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!

Butterflies

Some time ago now I discovered this fabulous website which covers all of the butterflies found in Switzerland.  I then read that the website authors, Vincent and Michel Baudraz, have also produced a book, though only in French, which helps novices like me to identify the different species.  It’s not foolproof of course, as you sometimes need to see the both the upperside and underside to get an absolute fix on which one it might be.

Anyway, I ordered a copy and it arrived just after I returned from holiday.  So, to test it out, I went out along the path behind our chalet one evening last week to take a few photos.  On returning, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy the book was to use* and that I had managed to photograph 9 different types of butterfly in just an hour and a half.

*Essentially the identification part of the book works by asking you if the butterfly conforms to certain broad criteria (white, yellow, blue, predominantly red or orange, etc) and depending upon your answer, you’re pointed to another section, which asks more detailed questions.  This is repeated until you narrow it down to the exact butterfly.  Each section is accompanied by wonderfully accurate drawings to help you identify which section to go to next.   Towards the back of the book there are again beautifully detailed drawings of each one, showing both the male and female, upper and lower wings, to help you confirm your identification.

 

Birthday boy – still Bobbing Along…

Today, I’m very pleased and proud to say, is my dad Bob’s 94th birthday.  I’ve just spoken to him and he’s on top form, as usual.  🙂  It also seems an appropriate moment to mention his book, or Memoirs – called Bobbing Along.

It’s been a long time in the making and publication, as it started life in the 1980’s as series of typed anecdotes, which were all stored in a folder.  Some years later, my younger brother, Steve, scanned these into pdf form, just in case the originals were ever lost.  Then late last year, I thought it might be a good idea to get them made into a book.  So I ran the pdf files through some OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software and turned them into a series of Word documents.

Somehow all the a’s became anything but a, so after around 3 months of editing and a bit of tweaking here and there, the finished document was sent off (electronically of course) to Book Printing UK (who, I have to say, were very good).  Three weeks later a physical proof copy was duly sent to me here in Switzerland to check.  A couple of minor modifications were made (mainly to the book cover) and we ordered 30 copies (for delivery in the UK) to distribute amongst our family.  (Sorry, it’s not available in the shops or online I’m afraid!)

See the Contents picture below, but the book is more or less his life history – from being a child, growing up in Hounslow, Middlesex, to joining the Royal Navy, where he became a Signalman and travelled all around the world.  (It wasn’t until he was in his 80’s that he travelled anywhere by plane!)  After the War, while on leave, he went to stay with his aunt and uncle in Yorkshire and that’s where he met my mum.  The rest, as they say, is history… 🙂