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  • Helen Carter

Spring Flowers in the Alps

I am lucky enough to live just a few hours’ drive from the Lower Engadine which is in the mountains at the far eastern end of Switzerland. Here the frontiers of Switzerland, Italy and Austria converge and the river Inn flows through on its way to Salzburg. Engadine means ‘garden of the Inn’ in the least-spoken of the Swiss languages, Romansch. Why a garden? The land is largely rock, arable land is often steep and difficult to work. The village houses, built big enough to shelter both villagers and animals, huddle together. The winters are cold and long and until the arrival of modern amenities life was very harsh. The focus of village life was to gather enough food and wood during summertime to survive the winter months.

But the whole area is the most beautiful garden - of wild flowers. This is a garden that needs preservation but no upkeep. The best way to see the flowers in all their glory is to go walking there in May and early June. So that the meadow flowers can thrive, by general agreement the local farmers do not start hay-making till 15 June. As you walk from the river valley up towards the high meadows and slopes the varieties change with the altitude. Surrounded by big mountains and marveling at the beauty of the comparatively small flowers both downsizes and uplifts in equal measure and no matter how many times you come across a patch of orchids or gentians the colour and beauty takes your breath away.

Photographs by Helen Carter

On a cold, grey and lifeless winter day the photos astonish me even though I took them and know that I truly saw these flowers. In such bleak times as now they are a reminder that it is possible for us, like the flowers, to triumph over a harsh environment. When the sun shines warm again both they and we will emerge stronger and more joyful than before.

RS - When I asked Helen whether the creature on the rocks was a beaver - I got this reply :-

It's not a beaver, it's a marmot. They live underground on fairly high, sunny mountain sides and when they don't sense any danger they come out and sun themselves on a rock and whistle to communicate with their neighbours.

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