Exploring the local Downs

Living here for 30+ years you rather take for granted how beautiful the countryside is and don’t take the time to explore it. We’re always working or dashing off to apparently more exotic locations but having been furloughed for almost three weeks now as the bottom has fallen out of the airplane business me and the other half have pounded the local hills.

They call them Downs round here which I quite like. Dad says what happened to the ups but as any fellow skier will know (well apart from the nutters who prefer the skinning) it is all about the Down.

Down 1 – Charmy Down May 31st 2020

It was an old Airfield back in the day and now it’s just a big old open grassland.

This is the old runway .. an ex army pal was pretty sure you wouldn’t get a lancaster bomber down in one piece on that these days

Our Route was more or less past the bottom of Solsbury hill, up a ridiculously steep road parallel to the A46 up to Charmy Down, across the old airfield past some prettily backlit cows and cow babies,

down the other side through what would have been the most gorgeous garlic flowery drop a couple of weeks ago.

Then along to Monkswood Reservoir, all fenced off so not very picturesque, along the valley occupied by lovely long horn cows, need to go back there with the Nikon or Olympus and a longer lens as seemed a good idea to keep our distance .. they were very pointy horns.

Then up to and over the A46. The farm there has built 2 giant minion statues which had attracted the attention of passing motorists .. how odd ..

This looks flat but it was crazy steep.

Found an innovative garage construction

Then along to Wooly, a bit of a bonus up and past more curious cows

The A7s and the 12 to 24mm had a fine time out and about too.

Finally home to the light of the Petzel Duo S head torch (it is soooooo bright). Not bad given we didn’t start until 7pm ish. I do love these long evenings.

Thank you FATMAP for helping us to not get lost.

The next Down on the list is Claverton.

A sneaky weekend in Sainte Foy

Luckily for us before the world succumbed to a pandemic and retreated into lockdown we had what turned out to be one of the most amazing powdery weekends of snowy fun when we went to visit friends who have a lovely spot in a village called La Masure just down the hill from the Sainte Foy station ski hill.

We had skied there once before for a weekend in 2019 when there was, at some points, very little snow. to be fair it was the last day of the season.

It’s a fantastic spot. The resort itself has only a handful of lifts but some amazing off-piste and touring adventure possibilities. We didn’t explore it much in 2019 due to the epic melt in progress but had a fun few days .. which included a 3 hour lunch in Sainte Foy and a race to catch the last lift, a more snowy blast in Tignes, which is about an hour drive up the valley and a day of fabulous views and tarte aux framboises in Les Arc, which is accessible via a series of chairs from Villaroger.

The run down from Les Arc back to Villaroger was a bit exciting as the piste was, in places, just a 2m wide strip of snow snaking down the mountain. The glass of Rose part way down helped a lot.

Anyway this year, last weekend of February 2020, was a whole other ballgame. We drove through the night with a couple of like minded friends and arrived to a fresh dump of snow and blues skies and a wonderful breakfast Thanks to our La Masure buddies.

We spend three incredible days in Sainte Foy station and despite the fact it only has 4 lifts we never ran out of entertainment.

Sainte Foy 2020

and here.


Day 3 we decided to do a route our hosts think they might have done with a guide before but they didn’t seem entirely sure which involved a big loop round from the Col de l’Aiguille to the historic village of Le Monal without too much human powered up.

A little movie of the adventure is here

And a few of B&Ws with the trusty little Olympus EM5 of Le Monal which was all snow bound and gorgeous.

Great spot for lunch.

Three of us got dropped at GVA to fly home on Sunday, Our Hosts headed back to their UK base a little later that day and my other half headed to Chamonix to finish off what was to be a rather curtailed season.

The mountains are still there though so high hopes for some more adventures here in years to come.

A day of two hills and two cameras

And a major milestone reached

We were supposed to be spending a few days in the French Alps with my morning and evening view being the Dru but we are nothing if not adaptable these days so breakfast in bed then off to Browne’s Folly .. hill one .. then plans for socially isolated birthday party on Solsbury Hill via zoom with a bottle of the most amazing pink bubbles on the planet.

A lovely surprise of delivered flowers from my entire family, masterful organisation skills of sis number 2.

My new acquisition (pre birthday) of preloved Sony A7s mark II did a nice job of capturing these don’t you think.

Bacon and egg butties in bed courtesy of number one fella.

Then off for a wander to test the new toy and exercise the faithful D850 and my fav lens Nikon 135mm F2 Defocus loveliness. I bought it on a whim a couple of years ago and it always amazes me.

Bath is surrounded by hills and out the back window of our house we look across to Browne’s Folly. It’s perched on the hill above Bathford. Apparently was built as a marketing stunt for the stone they used to quarry there by Wade-Browne. There are some interesting remains of the old stone mine, some long buried ordinance casings, a gorgeous woodland and the pointless tower.

If you are feeling brave and have a head for heights you can climb up the unguarded steps inside.

The site is of special Scientific Interest and looked after by Avon wildlife trust https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves/brownes-folly

Aaah the lovely 135mm F2 ….. but my goodness it’s a heavy combination to lug about.

Made it home via the canal and these fluffy guys


We’ve been checking in on them on and off since these shots were taken. They are much bigger and still all 7 of them. Mum & Dad are doing a great job.

Home in time for a quick cup of tea and some socially distancing visitors armed with birthday gifts then off up hill number 2 for bubbles, Friday night Zoom and Sunset.

It was blowing a gale but the bubbles courtesy of Billecart-Salmon were so delicious and the sunset was a stunner.

Tomorrow we will hang the Dru. It was painted by my incredible niece https://www.instagram.com/shonainatimi_art_/ as it has been occupying the living room floor since December.


our house building blog


This mountain life .. trying to stay up on the downs and survive the ups.

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