Snowy walk to Ferpècle

My good friend, Ian, has come over to stay with us for a couple of days and, of course, we had to go out for a walk, even though it was grey and actually raining a little bit.  (Just to prove that the sky is not always blue in Switzerland. 🙂 )   With this in mind, we decided not to climb high, but to go along the road that I did about a month ago with Arthur and Michelle from La Forclaz (VS) to Ferpècle.  The contrast couldn’t have been much greater…

Tomorrow, Arolla, when we believe the sun will be shining. 🙂



Northumberland Coast Path (Day 4 of 4)

Day 4 proved to be a tale of 2 long beaches, interrupted by the pretty villages of Warkworth and Amble.  On the first, Alnmouth beach, I tried to re-enact the opening scene from Chariots of Fire, with a slow-mo type of ‘run’.  Pete has captured it quite well I think, even though my performance was poor!

South of Amble the beach went on, literally, for miles.  Part way along, we noticed some discolouration in the sand, where there appeared to be some tiny pieces of coal* washed up.  In one or two places, the effect was quite stunning – see pic 16 for an example.  Nature has a wonderful way of creating art that us humans would struggle to replicate.
*The north east of England, at one time, was quite famous for its coal mining, so we assumed it was coal.

Fittingly, we arrived in Ellington just as the sun was setting.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series as much as Pete and I enjoyed doing the walk itself. 🙂

Northumberland Coast Path (Day 3 of 4)

Day 3 was again overcast and would be our shortest day, of around 20km or 13 miles.  The path hugged the coastline all the way from Embleton to Alnmouth, taking in the imposing 14th century ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle, Craster (famous for its smoked kippers) and Boulmer (famous for nothing in particular, as far as I know, other than being pronounced ‘Boomer’).  Note: My view is tainted here by the fact that the pub was shut and we had to skip lunch!

As you may know, I’m also a golfer, so there’s nothing I like better than to walk passed a golf course and today there would be at least 3.  Pete thinks that golf courses spoil the natural landscape, but he and I have to agree to disagree on that one.

Our evening would be spent in a corner (pictured) of the Red Lion, sitting next to a real fire, having a delicious (and much needed) meal, supping some fine ale and trying our best to answer questions in the weekly quiz (another staple of the English pub scene).  The winners had 38 points, which was waaaay to good for our measly 30 !




Northumberland Coast Path (Day 2 of 4)

Belford seemed a sleepy, almost forgotten, type of place.  The cars whizz by on the A1 and there’s no train station, so the trains do the same.  Like many villages in England, social life centres around the pub(s).  The Blue Bell was no exception.  When we arrived, at around 3:30pm, (on a Sunday I should add), there was a private party in full swing in the function room.  I’ve no idea what the occasion was, but we heard a guy playing a guitar and singing, country music if memory serves me correctly.

Later on a few more locals came in for, what we discovered was, their weekly get together to catch up on any gossip.  Next up, and later still, was the local drunk, who was in the habit of visiting all of the pubs in the village and it was the Blue Bells turn for his ‘act’.  He’d stand at the bar and hold sway, catching the eye of anyone who would listen.  He was obviously a lonely soul and this was his way of interacting with the world.  After he’d drunk his beer, he disappeared harmlessly into the night.

Over dinner, Pete and I were serenaded by some classic 80’s pop music.  Being a big Bruce Springsteen fan, Pete doesn’t “take to all that 80’s disco rubbish” and he didn’t know any of them, but I loved it.   I Can’t Wait, by Nu Shooz, is a particular example that I can remember.  Jude will tell you that 80’s disco music follows me around, even in the Co-op here in Evolène.

It was much the same ‘social’ story when we arrived at our next destination, Embleton.  The pub was packed from 6 ’til 8pm with the locals.  At the appointed hour they’d all disappear home for dinner, only to be replaced at 9pm (on a Monday anyway) by the Bell-ringers…  At this point, as an ex-campanologist myself, I decided to explain the intricacies of bell-ringing to Pete.  As a child of 13, I was fascinated by the mathematics of how 6 (or even  8, 10 or 12) bells could ring all of the possible combinations, (that’s 6!, i.e. factorial, or 720 for the non-mathematicians) without repeating a sequence.  I sensed that Pete’s eyes were beginning to glaze over, so I moved on, but then that was maybe because he was on his 3rd pint at the time.

Anyway, back to the plot.  Our route today would take us firstly east and back to the coast, then, curiously, north east for little while, before turning back south again and through Bamburgh, Seahouses, Beadnell and finally Low Newton by the Sea.  We reached  Embleton in the dark just after 5pm.  It turned out to be the longest day in terms of time, but then we did stop off in Seahouses and Low Newton for some refreshment (aka beer). 🙂   As you will see from the images below, we had a much brighter day than day 1 and the (many) beaches were all but deserted.

Northumberland Coast Path (Day 1 of 4)

The Northumberland Coast Path runs for 101 km (63 miles) from Cresswell, a small village about 30 km (20 miles) north of Newcastle upon Tyne, to Berwick-upon-Tweed, on the border with Scotland.  For logistical reasons, my mate Pete and I decided to walk it from north to south and finish about a mile passed Cresswell, at Ellington.   The walk was planned over 4 days, staying at Inns and B&Bs along the way.

I thought Day 1, from Berwick to Belford, might be the longest (at around 30 km or 18 miles), so we set off early, shortly after 8am.  It was almost dark, but that turned out to be the low, brooding clouds overhead, which persisted for most of the day.  That is except for 30 minutes or so, when we had some very light hail.

Little did we know it, but we were to risk life and limb… (The things I do to bring you these posts!)  Not only did we have to navigate our way through an old Military Target area (see Warning sign, pic 12), but we also had to cross the East Coast main railway line – TWICE.  Fortunately though, in the UK, Health and Safety is paramount, so we had to ring the Signalman before crossing.  Pete phoned and was asked some obligatory questions (calls may be recorded in case of accidents, and any litigation, no doubt):
a) How many of you are there ?  Answer given: 2
b) Are any of you disabled or requiring assistance ?  Answer: No
c) How long will it take you to cross ?  Answer: Just a jiffy!
The signalman obviously thought this was fast enough, so he said it was ok for us to cross.
So how long do you think a jiffy is?

With a big thanks to Pete for some of these pictures (as watermarked) and in the 3 posts to follow.



Riverside Walk to Les Haudères

The temperature has risen to a balmy minus 2 degrees C (28 F), so I decided to go for a walk along the river.  The cross country ski pistes are now in action, so I crossed over the second bridge and went along the higher path to Les Haudères.   Every time I see the cross country skiers, I wish I was having a go – so, maybe next time…  🙂



Long distance running (part 2)… The JOGLE, 1983

The sun has been shining brightly in the Val d’Hérens, but the temperatures have been double digit negative (degrees C, single figures F) and the ski runs are not completely pisted, so it’s time for a blast from the past…

I mentioned in April last year that I’d run my first marathon (London) in 1982.   The following year, I took part in a long distance relay race, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, or The JOGLE for short.
(For non-UK residents, these two locations represent the furthest, NE and SW, tips of mainland Britain).

The event was the brainchild of a guy called Gordon Cairns who, for 5 or 6 years, had organised an annual event called Computastars.  This competition pitted teams of IT staff in a series of quasi-athletic ‘events’, which varied from bouncing tennis balls into a bucket on your head, to an 800 metre steeplechase, complete with water jump.  But I digress…

The pre-set JOGLE route was around 860 miles (or 1,385 km) long and the only rules were that you had up to 15 people in a team and each runner had to spend a minimum of 15 minutes on the road.  Otherwise it was a straightforward, non-stop relay.

Six teams took up the challenge, all running for the two charities of the Arthritic and Rheumatism Council and the British Heart Foundation.   We added a 3rd, a local Children’s Hospice, and we spent 9 months planning, organising back-up crews and raising sponsorship.  In total, I think we raised about £3,500 for the charities.

In terms of organisation, we decided to have 3 groups of 5 runners and each group would cover a prescribed distance (usually around 60 miles) before handing over to the next group.  CB radios were used to keep in touch with each other and we had three stop-over points pre-arranged en route for a bit of rest.

Incredibly, after 50 miles, there were 3 runners side by side on the road.   Gradually though the Barclays team pulled ahead of the Computastars team with our Rowntree team about 30 minutes behind them.  I should reiterate that this was a non-stop relay and so the runners continued into, and indeed through the night, with (in our case) cyclists or the minibus ferrying the runners, lighting the way ahead.  In essence, each group was ‘on the road’ for just over 6 hours, before getting 12 hours rest, though in this time they also had to travel 120 miles or so to their next changeover point.

By pure chance (or was it just brilliant planning?) we had arranged for all 15 of our team to be together for the last 50 miles, just in case we had any injuries.  It turned out that 5 had problems, so we had 10 ‘fit’ runners available to complete this last section.  It was also around this point that the organisers decided to scrap the 15 minute rule – just to make the finish a little more interesting.  So we set about catching the Computastars team who, unfortunately for them, only had 4 people available for this part of the route.   So, instead of the usual 2.5 to 4 miles, we began to run 1 mile at a time and we were prepared to drop people off ‘parachute style’ if necessary to catch them.  The buzz of excitement in the minibus as we closed in on them was incredible.

In the event, the Barclays team won the race, in a time of just over 3 days and 18 hours.   We managed to catch the Computastars team in the last few miles to finish 2nd, but only by a mere 46 seconds!   Our times were 3 days and a little over 22 hours.
For the runners amongst you, (to save you doing the maths), this works out at a little over 9 miles per hour, or 6.5 minutes per mile.  (If only I could do that now!!)  Each runner covered an average of 57 miles (or 92km).

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the event myself, so I’m very grateful to Cliff Baughen, of the Computastars team, for the pictures below.  He published a similar post here some years ago.  You’ll see Cliff stonking along in the last picture. 🙂

Snowy Sion and Evolène, Valais, Switzerland

The snow has been falling in the Valais region of Switzerland, off and on, for the past five days.   This has coincided with the visit of an ex-colleague of mine, Hamsa, who has travelled over from India, for two weeks work in the Nestlé Head Office in Vevey.  It was her first trip to ‘HQ’ and I’d promised her that I’d show her a little bit of Switzerland whenever she came over.

So it was that we met up in Sion and took a walk up to the Chateau de Tourbillon, before taking the bus up to our chalet in Evolène.  With temperatures well below zero, I think Hamsa found things a little bit different to her home near Bangalore.



Frosty riverside walk along La Borgne

After several weeks of sunshine, we’ve finally had 2 days of grey skies and a few centimetres/inches of snow.  (Though not enough to get the skis out quite yet!)  The overnight temperatures plummeted to around minus 14 degrees C (7 deg F) last night, so I thought there might be a few photo opportunities alongside the river…  The water was still running, but only just.

Sadly, my camera developed a small ‘spot’ on the sensor, so one or two pictures had to be deleted.  However, I’ve still posted the best ones, but you may well be able to see a small shadowy blob on a few of these images, (e.g. pics 6, 8 & 11). Thankfully the old trick of applying the vacuum cleaner to it seems to have cleared the problem for now.  🙂

Mayens de Cotter walk

Happy New Year everyone! 🙂

They say you should start as you mean to go on, so today I set out to do a more challenging walk, to restart my fitness campaign.  That’s not because I particularly overdid it over Christmas you understand, as I probably overdo it all year round!  It’s more to get into shape for some of my up and coming challenges in 2017…

In January I plan to walk the (100k or 62 miles of the) Northumberland Coast Path with my mate Pete.  Everything is booked and we’re raring to go.  And in April, I hope to complete the Zurich marathon.  I entered yesterday, so there’s no backing out now.

Anyway, if you’re still suffering after the excesses of last night, get yourself an extra-strong mint (to replicate the crisp and cold mountain air) and then browse slowly through these few pics.  It may make you feel a whole lot better!