Palace of Monserratte

The last week of March 2014 saw five PGG trainees fly off to Sintra in Portugal for the week, for the wonderful opportunity of visiting the area and working in the beautiful garden at the Palace of Monserratte.

Most of the week was spent volunteering in the gardens there to help the gardeners, but two days were set aside for visits to other gardens and properties around the area. There is so much to see that one must choose carefully where to visit to utilise the time most efficiently to suit the taste of the individual.

Palace of Queluz

Personally, the biggest jaw-dropper for me was the Palace of Queluz on the outskirts of Lisbon. Once home to the now defunct royal family, the palace is crumbling and fading, but through extensive restorations the former grandeur is beginning to shine through. The gardens, however, are second priority to the palace itself, and much of the grounds have been swallowed up by the encroaching city.

Parques de Sintra

It was explained by the hardworking and dedicated staff at the organising body, the Parques de Sintra, that money was extremely tight. It is an enormous undertaking across the region to restore and maintain all of the historic properties that so desperately need care, and the work will be ongoing for many years. A major form of income to the region is through tourism, and this is essential to provide funds for the projects as there is no funding available from central government.

During the week the trainees assisted with planting up a terrace within the garden, which had previously been cleared of its wild and overgrown plants. Hand tools not typically used in Britain had to be mastered, but a lot of the plants are now not unfamiliar in British gardens. The team at the Parques de Sintra are happy for enthusiastic volunteers with some horticultural experience to visit and lend a hand, and the passion for the gardens there is so apparent from within the workforce.