Is there anything better on a roasting hot summer’s day than plunging into refreshing cool water?
Diana Streak found the perfect spot in the Portuguese countryside.
Are you a creeper or a plunger? I used to be a creeper, tiptoeing into the sea one inch at a time until a wave would knock me over or I’d get to a point where keeping my head and shoulders dry seemed silly. Now I am a plunger. Show me a deep enough body of water and I will launch straight in, head first for that first exhilarating cold shock.
During a record breaking heatwave in Europe I was fortunate to catch up with a dear friend who has a house in the Portuguese countryside, in a tiny (and at five houses it is definitely tiny) village near the historic town of Tomar in the Santarem District.
It’s not near the sea but she reassured us there was a “fluvial beach” nearby. Intrigued we set off along the winding country road to Praia Fluvial do Agroal where a perennial spring was dammed into a makeshift swimming pool for locals to make the most of the water’s “miraculous” properties.
The site has been upgraded and improved over the decades and is a popular destination with Portuguese tourists in the summer. The spring is rich in calcium carbonates and locals swear to its healing properties for all manner of conditions. What we were looking for was simple relief from the searing heat and Agroal was glorious!
The pool on the Nabao River has maximum depth of 2.7 metres and has an average temperature of 18 degrees which makes it a pretty chilly proposition. If you swim up the grate where the spring flows you can feel the power of the water pumping out millions of litres.
The region is generally dry but the river creates a micro-climate which hosts a variety of endemic species of fauna and flora some of which are unique to the area. The nearby Agroal Nature Park has an interpretive centre, walks and camping site.
Fortunately, Agroal has maintained its rustic charm and avoided commercial development but there are cafes to enjoy an après swim Aperol spritz or local rose wine, as refreshingly cool as those remarkable waters.
A few days later our host drove us further afield to a coastal jewel – Sao Pedro de Moel, a beautiful town with magnificent beaches. It is deservedly popular with tourists from Lisbon and other parts of Europe. But as I gazed over the icy Atlantic before plunging into the waves, I thought there really was something sacred about the soft waters of Agroal that has made it the stuff of legend.
The miraculous healing of kings, Moorish apparitions and roars of beasts trapped in the water are all part of local folklore and having taken the plunge I can understand why. TTW
Diana Streak travelled at her own expense. More at visitportugal.com. Photos © Diana Streak.