Sunday 31 July 2016

Trekking in the Stilluptal

It's early in the day, and we have already trekked down from the Grüne Wand mountain hütte at the head of this valley - the pathway travelled can be seen meandering off into the far distance. The Stilluptal is a beautiful 'U' shaped valley that was once home to a mighty glacier which has now split into three, two parts can still be seen on the mountain top, the third is hidden by crags. On the walk through the valley we counted 25 waterfalls cascading down its rocky sides, and our attention was continually captured by the abundance of alpine flowers

How lucky were we to have it all to ourselves apart from busy bees, butterflies, insects, and the inevitable cows. As well as enjoying the magnificient scenery I was in botany heaven. The Stillup Valley is privately owned by 15 local Mayrhofen families, and entry is allowed only with permission. 

The peace and silence only broken by the screech of a bird of prey patrolling the skies, distant waterfalls crashing down from on high, and in the meadows the pleasing dulcet tones of cow bells chiming in harmony
Years ago the farmers would travel up to these high alpine meadows with their cattle and stay from early summer until September. Today with the advent of their own power for milking the cows and 4WD vehicles it is not now necessary for them to remain in these high pastures for weeks on end.
This chalet is over 400 years old, and although no longer used as a residence it still provides shelter, and a place in which to work from and stay if necessary

It is these grazing traditions that have given the Alps their distinctive appearance of large flower strewn meadows that would originally have been covered in forest
Finally after several hours the end of the valley comes within sight terminating
 at a reservoir filled with turquoise glacial waters. This is the main source of hydro electric power for the whole of the Zillertal Valley. 
Time to enjoy our well earned ham and cheese rolls
and absorb our beautiful surroundings

Monday 25 July 2016

Haflingers & Schnapps

 Schwendau is a beautiful little village in the Zillertal region of Austria lying in the middle of a fertile valley. It is criss-crossed by pathways through flower strewn alpine meadows and completely surrounded mountains.
one of several panoramic views from our balcony
The nearest shop was a 30 minute walk - a farming community whose men would meet in our chalet hotel most evenings to drink and socialise. Apart from the hotel, there was a young man making schnapps, fine brandy and sweet liqueurs from the local fruit.
Needless to say a bottle of delicious Apricot liqueur travelled back home with us.
 There was a breeder of Haflingers nearby. Do you know what Haflingers are? I know that my blogging friend Gina does.  
Apart from the Haflingers he also breeds these lovely big friendly dogs called Bernese mountain dogs. This is mum and these are her eight adoreable puppies.
Tyrolean Haflingers are beautiful mountain horses - pale chestnut in colour with flaxen manes and tails. The breed traces its uncertain ancestry back to the Middle Ages.  There are two main theories - the first is that they descended from horses abandoned in the Tyrolean valleys by Goths fleeing from Byzantine troops after the fall of Conze in 555 AD. The second theory is that they descended from a stallion from the Kingdom of Burgundy sent to Margrave Louis of Brandenburg by his father, Louis lV, the Holy Roman Emperor.  
the foals have curly manes and tails which become straight as they mature
This Tiroler Bergschaf sheep was the young distillery owners pride and joy - that is apart from his beautiful wife. A strange looking Tyrolean mountain sheep, but this is no ordinary sheep for he is a big prize winner. He would tower over other sheep as he has very, very long legs
Living all alone whilst waiting for another competition show day, he has five rabbits to keep him company. He wanted us to keep stroking him and was reluctant to let us go but.....

the mountain views from our other balcony were calling. This is the Ahornspitze rising to 2976m which conjured up fond memories for H. He went to Austria as a teenager with a walking group. However, on arrival he met an older experienced German climber who invited H to join him climb the Ahornspitze. They spent two days together getting to the top and back which included a night in a climbing hut. H recalls that in the hut was a long raised platform made from rustic wooden boards which everyone spending the night slept on whilst using their rucksacks as pillows - there were at least 12 others bedded down on the rack for the night. Today I imagine that the facilities are rather more sophisticated for the weary tired climber, but we wouldn't be checking them out for ourselves. The chair lifts would take us up and the long valley walks suffice. 
Thank you for your thoughtful comments on the previous post which I enjoyed reading on my return♡

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Lavendula augustifolia

Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly, lavender's green
When I am king, dilly, dilly, You shall be queen
Who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so 
I love to dance, dilly, dilly, I love to sing
When I am queen, dilly, dilly, You'll be my king 
  Who told me so dilly, dilly, Who told me so?
 I told myself, dilly, dilly, I told me so
Lavender's Blue is a traditional 'Olde English' folk song from the late c17th
Lavender is a low maintenance plant to have in your garden requiring nothing more than a good clip in the Autumn and is drought tolerant. It attracts bees and butterflies but is deer and rabbit resistant. It can be used in cosmetics, medicine and cuisine. Lavender fragrance has been prized for millennia. Lavender eases tension. Rub a few drops of lavender body oil on your temple to help you sleep. Try Sprinkling dried blooms onto your desserts or cakes
With this post the computer is going off, but I will be back again soon

Saturday 9 July 2016



Blackwell is a stunning Arts & Crafts House built for a northern industrial baron, Sir Edward Holt, the owner of a prosperous brewery in Manchester.
Overlooking Lake Windermere it was designed as a holiday home for the Holt family by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, and is considered a masterpiece of early twentieth century design.

Happily Blackwell still retains an outstanding amount of surviving decorative arts and crafts details through lack of modernisation. After the Holts lost their son in the First World War they used Blackwell less and less. They had a skeleton staff of servants keeping an eye on the property, but rarely visited.  During the Second World War pupils from a school in Liverpool were evacuated there, and after the war the school continued until finally closing in 1976. Blackwell was leased to English Nature, the government agency who promoted the conservation of wildlife and geology. They boarded up the fireplaces and covered much of the decoration with filing cabinets thus ensuring that the Arts and Crafts elements were preserved.
Lakeland Arts Trust now manages Blackwell - they encourage you to stroll around the house at your leisure, relax in the cosy inglenook fireplaces whilst reading their good selection of Arts and Crafts books, or sit on the window seats in each room and enjoy the magnificent Lakeland views
Peacock wallpaper frieze by Shand Kydd was installed in 1906 - I suspect that the copper lamps were made by W.A.S Benson
Sideboard and Hessian wallhanging both designed by Baillie Scott - the background has faded, originally it was dark blue not brown

Baillie Scott saw the fire on dark winter days as a substitute for the sun - its cheerfulness akin to the delight sunlight brings.
A terracotta bust of Ruskin, the leading Victorian English art critic, art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist and prominent social thinker and philanthropist. His home, Brantwood, lies nearby on the shores of Coniston Water which can also be visited
Rowan leaves and berries form a dominant decorative theme particularly in the White Drawing Room
Emerging from the darker more masculine wood panelled rooms, the White Drawing Room has a much lighter more feminine touch. The moulded plaster work may contain some references to past Elizabethan interiors but the most powerful impression is one of modernity, and very different from the gloomy tones and clutter of a typical Victorian parlour
An oak barrel chair inlaid with ebony by Baillie Scott
The bay window overlooking Windermere has been likened to the bridge of a ship
Lustre ware dish by renown Arts and Crafts potter Willam De Morgan

Last post from the Lake District