Saillon to Fully Walk, Valais, Switzerland

With temperatures set to soar into the 20’s C (70’s F) down in the Rhone valley, it was an easy decision to go for a walk in that area yesterday. After a quick scan of the map, I settled on doing another section of the Swiss Regional Route no. 36, “The Chemin du Vignoble”, between Saillon and Fully.

As you will see from the gallery below, the route also takes in a lot of the other farming activity which goes on along the valley floor – most notably the orchards and various poly-tunnels encouraging what looked to me like strawberry plants.

Of course I was also hoping to find a few ‘new’ (for this season anyway) flowers and butterflies and I was not disappointed. There were two distinct ‘hot-spots’ where I must have spent 20 to 30 minutes trying to chase down a Clouded Yellow – but the best shot I got was from a distance and hence why pic 21 is so poor. However, as any Twitcher or enthusiast will understand, I was extremely excited to discover a completely new ‘find’ (for me) when I checked the identity of pic 23. According to this Papillons de Suisse website (see last entry on the page) the Chequered Blue is only found in some parts of the Rhone valley, Ticino and a few other ad hoc areas in the south of Switzerland. Now that’s what I call a good day out!! 😊

Walk around Lac de Montsalvens, Gruyère, Switzerland

Like many of you no doubt, Jude and I have been longing to get away for a bit of a break. The hotels in Switzerland are still open and we took advantage of a special Dinner, Bed and Breakfast offer at a hotel in the small village of Charmey.

I think it’s fair to say that the Gruyère region is more ‘chocolate box’ pretty than the more rugged Alps of the Valais, as I hope these photos show.

Deer, deer, deer… (Nature watch, Evolène, Valais, Switzerland)

With the snow still being around, I put the trail cam up around the tree to see what might wander into our garden. Jude and I wondered whether the stag might return, but no, last Saturday evening the camera captured this (young?) male Roe deer (below). His antlers are just growing and somewhat smaller than those of ‘our’ Red deer stag!

I should point out that Jude has been putting up the bird feeders during the day and taking them in at night, which is why they seem to like grazing under the tree and a little too close to the camera. So I’ve been adjusting it and the 2 plant pots, which were beneath the tree, as the week has progressed to get some better shots of the action.

The following night (around 2am on Monday morning) he returned and was surprised, but seemingly not concerned, by another visitor…

And, the following night, (Tuesday at 1am), a slightly more mature male visited…

Around 4 hours later, (5am Tuesday) a female arrived. She obviously felt at home as she settled down for a rest…

And then last night, this fox was obviously taken aback by the ‘eyes’ (aka lenses) of the trail cam…

Finally we have 2 videos, (one taken at 3am this morning and one at 5:45am) of both a male and female happily grazing together on the bits and pieces that we had left out for them… (I also have a clip of 3 together but it wasn’t as good as these… 😊)

Lacs de la Corne and de la Brèche Walk, Valais, Switzerland

Yesterday, Jude and I took advantage of what might be the last drop of Spring sunshine for a while, by driving down to the Rhone valley to do a bit of bird spotting. Our route took us through the woods around 2 small lakes and alongside quite a few holes of the Sierre Golf Course.

Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any decent shots of any of the birds but, for any enthusiasts out there, we spotted a few Goldeneyes, a pair of Mallards and a female Goosander on one of the lakes and 2 European Nuthatches, a (probably Great) Spotted Woodpecker, a Treecreeper, a Crow, a Robin and several Blue, Great and Long-tailed tits in the surrounding woods. Had I had a ‘fishing rod’ with me, I could have collected about 20 golf balls from the streams running between the course and the footpaths.

And, yes, that is a very hardy lady swimming in one of the lakes in picture 8. The air temperature couldn’t have been more than 13 degrees C (55 F) maximum, so I would imagine, after clear skies overnight, the water temperature was in single digits C (or somewhere between 32 and 48 F). We stopped nearby for lunch and saw her drying herself, like a cormorant, with arms out and facing the sun. Once dried and dressed she walked by and Jude asked her if she swam every day. She answered by saying that she tries to go in as often as she can, within the confines of her work schedule, which is about 2 or 3 times per week. Brrrr….!

Another Stag Night in Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

After a quiet night on Monday, when only a fox appeared on my Trail cam, last night it captured another case of wanton destruction of the bird feeder. Jude had deliberately removed all the bird food containers to see whether the stag(s) would still demolish the holder.

It snowed during the day yesterday, leaving about 3 inches of fresh snow covering the garden. The pictures below show the view this morning from our upstairs balcony. As you will see, there were lots of hoof prints, the main pole had been uprooted and bent, while the top part of the feeder was about 10 yards away, down in the field below.

This time I’d pointed the Trail camera towards the feeder to catch the culprit(s*) in action. Unfortunately, in the event, the first 10 second video was OK, but the remainder of the videos were only 1 to 2 seconds long. (I’m not sure if this is a fault in the camera, e.g. if there is constant movement when the ‘hybrid’ photo/video option is selected). Anyway to save me posting and you clicking through numerous 1 to 2 second videos, I’ve merged some of them together to show a) the stag’s arrival and b) the start of the demolition.

*One of the later videos captured, (not included here), shows the pole moving up and down without the stag in view touching it, so we suspect there is another one off camera pulling and/or pushing at the top of the feeder. Certainly we did catch 2 pairs of eyes on camera coming into the field the other night and someone in the village posted a picture of 2 stags during the daytime on facebook a few days ago. So we know there are 2 lurking in the vicinity.

Clearly they are simply looking for food and not vandals after all. But, to save dismantling the bird feeder every night, we are now going to move it up to the corner of our balcony, well out of the reach of those long antlers!

I’m afraid the following 2 videos are a bit jerky, but I hope you will get the idea.

Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Valais, Switzerland

The 15th August is normally the date when the Mid-summer Festival takes place in our village. But this year, for obvious reasons, it was cancelled. So we were not treated to the helicopter rescue of the dummy which had fallen (or was he pushed?) off the rockface, nor the stream of vintage cars. And the usual procession, of the villagers demonstrating the traditional arts and crafts, will have to wait until next year.

So, I decided to have a wander through the village and take some photos to show you what our village looks like during the summer. Normally the main street would be packed from one end to the other but, this year, there were just the usual weekend and holiday visitors. It was also nice to see the locals dressed in their traditional costumes, simply relaxing and enjoying some time with their families.

If you would like to see an example of what we all missed, here’s a post of the Mid-summer Festival from 2016.

Note that the last two images, courtesy of Wiki, position Evolène on the map of Switzerland and the canton of Valais and give some facts and figures about the Commune – just in case you wondered… 😊

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? 😉)

Coronavirus update – a view from Switzerland

I’ve been encouraged by Stephen at Fractured Faith Blog to write a few words on our experiences during this ‘crisis’ period. After all, the Blogosphere is one big inter-connected and generally very supportive community. 😊 Since I might be one of the few people you might follow in Switzerland, I thought I’d give you some insights into how things are in what is generally considered a well ordered country.

We have been in lockdown mode for around 4 weeks now. Unlike France, where you need to stay within a kilometre of your home and have a piece of paper indicating the reason for not staying in, we are allowed out (but encouraged not to travel unless it’s absolutely necessary – though see below).

Like a lot of countries, we had some panic buying initially. Even in our small village, the shelves were cleared of pasta for the first few days, but normality was soon restored. The ‘Co-op’ restricts the numbers entering to about a dozen (it’s not a huge shop, but not small either) and lines are clearly marked on the floor where you must stand to respect the 2 metre rule at the checkout. Only one person is allowed at either end of the conveyor belt. So if the person in front has a lot of shopping to pack, you have to stand and wait until they’ve finished before it’s your turn. There is also hand-wash at the entrance/exit which you are asked to use. The manager told me the other day that he had not heard of any cases in our valley, which is somewhat comforting, because…

My wife and I often sit on our balcony and watch the world go by. Normally there are very few people around and about, I guess that’s because they are normally at work or have better things to do. But recently we have seen groups of up to 8 congregating and having ‘garden parties’, when the Swiss rule is no gatherings of more than 5. Not only that but one of our neighbours was actually sharing a fondue with his partner and another neighbour, which we thought was unbelievable.

Another annoyance to us is to see ‘outsiders’ arriving in the valley. Last week we observed one Austrian car and several French number plates. These countries have closed their borders to incomers, so why do they feel it necessary to travel out of their own country? In addition, all Swiss cars have a 2 character canton prefix on their number plate indicating their owner’s origin (like GE for Geneva and FR for Fribourg) and we’ve regularly observed non-Valaisan (VS) cars in and around our neighbourhood. Many Swiss have second homes and come up and/or invite their friends for the weekend, despite this being discouraged by the authorities. The Swiss are normally very good at following the rules, but even they seem to balk at the very idea sometimes.

On a more positive note, it has meant we’ve managed to get a few little jobs done around the house and my wife, Judith, has turned her hand to baking bread (and very successfully I might add – see pics below) to save us going to the shop too often. (Bread goes hard very rapidly in the dry atmosphere of the Alps!)

Anyway, that’s my little ‘piece’ said. Please feel free to Comment and/or post some of your own personal experiences.

Stay safe everyone.

South West Coast Path, Day 1, Poole to Swanage

I’ve just returned from a week in the UK, walking the first (or last) part of the South West Coast Path with my very good mate, Pete.   The full route is around 640 miles (1,030 km) long and goes from Poole in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset (or vice versa).  Long time followers may recall that the 2 of us and 4 other friends did the other end of this long distance path in 2015.  (Though I now see that nobody ‘Liked’ that post, so maybe I should call a halt here… 🤔 … Er, no way…!)

With 6 days available, our ultimate destination would be Abbotsbury, though I had an extra day before flying home, so I also walked ‘back’, away from the SW Coast Path, to Dorchester.

Pete had selected this particular section of the path for 2 reasons*, the first being that he had spent 4 of his summer holidays as a child in Swanage and he was keen to re-live those happy memories from the past.  So it was with great excitement that we set off on the short ferry crossing from the Sandbanks area of Poole to Shell Bay, around 1pm, to walk the 6 or 7 miles (10 or 11 km) to Swanage.

*I will divulge Pete’s 2nd reason later in this series.  (Oh, the suspense…)

Logistical footnote: Pete had travelled down that morning from York , by train, London Underground and train to arrive in Bournemouth (rather miraculously, on time) around 12 noon.  By contrast my journey had been by Postbus, train and plane (by the wonder that is Easyjet to Bournemouth airport), again arriving around 12 noon.  I then caught a taxi to Sandbanks, picking up Pete on the way.   As George Peppard, or ‘Hannibal’ Smith, if you prefer, often said in the A Team “I love it when a plan comes together.” 😊

 

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

After the excesses of the festive season (i.e. too much 🍰&🍺) I was keen to get out for some much needed exercise.  Many of my usual walking routes are knee deep in snow, but I thought the track up to Lac d’Arbey and then across and down to Les Haudères would be well trampled down by now.  And, apart from one or two ‘softer’ patches, so it proved…