After a few days of rain and cold weather, such that the mountains were covered to below 2,000m (6,500ft) with a dusting of snow, I decided to take a walk down the west side of the valley to Sion. It’s a drop of 900m (3,000ft) but there are sufficient undulations to rack up a height gain of over 600m (2,000ft).
As you will see from the first few images below, it was a bit of a gloomy day to start with, but the sun soon came out. However, I was just beginning to think that there were very few flowers in bloom and therefore very few butterflies, when I came across a ‘hot spot’ (see pics 13 to 18), which included a first for me – the Cardinal Fritillary. And, just like London buses, where you haven’t seen one for ages, 2 or 3 came along at once. The Dryads were in abundance too.
When I reached the river bed, just before Bramois, there were two Buddleia plants doing there best to grow. As you might expect, this also proved to be a good place to capture a few more butterflies – including yet another Cardinal! Even though they are widespread in southern Europe, they seem to be confined mainly to the Valais region of Switzerland. Click here for a distribution map.
After searching the flights for a late summer/autumn beach holiday, we decided on Mykonos and it proved to be a great choice. Although the wind blew quite strongly some days, the air and sea temperatures were perfect.
As you will see from the selection of suitably watermarked images below, Jude takes much better pictures than I do.
Last weekend, my daughter Sarah and her husband Karl came to stay for a few days. They have done many of the walks in our valley already, but they had never been up to the Cabane de la Tsa. Although closed at this time of the year, the mountain hut sits at 2,607m (8.553ft) and provides a nice circular walk from Arolla.
The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland. After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km. From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.
We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna
Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):
- As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
- There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging. They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
- The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be. There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
- The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
- The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s. The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
- I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
- The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed. (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
- In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
- Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good. They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻
Let me take you on a little journey from Stockholm to the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous region of Finland…
Travelling to new countries (and blogging about them) certainly teaches you a few things, like there is hardly any tidal movement in the Baltic sea (which is why the thousands of islands are always visible); the water is not as salty as the ‘normal’ sea and, despite belonging to Finland, the islanders all speak Swedish (and most also speak English thankfully).
We caught a Viking Line ferry, called Grace, which was more like a cruise ship, from Stockholm to Turku, on the Finnish mainland. It’s a sailing which is highly recommended, if you ever get the opportunity, as the boat weaves its way through the almost impossibly narrow channels between the many islands. After an overnight stop and hiring a car, we then hopped on and off 2 more ferries to get to the group of interconnected islands called Brändö. (See map pic B11).
A particular highlight of our time there was a day on the island of Jurmo. We arrived too early for the ferry, but an extremely friendly local, called Ari, offered to give us a lift in his small boat. There was a harvest festival type celebration on that weekend and we were treated to a tour of the island on a tractor trailer.
Like yesterday, I’ve divided my photos into 3 distinct galleries. (Click on any image to get a larger view).
The ferry journey:
I’m quite often pleasantly surprised when I go out for a walk and last Thursday was no exception. Although I didn’t manage to capture a picture of Cynthia’s fritillary, which is quite common in this remote valley, I did get some, albeit long range, photos of 3 different birds. (I’ve made my best guess at each, though I’m sure there is at least one person out there who may be able to identify them for me…?)
One of the reasons I missed the Cynthia’s fritillary was because I was distracted by a herd of over 20 yaks, with no apparent shepherd looking after them. As you can see from pictures 17 to 21, I managed to overtake them as they headed to the nearest watering hole.
Most of the butterflies were just by the roadside where I parked my car!
I’ve agonised over posting pictures of this walk (from last Thursday) because ‘silly Mike’ forgot to take his camera with him and these images were taken on his phone. After downloading them, it soon became clear that the zoom on a mobile phone does not take very good landscape images. You all probably knew that, but I don’t use my phone very often, (even for calls), so it sort of came as a surprise how blurred and grainy they were. However, I was very impressed by the close ups and, in particular, the quality of the first image…
I was also pleased to see one or two butterflies still around, though I suspect picture 7 will probably the last one for this year. The weather has turned decidedly cool in the Val d’Hérens over the past week and is currently barely over the freezing point.
While I was out walking the other day, I noticed that the snow had melted quite a bit on the south facing slopes. (See this pic). So I thought it might be possible to walk to the small lake or pond at Béplan without having to tramp through the snow. Well, I was almost right…
Perhaps not surprisingly, it had rained while we were away and, given the lower temperatures, it was inevitable that some snow would fall on the mountain tops. Although it happens every year, you are still taken aback by the huge contrast between the brilliant white and the blue skies.
I was keen to find out how low the snow had fallen and so I took the bus up to Arolla to find out and to walk back down the valley to our chalet. Although some of the snow has now melted, it’s clear that it fell to just under the 2,000m or 6,500ft mark.
I should add that we have an incredibly talented wood carver in our valley, by the name of Hugo Beytrison. He often works with just a chain saw, but he also carves the wonderful wooden masks for the annual Evolène Carnaval in January/February. The last 2 photos show two examples of his work, which were on display outside his workshop yesterday. Check out his website for more details. It’s only in French, but, as they say, a picture saves a thousand words. 😊
For the second week of our holiday, we’d booked a cottage near Eccleshall in Staffordshire. In between meeting up with Jude’s family, we managed to explore a few of the local places of interest and below is a selection of our photos taken during the week.