Jodie and Alex’s Wedding

Almost exactly 5 years ago now, I posted pictures of Hannah and Mike’s wedding. Well, after a 2 year delay, due to you-know-what, it was the turn of her sister, Hannah, to marry Alex.

The wedding was held at the Loch Melfort Hotel, which is around 20 miles south of Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. The happy couple were blessed with glorious sunshine all day and the actual ceremony took place in what can only be described as a magnificent setting, right by the side of the loch. Inevitably many kilts were in evidence and a piper played… I hope this video and the gallery below gives you a feel for the atmosphere on their very special day.

(Suggestion: For the optimum “Scottish” experience, after viewing the video, allow the music to loop around while you view the gallery of photos). 😊

Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach Walk, Gwynedd, North Wales

Although we’ve experienced some gale force winds this weekend, the skies have been perfectly blue. So my new golfing buddy, Ian, and I decided to do a walk rather than attempt to whack an all too small round object into an only slightly larger hole. 🏌️‍♂️

The choice of walk was quite easy, for me anyway, as I stare at these “Moelwyns” every day – when it’s not raining of course. (You can see them to the far right of my banner picture). And what a treat we had…

Setting off from the small village of Croesor, the track gradually ascends to some disused slate quarry buildings and then turns sharply upwards to the back of Moelwyn Mawr (mawr meaning big) at 770m or 2,526ft. The 360 degree views were so impressive that I decided to take a video, which I’ve added after the usual photo gallery below, (though I’ve muted the sound as the noise of the wind was almost deafening!)

From there we dropped down and across Craigysgafn to the path, visible in pic 18, to the left, and then up to the top, of Moelwyn Bach (bach meaning small) at 710m or 2,329ft. It was then a case of retracing our steps to Bwlch Stwlan (bwlch meaning col or pass) and descending back to Croesor along Pant Mawr (meaning Big Hollow).

I hope you enjoy this walk as much as we did. 😊

Coedydd Maentwrog National Nature Reserve and Ffestiniog Mountain Railway Walk, Gwynedd, North Wales

If you like nature and/or steam railways, this is a post for you. 😊 Please read on…

Many people, in the UK at least, will be aware of the narrow gauge railways which were once used to ferry slate from the mines and quarries in North Wales to Porthmadog for onward shipment around the world. Some of those historic steam trains are now being used by the Ffestiniog and Welsh Mountain Railways to take holidaymakers from Porthmadog to either Caernarfon or the old mines themselves at Blaenau Ffestiniog. However, not many, including me before I went on this walk, will know that the area is also noted for some of the last Atlantic oak woods in Europe.

The Coedydd Maentwrog Nature Reserve is described as one of Wales’s “rainforests” and, like all rainforests, is considered of global importance. Conditions here are perfect for the growth of 200 (yes, that’s two hundred) species of mosses and liverworts and 120 sorts of lichen. (Who knew that there were that many on the planet, let alone in one small wood in the corner of North Wales and how do the experts distinguish the difference? 🤔) In addition the woods are home to over 286 different kinds of small moth and the area is the UK stronghold of the rare Lesser Horseshoe bat.
(The numbers are truly amazing, don’t you think?!)

In the gallery below, I’ve captured a few images of some moss and lichen as well as some flowers but I’ll leave you to work out what sort they might be. 🤔

As for the route, Judith and I set off from the car park next to Llyn (lake) Mair and walked up a path which runs, for the most part, alongside the railway track, until we reached Dduallt station, where the track does a complete 360 degree loop. We waited there until the next train arrived and we watched the happy, waving passengers go by! (We were just like The Railway Children!! 😊)

We walked back the same way and, on the way, as a special treat for you steam train enthusiasts, I took a video of one of the trains passing by. 🚂 Note that the first two carriages are two of the first ever (and possibly last remaining) fixed wheel carriages built in the UK. At the time, the engineers were worried about the carriages toppling over on the narrow gauge. So, firstly, the carriages are very short (so that they could go around the bends – it was only later that bogies were added at either end to allow the carriages to be longer and the wheels to ‘turn’ independently) and secondly, the passengers sit with their backs in the centre facing directly outwards, (to keep the centre of gravity over the centre of the tracks). You live and learn. I hope you enjoy!

Footnote: All of these images were captured on 11th October 2021.

Sierre-Zinal Race and Swiss Ironman 2021

I mentioned back in May that I’d entered the Sierre-Zinal race. Just in case it was impossible to stage the event on the appointed day, due to Covid, (which of course it was), the organisers had a rather neat Plan B. This required competitors to choose and register for a date between the 4th August (when the élite race still took place) and the 12th September. Up to 400 competitors were allowed each day and they could choose to start at any time between 6am and 8am. This naturally spread out the field, even before the start. Feed stations were still available at 4 or 5 locations, so there was no need to carry anything unless you wanted to. I chose to do the event on 25th August and since it promised to be a warm, sunny day, I carried a small water bottle along with some gels (but no camera unfortunately).

During my ‘reccy’ back in May, it had taken me 1h 45 minutes to get to Plonchette. This represented about one third of the time to complete the 31km/19 mile and 2,200m/7,200ft of ascent course. My goal therefore for my ‘race day’, apart from simply finishing, was to reach Plonchette inside 2 hours and complete the course in under 6 hours. 🤞🤞

In the event I arrived at Plonchette in 1h 40 minutes, so I was a little worried that I would fade (badly) in the closing stages. I therefore decided to take it very steadily from thereon in and just hope that I got to the finish in a decent time. However, I needn’t have worried, with the ‘aid’ or company of 2 fellow runners, who were either 10 to 30 seconds behind or in front for much of the course, I finished in 5h 14 minutes 28 seconds. Result!! (See happy finisher in pic 2 below).

It’s a fabulous event and if you’d like to ‘see’ the course, please check out this video link or the official Sierre-Zinal website.

But if you think I’m crazy, read on below…

Swiss Ironman – 5th September 2021

Just before we left Switzerland, my younger brother, Steve, came over to do the Swiss Ironman, which took place in Thun on 5th September. For those of you who are not familiar with the distances involved, this requires competitors to swim 3.9k or 2.4 miles, then bike 180.2k or 112 miles and then run the marathon distance of 42.2k or 26.1 miles. (And you thought I was mad!)

Jude and I had planned to go over to stay in Thun both before and after the race to support Steve, but packing (and very welcome visitors in the shape of the Pounders) meant that I went alone and via public transport on the day. However, this did mean that I’d miss Steve getting out of the water (not that I would have recognised him in his wet suit) and would only see the bike and run sections.

The bike course was around two loops (of quite a hilly course) and although I got into position for his first lap return, I didn’t get a good photo of him. Thankfully, I caught him on the second lap and the 3 lap run course meant that I had plenty of opportunity to see him in action!

Well done Steve – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! (This phrase was my overriding memory of the announcer as each competitor finished!)

Tour de Romandie, Switzerland, Stage 1

Long time sufferers, I mean followers, may recall that I ‘covered’ a stage of the Tour de France waaaay back in 2016 and some images of the Prologue of the Tour de Romandie in 2017. Well, with things being as they are, I wasn’t sure whether the Tour de Romandie would go ahead this year. So imagine my surprise (and delight) to see that it was indeed on and that 2 stages of the race would be ‘just down the road’…

Stage 1, yesterday, ran from Aigle to Martigny, and included 4 loops between Fully and Saillon (which just happens to be where I was walking last week). Not only that but Stage 4, on Saturday, starts in Sion and takes in some of the route I cycled a few weeks ago, then comes up the Val d’Hérens, to St Martin, before dropping to the village of Praz Jean, which is less than 4 miles away from our chalet. Result!

In an attempt to get some decent pictures of the event, I decided to position myself part way up the 3rd category climb to the small village of Produit. It’s normally a very peaceful village and residents must have been a little surprised to be selected for this ‘circus’ to come to town. I say ‘circus’, but it’s quite a low key event compared to the Tour de France, though many of the best riders are present since it’s one of the UCI World Tour events.

For the first two loops I managed to pitch myself next to a group of people who were obviously big cycling fans and two of them were dressed in very impressive ‘King of the Mountains’ outfits, with white and red spots. With their clanging cow bells they were well received by everyone passing by, including the motorbike outriders and team entourages, who were tooting their appreciation. Word must have got back to the organisers as a TV reporter was soon on the scene to take a video and record an interview. (See pics 4, 14 and 18).

I also took a video so that you could get a feel for the atmosphere. I aim to please. 😊 For the third and fourth loops I moved further down the road to get a different aspect or backdrop to the photos.

When I got home, I wondered whether I’d appeared on the TV coverage. I admit that I’d donned a fluorescent orange tee shirt ‘just in case’ and in TV pics 29 and 30 you have a game of Where’s the wally? to play. (Videos and games – is there no end to the fun?) By the time the leaders came around for the fourth loop, the wind had got up and I had to put on my top, so the last TV image shows me a few seconds after taking pic 27.

For the record, the peloton eventually overhauled the breakaway group of six riders and the stage was won by Peter Sagan, (seen in pic 24), in a sprint finish. Rohan Dennis remains in overall lead, with his Ineos team mates, Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte in 2nd and 3rd. (See pics 15 & 23).

Lac Léman and Château de Chillon, Vaud, Switzerland

On Tuesday, Jude and I took a trip down to Switzerland’s largest lake, Lac Léman or Lake Geneva. We parked up in Villeneuve, which lies at the eastern end and walked along the lakeside towards Montreux. Along the way is one of Switzerland’s “Top 10” tourist sites, the Château de Chillon.

The site began as a Roman outpost, to guard the route through the alpine passes, but construction started in the 10th century. As you can imagine it has an interesting history and you can read all about it here.

Equally interesting are the legends which surround the small island seen in picture 4. Surprisingly (to me anyway) it’s the only natural island in the lake, Technically it’s called the Île de Peilz but, being British, I like the story about it being given as a gift to Queen Victoria when she visited the region. A tree was planted on the island and it’s known as Queen Victoria’s tree. For more legends and even a video of the tree please click here.

Note that the first two images below were taken near Ollon, on our way to the lake.

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… 😊)

Let me tell you a story…

I hope you’re sitting comfortably, as this a little bit different to my usual posts… There are several ‘points’ to this story, as you will see at the end, though I’ll be as brief as I can. 😊

It’s been snowing off and on for the past week or so. The garden was completely clear of the white stuff before it came. So just when we thought Spring was on its way, we were back to square one.

But when the sun comes out, everything looks beautiful…

Though it does mean some work is necessary if you want to go anywhere and not be up to your knees in it all the time. Note: It’s around 60 to 70 metres/yards to get to the parking area (which makes for good training! 💪)

Consequently, some of the bird feeders came out again and we had a visitor on the balcony, sheltering from the snow… an Alpine Accentor. (It was a friendly little thing – even allowing me to open the window to get this uncropped shot from about 2m / 6 feet away).

But this also meant we had some other, bigger visitors…

So I decided to put up the Trail cam again and two nights ago, amongst several others, it captured this video:

And then again last night, this one (of around 10 clips) at 10:45pm. Regular readers may note that it’s the same stag (with 3 prongs and 2 prongs) as my previous posts in December and January.

Then, around 2:45am, the trail cam captured another series, including this one nearer to the camera…

Hopefully you’ve viewed the last video, to see the ‘point’ of this story… (or lack of them). If not, shame on you, go back and watch!

The stag must have shed its antlers sometime between 10:45pm last night and 2:45am today. And below is what we found this morning… How kind of him, after using those antlers to destroy our bird feeders over the past 3 months to leave them behind for us as a souvenir! They each weigh 1.4kg (just over 3 lbs) and measure 70 cm (or 2ft 3.5″) in length.

Also, who knew that the ‘bottom end’ of the antler is called the corona or burr and the area on the stag’s head where it attaches (or detaches in this case) is called the pedicle? You learn something new every day! 😊

Walk from La Luette to Sion, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Most times my walks go very smoothly but, occasionally, there are a few hiccups… Yesterday, I drove down to La Luette, with the intention of walking down the east side of the valley to Sion. I’d no sooner got out of the car when I discovered I’d left my camera at home. A quick about turn to pick it up and 20 minutes later I was setting off. Less than five minutes later, I was taking my first photo and the camera said it couldn’t read the SD Card. My heart sank! I was sure I’d put the card back in and, thankfully, I had. But, for some reason, it took 3 attempts to get it working. Phew!

Not long after that, I came across the sign in pic 2, saying the path was closed due to the danger of rock fall. You can see where the rocks are sticking out (in pic 3), so I ignored the sign and maybe 150 metres later I exited the danger zone (having kept a watchful eye on the rocks above!) Phew 2!
Note: this is not recommended practice of course and should only be undertaken by intrepid explorers or idiots like me!

Another unusual encounter was with a herd of goats, which decided to follow me from their apparent home at Ossona. You can just about see them to the bottom left of pic 8. As I continued along the track, I was suddenly aware of the tinkling of bells behind (see pic 9). I stopped to see if they would continue to some unknown destination, but no, they just hung around. (Maybe it was the smell of Jude’s delicious peanut butter biscuits in my bum-bag, I don’t know). All I could do was continue and they seemed to drop back, but again they decided I was worth following (pic 12) and I only got rid of them when I reached a gate about 500 metres later. Phew 3!

As I was walking along several small, brown and orange looking, fluttery things kept taking off in front of me. I knew they were not Tortoiseshell butterflies as they were much smaller. But none of them would re-land to have their photo taken. About half way along the walk, two more appeared in quick succession, so I kept my eyes peeled for no. 3 and, bingo, I finally caught one before it took off. I’m still not exactly sure what they were, but my best guess is an Orange or Light-Orange Underwing moth. (See pic 19).

Lastly, for your entertainment, (never let it be said you don’t get full value on this website), I decided to take a video of my crossing of the Passerelle de la Grande Combe. Since WP only allows a maximum of 250Mb, I did it in 2 sections and spliced them together (cutting off the ends of each to make it small enough to upload). I hope you enjoy. (It’s at the end of the post, after the gallery).

Trail cam update

You may have been wondering what’s been happening with the trail cam I got for Christmas. Well, firstly the batteries gave out after only 3 days. This may have been partly due to the sub-zero temperatures, partly the quality of the batteries and partly due to the camera taking numerous (apparently blank) videos. My conclusion is that the field of ‘vision’ of the movement sensor is much wider than that of the camera, so it is continuing to record things which are off camera. (I have plenty of clips with bums just about visible in the corners).

Next, you may recall I went for a walk without a memory card in my camera – because I’d put the SD card in the trail cam. Well, I bought a new SD card and formatted it using the trail cam, but it didn’t seem to work. The next 2 days drew blanks – even though there were clear signs of activity in the snow. It didn’t actually recognise the SD card, so I swapped it with another from my camera and now everything seems to be working OK. (You’ll be glad to know that after re-formatting the new SD card, it is also working fine in my camera).

In between times I had been tinkering with some settings, which also seemed to mess things up, so now I’m down to a simple, 15 second video with 20 second pause in between, though the camera is meant to carry on recording for a short while if there is activity in the last 4 seconds. (The manual talks about a Dynamic setting, which my device doesn’t seem to have!)

Anyhow, below are 3 of the best videos, with the last two having 3 clips stitched together.

First up is a roe deer, which came around 6:30pm a few days ago now and you can see the tree to which the Trail cam is attached for the second two videos.

Second, here’s a huge stag, again from 2 or 3 days ago, which was timed at 10:15pm, tucking into some vegetable scraps we left outside.

Last, but not least, is another roe deer, (could even be the same one as above), again timed at 6:30pm yesterday evening. You can see how alert it is to any surrounding noises, with the ears acting like radar scanners.

It may also be worth saying that we live only about 100 metres above the road which goes around the village, though the woods are not far behind our group of 6 or 7 chalets. So these creatures are coming down quite low to find food. Indeed, 2 of our neighbour’s young trees have had their lower branches nipped off completely.

And, just in case you wonder what the light is, which appears towards the end of this video (top left), it’s not a plane or UFO, but the piste machine preparing the ski slopes above Lannaz. 🏂