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The village of Wengen is an idyllicalpine resort, set high on a shelteredalp above the dramaticLauterbrunnen Valley, right in the heart ofthe Bernese Oberland. Few placescommand such a spectacular setting!Lying at an altitude of 1,163 metres,Wengen is backed by one of the finestmountain landscapes in Europe. Herestand the ice-clad peaks of the Wetterhornand Schreckhorn, but even more majesticis the famous trio of peaks - the Eiger,Mönch and Jungfrau. These dominate theview and form an awesome backcloth tothe lush, botanically rich alpine meadowsand spruce forests at their feet. In lateJune, all but the highest peaks are freefrom snow and the newly exposedpastures become awash with a carpet offlowers. Our tour is timed to coincide withthe peak of this display. We begin our holiday by flying to Zürich,then transfer to the train for a rail tripacross the beautiful Swiss countryside toLauterbrunnen. The final stage of ourjourney is by the exciting cogwheel railwaywhich climbs steeply up the side of theLauterbrunnen Valley, past waterfalls andflower-filled hay meadows, to Wengen.There we transfer to our base for theholiday, a small, friendly, family-run hotelset on the edge of the village andcommanding wonderful, unobstructedviews of the snow-clad Jungfrau. Fromhere we will explore the excellent networkof footpaths that radiate out into the adjacent countryside. We will also makefull use of the extensive cable car andmountain railway network to carry usquickly and comfortably high into thesurrounding alpine meadows - a networkrun with the precision and timing of aSwiss clock! At this time of year the high alpine pasturesaround the Männlichen hold a rich diversityof flora. An exhilarating cable-way ascent ofnearly 1,000 metres takes us up to thissmall ski station, transporting us into abeautiful panorama of rugged mountainsdominated by the vertical north wall of theEiger. Species such as Alpenrose(Rhododendron ferrugineum), Globeflower(Trollius europaeus), Broad-leaved MarshOrchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), Small WhiteOrchid (Pseudorchis albida), MossCampion (Silene acaulis), Mountain Avens(Dryas octopetala) and Alpine Bartsia(Bartsia alpina) are common, and severalspecies of saxifrage, Pedicularis,Campanula, gentian, Primulaand violet arelikely to be encountered. We will endeavourto locate some of the more sought afterplants such as Lady's Slipper Orchid(Cypripedium calceolus), Creeping Azalea(Loiseleuria procumbens), Alpine PasqueFlower (Pulsatilla alpina), Alpine Snowbell(Soldanella alpina), Alpine Stonecrop(Sedum alpestre), Reddish Stonecrop (S.rubens), Mountain Houseleek(Sempervivum montanum) and AlpineButterwort (Pinguicula alpina). The area isalso rich in ferns. Excursions around Kleine Scheidegg andMürren will add further to the variety ofplants encountered, and a visit to the footof the 'Eigergletscher' (Eiger Glacier) willallow us to search the screes andmoraines for species such as AlpineButtercup (Ranunculus alpestris), YellowMilk Vetch (Oxytropis campestris), Round-leaved Pennycress (Thlaspi rotundifolia),Chamois Cress (Hutchinsia (Pritzelago)alpina), species of dwarf willow and Broad-leaved Mouse-ear (Cerastium latifolium).Ibex are fairly common around the glacier,and can be remarkably confiding; we mayeven spot a group of Chamois high aboveon a grassy slope. Alpine Marmots peerinquisitively from their burrows and highaltitude birds such as Snow Finch, Citril Finch, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit,Alpine Chough, and Ring Ouzel are alllikely to be seen.The natural limestone flora of the SchynigePlatte is legendary amongst botanists, andfor many will be the highlight of this tour.Our day here will start with a visit to thefamous botanical gardens, before weexplore the undulating pastures along theridge in search of plants such as St.Bruno's Lily (Paradisea liliastrum), YellowBellflower (Campanula thyrsoides), BlackVanilla Orchid (Nigritella nigra) and AlpineSainfoin (Hedysarum hedysaroides). Theviews down over Interlaken arebreathtaking, as are those back towardsthe high mountains and Wengen.We will also explore at lower altitudes,searching the hay meadows and spruceforests around Wengen and Lauterbrunnenin search of plants such as Greater andLesser Masterwort (Astrantia major andA.minor), Greater Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthusalectorolophus), Bearded Bellflower(Campanula barbata) and many species ofbutterflies. Birds such as Nutcracker, BlackWoodpecker, Wood Warbler, Fieldfare andFirecrest all breed in these woodlands,whilst Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrikeand Serin favour the more open areas.There may even be time to visit thedramatic Trümmelbach Falls where themelt water from the mountain glacierscorkscrews downwards inside the verticalvalley walls.The 'Jungfrau Region' undoubtedlycontains one of the most spectacularlandscapes in Europe. The mountainscenery, the outstanding botanical richesand other wildlife coupled with the area'sclassical Swiss charm are sure to remain inthe memory long after we return to London. Wengen - Alpine Flowers of the Swiss AlpsAn 8-day appreciation of the wonderful alpine flora - and birds and butterflies - of the Bernese Oberland, based in the idyllic Swiss village of Wengen.Sunday 16th June - Sunday 23rd June Cost: £1,695Sunday 23rd June - Sunday 30th June Cost: £1,695 (This tour can be combined with our 'Switzerland - Alpine Flowers of the Upper Engadine' holiday outlined on Page 149)Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Zürich and transferby train to Wengen.Day 2/7Botanical walks andexcursions fromWengen.Day 8Transfer by train toZürich and fly London.AccommodationA single-centre holiday, based in avery comfortable, small andfriendly, family-run hotel (withprivate facilities) on the edge of thevillage of Wengen. FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade B. Between915 and 2,280 metres (thoughmostly by cable car!).FocusAlpine flora ... though birds andbutterflies will also be enjoyed.LeaderDavid Tattersfield.Single room supplement£80. ExtensionsExtra time in Wengen, or elsewherein Switzerland, can be arranged.Web quick search: CHE02148Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryFRANCEITALYGERMANYAUSTRIAGENEVABERNINTERLAKENJUNGFRAUWENGENMATTERHORNLUCERNEZÜRICHLAKEGENEVALAKENEUCHATELLAKEZÜRICHLAKELUCERNESWITZERLANDTrumpetGentianLauterbrunnen Valley

The Engadine Valley lies in the south-east corner of Switzerland, aroundthe deep glacial trench of the RiverInn which drains eastwards on its longjourney to the Danube and the Black Sea.Surrounded by 3,000-metre peaks, thearea has long been known for itsconcentration of winter resorts, centred onthe opulent spa town of St. Moritz. To thesouth lies the intricate mountain frontierwith Italy, dominated by the awe-inspiringBernina group, a jagged panorama of ice-clad peaks - the tallest being the 4,049-metre Piz Bernina - from which glacialtongues descend to the valleys. The rocksof this area are predominantly acidic,including granites, shales and schists, buteast of the Val Bernina there are notableareas of limestone. Most of the plantstypical of the central Alps are found here,with the addition of species morecharacteristic of the eastern Alps. To enjoythe best of this flora, particularly theemergence of the high 'alpines' from themelting snows, this tour is later than mostof our other botanical departures inEurope, since the continental climatecombined with the high altitude of thisregion means that spring arrives late. Our base for the week is the quiet andcharming town of Pontresina. Lying at1,800 metres, amongst forests of ArollaPine and Larch, on a south-west-facingterrace at the foot of the Val Bernina, this isan ideal base from which to explore thearea. As elsewhere in Switzerland, thetransport network is well-developed andefficient, allowing us to make full use of thelocal railways, buses and cable cars toreach the best sites with a minimum ofeffort. The extensive footpaths furtherprovide excellent access to the region andour programme of daily walks (broken bydelicious picnics!) will include the flexibilityto cater for all levels of walking ability.Our holiday begins with a flight to Zürich,then a train journey through the beautifulSwiss countryside to Pontresina. Themountains above and to the east of thetown are accessible by funicular railway orchairlift, and from them the views of theInn Valley and surrounding peaks arespectacular. Here we will spend plenty oftime exploring the pastures, rocks andscrees which abound with such plants asAlpenrose, Creeping Azalea, AlpineClover, Spring Pasque Flower and Bird's-eye Primrose. We may also find plantswith a more easterly distribution such asSpotted Gentian, both Broad-leaved andEntire-leaved Primrose and DwarfSnowbell. At lower altitudes, as we walkthrough the open forests of Arolla Pine, weshould additionally find such plant speciesas Alpine Clematis, Martagon Lily, WhiteFalse-helleborine and the rare Twin Flower(Linnaea borealis), as well as such avianresidents as Nutcracker, Coal Tit, Firecrestand Crossbill, and that charmingmammalian denizen of the forest, the Red Squirrel.Towards the Bernina Pass, the valleys oneither side of the limestone pyramid of PizAlv are famous for their rich flora, whichenjoys special protection. A gentle walk upthe Val da Fain takes us through naturalrock gardens as far as La Stretta, the passwhich leads into the Italian Livigno. We willsearch here for Alpine Leek, TuftedBellflower and Beaked Lousewort andmarvel at the abundance of gentians,primroses and pasque flowers. We shouldalso see the noisy Alpine Marmots whichare common in these valleys and perhapssome Ibex which roam freely over thesummits. To the south, Val Minor offers acircular route around Piz Lagalb, with aprofusion of flowers on limestone andacidic rocks. In the lower part of this valleywe can expect Baby's-breath, Large-flowered Rock-rose, Pyrenean Horminumand a variety of orchids; higher up, wheresnow lingers late into the season, weshould see drifts of the yellow AlpinePasque Flower, Creeping Avens andsplashes of pink Alpine Rock-jasmineamong the rocks.Taking the Rhaetian railway to the BerninaHospice, we can follow the north and west banks of the Lago Bianco, the damthat straddles the watershed, and descend to Alp Grum to enjoy the views of the Poschiavo Valley far below. Here, on the south-facing slopes, the season is appreciably more advanced and manyflowers are to be found, including Primula integrifolia,Primula hirsutaandPrimula latifoliawhich grow abundantly, in close proximity, with a bewildering array of hybrids!The cable cars that serve the ski resorts oneither side of the Inn Valley offer excitingsummer possibilities. On one day we willride, from Sils, above the treetops to Murtel,from where a short walk brings us to thehigh pass at Fuorcla Surlej where the wetturf beneath the glacier is covered in sheetsof Primula integrifoliaand Soldanella pusillaand a careful search of nearby crags willreveal the beautiful, blue, King of the Alps.From here it is a pleasant walk back toPontresina down the forested Roseg Valley.On another - perhaps our final - day, wewill ascend to the dizzy heights of Piz Nair(3,057 metres), high above St. Moritz,where the airy summit ridge and screesbeneath it hold stunning displays of GlacierCrowfoot, Eritrichium nanum, Mount CenisPansy and many other alpine gems. Later,we descend on good paths and explore thelower slopes, before marking the end of ourbotanical explorations with a little time torelax in St. Moritz!149Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Zürich and transfer bytrain to Pontresina.Day 2/7Botanical walks andexcursions fromPontresina.Day 8Transfer by train to Zürichand fly London.AccommodationA single-centre holiday based in avery comfortable hotel in Pontresina;all rooms have private facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade B(occasionally C, but optional).Between 1,800 and 3,000 metres(though most ascents by cable car orrailway).FocusAlpine flora . though mammals,birds and butterflies will also beenjoyed. LeaderDavid Tattersfield.Single room supplement£120.Web quick search: CHE01FRANCE ITALY GERMANY AUSTRIA GENEVA BERN JUNGFRAU MATTERHORN LUCERNE PONTRESINA ZÜRICHLAKE GENEVA LAKE NEUCHATEL LAKEZÜRICHLAKE LUCERNE SWITZERLAND Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSwitzerland - Alpine Flowersof the Upper Engadine An 8-day, single-centre holiday focusing on the alpine flora and glorious scenery of the Upper Engadine Valley during a week-long programme of mountain walks in the Swiss Alps.Sunday 30th June - Sunday 7th July Cost: £1,395Sunday 7th July - Sunday 14th July Cost: £1,395(This tour can be combined with our 'Wengen - Alpine Flowers of the Swiss Alps' holiday outlined on Page 148)Primula integrifoliaThe Upper Engadine