Craig y Garn Walk, Gwynedd, N. Wales

From our house you can see a number of mountains and, almost inevitably, it has become a bit of a goal of ours to ‘top’ each one of them. One of the smallest is Craig y Garn (at 363 metres/1,191 feet) which, on a clear day of course, we can see above Porthmadog as we look across the estuary. We found a route to the top in a small book called “Snowdonia – Park Rangers Favourite Walks” (which itself has 20 different walks and may also become a bit of a ‘challenge’).

So it was that on 21st November 2021, Jude and I walked to the top from the village of Garndolbenmaen. As you will see, you don’t have to climb too high in Wales to get magnificent panoramic, 360 degree views. Plus, of course, if we can see the top from home, you should be able to see our house from the top. And if you zoom in on photo no. 9, you may be able to make out a white house on the far side of the estuary – above the lowest point of the ‘V’ between the two hills (slightly left of centre).

Wales Coast Path Walk, Ynys to Dyffryn Ardudwy

While you ponder on my Christmas quiz, let me take you for a little walk along the Wales Coast Path… Although it doesn’t actually go by our house, it comes pretty close, like within 300 yards/metres, so it seemed an obvious choice for me to do – or at least a short section of it. The full route is 870 miles (1,400 km) long but, heading south from where we live, this section is ‘only’ about 13 miles (21 km).

These pictures were taken in early November and, as you will see, the weather was fine and it takes in some fabulous scenery, not to mention ‘my’ golf course, which has been taking up some of my time and keeping me away from my walking and blogging duties. (Sorry about that folks!)

I didn’t meet many people on the route, but I did stop to help a man fit a new letter box. My task was to hold the box in place while he fitted and tightened the nuts and bolts. A fine job he/we did I think you will agree. (See pic 13). 😊

Coedydd Maentwrog National Nature Reserve and Ffestiniog Mountain Railway Walk, Gwynedd, North Wales

If you like nature and/or steam railways, this is a post for you. 😊 Please read on…

Many people, in the UK at least, will be aware of the narrow gauge railways which were once used to ferry slate from the mines and quarries in North Wales to Porthmadog for onward shipment around the world. Some of those historic steam trains are now being used by the Ffestiniog and Welsh Mountain Railways to take holidaymakers from Porthmadog to either Caernarfon or the old mines themselves at Blaenau Ffestiniog. However, not many, including me before I went on this walk, will know that the area is also noted for some of the last Atlantic oak woods in Europe.

The Coedydd Maentwrog Nature Reserve is described as one of Wales’s “rainforests” and, like all rainforests, is considered of global importance. Conditions here are perfect for the growth of 200 (yes, that’s two hundred) species of mosses and liverworts and 120 sorts of lichen. (Who knew that there were that many on the planet, let alone in one small wood in the corner of North Wales and how do the experts distinguish the difference? 🤔) In addition the woods are home to over 286 different kinds of small moth and the area is the UK stronghold of the rare Lesser Horseshoe bat.
(The numbers are truly amazing, don’t you think?!)

In the gallery below, I’ve captured a few images of some moss and lichen as well as some flowers but I’ll leave you to work out what sort they might be. 🤔

As for the route, Judith and I set off from the car park next to Llyn (lake) Mair and walked up a path which runs, for the most part, alongside the railway track, until we reached Dduallt station, where the track does a complete 360 degree loop. We waited there until the next train arrived and we watched the happy, waving passengers go by! (We were just like The Railway Children!! 😊)

We walked back the same way and, on the way, as a special treat for you steam train enthusiasts, I took a video of one of the trains passing by. 🚂 Note that the first two carriages are two of the first ever (and possibly last remaining) fixed wheel carriages built in the UK. At the time, the engineers were worried about the carriages toppling over on the narrow gauge. So, firstly, the carriages are very short (so that they could go around the bends – it was only later that bogies were added at either end to allow the carriages to be longer and the wheels to ‘turn’ independently) and secondly, the passengers sit with their backs in the centre facing directly outwards, (to keep the centre of gravity over the centre of the tracks). You live and learn. I hope you enjoy!

Footnote: All of these images were captured on 11th October 2021.

Pic d’Artsinol Walk with the Pounders, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Shortly after we had put the chalet up for sale, Jude sent out a facebook message to tell our friends that we were moving back to the UK. Almost immediately, ‘young’ Malcolm Pounder replied to say that he would hire a van and drive over to help us take all of our stuff back. We were taken aback by his generosity, but we knew he simply loved driving and accepted his offer with open arms. We cannot thank him enough for everything he did in transferring both us and our belongings across to North Wales.

Anyway, his parents, Malcolm (senior) and Helen, decided to keep him company on the way over and have a short break in the Alps before flying back. So it came to pass that the 4 of us went for a walk up to the top of the Pic d’Artsinol (@2,998m or 9,836ft), taking advantage of the rickety old chair lift. (Thankfully they plan to replace it with a gondola lift soon).

All of the photos below were taken on 2nd September 2021 (and, again, my apologies for the delay in posting them. Only one more Swiss post to go before you see Wales… 😊)

Butterflies and bugs…

I promised you some butterflies from my last few weeks in Switzerland and here they are…

All of the photos below were taken near to our chalet in Evolène, on either the 23rd or 24th August or 1st September. Although I have seen a few since arriving in Wales, (most notably a Peacock, a Tortoiseshell and a Comma), I’m definitely going to miss the abundance and variety of these little beauties… 😌

Verbania (Pallanza) and Lake Maggiore, Italy

As soon as we got back from our trip to the UK, we put our chalet on the market and Jude started packing. We initially bought 20 largish boxes from the local DIY store, but they were soon filled. Little did we know at the time that another 40 would be needed “We don’t have much stuff”, we said. After 4 or 5 weeks of intense packing (n.b. by Jude – I think I managed one, almost) we decided it was time for a break and we went off for a few days by Lake Maggiore.

By then it was mid-August and, thankfully, the thunder storms, which can often ruin your summer evenings, never materialised. We went swimming in the lake and, of course, for a boat ride around the upper part of the lake, visiting some of the lakeside villages and the Villa Taranto Botanical Gardens. I’ve posted about this fabulous location before but, hey, you can never have too much of a good thing! 😊 Though. even I was surprised to find the little creature in photo 24 hopping amongst the leaves by the side of one the ponds.

Becs de Bosson Cabane from Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 2 of 2)

Even from the Pas de Lona, the Cabane de Becs de Bossons looks tiny and it’s still a good walk to get there. However, it’s well worth the extra effort as, on the way, there’s more Edelweiss growing along the crest than anywhere that I’ve ever seen in Switzerland. (See pics 1 & 2).

Like most mountain huts, the cabane is situated in a fabulous location, with glorious views to the east, south and west. (See pic 6). From there, my plan was to go over the top of the Pointe de la Tsevalire (at 3,025m / 9,925ft) but, even in August, there was quite a bit of snow covering the path, so I took the much easier route which traverses around the south side. From there, on a fine day, you can even see Mont Blanc. (See pic 12).

The descent took me back to L’A Vieille, where I retraced my steps home to Evolène. Oh, how I miss those blue skies!!

Becs de Bosson Cabane from Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 1 of 2)

I thought I only had a couple of posts to catch up on, but a quick flick through my old photos, yields at least four more (not counting this one and part 2). Still to come we have a short trip to Lake Maggiore, a few butterflies, a walk up the Pic d’Artsinol with the Pounders and the Swiss Ironman… (This was not completed by me you understand, though I may yet tell you about the outcome of the Sierre Zinal ‘race’, which I mentioned waaaay back in May…)

It was with this event in mind that, as part of my training, I decided to do one of the more challenging walks on my list – to the Becs de Bosson Cabane. As you will see from the Route map and profile at the end of the gallery, it’s around 20.5km or 13 miles long and has an overall ascent of over 1,700m or 5,600ft.

The route itself is straightforward… After reaching Volovron, along the track leading out of Evolène, the path climbs through the woods. Emerging slightly to the right reveals a view of the small hamlet of L’A Vieille and a wide panorama down towards the Rhone valley. (See pics 16 & 17). From there, the going gets steeper and steeper, until you reach the Pas de Lona, where we will leave this walk until tomorrow… (I’m such a tease! 😊)

Col du Tsaté and Col du Bréona from Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 2 of 2)

We left our walk yesterday at the Remointse de Tsaté. From there, the path ascends, quite gradually at first, to the Col du Tsaté. (See pic 1). The route then goes right and I believe there is a way directly up and over the ridge to the Col de Bréona. However, I wasn’t sure how difficult it was, in terms of climbing or scrambling (or how precipitous), so I took the ‘safe’ route that I knew, which traverses slightly down then back up to the unnamed peak at 2,985m (9,793ft). The views from there are spectacular. (See pics 5 and 6).

On the descent to Les Haudères I encountered many more butterflies – making at least 18 different species altogether on this walk. The ‘best’ of them, from a rarity point of view, was the Dusky Meadow Brown, shown in pics 11 and 26. My book says they are vulnerable but, thankfully, as we see here, they seem to be thriving in the Valais. 👍👍

You will not be surprised to read that I will miss this abundance of butterflies. 😌

Col du Tsaté and Col du Bréona from Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 1 of 2)

My apologies again for the delay in posting these images, but my feet have hardly touched the ground since we arrived in Wales. Six weeks already! Where does the time go? (I do know of course – visiting and being visited by family and friends and a few games of golf in between, but I’ll not bore you with all the details). So, without further ado, let’s catch up where I left off…

On the glorious 12th (of August) I set off to walk from our chalet to the Col du Tsaté then along the (mainly side of the) ridge to the Col de Bréona and back again. It’s a walk I’ve done before, but never in this direction. As you will see the skies were perfectly blue and the butterflies were out in force. 😊

Part 2 tomorrow… (I hope).