Southern Finland

The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland.  After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km.  From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.

We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna

Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):

  • As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
  • There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging.  They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
  • The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be.  There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
  • The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
  • The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s.  The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
  • I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
  • The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed.  (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
  • In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
  • Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good.  They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻

Åland Islands, Finland

Let me take you on a little journey from Stockholm to the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous region of Finland…

Travelling to new countries (and blogging about them) certainly teaches you a few things, like there is hardly any tidal movement in the Baltic sea (which is why the thousands of islands are always visible); the water is not as salty as the ‘normal’ sea and, despite belonging to Finland, the islanders all speak Swedish (and most also speak English thankfully).

We caught a Viking Line ferry, called Grace, which was more like a cruise ship, from Stockholm to Turku, on the Finnish mainland.  It’s a sailing which is highly recommended, if you ever get the opportunity, as the boat weaves its way through the almost impossibly narrow channels between the many islands.   After an overnight stop and hiring a car, we then hopped on and off 2 more ferries to get to the group of interconnected islands called Brändö. (See map pic B11).

A particular highlight of our time there was a day on the island of Jurmo.  We arrived too early for the ferry, but an extremely friendly local, called Ari, offered to give us a lift in his small boat.  There was a harvest festival type celebration on that weekend and we were treated to a tour of the island on a tractor trailer.

Like yesterday, I’ve divided my photos into 3 distinct galleries. (Click on any image to get a larger view).

The ferry journey:

Brändö:

Jurmo island:

Circular Walk from Crayke, N. Yorkshire, England

After our successful walk from Byland Abbey the day before, Ian and I were keen to get out again, despite the inclement weather.  A local landowner has created a Permissive path around the village of Crayke, which we extended a little further north (after a short stop for a coffee and a piece of cake at the excellent Dutch House – Café/Garden/Gallery) before returning to complete the route.

Swiss National Route 6, Zinal to Gruben (Day 2 of 3)

After a steep descent into Zinal on day 1, it didn’t take me long (maybe about 5 minutes) to realise that almost all paths around Zinal are steep.  My GPS was telling me that the 50m contours were coming every 120m, which makes it a gradient of over 40%.  However after about an hour the path levelled off and then it just meandered and undulated all the way to the Weisshorn Hotel, where I stopped for some refreshments. 🍺😊

From there I thought it would be a simple 450m/1,500ft climb to the Meidpass but, just to make life interesting, the path dropped about 200m before it started to climb again.  But what a wonderful walk it was.  I was completely blown away by Le Touno (see pic 19) which stood majestically above everything, even though it’s only 3,018m (9,902ft) high.  After that, both sides of the Meidpass felt extremely remote and I only saw 5 other walkers before reaching the Schwarzhorn Hotel in Gruben,

It was there that I met up with the dozen or so people I mentioned yesterday, who were indeed British.  They were all walking from Chamonix to Zermatt on a 2 week holiday – not that everyone considered it a holiday!  I’ve mentioned coincidences recently but, one of the party leaders hailed from my old neck of the woods, near Hull.  Also, I offered to take a picture of a couple near the Weisshorn Hotel and, although they lived in Germany, the lady also came from near Hull.  What are the chances of that happening on the same day in the Alps?

As usual, I’ve done my best to identify the butterflies below, but one eluded me.  Despite it having some very distinct lines on the under wing, I couldn’t find it in my book.

Birds of a feather…

No sooner had we arrived at our friend Arthur’s place on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastella, (N. Spain), he announced that he had a blackbird’s nest in the bush clambering over his terrace and that there were two wrens building a nest in the palm tree only 2 to 3 yards away from his kitchen window.   Not only that but we spotted a family of young blackcaps ‘playing’ in the elderflower bushes to the left of the terrace.  So this is their story…

Let me first ‘set the scene’ with a (very poor) panoramic picture below of Arthur’s terrace – the palm tree is on the extreme far right, the (dark) green ‘blackbird’ bush is also to the right and the elderflowers to the left. (The glass of wine was mine! 😊)

0 Terrace

The Blackbirds were clearly well advanced as they all fledged and disappeared within a few days of us arriving.  But I did manage to capture the one picture below of at least 3 beaks (at the centre of the image).

1 Blackbird beaks

The Wrens were having a hard time of it.  Their first nest had been destroyed (I forget how now), but they were busy building their second towards the bottom of the dead brown leaves hanging down from the palm tree.  Unfortunately a storm blew up and hail (yes, hail – in June!) knocked it to the ground.  Undeterred, they carried on building another nest further up the tree.  One can only admire the determination and industry of these tiny little birds!

Last, but not least, the Blackcaps entertained us all week with their presence.  Rather than fly away when we approached the corner of the terrace, they simply hopped behind a leaf or onto the next branch.  This allowed me to get a few good pictures, including a very interesting series (see pics numbered 9 to 14) where the male parent returned with a berry and offered it to 2 of the 3 chicks, but then gulped it down itself.  It was as if the parent was saying, “Take a good look, this is what you should be out there looking for, now get going…!”)  Alternatively, or as well, the ‘teenage’ young, were looking suitably grumpy and saying “Not berries for dinner again!”).

 

Gornergrat, Zermatt, Switzerland

It’s hard to believe that I’ve now been blogging for over 4 years and this is the first time I’ve posted pictures, well, close up pictures, of one of the world’s most iconic mountains – the Matterhorn.  My excuse, if I needed one, is that Jude and I have been to Zermatt so many times before, with almost every one of our friends and family who came to stay when we first moved over to Switzerland.

Anyway, my sister, Karen, has been visiting this week with her partner, Paul, and they were keen to go there.  So, we drove around to Tasch, parked up and took the shuttle train to (the car free) Zermatt.  Now although the Matterhorn looks impressive from almost any angle, it’s far best viewed from the Gornergrat at 3,100m (or 10,170ft).  But do not worry if you are averse to hiking, as there is a train which will whisk you up to the top.  😊

To give you some idea of the scale of what you are looking at, I’ve posted a picture (no. 4) of the ultra modern, ‘space age’ looking, Monte Rosa Hut, which is 5 storeys high and sleeps 120 people.  Picture 5 zooms out a little (and you can, I hope, spot the hut in the centre of the lower part of the image) and then picture 6 shows the full extent of Monte Rose (also called the Dufourspitze and is Switzerland’s highest mountain at 4,634m or 15,200ft), with the hut towards the lower right.

Around Lochcarron, NW Scotland

While Jude caught up with old friends at Kate and Geoff’s Waterside Café, Jo, Aaron and I drove just a few miles up the road to the Lochcarron Weavers to find some MaCrae memorabilia.  We’d also been tipped off that just across the way there was a very interesting 10 minute walk up to the abandoned village of Stromemeanach, which was left to fall into ruin in the 19th century in favour of Lochcarron itself.

On the way back, we stopped off to view the ruined Strome Castle, where Jo actually broke into a run (possibly for the first time in 10 to 15 years) after taking some photos of the Highland cow and calf (in pic 11).  I only took one picture of her running, but it turned out pretty well, so I had to post it.

Later that day I strolled down to Slumbay Island (though it’s inappropriately named as it’s still connected to the mainland even at high tide), where I captured a couple of shore birds and, as usual when I find myself on a beach, I found a few stones to stack. 😊

 

Circular Walk from Castleton, Derbyshire

By the time most of you read this I will probably be at my daughter’s wedding.  Eventually I will post pictures of said event, if I’m allowed, but for the time being, I’m trying to keep up to date with recent events, otherwise you will all be bombarded with an even longer series of posts when I get back home…

So, on Thursday, while my wife was enjoying herself baking cakes and finishing off her dress for the wedding, I set out to do a loop from Castleton.  It started by walking south west up Cave Dale, before striking north west and over Mam Tor (at the dizzy height of 517m / 1,696 ft), to follow the ridge or crest north east over Hollins Hill and Back Tor to Lose Hill, (which is also called Ward’s Piece for some reason) and then returning to Castleton for a well earned refreshment. 🍺

The forecast was for ‘good’ weather, but the sun seemed to take an age to burn off the early morning mist, so the pictures below are a little murky.  Being pretty much in the middle of England, the Peak District is easily accessible to many and, as such, the paths can get very eroded.  So the powers that be have placed massive paving stones to help alleviate the problem.

P.S. Re pic 10: Don’t worry, I do plan to have a shave and smarten myself up for the wedding.  You may not even recognise me! 😊

Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage Area Walk

As previously mentioned, my wife and I are in the UK at the moment and on Monday we went to visit Judith’s parents, Angela and Lawrence.  After a delicious lunch, Angela took us on another wonderful walk, this time around the Limeworks Heritage Area at Llanymynech.   (I’ve never understood how to pronounce these Welsh names, but I understand the first y is as you might expect, like an ‘ee’ sound, but the second y is more like a u, as in bun.  It’s no wonder I’m confused!)

Anyway the village straddles the border between England and Wales and the old Limeworks does the same, such that there is an English Quarry and a Welsh Quarry.  As you might expect, the two were fiercely competitive, until a tunnel was made which connected the two and they decided to merge.  However, the Limeworks eventually became uneconomic and closed in 1914.

The Offa’s Dyke long distance path also runs alongside.

 

65 today!

I’m not usually prone to make a big fuss about ‘key’ birthdays.  Like when I turned 50, I was on holiday in Majorca with my two daughters, Joanne and Sarah, and only they knew it was my birthday (otherwise the compere in the hotel might have had me up on stage doing something silly, which was the last thing I wanted!)  On my 60th birthday, I ran the Vienna marathon.  The idea of running a marathon when I was ‘old’ always appealed to me as a challenge, especially when I knew I would be 60 on a Sunday, so it had to be done. Again Sarah was there, but this time with my wife, Jude.

Today, I’m 65 years old and I thought it worth a mention, purely because you readers are all my friends and I think you should know.  I am writing this in advance, as I’ll be in the UK for Sarah’s wedding next week, so I’ll have no time to be blogging!  All things being equal, I will have been out for a meal last night with my brother, Steve, and his wife, Beverley, and my sister, Karen, and her partner, Paul.  Tonight I will be having a quiet meal at a local hostelry in Hathersage, near Sheffield (and a few beers no doubt) with my lovely wife, Jude. 😍

As is customary, it seems, on these occasions, I’ve dug out some old, and I mean old, photos of me as a child, plus two more ‘grown up’ pictures that I came across recently.

See if you can spot me in the group photos… (Answers at the foot of the page).

Football photo: Back row, second from right.  Rugby photo: Front right.