Walking the Swiss bisses

We were constantly surprised by the next unexpected vista

Every summer we go away somewhere different for a week – Donna and me along with two daughters, their husbands, and our four grandchildren. This year we stayed in a ski chalet in Haute-Nendaz in western Switzerland, just over the border from France.

Although prices are high in Switzerland, there are many wonderful compensations in terms of mountain scenery, clean streets and clean air, friendly people, and the walks. I had expected walks with big and tiring changes in elevation – and we certainly did our share of walks of that sort. But the bisses: what a wonderful experience!

Looking at a bisse
Looking at a bisse

I must admit, I had no idea what a bisse was when we drove from Geneva Airport, around Lake Geneva, and then south-west to Nendaz. I hadn’t even come across the word ‘bisse’. But we soon found a leaflet of local walks and discovered that several of them followed the local bisses. A bisse is an irrigation stream running gently downhill, almost following the contours of the mountains and hills. As a result the bisse paths are gentle and easy walking for the most part, and they wind around the slopes through woodland and meadow. The views of the mountains and valleys are spectacular; following the path through woodland and then coming out into the open again we were constantly surprised by the next unexpected vista.

The view from a bisse
The view from a bisse

All the way, the path is accompanied by the sparkling water hurrying  down its channel, sometimes shallow, sometimes deep, and sometimes disappearing into a large pipe and reappearing beside the path again a little further on. Some of these paths follow one bisse gently uphill and then pick up a different one for the return, making a lovely, circular tour through the countryside.

Further reading

The Fly Line

A private railway built to transport coal from the local pits…

Visiting my daughter and her family in York recently, we walked near Aberford just outside Leeds. This was my son-in-law’s suggestion, he does a lot of walking and is interested in wildlife, footpaths, history, good walks and a whole lot more. Parking in Aberford, we followed a bridleway west along the bed of an old railway line.

Railway

The Fly Line was a private railway built to transport coal from the local pits to the nearby Leeds and Selby Railway Apart from the removal of the tracks, the old line is remarkably well preserved. We walked under the bridge shown in the photo above, and through a rather muddy tunnel. The Ordnance Survey One Inch map for 1885-1900 shows the line (marked as a mineral line) and the Six Inch map for 1842 to 1952 shows it in more detail, as well as the the coal pits along the line. But it fell out of use in 1924 and is not seen on later maps. The line passes through delightful woodland and I’d recommend it as an easy and enjoyable walk for anyone.

The railway was built by the Gascoigne family who also owned the coal mines and lived in the nearby Parlington Hall. (There’s more detail about Parlington Hall and its railway on a dedicated website.) Most of the old house has been demolished, and although we didn’t visit the remaining wing, we did get a distant view of the triumphal arch, built to commemorate the American victory in the War of Independence.

TreeAlong the way we came across a great example of two (or possibly three) trees, cross grafted as saplings. Someone had clearly tied them together tightly, possibly after removing a slice from each and lining up the cambial zones carefully so that they would heal and grow as one. That must have been decades ago and the result today is most striking.

On the whole, a fine day out and a great way to break our journey back to Cirencester from York.