Thursday, 25 October 2012

Brasher Kanika GTX Walking Boots - Review

£50.00 – Field & Trek (RRP £100)
In the last week or so I’ve had to consign two pairs of boots to the recycling. One, an elderly pair of Meindl Burmas, has leaked for a while, but I kept them as a standby for walking the local lanes in dry conditions, not wanting to waste any valuable tread. The other, Brasher Air 8’s, have recently begun to leak after about 6 or 7 years of intermittent use.
In truth, neither pair owes me a thing. Each has covered many hundreds of miles and accompanied me on many a happy trip. As I already have a newer pair of Burma’s, I was really on the look-out for a new pair to replace the Air 8’s.
And this is where technology and thinking has moved on a little. Brasher were one of the first walking boot manufacturers to embrace the concept of lighter footwear, and have produced some market-leading products over the years, such as the iconic Hillmaster model. Nowadays, with so many manufacturers offering lightweight (or even ultra-lightweight) boots and shoes it is easy to overlook Brasher’s significant contribution to lighter footwear.
Truth be told, in this matter – as in a number of others – I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I prefer the solidity and stability of boots. I don’t like walking with wet feet either: one particularly uncomfortable week a couple of years back disabused me of that notion. So none of your “leaky shoes that dry quickly” or low-cut trainer-types that let wet in over the top for me: boots it is, unless easy, dry conditions can be guaranteed (and you only need to think back over this last summer to work out how likely that is).
However, I’m not a complete Luddite, and if boots can be made lighter and more comfortable yet still maintain levels of support and protection, that’s great. For tough, mountain conditions or boggy moorland walking I still prefer a leather boot such as the Meindl Burma. But for general low-level walking in the countryside I reckon a fabric boot is fine.
So when I came across a pair of Brasher Kanika GTX boots selling at half price on the FIELD&TREK website, my curiosity was piqued. A lightweight, fabric boot with a Gore-tex waterproof lining by a respected manufacturer for £50: these must be worth a try.
In “buying without trying” I had broken one of my cardinal rules: never buy boots without trying them on first. I am quite finicky about footwear, but I reckoned I knew enough about the brand from previous experience to risk giving them a punt untried.
So I must admit I got a bit of a surprise when I put them on for the first time. I have quite wide feet, and was used to previous pairs of Brasher boots being quite generous on the width. But these felt quite narrow, and I wore them round the house for a couple of nights before invalidating the returns option and taking them outside for a spin. I figured that being fabric they would “loosen” slightly as they were worn, which seems to be the case, and I am happier now that a good fit will be obtained.
At 1132g per pair (size 8.5) they are quite light for a boot, and certainly felt so when in use. Yet they also felt quite sturdy, robust and supportive, with a nice bit of flex to the sole, a comfortable rolling action, and a reasonable amount of torsional rigidity given they are designed as a lightweight fabric boot for lowland walking, not a crampon-compatible mountain boot. Hopefully, then, no tired feet at the end of a long day!
There is plenty of padding round the ankle cuff and the top of the bellows tongue, and the cuff is high enough to provide good protection to the ankle bone. A protective rubber trim to the toe box offers further foot protection. I think that after a couple of trips they will mould nicely to my feet and prove to be very comfortable. If I had one slight criticism it would be that the laces are a bit on the short side: something easily remedied but a tad annoying nonetheless.
Last Sunday, I put them through their paces in earnest: an eight-mile walk in nearby countryside that had them tested on metalled lanes and stony tracks, through wet grass and deep puddles, and along slippery, muddy paths – and all that in the first mile! And I’m happy to report the Kanika’s coped pretty well on the whole. OK, traction in some of the muddiest sections was not brilliant, but I think any boot would have struggled to maintain a firm grip in such slick, clay-rich conditions, and I don’t think the lack of friction was due to any failing of the sole unit or lug pattern.
All-in-all, then, a thumbs-up. I’m not an advocate of the disposable culture, but for this price I paid if I got just one year’s use out of them I would be happy: that would equate to around £1 per week (a benchmark I set myself for big-ticket items). So not bad at all, although I reckon they’ll do better than that.
Like I say, these are currently on sale at F&T for £50, although there are plenty of other stockists to be found and an array of prices. I think this is because this model is in the process of being discontinued. However, there are current versions that are very similar: Kiso for the men (RRP £120, buy for £85) and Kenai for the ladies (RRP £100, buy for £50).
If you’re in the market for a reasonable pair of boots for light use, I think these are definitely worth checking out.
Performance: 8/10
Comfort: 8/10
Value (at price paid): 9/10
Total: 25/30

Friday, 19 October 2012

A Long Weekend Round Bishop’s Castle – Part 2

Carding Mill Valley & Ashes Hollow – approx 8.00 miles.

Tuesday October 9th 2012

Map: OS Explorer OL217 – The Long Mynd & Wenlock Edge

Church Stretton – Carding Mill Valley – Long Mynd – Shooting Box – Boiling Well – Ashes Hollow – Little Stretton – The Owlets – Church Stretton.

Monday turned out to be a bit of a washout. We managed to complete a few more jobs in the morning, did a bit of shopping around Ludlow, and found ourselves in Knighton for lunch. Later, we went out for an unsatisfactory wallow from Llangunllo: a wet, muddy plod in rain and low cloud. Considering we were close to Glyndwr’s Way (and had meant to incorporate a stretch into our circuit) we were quite disappointed with the state of these connecting paths. Progress was generally awkward: slippery, poorly signed, and with gates difficult to open – and, given we were following a bridleway, some were tied irrevocably shut (get your horse through that). So we did something we very rarely do: turned back.

So, for today, we wanted to do something a bit more enjoyable – and reliable. In such circumstances the Long Mynd often comes to the rescue, with clear paths and straightforward route finding making for easy going.

We took the popular route into Carding Mill Valley, then on up to the broad ridge of the Long Mynd, dodging school parties as we went. We do this route quite often – after all it is one of the main routes to the top – but it always seems to have something to offer every time. Today the stream was in high water after copious recent rains, and it never ceases to amaze me just how Alpine the upper reaches of the valley feel at times.

On top it is a different world, with heathery moorland being the dominant landscape. We followed the main path towards Pole Bank, turning left shortly before the summit to meet the road at Boiling Well and the start of the route into Ashes Hollow.

I must confess, despite having walked the area quite a lot in recent years, we have never taken this major route before. And what a revelation! After a muddy start, the path plunges through scenery not unlike Grindsbrook Clough or one of the other streams tumbling off the Kinder plateau. We managed to pick a line that closely followed the stream, offering a few easy crossings and a bit of hands-on work too – nothing too taxing, but a bit of fun nonetheless.

From Little Stretton, we took a path atop a steep bank before descending towards the road, through The Owlets, and back into town. Three and a half lovely hours before the drive back home and work tomorrow.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Long Weekend Round Bishop’s Castle – Part 1

On Offa – approx 13.00 miles.

Sunday October 7th 2012

Map: OS Explorer OL216 – Welshpool & Montgomery

Bishop’s Castle – The Wintles – Seven Wells – Shepherdswhim – Bishop’s Moat – Dog And Duck Cottage – Offa’s Dyke Path (S) – Nut Wood – Churchtown – Knuck Wood – Shropshire Way – Reilthtop – Middle Woodbatch – Bishop’s Castle.

Weather forecasters, eh? What an unreliable bunch.

As our long-awaited long weekend in the Shropshire/Powys border area drew nearer, we’d been keeping a close eye on the forecast – only to be promised the kind of weather that would have Noah whetting his chisel.

So we had planned accordingly. Though Saturday’s weather was nothing special, we’d managed to squeeze a short stroll in between the showers and the errands we had to run. Sunday was due to be awful, with low cloud and heavy rain set to dominate, and we held out little hope of a meaningful outing.

But we woke to an unexpectedly bright morning that had us reaching for our kit much earlier than planned, and I hastily cobbled together this route to take advantage of the sunshine and blue skies. As many of you will know, Shropshire is well-endowed when it comes to footpaths, but flaunts her charms demurely, with both major routes and minor paths being well represented.

Our route was a circuit linking parts of four of these paths. From the centre of Bishop’s Castle we followed the route of the BC Ring, a 60-odd-mile circuit encircling the town, heading west towards The Wintles. The BC Ring is not marked on OS maps though it is clearly waymarked, and the route is described in a small booklet available locally.

A gentle climb rewarded us with views back over town and north towards Heath Mynd and the Churchstoke hills; Corndon, Roundton, et al. After a mile or so of open field paths, the BC Ring takes to the network of narrow tracks and lanes that criss-cross the area, heading west at first before swinging southwards past the scruffy farm of Shepherdswhim to join the Kerry Ridgeway at Bishop’s Moat.

The Kerry Ridgeway is a curious track. Running between Bishop’s Castle in the east and Newtown in the west, it was a major thoroughfare in its day. Its origins are uncertain at best, but it is believed to date from the Iron Age some 2,000 to 2,500 years ago. Not that you could tell that by looking at it nowadays, as today this section is a metalled lane frequented by walkers, cyclists and the occasional car. Still, it provided us with a good two miles worth of easy walking as we continued our westerly trend.

In relation to the Kerry Ridgeway, the 8th century Offa’s Dyke is something of a Johnny-come-lately. Again there are uncertainties regarding its history and purpose, but conventional wisdom has it that it was built during Offa’s reign to keep the marauding Welsh at bay define the western borders of the Kingdom of Mercia.

Whatever the actual reasons, it remains an impressive structure. Between the Kerry Ridgeway and Knighton it is possible to walk right beside (and even on) some of the most complete sections of the Dyke. Mindful of potential invaders, we scanned the horizon to the west as we sat to enjoy our sandwiches. Cunningly, today’s raiders-to-be seem to have disguised themselves as harmless-looking sheep.

This section of the Offa’s Dyke Path runs through some superb countryside and is one of the most scenic of the whole trail. It is also considered to be one of the toughest – and with good reason. Often referred to as the Switchback section, a series of steep, relentless undulations accumulates hundreds of metres of energy-sapping ascent and descent. Here, a clear section of dyke can be seen ascending the opposite hillside: the path runs to the right hand side of the ditch and is every bit as steep as it looks.

A knee-jarring descent brought us to Churchtown, a tiny hamlet with a large church, which we popped in for a quick look round.

Beyond Churchtown, we joined path number four: the Shropshire Way. This was to be our companion for much of the return leg: through Churchtown Wood and Knuck Wood, above Mainstone and along to cross the road at Reilthtop. The early sun and clear skies had gradually faded to overcast, but it made for pleasant walking through archetypal, rolling British farmland.

Now we could see Bishop’s Castle in the valley below, with the bulky ridge of the Long Mynd beyond. Skirting Henley Wood, we passed through Middle Woodbatch Farm and joined the quiet lane for a gentle trundle back to town.

Along the lane we passed a couple of groups of Sunday strollers: incredibly, on such a lovely autumn Sunday, from leaving BC early this morning to nearly being back again – around 11 miles – we saw no other walkers at all.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Walking Matters: Zermatt 8th – 19th Sept 2012 – Day 10

Höhbalmen & Trift – 12.75 miles / Ascent = 1,040m / Descent = 1,911m

Our last full day in the area was marked by a slight change in the weather: nothing too awful, mind, just a gradual thickening of the cloud as the day went on, and a hint of rain in the air that never properly materialised.

We wanted to finish our holiday on a high note, or at least with a memorable day out that would leave us pining for more, so we planned a route from the Schwarzsee via Höhbalmen and Trift back to Zermatt. I’d been looking to work Trift into a suitable route for some while, but had been struggling until the revelation of using the Schwarzsee as a starting point for this side of the valley a couple of days ago had provided the key to unlock this particular mystery as well.

This time there was no breakfast party to hinder our progress up the mountain, and we stepped off the gondola at a much more promising 9.15am. Our aim was to walk the high level contour path over the Höhbalmen below the peaks of the Gabelhorn (a line roughly following the base of the scree fans in the picture below).

The first part of our route was as before: down the hill to Stafelalp, across the valley past the Hydro scheme, and up beside the waterfall to Arbenbach. This morning, though, we had time for coffee at Stafelalp: no cake, mind, as we were “too early” – a disappointment we were later to get over big style.

From Arbenbach, a steep path zig-zags up the hillside for around 400m before the gradient eases to eventually gain the 2,700m contour. Behind us, views opened up towards the Schönbielhütte and the glaciers at the end of the valley. As the path levelled out, we stopped for lunch – not a bad viewpoint, it has to be said ……

Having reached the level path the going was much easier, the next hour’s walking being quite straightforward. Not that we could afford to lose concentration, though: the yawning chasm to our right providing ample reminder to watch our footing, and we always checked the stability of the stony gullies before swiftly crossing.

As there are no lifts servicing this side of the valley it is generally much quieter, and we saw few other walkers on this stretch. Those we did see were coming from the direction of Trift – a good omen, we thought, for the restaurant being open this late in the season.

Besides the actual walk itself, there are three good reasons to endorse this route. One is the fact that it overlooks almost all of the other areas you may have walked: you can see all the big summits you have gazed at in awe over the past few days, and trace the routes you have taken up the mountains and across the hillsides. The second is one of scale: looking at the enormous drop into the valley somehow allows your mind to calibrate the size of the geography more easily than when you are standing on it. From the small building in the bottom left of the photograph below (actually Stafelalp) to the summit of the Matterhorn is a vertical elevation gain of some 2,300m – that’s 7,500ft in old money.

Eventually the path begins to swing north (passing the junction with a steep path down to Alterhaupt) to enter the huge, glaciated cirque of Trift. And here we find the third good reason to do this walk: the Hotel du Trift.

It took a good half hour to reach the Berghaus after it first came into view, the descent of 300m gradually becoming steeper until a slippery zig-zag path deposited us on level ground once more. We ordered beers and huge wedges of apple cake, and sat on the terrace to admire the view as we consumed them.

We got talking to Hugo and Fabienne who run the Berghaus. As there are no lifts servicing this side of the valley, it is run as a summer-only concern, from early July to late September, accommodating walkers and climbers who want to explore the cirque and it’s surrounding peaks. In a couple of day’s time they would shut up shop and move on to other lives for nine months, until next summer when, in late June, they would make the climb out of Zermatt, dust everything down, and welcome visitors to the quiet side of the valley once again. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

All that remained for us to do was follow the steep path down beside the Triftbach gorge, passing through the area known locally as Edelweiss, to reach Zermatt some 90 minutes later. Bar a bit of pottering about in the morning, we had finished our walking for the holiday. And, despite the low-key nature of today's walk – given the all-star billing of the area in general – we were happy to have ended it this way, experiencing the quieter side. Somehow we felt we had got a deeper understanding of the area as a result.

There was just time for a final bit of shopping: lunch for tomorrow, souvenirs, Toblerone* for the troops back home: that sort of thing. Then it was back to the apartment to begin packing. We’d had a fantastic time, and managed to cover a fair bit of ground over the course of the ten days: without doubt, these few pages in our “Lebensbuch” would be well written.

Which I guess is a good sign.

(*Other Matterhorn-shaped, chocolaty comestibles are also available. Er … possibly.)

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Walking Matters: Zermatt 8th – 19th Sept 2012 – Day 9

A Leaf Every Day – 10.00 miles / Ascent = 670m / Descent = 637m

After yesterday’s exertions we decided on a bit of an easier day today. A gentle amble round the low level, picturesque villages of Blatten, Furi and Zmutt (eschewing the various lifts) would be followed by time in Zermatt for shopping, reading, generally tidying up – and planning another full day for tomorrow, our last full day.

So it was slightly later than usual that we trundled through town, the early cool having already dissipated. We chose a different way up to Furi this time: via the hamlets of Blatten, where the small chapel is worth a look inside, and Zum See. It’s no more than a steady climb, but even without rushing we were pretty warm by the time we’d reached Furi, and down to shirt-sleeves already.

As we’d promised ourselves an easy day, we stopped for an early coffee break at the Restaurant Furi. It’s surprising what sort of a thirst you can build up if you try. We’d considered aiming for Stafelalp, but a sign informed us that “Montag ist Ruhetag”: closed on Mondays.

Instead, we took the easy road trail towards the dam above Zmutt, crossed the stream over the dam itself, and turned for home. Our lazy start and relaxed pace meant it was already nearing lunchtime, so we picked a grassy spot at the side of the path and sat in the glorious sunshine to eat our sandwiches.

Fifteen minutes further on, we pottered into the charming hamlet of Zmutt. The opportunity to catch a bit of shade in delightful surroundings proved irresistible, so we quickly rustled up another thirst and pulled in for a beer.

Although Zmutt is little more than a chapel, a couple of nice restaurants and a few wonky, wooden houses, it’s a hub for many of the area’s paths that seem to radiate out in all directions. For example, there are four different routes to Zermatt alone.

Today, we picked one we hadn’t used before – and what a revelation it proved to be: plenty of interest; good views; part woodland, part open hillside; an interesting narrow bit with a drop off to the side; even keeping to a high line right until the last minute descent into Zermatt.

One unusual point of interest: we passed by a house sporting a number of poems hanging on the outside walls. This one is entitled “The Book Of Life”.

My translation skills are not great, but roughly speaking it appears to say the following:

When we are born, God gives us all a special book – a diary, so to speak – to record what we do each day. Each day has a clean page, and through our actions we write clearly what we have thought or done, each in our own way. And, when the time comes and we are called to account, God will judge each of us according to what we have written. So don’t waste the pages: and make sure you write well – a leaf every day.

We liked the sentiment in this: each day is precious, a clean slate waiting to be filled with words and deeds. So make the most of it, stand by your principles and live life to the full.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Walking Matters: Zermatt 8th – 19th Sept 2012 – Day 8

The Schönbielhütte – 16.50 miles / Ascent = 955m / Descent = 1,917m

In line with planning bigger walks for better days, we had a decent trip lined up for today. I’d been looking into the possibility of walking to the Schönbielhütte since the beginning of the holiday but had been unhappy about taking a simple there-and-back route for fear it might lack a bit of interest in one or two places.

Then an odd idea popped into my head: could we tackle it from the Schwarzsee? A quick look at the map seemed to confirm the prospect, and the rest fell neatly into place.

We set off nice and early to catch the gondola, but lost a lot of time getting mixed up with some breakfast event that had commandeered two out of every three gondolas. It was very busy, rather chaotic, and not very Swiss at all. A large queue had formed as a result, and in the end it was 10.45am before we reached the Schwarzsee, putting us some way behind schedule.

Clearing the gondola, we headed downhill towards Stafel on a wide track, soon leaving the crowds behind who were mostly aiming for the Hörnlihütte. Part way down we got chatting to a German chap who asked if we could spare any sunscreen. He was studying for a PhD in Neurobiology at the University of Geneva but had come to the area for the weekend and stayed at the Schönbielhütte overnight. He said today was to be their last day, and that they were closing for the end of the season.

With this information filed away we carried on downhill, leaving the track to pick up a pleasant path over undulating ground to Stafelalp. With its sunny terrace and good location below the north face of the Matterhorn, the restaurant looked a good place for a stop. But we had a long way to go and time to make up, so we passed on by and began to pick our way between the Hydro scheme workings across the valley bottom.

Our target was an obvious waterfall on the opposite side of the valley. A narrow path zig-zagged up the side of the falls before opening out at the top to run beside the bubbling stream of the Arbenbach.

We stopped for lunch amid a gaggle of path junctions. Around here, routes lead off in several directions, and we could see people heading to Zmutt, back to Stafel from where we had come, and high above the valley towards Trift. Our route led westwards, though, towards the Schönbielhütte.

Because of the earlier delays we were mindful of the time, especially as the walk back to Zermatt from the Schönbielhütte is around 4 hours. At this time of year it begins to go dark after about 7.30pm, and we wanted to be sure we could reach the hut and make it back to town with at least a modicum of margin for error.

Soon we could see our goal perched on a rocky promontory up ahead, and decided – having got this far – to give it a shot. The sting in the tail was the steep, zig-zagging 170m climb to get there, but we made good time were soon sitting on the terrace in the warm afternoon sunshine enjoying a Cardinal “blonde” moment.

There was an end of term feel to proceedings: the remaining food was divvied out between us and two other parties (we got the last pieces of apple cake!), all the hut slippers were being collected up, and there was much dusting and sweeping in progress.

It was a pleasant half-hour, though, and we thoroughly enjoyed our rest. Surrounded by glaciers and high peaks, the quiet broken only by the occasion crack and boom of an avalanche, it was a privilege to be here in this special place – if only for a while.

Sadly, we couldn’t linger. The route back was simple to navigate and easy going, but there were still some miles to cover before we could call it a day. At one point our intended path had been land-slipped away, but the diversion through re-colonised moraine was very enjoyable and we didn’t begrudge the extra half-mile.

On we went, past the (now closed) cabin at Chalbermatten and on towards Zmutt. By now there were few other people around; just us, the peace and quiet, and our own lengthening shadows. It felt like we had the whole valley to ourselves.

Beyond Zmutt there were a few more people about. We were in need of a brief rest, and found a bench on which to sit for a few minutes: we could afford the time now we were near town on known paths. A man and his dog came by. In response to our greeting the man said nothing, while the dog carefully lowered it’s hindquarters and unhurriedly deposited a long turd on the path in front of us before moving off. It was difficult to keep the smiles off our faces – especially when we encountered this sign a little later.

Dinner was simple: pasta with ham, broccoli and cheese sauce, quickly rustled up – and equally quickly dispatched. We’d had a long day, but enjoyed every minute of it, and were very glad to have pushed ourselves a bit in order to reach our goal, pleased that our fitness seemed to be up to the challenge.

Walking Matters: Zermatt 8th – 19th Sept 2012 – Day 7

Five Lakes, Flue & Findeln – 11.00 miles / Ascent = 562m / Descent = 1,519m

Today was a special day for us: our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. So we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion, combining two of our favourite things: a good walk and a nice lunch!

It was another beautiful, bright morning – a little on the cool side, perhaps, but full of promise for warmth to come. Our plan was to do the Five Lakes Walk (5-Seenweg) from Blauherd, but to add a bit on mid-way round, get something to eat at our favourite mountain restaurant in Findeln afterwards, and then round it all off with a walk back to town.

We caught an early trip up the Rothornbahn to Blauherd (the middle station, at a relatively lowly 2,570m) and picked up a wide track towards the Stellisee – the first of the five lakes. It can get quite busy round here, but at this time of the morning there were few people around, the lake was calm and still, and the air quality crisp and clear. All of which helped in getting photographs like these.

From here we left the “official” Five Lakes route, heading further up the valley towards the mountain restaurant at Flue where we planned to have coffee. Just coffee, mind: in no way were we going to have any cake. No, sir! We didn’t need it, and we hadn’t earned it yet, so we wouldn’t have any.

I think it was Oscar Wilde who claimed he could resist everything except temptation. As we were waiting for our coffee, three enormous plates of freshly baked, still-warm-from-the-oven cakes were paraded past us, flaunting their charms. Sad to report our willpower crumbled in the face of such provocation as readily as the subsequent cake did.

As penance for our sins, we decided to push on a little further up the valley before connecting to a wonderfully narrow and insubstantial path running along the crest of the lateral moraine high above the Findeln Glacier. Care is required, as the path has a habit of crumbling away as easily as willpower does when confronted by cake. Here, Missy G estimates how big a chunk has collapsed into the void since our last visit.

Soon we were heading for the Grindjisee, the second lake of the day. Like the Stellisee, it is famous for reflecting the Matterhorn in it’s still, clear waters, but the reed-fringed, tree-lined pool has a very different character to the open aspect of its predecessor.

It is rare to get such a stunning combination of still waters, sunny weather and clear, cloudless blue skies, but today conditions were nigh on perfect, and we spent a few minutes taking photos as we circled the pool.

Lake three – the Grünsee – was reached after about half-an-hour of easy walking on stony tracks. Looking back, we could see the face of the moraine we were traversing earlier in all its insubstantial glory.

By now, the fine, warm morning had drawn people outside. With walkers and picnickers out in their droves, the beauty spots were fast becoming crowded – like here. We stopped for a quick rest on a handy bench then hurried on, past the busy Berghaus Grünsee and into the woods, where a fine path descended towards lake number four.

The Moojisee is blessed with waters of the most gorgeous turquoise-blue: the kind that usually can only be found in glacier-fed lakes, and that glitter alluringly through the trees on the descent. Unfortunately, the lake itself it is a man-made concrete-and-metal affair of considerable unloveliness, and not really worthy of a photograph.

So we carried on along a track contouring the hillside towards Findeln. At Eggen, we cut up towards the Sunnegga gondola station (where the walk officially ends) to find the fifth of the five lakes, the Leisee. Sadly this is now a theme park, dedicated to the cartoon sheep we encountered a few days ago, Wolli. It’s busy, noisy and messy, and we didn’t like it: the camera remaining pocketed once again. A “gondola” lift descends all of 15m from the Sunnegga area, so we secretly re-christened the lake “lazy” and turned quickly away.

Having completed the Five Lakes walk, we now had a new goal in mind: Findeln. Findeln is an attractive, traditional hamlet widely spread across sunny hillside about a twenty-minute walk below Sunnegga. More specifically, it is home to Chez Vrony, an excellent restaurant in lovely surroundings, serving good food and with a wonderful view from the terrace.

We had set our hearts on eating here, although information we had was ambiguous as to whether it would be open. As we approached from the rear we could see building work being carried out, and feared the worst. But we needn’t have worried: the place was open and buzzing, and we quickly snuck into one of the few remaining available spaces.

Missy G opted for ravioli of goat’s cheese with caramelised pear and thyme nut butter, while I followed the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall approach of “see the wildlife, eat the wildlife” and opted for jugged Chamois with red cabbage and noodles. Both were excellent, and made for a memorable meal on our special day.

By now it was 3.45pm, so we trundled back to town through the woods alongside the Findelbach. All in all, we’d had a fantastic day – just as we had planned, perfect in every detail, and a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary.