Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Scheidegg Geopark

Ingredient 1: Sunshine. Ingredient 2: happy children. Ingredient 3: Sunday morning - pancakes eaten and washing up done. The stage is clearly set for a bit of exploration of our new surroundings. Where better to begin than the Scheidegg waterfalls?
The road climbs up gradually from the lake, leaving the lowland fruit trees behind. As we pass into hillier country the road behind to curve and twist up into spruce forest, hairpin bends swirling us round the woods to gratified shouts of 'Whooooaaa-aaah!' and 'Again-again!' from the back seats.

The main visitor 'centre' of the disparate waterfalls is easily found, though a bit of adjustment is necessary as we are not allowed to turn right into the site from the main road. The first thing we then see is the rather incongruous sight of a Grey Heron sat at the top of an apple tree. Always something new to see in this world.

Waterfall 1
The inevitable playground is greeted with delight by the girls, who rush to get onto things which whirl them round and make them as dizzy as possible. They reluctantly disengage to visit the waterfalls. The falls are good. The small river is channelled through the edge of the playground and then drops off a conglomerate ledge to a new bed some 20 metres below. We watch from a steel platform jutting over the basin; not a spot for those who suffer from vertigo!

We backtrack from the platform and head along the trail to the lower falls. The path winds up to a small clearing crammed with sedges and the remains of summer seedheads, stays on the level for a brief moment, then plunges down the side of the gorge to reach two further viewpoints.

The first is from the base of the first falls, where the size of the basin carved from the underlying rock can be appreciated - a great round sweep testifying to the size of the falls after the snowmelt.

The second, deeper still in the gorge, looks onto the lower falls, somewhat smaller, but without the intrusion of metal platforms and playground above, so with a more unspoilt feel. The remains of past viewing platforms rot forlornly by the modern metal grille.

Waterfall 2
More time at the playground is needed after the effort of all those steps. The site is scattered with equipment related to water: a hydraulic ram, an Archimedean screw, a modern water turbine and one of the first electric turbines ever built in Bavaria. Though it's all powered down for the winter, there is enough rainwater in the screw to let it function for a while; again much to the delight of the children.

The final falls are upstream, a short walk along the valley. The stream cascades gently through the conifers, stepping down over blocks and layers of conglomerate. This final waterfall is quite low, but the party runs round the inside of the basin, behind the falls: loud and lively with low water, it must be quite an experience the spring.

The valley woodlands are a trans-boundary nature reserve, shared with Austria and left to grow and age without human interference. The cynic in me feels that it may simply be because the slopes are to steep to bother with for forestry, but maybe that's a churlish view. Besides, better to have some areas which don't require human 'management'.

Spindle berries brighten the woodland beautifully. Pfaffenhuettchen (little priests' hats would, I guess, be the literal translation). Whatever the word, they are gloriously colourful in an otherwise green-brown-grey season.

No comments:

Post a Comment