|Ecotourism and Agritourism
at Saint Basil Olive Grove
|The principles of ecotourism are best defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as: responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people. In practice this often means promoting awareness of the environment by enabling tourists to get close to nature.
A niche development of ecotourism is agritourism - the launching of activities for the economic and social development of rural and country regions. This is achieved by supporting:
At Saint Basil Olive Grove, we promote both ecotourism and agritourism by:
Olive Picking Tourism is outside of the normal tourist season in Crete. By bringing additional guests to the island we are aiding the local economy, specifically restaurants, shops and our own local staff. The environmental impact of flying out of season is also potentially minimised as some of our guests will use the train (London to Venice, via Paris) then sea ferries (Venice to Patras, and Piraeus to Chania). While using the train and ferry extends travelling time, it can contribute to the total experience of the adventure.
We are situated in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the Apokoronas Peninsular, near Chania, North West Crete. Approximately 2.5 km from the sea at Almyrida Bay, and 1 km from the traditional village of Gavalochori. To the south is the spectacular White Mountains (Lefki Ori) and the Samaria Gorge, the longest of its kind in Europe. Crete is the most southerly point of Europe, and has the sunniest location in the continent.
Our Saint Basil Olive Grove is many hundreds of years old, as some gnarled trees will testify. We have a water-well on site which could be Roman - this is similar to a number of Roman wells only half a kilometer away. Only 6 metres from our north east boundary are the remains of several ancient stone dwelling-houses and evidence of a simple 'street' network. This settlement is likely to be hundreds of years old, possibly dating from the Ottoman occupation of Crete.
Prior to our purchase of the land in 2005, the olive grove had fallen into neglect after the owner emigrated to Canada in the early 1960s. Overgrown boundaries and deteriorated fencing allowed neighbouring farmers to graze their sheep on the land and harvest olives from the trees in a haphazard fashion. Pruning was poor and infrequent. Some of the trees were damaged in the freak snowstorm of February 2004 when the area was under almost 1 metre of snow. The heavy weight of ice splintered many branches which were left to rot. The land was sold to developers and they in turn sold to us.
Local planning law allows the building of up to 8 houses on the land. However we have built only 5, of which 4 are rented to tourists during the summer. The 5th house is for our own private use. We have taken the decision not to build any further houses on the plot because we value the open space and of course the olive trees. Many other houses in the area are built almost literally side by side with nothing green in between - we do not like this type of development and nor do our guests who prefer our 'open spaces' policy and practice. (Note: all sites proposed for building are subject to archaeological scrutiny by local officials - if anything is discovered, all building work stops, sometimes for years while the experts take a good look. Fortunately, our particular olive grove appears to have been ignored by the Minoans, Romans and Turks.)
We have 108 viable olive trees in the North Grove with a further 40 young trees either newly planted or growing back from roots of previously damaged trees. We have a further 88 trees in the South Grove - a plot (literally over the road) purchased in 2009. Total 236 trees. Additional trees will be planted in due course. Annual production of extra virgin olive oil is between 450 and 1000 kg. The wide variation is because the olive tree has a two year cycle: trees produce much fruit on the first year, then are mostly fallow in the year after harvest. At any given time 1/3 of our trees are 'in season' with the remaining 2/3 coming in season the following year.
Olive Farming Policy
We use organic farming methods. No pesticides or chemicals are used on the land or trees (except a small amount of systemic weedkiller to keep gravel paths around the villas clear of weeds.) Olive fly is kept under control using natural syrup traps hanging from the tree branches.
No fertilisers to promote growth. The Ancient Greeks did not need any, so why should we?
No watering of the trees. Olive trees have deep roots and can find natural water even in the hottest of summers. We are also fortunate in having a flat landscape so there is little rainwater runoff - it soaks into the natural underground reservoirs beneath us. (Intensive olive farming on dry slopes can use up to 2 cubic metres of water per tree per year; thus we save approx 500 cubic metres of water annually.) In addition we believe that watering of olive trees weakens the flavour of the oil.
No annual rotavating. Most local farmers control weeds by rotavating the soil annually. However, our opinion is that this ground disturbance actually promotes the growth of invasive weeds. Our policy is to strim regularly, thus limiting the germination of tall weeds such as thistles and grasses. Rarer, more delicate vegetation is thus allowed room to grow and we get a more varied carpet of flowers and plants during the growing seasons of Spring and Autumn. This 'no-rotavate' policy also has the benefit of keeping dust out of the swimming pools.
Sustainable heating fuel supply. Regular pruning of the olive trees gives us a 100% sustainable supply of firewood for winter use in our villa woodburners. NO NEED TO USE HEATING OIL!
Conservation of resources in our guest accommodation
All guests stay on site in our 4 x 4 bedroom villas. Unlike some olive picking holidays, where guests are accommodated in apartments sometimes many kilometres away, our visitors do not have to travel to work, using up petrol, increasing traffic and causing air pollution. In addition all villas feature the following:
In addition we have a litter policy. We encourage guests who walk to the local villages to take a plastic bag with them and pick up any litter they see on their journey. This does make a difference!
Saint Basil Olive Grove, Almyrida-Gavalochori, Apokoronas, West Crete, Greece
Telephone us in the UK: 01298 871004
(+44 1298 871004 if calling from outside UK)
|Above: an avenue of our olive trees after pruning. Branches lie on the ground ready for cutting into firewood.|
|Above: some of the older trees needed serious reshaping after years of neglect. Here, Marcus is clearing some branches that were overgrowing into neighbouring fields.|
|Above: an example of unchecked new growth in an old olive tree. These branches were later removed to allow light and air into the heart of the canopy. This maximises the conditions for healthy olives to flourish.|
|Above: Part of our Olive Tree Regeneration Programme. We are nurturing 25 olive trees regrowing from the stumps of broken trees, destroyed by builders before we owned the land. The roots are established, so with careful pruning the tree is relatively easy to regenerate. This new tree is 5 years old and stands 1.5 metres tall. It should be producing olives in 2 years.|
|Above: our 100% sustainable supply of pruned olive branches means we are self-sufficient in firewood for our woodburning stoves. Carbon neutral!|
|Above: one of our 4 villas available for guests. Each villa is located in the olive grove, only a few metres from the trees - no polluting car journeys needed to get to the workplace
Swimming pool water is conserved over winter. Efficient filter systems mean no emptying required so no need to refill every year.
|Above: each villa is equipped with a rooftop solar hot water panel and storage tank. This provides domestic hot water, available 'on tap' most days of the year with zero cost and zero emissions.|