Sion to Sierre bike ride

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I might have to get out my bike if I was going to get any exercise and, today, I did just that.  My road bike may need a little tlc before it’s roadworthy, so I opted for my mountain bike, even though I would be cycling on flat, smooth tarmac (at least for most of the way) alongside the river Rhone.

When I was planning the route, I noticed that there was a small lake, a monastery and a ruined chateau near Sierre, so that became my target – about 16 km (10 miles) away from where I started, after unloading my bike from the car in Sion.  Along the way I took a few short detours to capture some of the other small lakes nearby, as well as a few pictures of the Sierre golf course.   I hope you enjoy the ride… 🙂

Les Flantses Walk, Evolène, Val d’Hérens

While I was away in Krakow it snowed, as indeed it did the day I came back, so our little valley was completely white once more.   As ever though, it seems, the sun has been out since and doing its best to clear it all away again, particularly on the south facing slopes and this has led to the emergence of the first Spring flowers…  (My little Swiss Alpine Flora book has been gathering dust for 6 months, so it was good to get it out again. 🙂)

I decided to get some fresh air yesterday and took a short (maybe 3km / 2 miles) walk behind our chalet along the still partially covered paths and tracks in the area called Les Flantses, which lead up to the small hamlet of Volovron.  As you can see below, you don’t have to walk very far to get a good view of the valley and surrounding mountains.

 

Mont d’Orge, Sion, Switzerland

Sion, (pronounced Cee-on, as in Sea-on, by the way), is the capital of the Swiss canton of the Valais, which is in the south west, french speaking, part of the country.  It has around 30,000 inhabitants and a football team in the Swiss Super League.  Due to its position in the fertile Rhone valley, it has a rich and wonderful history going back to Prehistoric times.  It’s perhaps best known now for its two 13th century hilltop fortifications – the Basilique de Valère and Chateau de Tourbillon.

However there is a 3rd hill close by, called Mont d’Orge, which also has a ruined castle or chateau on top.  It can easily be reached from the railway/bus station and, for added interest, there is a small lake to the north, which teems with wildlife in the summer.  (See information sheet, pic 21, for a list, in French, of some of the creatures found thereabouts).

I’d read about this walk some years ago in a Rother walking guide, but had never done it, until yesterday.  Sadly the skies were a little dull for good photography, but I’ve done my best.

Those clever Swiss people have made best use of the geography by setting out a fitness trail up and around it’s sides.  (See pics 4, 15, 16 & 17 below).  I also stumbled across a yellow flower which my research suggests, (please let me know if I’m wrong), is either a Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem or an Early Star-of-Bethlehem.  If it’s the latter, then this is a very rare flower in the UK (where it’s also known as the Radnor Lily) as it only grows at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire, Central Wales.  They believe that there are only 1,000 plants, of which only 1% flower each year.  However, it is quite widespread across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Last, but not least, I spotted a signpost with a plaque (pic 29) which shows that I was on one of the Swiss links to the famous Way of St James or Camino de Santiago de Compostela.   That makes it a little over 1,900 km to my good friend Arthur’s house. 😊

 

Forêt de Finges, Valais, Switzerland

After several days of sanding down and painting our shutters, Jude and I decided to have a day off and go for a walk down in the Rhone valley.  Sunday is pretty much a rest day in Switzerland anyway, as you are not allowed to make any undue noise (like mowing the lawn, drilling or hammering).  This is one of several ‘rules’ in Switzerland, which I may well blog about one day.

Anyway, the Forêt de Finges is a nature reserve of national importance which lies between the River Rhone and the main road from Sierre to Leuk.  It effectively marks the ‘border’ between the French and German speaking parts of Switzerland.  Our route would take us around a few small ponds which, to our surprise, were almost completely frozen.

We’d taken our binoculars in the hope of spotting a few interesting birds but, unfortunately, we didn’t see too many – just a few Coal Tits, Crested Tits, 2 Buzzards and something that looked a bit yellow!  On the plus side, we did spot a butterfly which came to rest on a bank above us.  After clambering up very carefully, I did manage to catch a reasonable photo – see pic 15.

 

Walk from Euseigne to Sion, Switzerland

We’re having some pretty incredible weather here in the Val d’Hérens at the moment.  Since we returned from the UK last week, it’s been blue skies all the way and at least one forecast suggests it will continue for another 10 days, at least… (see pic 1).  😅  Early morning temperatures are still pretty cold mind you, with the ground frozen and as soon as the sun drops behind the mountains (currently around 3pm in Evolène) the warmth disappears instantly.

So I have little or no excuse for not going out for a walk, except that all the paths in the upper valley are still covered in snow and that’s turning into a squelchy wet mush under the sun, before freezing again overnight.  Undeterred I decided to drive down the valley to the village of Euseigne, where most of the snow has now disappeared and walk right down the valley to Sion, before catching the Postbus back to Euseigne.

The total distance of the walk was around 15k or just over 9 miles.  I had a few minutes to spare before the bus arrived, so I decided to run, well jog, another 1k around a 400 metre track which was laid out around a football pitch.  (See last pic).

Great Haywood Junction, nr Stafford, England

Last week Judith and I were back in the UK visiting our respective families.  While in the Midlands, we had a few hours to spare, so we decided to take a walk along the canal near Great Haywood Junction.   Though I should really say canals, as that’s where the Trent and Mersey canal meets the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal.  It’s like a T junction – see first pic showing a map of the area.

As you will see, it was a pretty grey day, but there’s always something interesting to photograph – not least, in this instance, Shugborough Hall and the fascinating design of Essex Bridge.  Twice I had to step to one side into one of the V shapes ‘laybys’ – once for a jogger and the second time for 3 ladies on horseback.  It was clearly a popular route. 🙂

Evolène

I received such positive feedback on the village photographs in my last post, (thank you Jet and M.Oniker), that I decided to take a few more pictures for you to enjoy.  But first, a little background…

Evolène is a village at around 1,380m (4,525ft) in the Val d’Hérens, which itself is in the southern part of the Valais canton of Switzerland.  The population of the whole commune (which includes the neighbouring villages of Les Haudères, Villa, La Sage, La Forclaz and Arolla) is only about 1,700.  Despite this relatively low number, we have 8 bar/restaurants in our village alone.  These survive due to the number of visitors that we get both during the winter, for skiing, and the summer for walking, cycling or mountaineering.  I read that 55% of the available light (i.e from when it appears from, or disappears, behind the mountains), is sunshine.  And with little wind and a fairly dry atmosphere, not to mention some beautiful scenery, you can see why it’s quite popular.

At the moment we have the annual Carnival, which this year runs from 6th January to 5th March, (this explains why some of the pictures still show what appear to be Christmas decorations) and in the summer from 10th to 15th August there will be the biannual, CIME mountain folklore festival.  More posts to come on these no doubt… 😄

Winter walk to Lac d’Arbey

Although I’ve walked up to this little lake many times before, I’ve never done it in winter.  I had planned to get out my snowshoes, but the lock on the storage container at the back of the chalet (which gets no sun) was frozen solid.  Anyway, it didn’t matter as plenty of people had been up there before me, although their tracks had been covered by a light dusting of snow overnight.

My apologies again for so many photos, (and for the sun spots but, hey, who’s complaining about sunshine?) but I thought it might make you feel like you’d been on the walk yourself… Enjoy! 😁

 

Eurasian Siskins

For the past week or so we have had a flock of Siskins (Eurasian variety) hoovering up around our bird feeder.  It started with maybe 8 of them, then there were maybe 15 and the other day, I couldn’t count how many there were.  It must have been between 30 and 40.    We have had these cute little visitors in the summer, but never in the winter, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

My RSPB bird book suggested that they were “nut basket feeders”, but all of ours were seen scurrying around the floor, picking up what the other birds (mainly Great Tits, but also Blue, Coal, Marsh/Willow, Crested and Long Tailed Tits) had dropped onto the ground.  That is until yesterday, when we saw several of them hanging off the nut basket.  And today I’ve noticed a distinct absence of Great Tits.  So I think the Siskins have ganged up on the 10 or so Great Tits and scared them off.

Anyway, while I was taking some photos with Jude’s SLR camera (my point and shoot is hopeless in the sunshine as you can’t see what you’re pointing at) who else should make a short appearance but our old friend the (Eurasian) Nuthatch.  Not only that but my photo shoot was interrupted when I noticed what I thought were 4 parascenders in the sky, but it turned out that they were hot air balloons.  I then remembered that the Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival takes place around this time of year.  So they must have taken off from there (which is many miles from here) and they were heading south over the glaciers and mountains to Italy when I last saw them!

Even after deleting many, many photos, I still couldn’t decide which of these pictures were “the best”, so I thought I’d post them all.  Please stick with the gallery as the quality (at least of image) improves towards the end as I edged closer to the feeders.  Also check out the look of the 2 birds on the feeder in pictures 13 and then 14 as the bird above hops off its perch.  (I thought it was quite amusing anyway).  There was quite a bit of squabbling going on as you will also see.

Winter walk from Arolla to Les Haudères

After several more days of sub-zero temperatures in the Val d’Hérens (both during the day and overnight) the forecast for today was for up to 4 degrees C (39 F).  😅  So, to take advantage of this balmy weather, I decided to take the bus up to Arolla and walk back to Les Haudères.

Again I decided not to take the snow shoes, which was a big mistake, (some people never learn 🤭), as the snow was thigh deep in places and, even where people had gone before, it was much more difficult to wade through than I expected.   However, after one or two detours via the road (and a quick refreshment at La Gouille), the path thereafter became much easier and I soon made it to Les Haudères.

Note that the first 3 photos below were taken from the bus on the way up to Arolla.