Bisses de Mont d’Orge and Lentine Walk, Valais, Switzerland

In an attempt to get away from snow-covered paths (if not sub-zero temperatures), yesterday Jude dropped me off down in Sion to do another pair of the very many bisse* walks which snake around the sides of the Rhone valley. This walk is route 212 on the Swissmobile app, though I did it in reverse, starting at the Pont de la Morge and heading up towards the village of Drône. Since I planned to catch the bus back home, I extended the walk to descend into Sion, which also took me along a very short section of the (previously posted) Bisse de Clavau.

As you will see from the gallery below, the route gives excellent views both up and down the Rhone valley as it meanders through the vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised how many birds there were flitting around. Although they are not great photos, (my camera doesn’t do zoom very well), I did manage to capture a couple of Rock Buntings and a pair of European Nuthatches (though I’ve only included a picture of one of them). Both pictures, 14 and 16, are heavily cropped, so a little blurred.

In addition, you know when you get that feeling that you are being watched? Well, I just happened to turn my head to the side during my descent from Drône and there in the field was a Roe deer. I edged forward to get a clearer view and clicked the camera straight away and I was glad I did, as it turned and ran off almost immediately. (The picture, 28, below is also cropped, otherwise you might not have seen it!)

Last but not least, I should highlight the rather rickety looking monorail, in pics 32 and 33. These are used to collect the grapes in the autumn. As you will see, some of the terracing is very steep and this saves them lugging huge quantities of grapes back to the lanes which run through the vineyards. It looks quite a precarious piece of kit and I’m not sure I’d want to be perched on that seat as it goes up and down!

*Regular readers will of course remember that ‘bisses’ are irrigation channels, built to bring water to the fields – in this case the many vineyards which blanket the south facing slopes.

Walk from Ashbourne to Alstonefield via Ilam, Peak District, England

The weather wasn’t particularly kind while we were staying in the Peak District, but I did manage to get out for another, longish walk, starting in Ashbourne and finishing at our cottage in Alstonefield. Although “The Dales” is generally taken to mean the Yorkshire Dales, there are far more Dales in the Peak District. This walk alone took in Lin Dale, Dove Dale and Hall Dale.

As I approached Mapleton (pronounced as in M’apple’ton btw), I met up with 2 gentleman and a dog, who were also walking to Ilam. I forget their names now (and my apologies to them if they are now reading this), but we had a very nice chat as we strolled along.

After bidding them farewell, (as they went for a cuppa in the café at Ilam Hall), I turned east to take in a small hill, called Thorpe Cloud (@287m or 942ft). On a fine day, I’m sure the views are wonderful. From there, I descended into Lin Dale before heading north along Dove Dale and up Hall Dale to the Watts-Russell Arms (for a more interesting refreshment. 😊)

Mawddach Estuary, Barmouth, North Wales

It was not for nothing that (now Sir) Tom Jones sang about the Green, Green Grass of Home. Wales can be a very wet place (as you may have gathered from all the moss and lush looking fields in my previous post). So, as if to prove I’m not just a fair weather walker, here are few pictures, mainly of the Mawddach Trail (a former railway line) from Penmaenpool to Barmouth.

Inn Way to Northumberland (Day 2 of 4)

The full Inn Way is normally completed in 6 stages, but my friends and I prefer to stick to a 3 or 4 day schedule.  So this necessitated a ‘short cut’ somewhere along the route.  This would be Day 2, where we would make our own way from Seahouses to Wooler – perhaps a distance of around 15 to 16 miles.   There were 2 or 3 options and we chose to take the most southerly route marked on the map (pic 19), which involved a short section of road before crossing the main east coast railway line.

Pete was looking forward to repeating his telephone chat with the Control office, as he had when we did the Northumberland Coast path a few years ago.  Then, he had said it would take us “just a jiffy” to cross the busy line.  However, despite the Ordnance Survey map showing a public right of way, the crossing was no longer there.  We could clearly see where it had been, by the posts which had held the phones and the severed wires, but our way was well and truly blocked.

We returned to the road and after another mile or so, we set off along a path to Warenford.  It was so overgrown with weeds, nettles and long grass that we were soon wet through from foot to thigh after all the rain the previous day.  So it was with great relief we emerged in Warenford and stopped for a refreshing cuppa at the White Swan Inn.  (None of us were in any mood for beer at that point).  A rethink was also required and from there we pretty much avoided any paths which might be ‘wet’ (i.e. the one over Chatton Moor) and a lot of road was used to get to Wooler.

The boys speculated that it would be difficult to produce a blog from the meagre, grey views on offer, but I’ve now discovered that one of the key skills of a photographer is in actually finding things to photograph…  I hope I’ve done this leg justice, with a little help from my mate, Pete (pic 15).

Footnote:  If you ever find yourself in or near Seahouses, you MUST go in the Olde Ship, which is just above the harbour, it’s a real gem.  Apart from some excellent beer, the bar is full (and I mean full) of seafaring artifacts and memorabilia.

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.

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.

 

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. 😊

 

Zurich

With a certain festive period approaching, Jude and I took ourselves off to Zurich for a few days to find some ‘different’ presents.   I’d been there before to run the marathon, but I hadn’t really had time to explore the city and I have to say that we were both very impressed with how organised and quiet it was.  It was more like a large village than a big city.  It was also nice to see the wooden Christmas market stalls and the streets decorated with more lights than you could ever count.

 

Windermere cruise, English Lake District

A visit to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete (for Jude anyway) without a trip on a boat.  And since the forecast for the day was a sort of cloudy grey, we opted to catch a ‘steamer’* from the aptly named village of Lakeside to Bowness-on-Windermere.

*Our outward journey would be on the MV (Merchant Vessel) Tern, which was built in 1891, but I’ve since learnt that it’s not driven by steam at all but is motor powered.

After a little retail therapy and a nice lunch, we returned on the MV Teal, which was built in 1936.  (See pic 8).

The boats link up with the Lakeside and Haverthwaite railway, which is only 3.2 miles/5k long but, during the season, (broadly April through to the end of October) mostly runs steam trains to take people back and forth, as you will see from the last few pictures.

A perhaps little known, but useful piece of information here, (for keen UK quizzers or maybe those who holiday in exotic locations by the sea) is that all British owned ships must fly a flag with the Union (Jack) flag in the top left corner.  The remainder of the flag is either red, indicating a merchant vessel (as with the Tern and Teal); white, together with a St George’s Cross, for the Royal Navy, or blue for other ships, which have a special warrant from the Admiralty.

For more information on Windermere Lake Cruises, check out this Visit Cumbria website.

Canal Walk to Llangollen

Jude and I have just returned from a 17 day trip back to the UK, which was partly for a holiday in the English Lake District (more to come on that in the following days) and partly to see Jude’s family.  Our first port of call was to Jude’s parents in their lovely new home in Oswestry.  While there, we took the opportunity to drive across the Welsh border to walk a short section of the Llangollen canal with Angela, Jude’s mum.  As you can see from our pictures below, it was a beautiful Autumn day.