SOS Quintas Dos Ingleses is a community and environmental group based in Carcavelos, Portugal. Their aim is to protect over 50 hectares of heritage landscape, valuable green space and woodland for the leisure activities and well-being of the small town. Significant to the story of Porthcurno and telecommunications, the Quinta Dos Ingleses site was home to a cable station once connected directly to Porthcurno, allowing messages to be sent overseas.
In early December of 2022, members of Planet PK flew out to Carcavelos to meet the SOS Quinta Dos Ingleses team. After a visit the previous year from Manuel Valadas Preto, the chair of SOS, we learned that the Quinta Dos Ingleses site was under threat of development. Plans to erect several high-rise buildings, including hotels, shopping malls and apartment blocks on the green space were a looming threat to the town’s precious natural environment. When we arrived in Carcavelos, we were given a tour of the site and saw an amazing amount of wild space, biodiversity, a century-old pine forest, habitats teaming with nature and an altogether area steeped in heritage that was clearly a great benefit to the community. We became aware of an increased risk of flooding in Carcavelos and Lisbon, which was only a few miles away. Flooding, once rare in this part of Portugal, has become more and more common in recent years over the winter months. Experiencing some flooding firsthand during our trip, very heavy rainfall along the coast and a lack of drainage in the towns and cities meant that the last defence against flooding is green spaces, trees and soil which soak up the water. Flooding issues would only get more destructive in Carcavelos by removing such a large area of green space in the town.
Some attempt at development by the current owners over a decade ago is still evident in the site, with sewage pipes scattered all around and deep pits dug to fit them underground. These pipes stand as a reminder that the Quinta is at genuine risk and has been neglected for a long time. To promote biodiversity in the area and enhance the green space, the SOS team were doing some ‘guerrilla planting’ during our visit, burying acorns in and around the site.
Not only an eyesore, building so many high-rise buildings on this site could be disastrous for the environment and habitability of the town, so as an alternative to the development plans, SOS Quinta dos Ingleses are also proposing that the site becomes a semi-naturalised urban park, with a museum at its core. This museum would tell the history of the submarine cables and the heritage buildings on the Quinta, such as the former married quarters for the telegraph workers. SOS’s proposal would bring about many community-building and well-being assets to the town. Within the park they are suggesting a hub for sustainability, a biodiversity observatory, a forest school, a skatepark and mountain bike track, a community garden, walking routes, picnic areas, and concert areas amongst other facilities, bringing the community closer to nature and promoting engagement with environmental concerns.