Unusual Sightings at Benar Beach, Gwynedd, N. Wales

Just before Christmas, Judith and I were slightly alarmed to hear a whirring noise outside the house. We looked out of the kitchen window and saw not one, but two, powered paragliders (or paramotorists) flying up and down and then across the estuary. This was a first in nearly 4 months of living here.

It turned out to be a nice day, so we did our usual thing and went for a walk along Benar beach (which is about 9.5 miles or 15km further down the coast). And, hey presto, another came whizzing along! At least this time I had my camera ready. 😊

As we walked along, Judith spotted some small lumps or bubbles emerging from the sand. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it before and I’d be interested to know if anyone else has….(?) They were filled with air because, as soon as you touched the top of them, they deflated. But how on earth they were formed, given that we’re talking, albeit wet, sand here, I don’t think I’ll ever know.

They only appeared, near to the sea, over a stretch of no more than 30 yards (of a very long beach) and, as you can see from the pics below, there were quite a few of them. Their size varied from maybe an inch or 2cm across, up to 8 inches or 20 cm. Very strange (and we’ve not seen any since)!

Moel Ysgyfarnogod Walk, Gwynedd, North Wales (Part 2 of 2)

We left our walk yesterday overlooking Llyn Eiddew Mawr. Just a few steps further on, to the left, is it’s smaller sibling Llyn Eiddew Bach, which had THE most perfect reflection. (Llyn means Lake, Mawr means Big or Large and Bach means Small btw). From this you can guess that the landscape is littered (or maybe that should be flooded) with lakes or ponds of various sizes and from there I ascended slightly off the route to have a look at Llyn Dywarchen, (pic 31), simply because it looked a nice shape. As it turned out, I could also see it from the secondary hump next to the Ysgyfarnogod summit, (pics 40 & 41) but it was worth the short detour.

I thought I’d have the summit to myself (after only seeing the one cyclist in yesterday’s post), but I was surprised to see a couple leant against the trig point. They were having their lunch after walking up from their home in LLandecwyn. (It was a regular walk of theirs apparently).

I had hoped or thought about walking back down via Cwm Bychan, but the route back home from there was along a long narrow road and, in the event, the path on the ground to Cwm Bychan wasn’t very clear. So, to save retracing my steps completely, I took the direct route down via the very Tolkien sounding village of Eisingrug. (I didn’t know it existed either until I walked through it – and there were no Hobbits to be found! 🤔)

Moel Ysgyfarnogod Walk, Gwynedd, North Wales (Part 1 of 2)

On the 19th December last year (which seems quite a long time ago now) the weather forecast was set to be blue skies all around – and you can’t say that too often in North Wales! I therefore decided to do a walk from our new home to one of the smaller summits nearby. Moel Ysgyfarnogod* is only 623 metres (2,044 ft) high, but it provides fabulous views all around and especially across the Glaslyn-Dwyryd* estuary.

Despite the glorious weather, I hardly saw a soul all day, but I was a little taken aback to be stood face-to-face with the animals in pic no. 24.

The first few photos below were taken about an hour before I set off, but I thought I’d include them as they sort of set the scene for what’s to come… (and there’s more tomorrow. 😊)

* I plan to do a post on the Welsh alphabet some time (soon, I promise) to help you to at least try to read and pronounce these words correctly. Many of you may be surprised to learn that there are 29 letters in the Welsh alphabet (despite there being no k, q, v, x or z). Certainly I was!

Moving back to the UK… 😮

In what will be perhaps a shock decision to some, maybe even many, of you, Jude and I have decided to move back to the UK. We have spent 15 happy years here in Switzerland, the past 10 of them in our chalet in Evolène, in the Val d’Hérens.

We have been thinking about moving back ‘at some point’ but the arrival of little Raymond (my new grandson) has accelerated our thinking, to be back nearer to our families. While we were back in June, staying in N. Wales, we were lucky enough to hear about a cottage that was coming up for rent. We had a look around and it seemed perfect for our needs and we were fortunate enough to get it. (I rather cheekily included a picture of the property in my post here – the cottage is just off to the left of pic no. 10 and is shown in pic 15).

So once back home we put our chalet up for sale and within a week of it being advertised we’d had an offer and the deposit has already been lodged with the notaire (solicitor) who draws up the sale documents. It’s all been a bit of a whilrwind as you can imagine and hence why I’ve not been posting much recently. (Though I have some pics waiting in the wings to post so do not worry, this is not the end… Indeed, my blog will continue, but with somewhat smaller mountains in N. Wales!)

I’ve posted pics of the chalet or the views before, but here are a few of the outside taken recently together with some old ones during the winter. We will certainly miss it. 😥

Bramois and Tour de Romandie, Stage 4, Valais, Switzerland

I’m aware that not everyone likes cycling, or even maybe sport, but this post is not just about cycling – honest! Please read on…

As I mentioned in my post on Thursday, a stage of the Tour de Romandie professional cycle race came up our valley yesterday, so I just had to post a few pictures. Although the route had no loops as such, like Stage 1, as before I managed to find 4 different places to take pictures; two near Bramois, one in the village of Vex and the fourth on the final climb, around 6km (4 miles) from the finish.

Also as before, I got into position early so I had plenty of time to wander around the village of Bramois, taking a few photos to show you what a typical Swiss or Valaisan village looks like. As you will see, it’s a mix of the very old, the traditional and the new (with a most unusual house) and with excellent sports facilities. (Even the smallest villages in Switzerland seem to have fabulous football pitches and tennis courts – no wonder they punch above their weight on the world stage). I also discovered where all those hubcaps go to that you sometimes see lying by the side of the road…

As for the race, you have to feel for these Pro cyclists. The stage included 3 category 1 climbs and the weather was awful, with rain falling throughout the second half of the race and 2 of those climbs – the last being to over 2,000m (6,500ft) with winter snow still by the side of the road. Spare a thought then also for Geraint Thomas, who took the lead with only a few kilometres to go and was tracked by Michael Woods. In the sprint finish, Thomas, with freezing fingers and only a few yards to go to the line, lost his grip of the handlebars and crashed to the floor. He got up, climbed back on his bike and finished the race and remains in second place overall, having now been overtaken by Michael Woods, but the fall cost him vital seconds and the lead.

Arolla to Lac Bleu (Walk 10) in the (deep) snow

I promised in my post on Monday that I would return to do this walk with my GPS. I knew that things would be ‘interesting’ when the GPS showed I was about 10 metres to the right of the road I was walking on to get to the start. A walk, of around 4km or 2.5 miles, which would take me no more than 1h 30 mins in the summer, turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Read on…

It wasn’t long before I reached the point where I turned around last time and I discovered that the path did a quick left-right zig-zag up the hill. So far, so good, but the way ahead still wasn’t crystal clear. I spent the next hour or so picking my way through the trees, often knee deep in snow, either just to the left or just to the right of the line shown on the GPS. If I was to the left, the route below and to the right often looked easier. Then I’d look up and the route above looked better. Never mind one zig-zag, I must have zig-zagged all the way along that first section.

I came across the open area where I was worried before about an avalanche. I decided to drop down to where the trees were only 10 to 15 metres apart. Big mistake. I took one step down and my leg disappeared into a huge hole. It was like stepping off a 3 foot wall (or rock probably). I was instantly thrown forward, down the slope and started to slide. The good news was that I was going head first and so I could see that I was heading for a small bush. I grabbed a branch and this arrested my slide. The bush, or at least what’s sticking out of the snow, can be seen just below the centre of picture 8, with the hole up to the right (below the middle one of the three trees top right).

Safely on the other side, the going got much easier as the snow had been cleared by the sun – but only for about 300 to 400 metres. My next challenge was a short section which was/is ‘protected’ by a metal chain. (They normally fix these where the ground goes away steeply, or straight down, to the side). The problem was that half of the chain was still under snow and I couldn’t get it out to hold onto. So I had to kick foot holds, VERY carefully over the top. (See pics 13 and 14).

And then it got worse…

I was back in the woods, zig-zagging up and down the slopes again and the snow got deeper and deeper. I reached a gully where I could see a bridge, slightly above, which I needed to cross, but the way around to it, looked too risky. So I climbed up through the trees, thinking it would be safer to make my way across and down to it. (You may have gathered by now that turning back was not really an option as I was much nearer to Lac Bleu than Arolla).

Then I heard voices, which turned out to be a some ski-tourers coming down the gully. A guide, 30 metres (or 100ft) below, was calling to his clients. I figured that if he could get there on skis, I could get across to the bridge – and so I dropped back down to where I’d started. But getting around to the bridge proved to be the hardest challenge of all.

I kid you not, the ‘slope’ of the snow must have been at least 60 or 70 degrees. So I was trying to climb up by kicking my feet into the snow, but as soon as I put my weight on my foot, it went back down to, more or less, where it started. It must have taken me about 20 minutes to cover just 25 metres. The snow was that deep it was over the top of the sides of the bridge. So I did, literally, go ‘over’ the bridge.

After more zig-zagging through the trees, I came to another gully. And the view back down to Satarma (pic 16) looked infinitely more appealing than another 20 minutes or more working my way around to what might have been a good path to Lac Bleu and then a descent to La Gouille and Satarma. So that’s what I did, I ‘walked’ (more like, stumbled) down the snowy slope, sometimes ankle deep, sometimes knee deep and more than once up to my thighs. Twice I got myself stuck, where I couldn’t move either leg, but luckily there was a branch nearby to help haul myself upright and out.

Five hours and 45 minutes after setting off, I arrived in Satarma. My feet were wet and soggy after all the snow that had melted into my boots. I took them off, wrung out the water from my socks and put them back on before trudging, disconsolately, back up the road to Arolla. I’ve never been so pleased and relieved to finish a walk.

I hope you’ll forgive me if I avoid snowy walks for the next few weeks…

Note that the last 3 photos below were taken on the way back to Evolène.

Snowy walk around Arolla, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

By stark contrast to the Spring-like conditions of my post yesterday, the situation up at the top end of our valley, in Arolla (@2,000m or 6,560ft) couldn’t be more different. The snow is still 60cm or 2ft deep in places and, on Sunday, the place was over-run with skiers getting their end of season fix.

My plan was to walk the last of my “Easy” walks (Walk 10) from Arolla to Lac Bleu, but I soon discovered that the path was hard to find. (Note to self – take the GPS next time!) Picture 4 below shows the signpost where I was due to turn left. I thought twice about it, but persevered. About 20 minutes later, having seen no way markers for the past 10 minutes, I gave up and came back to the same junction and went right.

This lower path was meant to be a snow-shoeing route but, again, I somehow managed to get off the official route and found myself facing a trudge across an open snow-field with a slope of at least 45 degrees from up left down to the right. Now, almost every week we hear of people dying in avalanches, so, with the sun blazing down, I wasn’t going to risk adding to that statistic and I made my way, very carefully, down to the road under the ‘cover’ of several bushes and trees.

“What now?” I thought to myself and, rather than walk back along the road, I headed across to the other side of the river and followed the snow-shoeing route, before taking a rather cheeky short cut across the cross-country piste back to Arolla. At least it gave me the chance to take some more photos for you. 😊

I shall return later this coming week, with GPS in hand, to complete Walk 10 (if I can).

Snowy walk to Lac d’Arbey, (Walk 8), Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

The plan was to do this walk on Sunday but, on Friday, we awoke to perfectly blue skies, instead of the “very cloudy” day which was forecast. So I decided to go for it. The snow shoes were left at home, as I expected someone to have walked up there already – and so it proved. On the ascent there were clear boot marks, which I was extremely grateful for as that made the climb much, much easier. And on the descent I was lucky that the young lady, seen in picture 7, was snow-shoeing up the way that I would be coming down. She was obviously very fit as she was already resting by the cross (see pic 21) when I arrived. Both routes are pretty much the same distance from the left or right turn (see map) where picture 7 was taken.

I was also very impressed with the little person in picture 3. That track is very steep and he or she was making light of it. They obviously start them very young around here! 😊

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 to La Sage, La Forclaz and Les Haudères from Evolène, (Walk 6), Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

As expected, we did get some overnight snow, but it was only a very small amount down to around 1600m or 5,250ft. So, while the underfoot conditions were favourable, I decided to pick off another of my ‘Easy’ walks – no. 6 to Les Haudères, via the villages of La Sage and La Forclaz. (This leaves only walks 8 and 10 to do, if I can, before this ‘winter’ is over).

As you will see from the gallery below, the walk started brightly enough, but the clouds soon came along to make things a little tricky for my point and shoot camera. (I’ve had to lighten a couple of the images). But, I hope you enjoy the walk as much as I did. 😊