Saturday 15th July 2011

In GCC’s footsteps in his favourite Alpine collecting localities

I have just returned from a 14-day journey to the Alps of Switzerland and France. This quest, like the one I am soon to start in Guatemala and Panama, was inspired by my great grandfather, George Charles Champion, who used to visit the tiny Swiss village of Arolla, at the head of the Val d’Hérens, to hunt for insects. It was one of his very favourite locations, and with this in mind, I decided it would be a good place to begin my travels in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, I do not currently have access to the letters he wrote home from there, so I do not know the exact dates of his visits, or where precisely he stayed, but he must have been there between 1890 and 1920. At the time he started visiting, there were only a few possible places to stay, namely the Grand Hotel Kurhaus (probably above his price range), the Hotel Mont Collon, and the Hotel de la Poste (which still exists but appears to be no longer in use). We visited both of the former, and were kindly allowed to look through the fascinating guest books covering the period, but no sign of G C Champion. Perhaps he stayed at the Hotel de la Poste, or perhaps he hired rooms in a chalet. The answer will probably come when I next have a chance to visit the Royal Entomological Society, in St Albans, where his letters and diaries are housed. It is these questions that make following his footsteps so interesting!

Despite this temporary setback of not being able to locate precisely where my great grandfather lodged during his frequent and sometimes long stays in his beloved Arolla (I remember seeing one rather desperate letter to him from his wife Adelaide, gently reminding him that he had family responsibilities to attend to at home!), I was well able to see something of the marvellous scenery and prolific butterfly- and other insect-life that this marvellous region enjoys. These have been added to a temporary gallery: “New – following GCC in the Alps” .

Looking up at the village of Arolla, with flower-filled meadows in the foreground

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