Levada do Moinho

Levada do Moinho

Route: Levada do Moinho

Area: Madeira

Date of walk: 28th April 2022

Walkers: Andrew and Gilly

Distance: 5.0 miles

Ascent: 400 feet

Weather: Mostly sunny

The ancient levada system was not engineered for walkers. Its original purpose was to bring rainwater down from the high rainforests to the lower agricultural areas, and the system still serves this purpose. As a happy and unintended by-product the access paths next to these drainage channels have opened up numerous opportunities for walkers, allowing access to otherwise impenetrable terrain. The levadas, sometimes carved into the rock with precipitous drops below, run deep into gorges and across sheer mountain sides all the while maintaining a gentle gradient, as the intention was to keep the water flow as slow as possible

Today’s walk took advantage of one such trail, the Levada do Moinho (The Mill Route) which opened to the public in 2008. It’s a quiet route and avoids one of the disadvantages of levada walking – passing by fellow walkers on very narrow paths with steep drops to the side

We parked in one of the few roadside spaces by an information board opposite the Posto Florestal da Santa forestry house. From here we climbed a few steps to pick up the levada. Another bonus of the levada system is that getting lost is impossible – simply follow the watercourse

This proved to be a lovely walk with waterfalls, ravines, pools and jungle-like vegetation providing an atmospheric journey, and with none of the vertigo which often accompanies levada walks. We passed under the first of three waterfalls, receiving a brief cold shower as we did so, and continued along our route, marvelling at the abundance of ferns, lichen and moss growing in every nook and cranny

Eventually we arrived at a small clearing with stone steps on our right. This marked the return point of the walk, but before descending the steps we made a short there and back detour to the ancient watermill and waterfall at Achadas da Cruz. The prospect of an ancient watermill and a waterfall is hard to ignore, but the reality was a slight anti-climax. When we arrived back at the steps it was decision time – to retrace our steps or to follow the road back to the start? After weighing up the pros and cons we decided on the latter. The road was relatively quiet, it was through the forest, and it was a much faster route, taking only 30 minutes or so. 

It’s a route which I can highly recommend, the roadside return being a means to an end and the price of admission to a hidden gem

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