Malta – Various

Below some more photos taken during my recent trip to Malta, which didn’t quite fit into the other 3 categories already posted.  This includes a trip to the north east coast and the National Aquarium at Bugibba, which also had a few reptiles.   (At least they kept still while being photographed!)

Last but by no means least, as mentioned in my first post, there’s a picture of me presenting a copy of my dad’s book “Bobbing Along”, to the FWA (Fondazzioni Wirt Artna) at their offices in Notre Dame Gate.  It contains a whole chapter on his time in Malta and will be added to their archives.

Valletta and the 3 Cities, Malta

As mentioned in my post yesterday, “The Gut” or Strait Street in Valletta was a place my dad occasionally frequented just after the War.  The street is aptly named, as it’s very narrow and it was famous for having many bars.   Despite his best efforts, my dad never did manage to have a drink in each one, going from one end to the other.  So, during my visit, I had to investigate it further.

I can report that most of the bars are now long gone.   I think only 2 remain and I was tempted to “have one for my dad” in Tico Tico’s, but 10:30 in the morning is a little early even for me!   The street is now a mix of posh offices (mainly solicitors as the Law Courts are down there too) and derelict, dusty, locked up doorways.  But, walking down it even now, you can sense what an atmosphere there must have been with hundreds, if not thousands, of sailors coming ashore.  George Cini’s book, Strada Stretta, has interviews with the people who lived and worked there in it’s heyday and is well worth a read, if you have an interest in this historic island.

I’d also read that the “3 Cities” of Senglea (aka Isla), Birgu (Vittoriosa) and Bormla (Cospicua) were well worth a look and so I popped over the Grand Harbour on one of the ferries.  The sandstone coloured streets of Vittoriosa were delightful and extremely quiet at this time of the year.

Mdina, Malta

My apologies for not publishing a ‘real’ post for a while but, like many bloggers it seems, I’ve been busy doing nothing in particular.

Anyway a few months ago now, my wife organised a trip to Iceland with her friend Kate, so I had a look for something to do while she was away.  Naturally I wanted to find some warmer weather and I looked at the AIMS marathon calendar for some inspiration.  To my delight I discovered that the Malta Challenge Marathon was on at the same time.  It consists of 3 races over 3 days, covering a 10 miler, a 5k then a Half marathon.   So I entered, arranged all my travel and set about getting fit.  My training was going really well (even running while I was away in Finland and Mykonos) and I’d managed to get up to 20k in a respectable 1h 50 mins, so I figured I was ready…  That is until my final training run, the Saturday before I left, and my left calf seized up yet again!  (Insert a suitable curse or emoji here).

Thankfully I had another reason to go… My father spent some time in Malta after the War, as a Signalman on a minesweeper and he had mentioned enjoying some time ashore down a street which he called “The Gut”, but is actually called Strait Street in English.   So when my wife and I went to Malta / Gozo a few years ago, we searched for a copy of a book by George Cini, called Strait Street.  We couldn’t find an English copy anywhere, so I got in touch with George and managed to get hold of a copy to give to my dad.   During my email exchanges with George, I mentioned my dad’s book and he suggested I present a copy of it, personally, to the Fondazzioni Wirt Artna (FWA), which is an organisation dedicated to preserving the history of the island.  And so that was also arranged…

So, like London buses, you don’t hear anything from me for a while and now a few posts of my, sometimes very wet, time in Malta & Gozo, beginning with the Mdina…

 

La Luette to Euseigne via the Passarelle de la Combe

So, while her husband, Malcolm, was conquering the Matterhorn, Helen and I took the Postbus just a few stops down the valley to La Luette, to walk along the path which crosses the Passarelle de la Combe.  We then dropped down to the naturally heated waters near Combioula, before climbing back up passed the Pyramids to Euseigne.

Helen was thanking me for taking her along this walk, but I was thanking her in the end as I managed to take pictures of three new butterflies, which I’d never seen before – and therefore never posted on this site before. 😊

The first (pic 4) was of an albeit tatty looking Dryad (minois dryas).

The second (pic 16) is of a rather shy Tree Grayling (hipparchia statilinus), which decided to hide, as it’s name suggests, under a felled tree trunk.  It’s not widely seen across Switzerland, so I’ve included a distribution map (pic 16a) with an arrow indicating (very approximately) where we were.

The third (pic 17) was of a Lesser Purple Emperor (apatura ilia).  In French it’s called a ‘Petit Mars changeant’ and it certainly seems to take many forms, being blue/violet or red/orange or, as my luck would have it, dark brown/black!  This one flew up to the top of a bush, so I didn’t get a great picture of it.  So, for some better pictures of this colourful butterfly please click here.   Although more widespread across Switzerland, it’s classed as vulnerable on the Red List and is not that common in our area (pic 17a) .  So I was a very happy bunny once I’d identified them all from my book.  😁  Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the flowers, which I couldn’t find at all.  It seems every silver lining has a cloud…!

Footnote:  The link above and distribution maps were take from Michel and Vincent Baudraz’s excellent website:  https://www.lepido.ch/cartes-de-distribution
If you click on a particular group, the individual species are listed with distribution maps.  Further photographs of each are also available by clicking on the name of the butterfly).

Walk to the Cabane du Trient via Cabane d’Orny

Today I had another opportunity to do a ‘new’ walk and this time it was from the small village of Champex-Lac to the Cabane du Trient (@3,169m or 10,297ft) which overlooks a huge expanse of glacier called the Plateau du Trient.  I cheated a bit by taking the chairlift to La Breya (@2198m or 7,211ft) but it was still a good hike over some rough terrain and included a little bit of snow and a short section of metal stemples* to climb.
(*Think, thick staples stuck into the rock and you’ll be close).

As you will see below the views of the glaciers were incredible, but I was surprised to find a strange looking statue outside the cabane.  Since returning home I’ve discovered it was created by sculptor Nikola Zaric, who sadly died of cancer in 2017.  It was only meant to be there as part of a temporary exhibition but, after his death, a crowd-fund was set up to buy the statue, in order to donate it to the Swiss Alpine Club to ensure it remains in its current position.  It also looks like they have now reached that target.

Anyway, it wasn’t the only unusual thing seen at the cabane…  My blogging buddy, Stephen Black, has been getting a bit of stick for over-marketing his book ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ on his website, FracturedFaithBlog.  Having put together my dad’s book, I know how much effort that goes into proof reading and editing, let alone actually writing it.  So I’m unashamedly plugging it here. 😊  If you would like to purchase a copy – please click here.

I’m now hoping that I have literally taken it to a new level and my picture is the ‘highest’ picture ever taken of his book(?)

Arolla Butterfly Field Trip

As regular readers will know, I like to take and post pictures of butterflies, though, as there are so many different species here in the Val d’Hérens, I often have great difficulty in identifying them.  Well, yesterday, in an attempt to put that right, I went on a field trip with an expert, Vincent Baudraz, and 4 other keen, would-be lepidopterists.

The method was quite simple.  We essentially let Vincent catch a few butterflies, put them carefully into a plastic containers, then the 5 of us would try our best to identify them, using Vincent’s and his brother Michel’s book “Guide d’identification des papillons de jour de Suisse”.  Yes, it’s in french, which makes it a little more difficult for me, but I think it’s fair to say that, by using the step by step, question and answer approach at the beginning of the book, ‘the team’ got the vast majority of his challenges right.  And, I have to say, Vincent is an absolute genius, he actually identifies them on the wing, even the tiny ones (which certainly saves a lot of time catching and releasing the same species of butterfly multiple times).  He would spot a ‘new’ one then snaffle it up in his net with a swish and a flick of the wrist, so that the delicate little creature was completely unharmed and they were always released in the same area that we found them.

It would be remiss of me not to thank Vincent for his patience and outstanding knowledge, not to mention the rest of the gang for making it such a fabulous day.

Below my usual gallery but, for anyone who may be interested, I’ve shown a worked example using the guide book, pictorially of course, below that. 🙂

Below an example of a captured butterfly and the step by step approach through the book to get to the correct identification.  As you will see, once identified, there is also a reference to more detailed information, with drawings, of both the male and female upper and lower wing attributes.  I recommend viewing the series of pictures in gallery mode (i.e. double click on the first picture, then right arrow through) to best appreciate the logic and sequence. 

4th Blogiversary

They say time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, but where does time go?  Quite incredibly, it’s 4 years to the day since I entered the blogosphere.  It’s been an amazing journey so far and it’s certainly kept me busy during my retirement, which was one of my goals when I first started this site.  (My long suffering wife, Jude, will tell you it’s kept me too busy at times, but I do like to put my heart and soul into things!)

I’m not really into the stats, but I’m very grateful for 439 followers (11 of them via email) and especially to those who have been, shall we say, more ‘active’ with comments to let me know that I’ve not been talking to myself (something my mates will tell I’m very good at) and to give me even more motivation and inspiration to continue.    I don’t really want to single out any one individual, but Jet Eliot has been with me for all but one month of this journey and I’d like to thank her for sticking with me all this time.  She deserves a medal for her fortitude.  I would certainly recommend her website to anyone interested in Travel and Wildlife – or anyone who might like reading or writing murder mystery thrillers.  Despite being retired, I still really don’t have enough time or, if truth be known, the inclination to read books, but her Golden Gate Graveyard is a humdinger.

So, to today’s pictures… The first two below I took on Monday, the first with Jude’s SLR camera and a zoom lens from about a metre away.  The next ‘set’ were during a walk up the track/path at the back of our chalet.  I’d seen a small deer casually walking up the road earlier in the day and I hoped to find it, but it had disappeared, as only wild animals can.  Then, at the risk of making you all feel a little cold, or glad that you are where you are, some pictures I took this morning after about a foot (30 cm) of snow fell overnight.  Enjoy!

Of course, I shall be celebrating this momentous occasion in the usual way this evening.  Cheers!  🍺🍺 😋

The Inn Way to the Peak District (3 of 4)

By contrast to all the ‘Edges’ of Day 1 and the many villages visited during Day 2, Day 3 included two very tranquil and secluded riverside walks – one along Lathkill Dale and the other by the side of the River Wye up Monsal/Millar’s Dale.  Despite it being the longest day at 16 miles or 25.5 km, the less hilly terrain gave us plenty of time to have 2 very pleasant refreshment stops.  The first was at the Cock and Pullet, in Sheldon and  the second at the Monsal Head Hotel.  From there it was a very easy stroll (or should that be stagger? 🤔) to our finish in Tideswell.

Just in case you are wondering about the last picture… (“Not another beer?” or maybe “That’s a different tee shirt!” I hear you say…)  It was taken by Colin at the end of Day 2 and I should have posted it yesterday, but I forgot.  I thought it deserved an airing as it captures the true spirit of the walk. 🙂

The Inn Way to the Peak District (1 of 4)

Regular readers with good memories may recall that last year my mate Colin and I did 4 days of the Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales.   Well, we had so much fun (how could you not, with all that fresh air and real ale available 😊) that we decided to tackle another of the five routes in the Inn Way Series – this time, the Peak District.  As before we only did 4 days of a possible 6, by cutting across back to Hathersage instead of continuing on to Castleton.  (See overview route map below).

We had trouble finding accommodation in Baslow, so our first day would take us, slightly off route, to a wonderful B&B, with a HUGE cooked breakfast, called Holly Cottage, in Pilsley.

Our aim was to start at 11am but, thanks to not one, but two, cancelled Northern trains from Sheffield, Colin’s arrival in Hathersage was delayed by an hour an a half and we set off at 1pm.  This meant a cracking pace had to be set in order to reach our destination 14.5 miles or 23km later.   The route took us over the top of Stanage Edge, then south along White Edge, Froggat Edge and finally Curbar Edge, before dropping down through Baslow to Pilsley.

Exhibition Walk to Lac d’Arbey and Les Haudères

For the third summer running the Commune have decided to exhibit some pictures along the footpath from Lac d’Arbey to Farquèses.  Two years ago it was a series of photos of the Himalaya and last year, some paintings of the Evolène region by Belgian artist, Paul Coppens.  This year it’s images by the comic creator, Derib.  Some of his stories cover our local region, including the race of Val d’Hérens cows and the Patrouille de Glacier ski touring race.

An old friend of mine, Matt, is camping with two of his friends in the village and yesterday we walked up to Lac d’Arbey and along the path, before dropping down to Les Haudères (for a well earned beer 🍺😊) and then back along the riverside to Evolène.

As always at this time of year, there were many butterflies, but I was particularly pleased to capture a Violet Carpenter Bee feeding on a Woolly Thistle, which, my Alpine Flora book says, is “rather rare” (see pic 18).  I have to say, given its stiff spikes, there was nothing woolly about it!