Mayens de Cotter Walk, via Volovron

A few weeks ago now, I placed my camera on the kitchen worktop.  When I went to pick it up, rather ironically, the safety strap got caught on a drawer handle and pulled it out of my hand, such that it fell on the tiled floor.  At first it didn’t work, but after switching it off and on a few times, it miraculously came back to life.  It had a blurred spot in the bottom left corner of the images anyway, so I decided to buy a new one, just in case it decided to pack up when I needed it most.

Having invested in spare batteries, I decided to by the same make, but ‘upgrade’ to a more expensive model (as would-be photographers tend to do) – a Sony RX100 (from a WX500).    On the face of it, it was the same camera, with much the same functions, but it had a 1″ sensor and had rave reviews.

It was only when I’d got it out of the box and tried it a few times that I realised it had a very poor zoom of only 3.6x. (My old one had a 30x zoom).  And it appears the ‘wide’ panorama isn’t quite as wide as my old one.  But, the images do seem to be a lot better.  To cover all the bases, I took both cameras with me on my walk from home today.  The route was a little challenging in places, due to the snow, but the weather was fantastic.

I always shrink the images to around 250k (to save WordPress space and you waiting aaages for the images to load).  Four of the images below, were taken with my old camera, but I would guess that you cannot tell which they are.

Spring is in the air…

When I look out of the window today, it seems inconceivable that only a week ago it was snowing and we had around a foot (30cm) of snow covering our garden.  However the temperatures have risen quite sharply since and all that snow has now gone.  Our daffodils are starting to emerge and there are signs of Spring everywhere.

Over the weekend we were pleasantly surprised to see at least a dozen different birds in and around our bird feeder.  We had the usual Great, Blue, Coal, Crested and Willow/Marsh* Tits, who are regular winter visitors, but in addition there were several Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Rock Buntings plus a Robin, a Greenfinch and a Pied Wagtail.
*I never can tell the difference.

Most of my photos were not particularly good, but I did also go for a short walk up the path behind our chalet yesterday and I thought I’d share a few of the better images for you to enjoy.

 

Abbotsbury to Dorchester Walk (Day 7)

On Day 7, Pete caught the bus and train back home, but I had an extra day before flying back to Geneva.  My plan was to walk part of the South Dorset Ridgeway then turn north to Dorchester.  But it was soon obvious that the weather and, more importantly, the state of the paths, (see pic 3), would determine the best way forward.   I figured, after all, I was there to enjoy myself and not slip and slide ankle deep in mud.

A quick look at the map showed a very direct route along quiet roads and paths and so that became Plan B – especially as it went through the delightfully named Martinstown or Winterbourne St Martin, where there was a pub. 😊  I arrived there a little early so I explored the church before spending an hour or so drying out in front of a roaring fire and chatting to the locals.  That included a 95 year old gentleman who walked in shortly after me (completely unaided by an stick or other support) and quipped “You’ve got to get up early to be the first in this pub!”  He was a great character, who’d been in the RAF. He told me his home was flooded just before Christmas and he was living temporarily in a rented cottage nearby.  He hoped to be back in his house sometime during April.

The route also took me past the Hardy Monument on the top of Black Down, where there’s a 360 degree viewpoint – on a clear day of course.  (See pic 8).   I should explain that this ‘Hardy’ was not the Dorchester writer, Thomas Hardy, famous for his Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. (I’ve never read any of these by the way, Pete told me… You can learn all sorts of things on these trips…!)  The monument was built in memory of another local hero, the Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769 – 1839), who was Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).  Almost any British school boy or girl will tell you, as Vice-admiral Horatio Nelson lay dying, he uttered the immortal words: “Kiss me Hardy”.

That brings us to the end of my UK trip.  I hope you have enjoyed the series.  The sun is now shining brightly in the Val d’Hérens, so I hope to bring you some more Swiss pictures in the next few days. 😊

 

Walk to the Col du Torrent (almost), Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

With recent temperatures rising into the mid-20’s (70’s F), even in Evolène @1,400m or 4,600ft, most of the snow has now gone from the lower mountain slopes.  So I was expecting to be able to reach the Col du Torrent (@2,916m or 9,567ft), perhaps with a bit of detouring around any snow that might be left in the gullies.  However, it soon became clear, as I got higher, that the late April snow had left its mark and I decided to turn back, maybe 400m, or around 70m in height, from the col.   So I never did manage to get a picture of the fabulous view into the next valley. 🙁  Maybe next time.

Another dilemma was how much time to spend chasing butterflies.  I knew I had a good 6 hours walking ahead of me, so I couldn’t wait around too long to capture as many as I would have liked.  At least six Apollos escaped my lens, as did a couple of Painted Ladies (spotted on the descent).  Apart from those shown below, there were numerous others, which I would only be able to name once downloaded onto my laptop.  Thankfully, the flowers are a little easier to photograph, if not to identify!

 

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!”).

 

Walk from La Luette to Nax

After several days, if not weeks, of misty, wet, dank weather, the sun finally came out in the Val d’Hérens yesterday.  As you will see from some of the pictures below, the peaks are still covered in snow, so I chose to do a slightly different ‘medium level’ walk from La Luette to Nax via St Martin.

As soon as I set off I knew I was in for a good day with the camera.  There were a lot more wild flowers in bloom and many more species of butterfly on the wing, including, I’m pretty sure, a Camberwell Beauty, which unfortunately escaped my lens.

My apologies for not naming all of the pictures below, but as you will see there are quite a few.  But this only goes to show what a wide variety there is in nature. 😊

 

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.

Walk from Les Haudères to the Ferpècle valley

Yesterday, my car had to go to the garage in Les Haudères for it’s regular service, so I had some time to kill before picking it up later in the day.  Rather than walk back home, I decided to check out the Ferpècle valley, to see how the snow was getting on.  And, although there was quite a bit, knee deep even, from the small reservoir to the valley itself, a lot had disappeared.  But it will be a while yet, before I can venture too far above 2,000m (6,500 ft).

There are clear signs though that more flowers and creatures are emerging from their winter hibernation.  I couldn’t identify picture 22 though, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

 

Northumberland Coast

In an attempt to catch up and get up to date, I’ve decided to group all my other holiday photos together.  (I say my, but I’ve included 2 of Jude’s as well – suitably credited to her).  As you will see we had some nice weather (unlike the rest of the UK at the time I understand) and we had yet another fabulous boat ride to the Farne Islands, where thousands of seabirds were nesting.

My apologies for all the bird pictures, but I know there are some keen birders out there following my posts.  If any of them/you can identify the little brown birds in pics 2 and 28 then I’d be very grateful.  I have my suspicions about the first but no idea about the second.

Plockton, NW Scotland

For our last full day in the NW of Scotland, we drove around Loch Carron to Plockton and treated Jo, Aaron and Jude’s friend, Kate, to a boat ride on one of Calum’s famous* Seal Trips (where you are guaranteed to see seals, or your money back!)  I have covered this village before, but I see that it was almost 3 years ago now, so I think it’s worth another post.  Especially as, this time, Aaron and I went for a short walk to the viewpoint at An Fhrith Aird, where there is an exceptional view of where Loch Carron meets the Inner Sound between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland. (See map at the end of the picture gallery).

*As featured on the BBC TV series “Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs”.