Rambling in Madeira with Shirley Whitehead

Walk 31 – Arco do São Jorge to Boa Ventura

Walking Time: 1 hr 30 mins

Easy to moderate walk along a beautiful ancient trail. Descent of c180 m, steep in places. Precipitous places protected. Ascent of c220 m, the final section of which follows a tarred road to the centre of Boa Ventura village

From the west, approach via Ribeira Brava and São Vicente taking the ER101 east to the village of Arco do São Jorge (14.5 km). From the east, approach via Santana on the new Rapido continuing west on the ER101. The walk starts at Restaurante ‘O Arco’ situated on the coastal side of the road.

Arco do São Jorge, the most westerly parish of Santana, and Boa Ventura, a parish of São Vicente, lie in a lush forested area of the north coast, the latter nestling at the northern edge of the Ribeira Porco valley spreading down from the central mountain range. Boa Ventura is a small agricultural village clustered around the church, which stands on a cobbled terrace overlooking the village, the valley and mountains. The ER101 connecting these two small communities twists and climbs for 5.5 km passing through two tunnels en-route and prior to their construction in 1950’s, access between these two communities was only possible along the Caminho do Entrosa path, which is cut into the sea cliffs. This is the route we follow on this stunning walk, which provides superb views along and the coastline, wonderful natural vegetation and interesting rock formations.

The old trail begins beside Restaurant ‘O Arco’ following a cobbled path beside agricultural plots and small garden orchards producing grapefruits and oranges. A little further along, the path is lined with Australian Cheesewood; an introduced species which produces fragrant flowers in spring and large orange berries in autumn. It is fast growing and provides dense shade for the agricultural crops but whilst a very attractive tree, it is unfortunately another of Madeira’s invasive plants, which threaten areas of natural vegetation. However, the indigenous flora soon takes over as the trail begins a short climb to a fine viewpoint high above the sea cliffs.

From here it is possible to see along the coast to Porto Moniz, and lying directly below is São Cristovão and Boa Ventura, our destination. From this panoramic vantage point we take in the expanse of the ocean; the sea a glorious turquoise and crystal clear, with the white surf breaking on the tiny islets of Ilheú Preto and Ilheú Vermelho just out from the coast. At this point the trail now starts its steep descent, zigzagging down the almost vertical cliff where the path in parts in carved into the rock face. However the path is quite wide and good underfoot and railings protect the path along the route. On the approach to sea level, the trail meets another path in front of an old stone barn. Going right here leads to the headland where the ruins of an old sugar cane mill can be found. Much of the vegetation along the route is typical of other coastal areas, but there are a number of exceptions for those interested in the island’s flora.

During spring and summer, you will find a number of endemic species in flower, including White Everlasting, Stonecrops, Golden Musschia, Madeira Germander, Madeira Sea Stock, Carline Thistles and Chrysanthemums and no one will miss the magnificent specimens of Houseleek, which thrive in this particular area. The disc Houseleek or Saucer plant (Aeonium glandulosum) clings to the rock face with the Viscid Houseleek (Aeonium glutinosum) appearing everywhere along the route. After taking the short detour, the Caminho do Entrosa path now continues in front of the old barn descending down to a stone bridge, which we cross before climbing up to São Cristovão.

Just before the bridge, there is also path, which leads off to the right making another short detour beside red clay walls to the mouth of the river and sea shore. The ascent up to São Cristovão is around 80 m climbing through denser vegetation. Towards the top, a path alongside a narrow levada leads you to the restaurant and bar “São Cristovão” from where you have wonderful views of the coastline and of the whole of the Entrosa trail as it zigzags steeply down the cliffs. To the south lie the forested slopes of the central mountain range with the full expanse of the Ribeira Porco valley also in view. From the end of the trail it is 1.7 m into the village centre of Boa Ventura, which you approach on a tarred road climbing past agricultural buildings and new property before reaching the village centre.

This walk can be approached either from Arco do São Jorge or in the opposite direction from Boa Ventura or can be undertaken as a circular walk via the 5.5 km regional road. For the former options, taxis and buses are available to link start and finishing points.

Bus Route 6, 103, 132 (Timetables available from Tourist Offices and Hotels)
Taxis: Santos 967413142 or 291862230 (Boa Ventura)
  Dionizo 969865172 (Ribeira Funda)

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