Family hike to see the snowdrops of medieval origin in North Hawkwell Wood, Somerset. The River Avrill flows from Dunkery Beacon (519 m.) past the old oaks in the wooded valley. Legend has it that snowdrops arrived in Britain with the Benedictine monks in the 11th Century; snowdrops were first planted here in the 13th Century as a symbol of Candlemas, the feast day in early February in celebration of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. The unusually early flowering of the demure white flowers must have been particularly impressive before the days of commercial propagation and ubiquity.
We hiked past flocks of Exmoor Horn sheep, one of England’s classic breeds.
Hike in the protected upper valley of the River Clarée in the Alpes-de-Haut-Provence on the border between France and Italy. This upper tributary of the Durance has avoided exploitation because of its remoteness, lack of viable downhill skiing and insignificance as a trans-Alpine route.
Continuing my photographic hunt for glaciers, those slow moving but ever more remote quarry. Our hike from the Col de Granon (2404 m.) gives great views both to the Écrins and to the Savoie Alps. The geology is tortuous because the views are across colliding tectonic plates as well as the action of the glaciers, wind, rain and frost.
Hike in the Valloise valley in the middle of the Massif des Écrins to see the Black and the White glaciers. Climate warming means these glaciers have retreated to approximately their extent in Roman times; it’s now a major hike to reach the ice of either. The valley floor is reminiscent of Yosemite with its pine trees. We saw almost no wildlife - no birds, no mammals - although this is a protected area within the national park.
Hike to Lac du Lauzon in the Massic des Écrins, above the parking and Refuge du Gioberney. This is a favourite route that we haven’t hiked since before the lockdowns and all that. Great to hear again the sound of mountain water cascading on rock, to see the chamois and the birds. We enjoyed our picnic by the lake amongst the high peaks and the big valleys, though the glaciers which helped shape them are sadly small.
The berger and his dogs are bringing the sheep down this early in the year because there is no more fresh grass, because of the extreme and prolonged heat of this summer.