Maritime Alps – Spring in Mercantour

Start date: 15 May 2019

End date: 22 May 2019

Maritime Alps – Spring in Mercantour

Alice is delighted to be joining guide Stefano Doglio to lead another tour for Greentours to the Maritime Alps, and in particular the Mercantour National Park, in May. This area is one of Alice's favourites and in previous years she has followed the handwritten notes in her Grandmother's Alpine Flower Books from trips to the area in the 1930's so it will be a treat to return.

The idyllic Parc National du Mercantour is just a ninety minute drive north of the already warm and sunny Mediterranean shore. Ascending through lavender-scented valleys we’ll be heading into woodlands where Hepaticas, Cowslips and Oxslip bloom amongst yellow and blue Violets and the rare and beautiful huthiiform of Paeonia officinalis whose large pink blooms adorn one special hillside.

We’ll explore the fantastic Gorge della Reina, home to abundant pale lilac Primula marginata and the locally rare Primula hirsuta. Pretty Clematis alpina swarms over pathside shrubbery and we’ll find Military Orchids, Geranium macrorhizum and Sword-leaved Helleborines. The valleys below Tende and St Martin du Vesubie are home to pink rockroses, Italian Bluebells, sweetly-scented Mezereon and the tessellated bells of Fritillaria involucrata. There are swarms of both red and yellow forms of Elder-flowered Orchid as well as fine Ophrys drumana, a stunning Bee Orchid whose velvety red lip has a shining bluish shield-shaped mark in the centre. Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries are a common sight as we explore favoured sites for two lovely red saxifrages, widespread Saxifraga oppositifolia, and the glorious Saxifraga retusa.

In woodlands around Valdeblore rocky bluffs offer a cascade of white Saxifraga callosa. In the warm valleys below we’ll see Camberwell Beauties, gaudy Southern Festoons, and the local Chequered Blue. Higher are subalpine meadows where Black-eyed and Chapman’s Blues flutter past marvellous groups of the yellow tessellated moggridgei form of Fritillaria tubaeformis. Alpine Marmots whistle at us from boulders bedecked with pretty Androsace adfinis whilst Red-billed and Alpine Chough pick at fine alpine turf decorated with Snowbells, Pasque Flowers and Spring and Trumpet Gentians as well as the scarcer endemic Gentiana ligustica. Golden Eagles, Citril Finches and Nutcrackers add interest in the bird line, and we will see many Chamois, and maybe Ibex or Wild Boar too! It is always a pleasure to see so many flowers freshly out especially with a backdrop as beguilingly beautiful as the Mercantour’s alpine meadows, forests and rocky peaks.

For more information and details on how to book, please click here to visit the Greentours website.

Sicily – Wildlife at Leisure

Start date: 5 April 2019

End date: 12 April 2019

Sicily – Wildlife at Leisure

This April, Alice looks forward to a return trip to Sicily to lead a Wildlife at Leisure tour there for Greentours alongside Stefano Doglio. These tours are designed to take a more relaxed pace and balance the wildlife and botany with plenty of time to socialise and take in the local culture and food in the evenings.

Ninety kilometres south of still active Mount Etna we find Monte Ible's dry limestone slopes which in spring are adorned with a wonderful show of flowers. Anemones, Irises and Asphodels are abundant in the abandoned fields and terraces above Syracusa but it will be the orchids that will steal the show. A dozen or more species can be seen in some of these tiny fields. Spectacular Pink Butterfly Orchids are joined by Orchis longicornu whose deep purple, white and pink flowers make it one of Europe's prettiest orchids. Amid Giant and Naked Man Orchids we'll enjoy a prolific show of bee orchids with abundant yellow and pink Sawfly Orchid, colourful Ophrys bertolonii and fur-rimmed Mirror Orchid. Sicily is a hotspot in the evolution of this group of orchids. Yellow-edged Ophrys biancae and both Ophrys lunulata and Ophrys panormitana are found nowhere else in the world and several others can only be seen here or on the nearby mainland.

We'll explore limestone gorges, wooded valleys and even coastal nature reserves where a fascinating saltmarsh and dune flora will keep us busy when we're not looking at the Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts and Slender-billed Gulls!

For more information and details on how to book, please click here to visit Greentours' website.