines and it is also a cultural experience. The Blandy family is unique in being the only family of all the original founders of the Madeira wine trade to still own and manage their own original wine company, a tradition dating back to 1811 and two centuries of fine wine production.
Despite a short stay of only three days, for the first time last November (when it was possible to sit in the sunshine and explore in shirtsleeves), Madeira made a big impression on me. Hugely welcoming, beautiful and with a balmy climate, this mountainous island is a joy to visit. A lovely place to stay is the family-owned Hotel Casa Velha do Palheiro in the foothills of Funchal. An oasis of Madeiran modesty and elegance, with enchanting award-winning gardens, which were created 200 years ago.
Rather similar to Jersey, Madeira is a unique place because of the combination of landscape, people and their joint experience of island life.
*A more extensive survey of ‘rural Madeira’ will be contained in a future issue of RURAL Magazine