The day they shut the mountains

March 15th and 16th 2020 Chamonix. It was supposed to be two days of a little bit of up but mostly all about the down with a couple of good ski friends who’s snowy hols are typically punctuated by corralling their three kids.

March 15th went according to plan with some fluffy then crunchy then slushy descents of the GM and a sneeky up to get over the back. For once I wasn’t last as our friends were somewhat hampered by their down hill boots .. hurrah!

These were some of the best powder turns of the season.

In the run up to the weekend the resort was rife with rumours of the hills being shut at the weekend as the French nation braced themselves for some critical measures to manage the new coronovirus which seemed to be spreading fast among the population. Our friends came out on friday evening in any case. The lure of some kid free adventuring was too great to resist.

The GM had signs up suggesting skiers to reduce the numbers of people in individual cable car bubbles but no-one was taking it all that seriously. Looking back on it now it seems difficult to believe we were so blasé.

The Dru even popped out to wish us a happy evening.

Sunday morning dawned and everything was shut. I guess sense had prevailed in the end although it didn’t feel like it at the time. So a slightly lazy start and a nice walk up towards Argentiere as far as Le Lavancher and back in time for a glass of Rose in the sunny sunny garden and Alpy bus or was it Easy bus back to GVA. Amazingly despite somewhat chaotic scenes at Geneva Airport our friends made it home to the UK safe and sound .. more or less .. but that’s someone else’s tale to tell.

I was supposed to be flying to Spain for work that week direct from GVA but that was looking altogether dubious as Spain seemed worse off than France and then off to Germany the week after .. Hmmm

And that was the start of the take each day as it comes, several easyjet flight shenanigans and wondering exactly how long we’d be “trapped” in Chamonix. Well there are worse places to wait out the apocalypse.

It’s all about the trees

We’ve done lots of ups through the Bathampton woods which cover the north side of Claverton Down during our local lockdown inspired wanderings . It’s also the site of an old mine so some of the trees are curled around and over the stone scars left by the mining operations. Some have done a wonderful job of reclaiming the land once invaded by human efforts to exploit it. Some parts appear a bit like a rather un-exotic Cambodian temple.

instagram #30dayswildphotochallenge round 2 day 18 … curl

It can be a bit tricky to find compositions as there is just so much to distract the eye and it is quite hard to find clean images. I’ll probably look back on these in the future and cringe as their muddledness.

The old caves that remain are now all locked off to protect the bats that have made their homes there and to prevent too many Darwin awards being handed out to ill-advised explorers.

The trees are those amazing gnarly kind covered in moss, lichen, ivy and what look like jungle lianas. I wouldn’t try swinging on them mind you.

Day 27 … framed

I’m on a quest to get the perfect sunburst through the foliage and have collected a few nice lens flares but still hunting a pleasing star.

And pretty sure some of the trees are mythical creatures.

Day 19 … tree

One of my favourite parts is a clearing scattered with ancient ywe trees. Apparently rather unusual as so many english ywes were chopped down to make longbows to see off various invaders (probably mainly the french) back in the day.

We’ve been up there in a a variety of weathers and different light conditions and there is always something to catch my eye. These shots are a mix of Sony A7s II 12-24mm f4.0 and Nikon D850 24-70mm f2.8. I should take a tripod up next time on a sunny day and get a couple of timelapses.

I am rather looking forward to autumn. Should be some great colour come October.

Of canals and flowers and horned beasties

In this post you’ll find an odd collection of snaps from our June lockdown wanderings which don’t get a post on their own. Not that they weren’t just as wonderful as the others but I was clearly less inclined to snap away.

June 8th

Back up Claverton Down on the hunt for Day 8 (instagram #30dayswildphotochallenge)… flowers. The lure of the daisies was too much and even though the weather wasn’t up to much the attraction of the flowers and fresh air was enough to get us moving.

Mission success with these .. thanks to the Sony a7S and the 12-24mm f4

Day 8 … Flowers

We then looped round the back of the university, past the American Museum and down the steep hill to the canal through the village of Claverton.

Found some stunning wild iris growing on the edge of the woodland

and enjoyed the last mile or 2? back along the canal.

The swing bridge at Bathampton.

June 10th

Just North(ish) of Bath is a lovely collection of villages and this trail wandered up and around and down Solsbury hill through Northend then onto St Catherine. Then up a crazy steep, cutting round Charmy Down and back down to Swainswick.

Found massive shrooms to keep me amused on the second steep up. How annoying is it when you are out with the D850 and the 105 macro and the mushroom is so massive it’s impossible to find a good composition.

Day 10 … curves

And the ferns which live in the St Catherine valley which can be a bit dark and damp and rainforesty at times were fabulously curly.

Check out this lovely fella of the sheep exotica family. He or she? gave us a proper hard stare as we took a wrong turn through his field. My Sheep identification skills are rather poor so I think it’s either a Manx Loaghtan or a Hebredian .. answers on a postcard please.

June 15th

We are very fortunate to have lots of exploring options on our doorstep. Not least the Kennet and Avon canal. It stretches from Bristol and the River Avon to Reading where it joins up with the Thames.

The part which runs through Bath is proper lovely with a very eclectic collection of houseboats ranging from the super posh bling beasties to some gorgeously characterful ones and a few which you wonder how they are actually afloat. Hmm idea for a photography project perhaps.

Several of our walks either start or end up on the canal but on the 15th we just wandered into town along it’s length.

The Sydney gardens part has all these wonderful bridges and tunnels which when the water is still it makes for some great reflections. The a7S does them justice I think and at this point I am wondering why I am lugging 2 cameras around with me especially as one is the D850 house brick with bonus brick of the 105 macro.

Day 15 .. The letter “C”

We ended up in Victoria Gardens where we found a yummy display of poppies, daisies and cornflowers. What a pity day 8 flowers was last week.

Love a poppy shot and finally the 105 gets a look in….

our house building blog


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

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