Levada Nova

Levada Nova

Route: Levada Nova

Area: Madeira

Date of walk: 29th April 2022

Walkers: Andrew and Gilly

Distance: 7.1 miles

Ascent: 900 feet

Weather: Cloudy but bright

Today’s walk, as with yesterday’s took advantage of Madeira’s ancient levada system. The island has the longest irrigation system in the world with over 1,350 miles of levadas

The system was not engineered for walkers. Its original purpose was to bring rainwater down from the high rainforests to the lower agricultural areas, and it still serves this purpose. As a happy and unintended consequence 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

Due to their nature, it’s not possible to plan a circular levada walk, so some planning is needed in order to get back to the start. Today we took a taxi from our hotel Quintas das Vinhas in the village of Estreito da Calheta. Anyone following this route would either need to use two cars, book a taxi, or use the local bus. The 142 bus for Ponta do Pargo passes through Estreito da Calheta so this may be an option

In our case, the local taxi driver dropped us off by the village church in Raposeira, informing us that this was where he’d married 24 years ago. After a short walk along the road we joined the path beside the Levada Nova which would be our constant companion from the next seven miles. Although we were walking against the flow of the water, and therefore uphill, the levada was so well engineered that it felt as though we were walking on the flat.

Another advantage of levada walks is that navigation is never an issue. For this reason there’s no need to describe our route, save to say that the highlight was a section beyond Prazeres where we left civilisation behind and walked into a deep and otherwise inaccessible valley, where the levada wound its way around steep ravines. Ancient eucalyptus trees and other lush flora imparted a magical atmosphere

Eventually we reached a small house with a water garden feature. The Levada Nova continues its journey, but this was the end of the levada section for us. We descended quite steeply down a narrow concrete lane Caminho dos Moinhos which took us into Estreito da Calheta. The route shown on the map ends at the village church, and for us it was a short stroll back to our hotel and the end of a superb walk

Click on the icon below for the route map

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