Foret de Pfynges Walk and a Damsel/Dragonfly Quiz

Today my wife, Judith, and I went for a walk around the Foret de Pfynges Nature Reserve which runs alongside the river Rhone. We had hoped to spot a few birds but, with the trees being so tall and canopy thick with foliage, in the event, we spotted everything but birds. We saw fish, frogs (or toads), butterflies, crickets and a couple of Coots. (OK, they are birds. but they were not exactly what we were looking for).

HOWEVER, we did see an awful lot of damselflies and dragonflies. So many in fact, I haven’t the time to look them all up, (and I’d probably get them wrong anyway). So I thought I’d throw them out there as a sort of quiz… (See pics Q1 to Q11). I know at least 2 people who may know quite a few (if not all?) of the answers.
(Vivienne – I bet you’ve been dying to test out that new book of yours. I see Question 10 is on the front cover…)

Ferpècle Valley Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

On Monday, I decided to see how far I could walk up the Ferpècle valley from La Sage (where Jude dropped me off) before walking all the way back home again via Sepey and Les Haudères. I thought that I may have to turn around due to any residual snow, but I needn’t have worried, as there was hardly any at all. (I guess this just shows how warm it’s been recently).

I love the Spring, as it’s like starting all over again to discover ‘new’ flowers, bugs and butterflies every time you go out. And this walk was no exception. I should point out that I generally post photos of my ‘first sightings’ each time I see something new, (assuming I can get a picture of course – the Camberwell Beauty eluded me again on this walk). So, unless I get a particularly good photo, you shouldn’t see the same flower or butterfly again. But don’t worry, there are plenty of things out there for me to (re)-discover this season. 😊

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, England, UK

Let me take you back to 1995, if not a little earlier than that, when my mate Colin and I had the ‘idea’ to do the English Coast to Coast walk, created and made famous by the great Alfred Wainwright, from St. Bee’s in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. Our plan was to run the 182 mile (293km) route in relay, over the space of 4 days, with one person on the route and the other driving a car to a prearranged changeover point. This way we could travel light, leaving the rest of our gear in the boot of the car, and we’d overnight in B&Bs or, preferably, Inns. 🍻👍😊

But we soon realised that there was a flaw in our grand idea – What if one of us got lost or was injured? (Remember, this was when mobile phones were still evolving even into those early ‘bricks’). Answer therefore: Recruit another two mates, called Pete and Tim, so that we’d have 2 on each leg, for a second opinion on any tricky route finding and someone to run for help, just in case. So it was that the 4 of us lined up in traditional fashion, with our toes dipped in the Irish Sea in April 1995. (See pic 1).

The event went so well, the following year we did the Offa’s Dyke Path (this time with Liam included) and in 1997, the West Highland Way (in 2 days). These were followed by The Wold’s Way (1998), where Dave was added to our happy band of runners, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path (1999) and a trip to southern Ireland in 2000, to do parts of the Dingle Way and Beara Way, plus a hike up to the top of Carrantuohill (which scared the living daylights out of Pete. It was only then that we discovered he suffered from vertigo).

Wind forward a few more years and, after St Cuthbert’s Way (2005), Glyndwrs Way (2007) and the Dales Way (2009), in 2010 we decided to re-visit the best route of them all – the Coast to Coast (C2C). But this time in a more leisurely 5 days (well, we were 15 years older) and with all 6 of us present. (Pic 2).

Below, we have a small selection of my photos from that event. But, because we were doing it in relay format, even after doing the C2C twice I still haven’t done it all. Due to the way we rotate the groupings each day and the different stopover points, some of the legs I covered the second time around were the same or similar to the first and I still haven’t had the joy of bog-hopping near Nine Standards Rigg. (Or maybe, as one of the main organisers of these events, I deliberately avoided that leg? 😉)

Lac d’Arbey to Les Haudères Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

The snowline is gradually getting a little higher in the Val d’Hérens, so yesterday I decided to walk up to Lac d’Arbey. From there I took the cross path to Farquèses, before descending to Les Haudères and returning to Evolène along the riverside track.

There was very little snow on the ascent, (just one small patch in a shaded hollow) but, on the cross path, I had to pick my way carefully over the remains of an avalanche. (See pic 11). From then on though all the paths were clear and the views over the valley to the mountains were superb.

There were very few butterflies around, but I did manage to capture a couple, one of which, if my Northern Wall Brown identification is correct, is a first. 😊 I also managed to zoom in on a Spotted Nutcracker. (See pic 17). Given the distance between us, I didn’t think the photo would come out very well, (especially as it was towards the sun), but it seems to be OK.

Circular Walk to the Passarelle de la Grande Combe via Euseigne, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

I have posted pictures of this walk before, indeed, twice, so this time I thought I’d do it in reverse. 😊 It requires a short drive down the valley from Evolène to La Luette, but I knew that the paths would be clear of snow after all the warm and sunny weather we’ve had for the past month. It’s also always a good route for spotting butterflies and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The section shortly after the bridge in picture 10, proved to be particularly profitable. Several large ‘orange’ coloured butterflies also whizzed by without giving me a chance to identify or capture them for you to enjoy. Later, as I approached Ossona, I noticed 3 or 4 Swallowtails. I was just zooming in on one of them when another came along and an almighty aerial battle took place, which reminded me of the film, Top Gun. (See their rather blurry ‘fly by’ in pic 21). It went on for so long, I got bored waiting for them to land again and continued on my way.

I was also pleasantly surprised to actually spot a Small Blue (pic 35). It’s quite a common butterfly, but I believe it’s Switzerland’s smallest – possibly not much bigger than your small finger nail. (It’s on some Alpine Bird’s-foot trefoil, if that also helps to give it some scale).

My apologies for all the photos, but it was a rather nice walk, which I thought you might enjoy, especially if you have to “Stay home”, like many.

Walk to Béplan from Evolène, Val d’Hérens

The weather in the Val d’Hérens has been incredibly warm and sunny for the past week or more. So, on Thursday, I decided to head a little further up into the mountains, to see if I could reach a small lake (more like a pond) at an area called Béplan. When I plotted the route on the Swiss online mapping app*, I noticed that there was an alternative way via Lè Lachiores, which would allow me to do a more circular route.

As I climbed higher and higher, I soon realised that I might struggle to get there, especially when I saw the remnants of an avalanche. (See pics 10-12). There was also a distinct lack of butterflies, flowers and birds. So I was quite surprised to spot a Ring Ousel and, not one, but two marmots. And then at the highest point of around 2,500m (8,200ft) there were several Pasque flowers, (see pic 16), which are the first I’ve seen this year.

After picking my way carefully up the slopes between the snow, I finally came to halt around 400m short of where I wanted to be. So there was nothing else to do but take in the magnificent views and then descend, again zig-zagging my way through the various patches of snow.

(*Note that this SwitzerlandMobility application is available to anyone, to view official Hiking, Cycling and even Skating and Canoeing routes in Switzerland, though you need a subscription to plot routes and download them to GPS or print the maps. See Route example at the end of the gallery).

Spring has sprung around Evolène, Val d’Hérens

To stay sane and active during the virus outbreak, I’ve taken to wandering around the back of our chalet and it’s certainly very noticeable how the flowers are starting to emerge and more butterflies are on the wing. I spotted both an Orange-tip and a Camberwell Beauty, but both were too quick for me to get a picture. However, a Comma and (I think) a Green-veined White, were more obliging . I was also amazed to see a Gentian out at this time of the year.

If a gallery of photos does not appear below, or anyway, please click on the Title to view this post and click on any image to view full size. (I’m using the new WP Editor for the first time, so anything can happen!)

Mike’s Music Monday #52

Please note that this post was scheduled well before the Coronavirus outbreak, so please don’t be offended by the title of the song…  (I did think about swapping it for another song, but it is quite humorous in a ‘dark’ sort of way).

OK – some of you may be glad to know that this is the last in this series. (Hooray, I hear you cry).  I know it’s not been that popular, but it has filled in some gaps, which I may well fill this coming year with some other random posts (yet to be determined).

Anyway, for my last song, it seemed appropriate to play this one by Just Jack, called the Day I Died.  I had the pleasure of watching Just Jack live at the D Club in Lausanne some years ago.  He introduced this as a ‘happy song’, so who am I to argue.  Whatever, I think the lyrics and video are superb.  (In case you didn’t know Just Jack (Allsop) appears at the end of the video, as the medic who shakes his head).


Spring is in the air…

When I look out of the window today, it seems inconceivable that only a week ago it was snowing and we had around a foot (30cm) of snow covering our garden.  However the temperatures have risen quite sharply since and all that snow has now gone.  Our daffodils are starting to emerge and there are signs of Spring everywhere.

Over the weekend we were pleasantly surprised to see at least a dozen different birds in and around our bird feeder.  We had the usual Great, Blue, Coal, Crested and Willow/Marsh* Tits, who are regular winter visitors, but in addition there were several Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Rock Buntings plus a Robin, a Greenfinch and a Pied Wagtail.
*I never can tell the difference.

Most of my photos were not particularly good, but I did also go for a short walk up the path behind our chalet yesterday and I thought I’d share a few of the better images for you to enjoy.


South West Coast Path, Day 6, Weymouth to Abbotsbury

I mentioned on Day 1 that there were 2 reasons why Pete had chosen to do this part of the SW Coast Path and the second reason was that the first ever ‘proper’ book that he’d read as a young boy was called Moonfleet, which was set in this area of the country.  It was written by John Meade Falkner in 1898 and is a tale of adventure, smuggling and a search for Blackbeard’s lost diamond.  But overall it’s a story of loyalty and a great friendship between the two main characters, John Trenchard and Elzevir Block.

Pete had sent me a copy of the book just before Christmas for me to read as ‘homework’ before our trip and I’m glad he did, as it really added to the enjoyment of our walk.  The Old Fleet church is featured in the book, as is the Moonfleet Manor.  There is even an Inn in the book called the Why Not? (and Why Not? indeed, I always say 😉).

Pete and I also met up with two of his old University pals, Jacky and Alan, who now live in Dorchester.  We met them and their dog at the Moonfleet Manor and they walked a section of the route with us.