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.
My sister, Karen, came over to stay with us last week and she wanted to visit somewhere a little different. So we booked an apartment in Argegno on Lake Como, Italy, for 3 nights. Although the drive over the Simplon Pass was on a perfectly clear day, the forecast wasn’t great for the few days that we were there. However, we did risk walking to the top of Mount Tremezzo (@1,700m or 5,577ft), hoping the mist would clear, but it didn’t quite, (see pics 5 to 15). And, of course, we had to visit Como itself and take a boat ride back from there to Argegno.
It rained pretty much all the way back via Lake Lugano and up the Nufenen Pass, but as soon as we arrived back in the Valais, the sun was shining again… (as indeed it is again today). 😊 Makes you wonder why you go away sometimes!
The forecast for the week was (indeed still is) bright, with sun followed by more sun, so I just had to do a new walk, which I’ve been promising myself for the past year or so. The route sets off from Arolla and climbs to the Pas de Chevres, with its infamous set of (now new) ladders, before dropping down slightly and turning right up to the Col des Ignes at 3,183m or 10,443 ft. From there the path descends quite steeply before returning to Arolla via the Remointse de Pra Gra.
During my drive up to Arolla, I noticed that the grass was all covered in frost and the car warned me that the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees, so I wondered if my fleece and light windproof top would be enough. But I needn’t have worried as within 20 minutes of setting off, the fleece was off and it never went back on all day. With hardly a breath of wind, it turned out to be THE most perfect day for walking in the Alps… 😊
Grass plays a very important part in the lifecycle of the mountains. It’s around this time of year that the farmers take their second cut to feed the animals during the long cold winter. And, of course, where there is grass, you will often find an abundance of tiny creatures, which leap out of your way as you walk along the paths. Below are just some of the grasshoppers and crickets that I managed to capture. (They are devilishly quick at jumping out of the way when you approach with a camera).
I’m often asked what’s the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper and the answer is that, in general, crickets have very long antennae, whereas the grasshopper’s are quite short. The same sort of distinction can be made between moths and butterflies where, again in general, the latter have a sort of bulb at the end of their antennae, while moths don’t and theirs can be more feathery or saw-edged.
A few weeks ago, my friend Matt asked me what had happened to the hole in the Ferpècle glacier. I told him that it had collapsed last year, but I hadn’t been up there recently to see what the latest was. So off I went on Wednesday to provide this report…
Although my photo from last year is not really comparable, as it was taken from above, near the Bricola hut, it is clear the collapsed ‘end’ of the glacier no longer exists and the whole glacier must have receded somewhere between 20 and 50 metres. (It’s hard to gauge when you are standing maybe 500 metres away). Perhaps a better comparison can be made with these two photos though they were taken 2 years ago.
I also came across what must be one of the smallest species of frog in the world. The little creature in picture 14 was no bigger than my little finger nail. How they survive through the winter, when this whole area is covered in snow and ice for several months, is a complete mystery to me.
I am very fortunate to be able to do quite a number of walks, some quite challenging, from my front door. One of those is to the Pas de Lona at 2,787m or 9,144ft. It starts easy enough, along a track and then takes a path up to Volovron, before turning up through the woods to the alpage across to La Vieille. It’s still a good walk to get there (and back of course). But the real challenge starts when you set off to climb up to the col, where the path just seems to get steeper and steeper and your legs start to burn. Once there you can go even higher to the Cabane Becs de Bosson (which many do, to rest for the night, as part of the Tour of the Val d’Hérens) but, since I’d set off quite late and we had some visitors coming, I simply headed back home again.
Now, just imagine how the cyclists must feel having to do that climb pushing or carrying their bikes as part of the Grand Raid, which takes place on Saturday… There are 4 distances to choose from, either starting in Verbier, Nendaz, Hérémence or my village of Evolène, but they all have to do that climb before descending (and climbing again briefly) to the finish in Grimentz. I’ve put my name down to support the riders by handing out drinks and/or maybe giving directions, but I’m not sure where I’ll be stationed yet. It could be in the village or on the mountain side somewhere, but wherever it is, I hope to bring you some pictures next week. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this walk…
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. 🙂
With another fine day forecast, Colin and I left Pilsley, heading south east and along the road, back onto the official Inn Way at Chatsworth House. The route then followed the course of the River Derwent south, through the very peaceful villages of Beeley and Rowsley before turning south west through Stanton in Peak to Birchover. From there we turned north west across Harthill Moor to Youlgrave.
Around early afternoon, we considered going slightly off the route and downhill to the pub in Stanton, but decided to press on to stop at one (or maybe both 😉) of the two pubs in Birchover, only to find that both of them were closed! (Mondays in the Peak District must be very quiet normally). So, like the day before, but for a different reason, it was a very ‘dry’ day.
The main reason we travelled over to Spain was to see Arthur and his exhibition at his gallery along the Camino de Santiago. Arthur had walked the Camino several years ago and fell in love with what was then a dilapidated building right on the path about 130km (112 miles) from Santiago de Compostela. He decided to buy it and set about renovating it and now, 10 years on, it’s both his home and an art gallery. The garden is still work in progress but the flowers he has planted, which includes 20 to 30 lavender plants, are already attracting numerous butterflies.
Any pilgrims passing by (who will need to turn right to San Xil at the split in the route in Triacastela) are welcome to enter and marvel at the work he’s done as well as his obvious artistic talent. They may even be lucky enough to get their Camino ‘credentials’, or log book, ‘stamped’ with an Arthur Manton-Lowe original.
I guess this is a timely moment to add that I’m currently putting together a website for Arthur (using WordPress of course) to showcase his paintings, called www.artworkbyart.com. It’s also work in progress and we will be adding some more pictures soon, so please feel free to follow that site and if anyone out there is interested in purchasing or knowing anything more about the paintings that you see, please do get in touch. 🙂
Some months ago now, Judith and I were invited by our good friend, Arthur Manton-Lowe, to an art exhibition which he was holding at his gallery on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastela. I shall post some pictures of that area tomorrow, but on the way there, we stopped off to explore some of the western coast of Spain. It’s an area that we had never been before and it was noticeable that there were very few English speaking visitors.
We stayed in an area of Poio, called O Covelo, and drove out to find some wonderful beaches near San Vicente do Grove. The following day we took a boat ride from Portonovo to the Illa de Ons, which is one of a number of National parks along that coast.
We learnt that the weather in that area had been very wet (possibly the worst since records began) but we were fortunate to have some fabulously sunny days.