The village of Wengen is an idyllic alpine resort, set high on a sheltered alp above the dramatic Lauterbrunnen Valley, right in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. Few places command such a spectacular setting! Lying at an altitude of 1,163 metres, Wengen is backed by one of the finest mountain landscapes in Europe. Here stand the ice-clad peaks of the Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn, but even more majestic is the famous trio of peaks — the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. These dominate the view and form an awesome backcloth to the lush, botanically rich alpine meadows and spruce forests at their feet. In late June, all but the highest peaks are free from snow and the newly exposed pastures become awash with a carpet of flowers. Our tour is timed to coincide with the peak of this display.
We begin our holiday by flying to Zurich, then transfer to the train for a rail trip across the beautiful Swiss countryside to Lauterbrunnen. The final stage of our journey is by the exciting cogwheel railway which climbs steeply up the side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, past waterfalls and flower-filled hay meadows, to Wengen. There we transfer to our base for the holiday, a small, friendly, family-run hotel set on the edge of the village and commanding wonderful, unobstructed views of the snow-clad Jungfrau. From here we will explore the excellent network of footpaths that radiate out into the adjacent countryside. We will also make full use of the extensive cable-car and mountain railway network to carry us quickly and comfortably high into the surrounding alpine meadows — a network run with the precision and timing of a Swiss clock!
At this time of year the high alpine pastures around the Mannlichen hold a rich diversity of flora. An exhilarating cable-way ascent of nearly 1,000 metres takes us up to this small ski station, transporting us into a beautiful panorama of rugged mountains dominated by the vertical north wall of the Eiger. Species such as Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum), Globeflower (Trollius europaeus), Broad-leaved Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), Small White Orchid (Pseudorchis albida), Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) and Alpine Bartsia (Bartsia alpina) are common, and several species of saxifrage, Pedicularis, Campanula, gentian, Primula and violet are likely to be encountered. We will endeavour to locate some of the more sought after plants such as Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), Creeping Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens), Alpine Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla alpina), Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella alpina), Alpine Stonecrop (Sedum alpestre), Reddish Stonecrop (S. rubens), Mountain Houseleek (Sempervivum montanum) and Alpine Butterwort (Pinguicula alpina). The area is also rich in ferns.
Excursions around Kleine Scheidegg and Murren will add further to the variety of plants encountered, and a visit to the foot of the ‘Eigergletscher’s (Eiger Glacier) will allow us to search the screes and moraines for species such as Alpine Buttercup (Ranunculus alpestris), Yellow Milk Vetch (Oxytropis campestris), Roundleaved Pennycress (Thlaspi rotundifolia), Chamois Cress (Hutchinsia (Pritzelago) alpina), species of dwarf willow and Broadleaved Mouse-ear (Cerastium latifolium). Ibex are fairly common around the glacier, and can be remarkably confiding; we may even spot a group of Chamois high above on a grassy slope. Alpine Marmots peer inquisitively from their burrows and high altitude birds such as Snow Finch, Citril Finch, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Alpine Chough, and Ring Ouzel are all likely to be seen.
The natural limestone flora of the Schynige Platte is legendary amongst botanists, and for many will be the highlight of this tour. Our day here will start with a visit to the famous botanical gardens, before we explore the undulating pastures along the ridge in search of plants such as St. Bruno’s Lily (Paradisea liliastrum), Yellow Bellflower (Campanula thyrsoides), Black Vanilla Orchid (Nigritella nigra) and Alpine Sainfoin (Hedysarum hedysaroides). The views down over Interlaken are breathtaking, as are those back towards the high mountains and Wengen.
We will also explore at lower altitudes, searching the hay meadows and spruce forests around Wengen and Lauterbrunnen in search of plants such as Greater and Lesser Masterwort (Astrantia major and A. minor), Greater Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus alectorolophus), Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata) and many species of butterflies. Birds such as Nutcracker, Black Woodpecker, Wood Warbler, Fieldfare and Firecrest all breed in these woodlands, whilst Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike and Serin favour the more open areas. There may even be time to visit the dramatic Trummelbach Falls where the melt water from the mountain glaciers corkscrews downwards inside the vertical valley walls.
The Jungfrau Region undoubtedly contains one of the most spectacular landscapes in Europe. The mountain scenery, the outstanding botanical riches and other wildlife coupled with the area’s classical Swiss charm are sure to remain in the memory long after we return to London.
Our leader David was amazingly well organised – letting us know the itinerary for each day and teaching us about the landscape. His knowledge of the alpine flowers was superb. The whole holiday was a joy – the snow-clad mountains and masses of beautiful alpine flowers were amazing.
I really enjoyed every minute and I thought David was an excellent leader. It really couldn’t have been better, a huge thanks to all concerned.
Mr & Mrs R.
Excellent guide - hugely knowledgeable, very generous with his time, very caring for all group members' capabilities and differing interests. He also adapted the programme skilfully to meet the (rapidly changing) weather conditions.
David has been an exceptional botanist and tour guide. He contributed so much to make my holiday so enjoyable.
David Tattersfield was not only unbelievably knowledgeable, but helpful and attentive in every way. He made sure the group was safe and totally happy at all times, and nothing was too much trouble.
Mr & Mrs B
Our guide, David, was outstanding and great company throughout the trip. He carefully selected routes according to the weather and despite some rainy days prepared delicious picnics for lunch. His knowledge of mountain plants is clearly outstanding, but what is even more impressive is his ability to share that understanding and enthusiasm with comparative beginners like us.
David was an excellent tour leader - knowledgeable, so patient at repeating plant names, and he produced an excellent plan for the holiday. The hotel was wonderful - location, staff and food. Altogether a really great holiday.
The holiday fulfilled all my expectations thanks to David's (Tattersfield) knowledge and commitment.
Once again I can't praise David Tattersfield too highly. I believe this was the 20th week that he had led the same walks in Wengen and his enthusiasm and interest in the plants and the area is just as keen and fresh as it must have been on the first week - perhaps more so as his knowledge and love of the place has increased. The way in which he wants to share his knowledge and enthusiasm is wonderful - as well as being a first class botanist he is an excellent communicator. Four of us had previously been on Naturetrek holidays led by David and many more intend to go with him in the future.
Having now been on 11 Naturetrek trips we have always had excellent leaders, but David stands out as one of the best. His organisation was perfect, and he was patient and cheerful (with a wonderful sense of humour) throughout the week despite suffering considerably from a fall early in the week. The botany was inspiring and the views and walks the best I've ever had.
Very good to be shown the area's treasures by such a dedicated and knowledgeable leader as David.
The main factor making these two tours exceptionally enjoyable was our tour leader, David Tattersfield. His knowledge of plants is prodigious and his patience extraordinary (if one kept forgetting the name of a flower for example). He worked tirelessly from morning till late evening doing everything possible to make the tours successful e.g. Working out timetables, shopping very early to provide us with excellent and varied picnics, giving us enough slack where people wanted to do bits on their own but always on the alert to advise and safeguard. David was enormous fun to be with and exceptionally good at the job.
David Tattersfield, our leader, was fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble, his knowledge of the Flora was encyclopaedic and his energy enviable.
David was a fantastic leader. Nothing was too much trouble; his picnics were fantastic and the locations he took us on some challenging walks were awesome, enabling us to see superb flora.
An enjoyable holiday, David Tattersfield was a good tour leader. This was a really good botanical holiday which I would recommend to others.
An excellent trip with a first class leader!
David our tour guide showed exceptional knowledge and experience, which was patiently and willingly shared.
We would like to say of David, his knowledge and experience was unrivalled. His organisational skills as well as his patience and care were exceptional.
David Tattersfield was an excellent tour leader.
David Tattersfield was excellent - friendly, knowledgeable on the locality, expert on the botany and very hard working throughout.
David was a knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic leader who was well organised. The hotel was clean, friendly and staff helpful. The food was delicious. The scenery was superb. We couldn’t have asked for a more idyllic holiday. Many thanks.