The village of Cerejal has no sign, and is only separated from Varzea Grande by a three-arched granite bridge, that crosses the river Ceira. The houses mainly follow the main road, and the narrower road that leads to Cònhais. On the day that we visited the village, the first of the summer grapes were being harvested, and the traditional grape-pressing was well under way. Sr.Luís de Matos Fernandes Paiva told us about his village:
‘Cerejal’ means cherry – orchard, and in the past there were many cherry trees here. There were also many chestnut trees on the hillside and in the autumn, the chestnuts were gathered, dried, and stored in chests. Olives were also gathered and put into sacks, and the workers from the lagars (olive presses) would come with their oxcarts to collect the sacks and take them to the lagars of Vila Nova do Ceira. The nearest lagar was the lagar of Dr. Armando next to the church of Vila Nova do Ceira. The villagers also cultivated maize and wheat. There were two mills next to the river Ceira on Salgueiral, that are still standing but not used any more. The miller used to come with a donkey-cart to collect the maize and take it to Sacões and brought it back as flour. The whole village used to come together to peel the maize, and after the work the ‘Cego’ (blind man) from Sacões (António Carvalho Júnior) played music. At Carnival time, and during the festas of S. João and S. Pedro, folkloric dance groups (“Ranchos”) used to dress up and process to the music of banjos and violins.
Sr.Luís used to be the ‘water judge’ of the village. There were two levadas - the “Levada de Cima” that came from Casal da Ribeira and the “Levada de Baixo” that came from Monteira. All the fields up to Murtinheira were irrigated by these two levadas, and he was judge of both of them. Sometimes there would be altercations about the water distribution, since the more fields each person had, the longer his time for irrigation. Irrigation took place during the night and the day, and at night they illuminated the field by petrol lamps. The big landowners rented out the land, and every year they fixed a price in alqueres of maize that the workers needed to pay after the harvest. Sometimes, if the harvest was bad, the workers had to pay everything they harvested to the owner, and were left with nothing.
People used to keep cows, oxen and donkeys, and also sheep and goats. Sr. Luís worked with a horse on his fields. In the past, one sardine was sometimes shared by three people, and the most important food was the broa (corn-bread) and the soup that sustained the family. Sr. Luís used to go barefoot to school in Vila Nova do Ceira. The teacher there used to hit the children with a stick, and he was so afraid of this teacher that he left school before he learned to read.
There used to be a clog maker in Cerejal, and four alambiques (stills) with which they made aguardente from the grapes and the medronhos (fruit of the strawberry tree). Some villagers also worked collecting resin for the resin company at Arganil, who would come to the village to collect the barrels of resin. Many inhabitants of the village worked at the paper mill at Ponte do Sótão.