Mike’s Music Monday #19

It’s quite timely that I should have posted this picture of my two good friends Ian and Martin, as Joe Jackson was a particular favourite of Ian’s and the song always reminds me of a camping holiday that the three of us had in Guernsey in the summer of 1979.  We travelled over on the ferry when the infamous Fastnet storms were beginning.  The boat was pitching and rolling all the way.  Almost everyone on the ship was ill except the 3 of us, who could be found propping up the bar.

Martin played on the wing for York Rugby Union Football Club and was quick as well as strong and he decided to enter the Guernsey Open Athletics Championship.  He chose to compete in  the 100 metres and the Shot Putt event.  (Not many people attempt that ‘double’!)  Ian and I didn’t want to be left out so we recruited another 100m sprinter to form a 4x100m relay team.  We finished 4th out of 5, beating the team put together by the 1500m runners, who had finished their own race only about 20 minutes before!

It’s those sort of holidays that bond friendships for the rest of your life.  Even today, 40 years on, you may hear one of us say “Is she really going out with him?” 🤣

 

 

Grand Chavalard Hike

Earlier this year, I promised you something ‘new’ in the way of walks and, with blue skies forecast, yesterday I set off to walk to the top of the Grand Chavalard (@2,900m or 9,500ft) from the small village of Chiboz.   In March I posted this picture of it, then snow covered, in the background.

What I hadn’t factored into my plan was that it had rained quite heavily the day before and there was an awful lot of early morning cloud circling around the mountain tops.  But I trusted that the forecast would eventually come good and, although the valley to the east was completely obliterated by the mist during my ascent (unlike the west side, thankfully), the clouds finally lifted… 😊

 

 

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.

Walk to Pic d’Artsinol (2,998m/9,836ft)

Having recently done a walk around both ends of our valley, at Arolla and Ferpècle, and been up behind our chalet to the Col du Torrent twice (well, once nearly), yesterday it was the turn of the opposite side and an ascent of the Pic d’Artsinol.  Like most of Europe, we are having a bit of a heatwave at the moment, so it would have been foolish of me not to take advantage of the chairlift, which saved me around 700m or 2,300ft of climbing.  I still had over 800m or 2,600ft to go mind you, followed by a looong descent back to Evolène.

As you will see below, the skies were perfectly blue, the views from the top were simply amazing and the butterflies were out in force!

Swiss National Route 6, Gruben to St Niklaus (Day 3 of 3)

Unusually, I was up at the crack of dawn for the last day of my walk.  Well, the hotel bar shut at 10pm, so what else was there to do but got to sleep and even I can manage on 8 hours!  So it was that I set off well before the ‘Brits’ (see previous post) and, if you don’t count cows or birds or butterflies, I never saw a soul until I got near to the Augstbordpass, where I espied someone on the horizon.  (I later caught them up on the descent – see pic 17).

The weather was dry, but rather dull, with high cloud, so not great for photography,  The highlights on the ascent were spotting and capturing (on camera, that is) 3 birds – one I knew, one I thought I knew, but didn’t, and the other I have no idea… (Help!?)

The descent was ‘interesting’ shall we say, as there was still a lot of snow around and I’m not happy walking across, especially sloping, snow in what are effectively trainers – oh yes, and without walking poles.  (Although they are useful in some circumstances, like 1% of the time, I’m not a fan of poles as, to my mind, they are extra baggage and they get in the way when things get a bit bouldery and some scrambling is required – which it was on this trip).  Anyway I survived about 5 or 6 short(ish) sections and my leg only disappeared once up to the knee.  I should have taken a picture – there was already a big hole and now there are two… 🙂

Later, the sun started to come out and the last section down from Jungen was a joy to behold, with butterflies everywhere.  I was being teased by Apollos and even a Swallowtail fluttering around my head but, when they landed, they were out of reach and I would have needed to hang off the cliff face to get a picture.  I saw more Marbled Whites than I’ve ever seen in my entire life (and that’s a few – well, maybe 12) and a host of others, not shown below, simply because they either didn’t land or I have no way of identifying them and there’s enough in this gallery anyway.

I couldn’t leave this post without highlighting two flowers…

Pic 12: I’m 99% sure are called King-of-the-Alps.  They look like Alpine Forget-me-nots, but they only grow to a height of between 1 and 6 cm (unlike their look-a-like, which grows to 5 to 15cm).  My book describes them as “Rather rare” and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them, certainly posted a picture of them.

Pic 27: Has the delightful name of Swiss Treacle Mustard and if that’s not a name to conjure with nothing is.  🙂

Swiss National Route 6, Villa to Zinal (Day 1 of 3)

Since returning from my walk with the boys on the Inn Way to Northumberland, I’ve had itchy feet.  Jude has also been encouraging me to take advantage of our time here in Switzerland (not to mention while I’m still physically able to do these walks).  So, after checking that the forecast was going to be ‘fine’ for the next 3 days, I set off to do 3 sections of the Swiss National Route 6, which runs from St Gingolph, on Lac Léman, to Chur in the east.  The route would take me from Villa to Zinal, then to Gruben in the Turtmanntal valley on Day 2 and then from there to St Niklaus in the Mattertal valley on Day 3, before catching the train and bus home.

I’ll admit that I cheated a bit and got Jude to drop me off at Villa.  Well, otherwise I would have had over 2,000m (6,500ft) to climb and strictly, Evolène is not on the route.  When I got out of the car, I noticed about a dozen other walkers, who all seemed to be preparing to set off up the same path.  I wondered who they might be (I thought I heard English voices) and I was to find out the following day…

Zinal is clearly more geared up for the winter ski season.  It’s quite a large village, but only 4 of the restaurants were open.  The rest were closed, including the one in the hotel where I was staying.  Upon arrival, after finding the front door to the restaurant and bar locked, I finally located the entrance door to the hotel and there to greet me was just a note and a key. (See pic 41).  I didn’t see anyone from the hotel until breakfast the next morning.  This may sound like poor customer service, but I think that you would probably only get this ‘trust’ in Switzerland.

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.

Inn Way to Northumberland (Day 1 of 4)

Regular readers may recall that my mate Colin and I walked 4 days of the Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales in 2017 and the Inn Way to the Peak District last year.  This year we were joined by our friends, Pete and Liam, to walk most of the Inn Way to Northumberland.  As you will see below, the weather wasn’t kind for our first day, heading north from Alnmouth to Seahouses.  But at least the going along the coast was relatively flat, if a little damp, as the rain fell, on and off, for most of the afternoon.   Thankfully, conditions did improve over the next 3 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!”).