Saturday, 13 August 2016

30th July Kastelruth - St Michael - Panider Sattel - Kastelruth, South Tyrol, Italy

Waking up the mountains were shrouded in mist and cloud, but it was warm, and it looked as if this would soon burn off.  Breakfast is always interesting the first morning in a hotel, and today was no exception, a very lively staff that clearly enjoyed their job.  By the time we had breakfast and set off the sun had done exactly that and the skies were clearing all the time.  Today was to be a circular walk taking us away to the east of Kastelruth to the edge of the Val Gardena

We left the hotel and headed to the centre of the village for some supplies before heading off. The church towered over us, and I can happily report that there was no chiming through the night so a good night was had by all.

We retraced the path back past the hotel, and then we wandered down through some lovely small meadow pastures on the outskirts of the village where already the butterflies were about.  Meadow Browns are always one of the first on the wing, and the first Small Skipper we had seen.

Another first was a Small Heath, as usual laying flat on the ground to warm up.

Inevitably the path then turned up hill, past an old barn where a Small Tortoiseshell was sitting on the old wood panels of the barn.

We then followed a path between two meadows with on the right hand side a wall that raised the meadow to eye level, and we were able to get some different views of the flowers and of the butterflies that were now almost everywhere.  

Beautiful Marbled Whites weaved between the stems of grasses.

 A Common Blue standing out amongst the lush green colours.

On the other side there were tall spikes of Straw Foxgloves.

The path then took us past yet more old barns, and by now I was not surprised to find yet another family party of Black Redstarts on the roof.

As we walked along the path there would be sudden movements on the dry wall stones.  Lizards were also on the wall warming up in what was now a very hot sun.  They would disappear in an instant as we approached but one or two stayed and allowed a photograph.

More butterflies appeared, this Small White sitting tight for a change.

Looking back the church at Kastelruth was still prominent on the skyline.

The path wound its way past small farms and the wonderful barns that seem to tower over the home dwellings. Most of the farms would have small vegetable plots with beets, potatoes, and cabbages growing, but some  had other crops such as these poppies.

Hopefully grown for the seeds!

Everywhere there were flowers, with the Cow Parsley and Wild Carrot very dominant.

As the path wound its way slowly up hill, the views back down the valley improved, but were always dominated by the monolith of the Sciliar Mountain.

Mowing of the meadows has started and in many places we could see cut grass, and here there would be many Pied and White Wagtails.  

We followed for some time a camera shy Green Woodpecker until it eventually flew off.  In addition to the woodpecker there was also a Jay and several Mistle Thrushes feeding amongst the cut grass.

The walk wound through more meadows and then into woodland, the path rising steeply then passing through yet another open meadow with more lovely flowers.  A Six Spot Burnet on purple Scabius.

And a Scotch Argus on Knapweed.

Finally the path arrived at the the church of St Michael.  Our notes advised us that there was a cafe bar here where we could get a drink, but unfortunately it was closed on a Saturday, so we had to continue on.

From the church we headed up hill, with some lovely views back to Kastelruth behind us, and again the flower meadows on either side of us.

We then crossed a main road and again headed steeply up a forest track which then meandered through a pine forest before arriving at a private fishing pond.  There were no fishermen, but at least three different dragonfly species.  The hawker again that never stops, This Four-spot Chaser.

 And this probable Southern Darter.

From the pond we walked through more forest, then out across a path with meadows on either side.  This then passed through a farm, and then down hill past a wonderful bank of wild flowers

Where of course there were plenty of butterflies.  This Common Blue

And a view from above.

And a lovely Small Copper.

From here we crossed the road and walked into the Gasthof Panider Sattel.  We sat on the terrace and had some wonderful views over the Val Gardena.  The valley marks the border between the German and Ladino language. Ladino is a new-Latin language that dates back to Roman times, and has been preserved in four different valleys in the area that surround us.

After taking our time over lunch and a few beers, where we took in both the stunning views, and people watching, we headed away on the inward trail.  At first up hill but then sweeping down hill through several meadows again filled with wild flowers.  Away in the distance below us we could see the church in Kastelruth, and a little closer the church of St Michael.

We were now descending into a valley where the shelter allowed the butterflies to appear once again.  Two new butterflies for the trip, a first for me with an Escher's Blue.

While a rather tatty Small Blue kept out of the way by moving through the grass.

The path then alternated between woodland and meadow, and if it did go uphill it only did so for a short distance, in the main it was downhill.  As we came out of a patch of woodland we heard the definite calls of young Buzzards, and one then flew across the open meadow away from us.

In patches all along the walk we were seeing Japanese Knotweed, this would mostly be near streams of damp areas.  Coming down the hill and past more streams we encountered much more of the foreign and evasive species.

It is native to East Asia in Japan, China and Korea.  It was introduced to Britain by the Victorians in the 1800s as an ornamental garden plant, and since has spread widely.  .Japanese knotweed flowers are valued by some beekeepers as an important source of nectar for honeybees, at a time of year when little else is flowering.  It is a frequent colonizer of temperate water ecosystems, roadsides and waste places. It forms thick, dense colonies that completely crowd out any other herbaceous species and is now considered one of the worst invasive exotics.  In addition it can grow through floors of houses, cracks in asphalt, concrete and walls and into drains and cause significant damage  The plant is also resilient to cutting, vigorously re-sprouting from the roots.

The path then ran alongside a field that was being spread with slurry.  Interestingly in one corner there was an erected tent, and the farmer had very kindly left a wide patch around the tent.  Needless to say he couldn't do anything about the smell.   From the field we were back into the shade of the wood, with more flowers, this time a White Bellflower.

And with the flowers came the butterflies once again, the sun dappled spots being their favourite places.  This Dark-green Fritillary taking to the Clover.

Finally we came out of the trees and dropped down through the small settlement of Tiosels.  from here we returned the grass track with views of Kastelruth below us.

It was now quite warm, and even though the path was till heading downhill it was becoming tiring in the heat.  We passed under the Marinzen chairlift that leads up from Kastelruth, then turned right to head downhill finally towards the village.

Once again the surroundings were dominated by the wide flower filled meadow, and the Sciliar Mountain.

At the bottom we came in to the village close to the chair lift station, and then into the centre and finally our hotel.  We were weary from what was a lovely walk that took us through some beautiful areas, characterised by the wonderful lush greens of the grasses and the array of lovely wild flowers.

Tonight we had dinner at the same restaurant, and then we returned to the hotel to prepare for the onward journey to the next and last but one hotel in Compatsch.  As we sorted the cases out we were treated to a thunderstorm with frequent pulses of lightning that lit up the surrounding mountains in the darkness.  These pulses were then followed by long loud claps of thunder, and then heavy rain.  The heat of the day being all too much for the mountains.  Unfortunately the weather forecast for the next day did not look to be as kind to us as we had been experiencing so this will have a big say on exactly what we do tomorrow.

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