Child Friendly Walk Around Champex-Lac

Champex-Lac is a beautiful place for visit.   Here is a short child friendly walk around Champex-Lac – although alot more exciting than just walking around the lake.   We have two 7 and 9 year old girls and it took around 2hrs with a picnic lunch.   It’s around 4.5km with 250m accent.  The northside is quite steep – so you get really good views out over the lake.

Walk Around Champex Lac

You can park in the carpark which is just off the main road.    Then follow the lake around until you get to the chapel.  Follow the parth which goes up passed a pretty stream.  You have get back to the main road, then walk through some housing up onto path which skirts around and above the town.  You can then have a drink at the Hotel Belvedere where the owners are really charming and friendly.

We were walking in early April and so the lake was still frozen.

Having a lovely picnic next to the chapel.

Amazing views.

Having a drink and ice cream.

Google Drive / Filestream Using Lots of Battery

I have just just been setting up a new Macbook.   I was expecting the batterylife to be 12 hours.  However, Google Filestream was just continously sycning and using battery.  Google Filestream shouldn’t sync anything…. however the probelm was that Bitdefender was scanning everyfile in the filestream.   Hence the computer was continuously syncing file after file.

The solution was to add an exception into the Bitdefender settings:

You click on the bottom right for exception and then add in the Google Drive share:

I hope this helps someone else.


Disabling ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY In Ubuntu

I’m run into some error message like:  “Expression #2 of SELECT list is not in GROUP BY clause and contains nonaggregated column”.  It’s turns out that this is caused by MySQL updating the way it behave in relation to aggregate functions since MySQL 5.7.  Here is how I solved it on Ubuntu .

You can find out what mode your MySQL server is running:

SELECT @@GLOBAL.sql_mode;

My Ubuntu 19.10 got this:


Then take this and delete “ONLY_FULL_GROUP_BY”.  You can then add this to MySQL configuration file.    On my Ubuntu there is a file located at /etc/mysql/my.cnf and inside here is specifies two folders where you could put the configuration:

!includedir /etc/mysql/conf.d/
!includedir /etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/

I have edited /etc/mysql/conf.d/mysql.cnf and put in



Child Friendly Walks In Briancon, Alps

If you are thinking of going walking with your kids in Briancon then hopefully this short guide will help you.  I tried to find some child friendly walks on other website but it was quite hard.  If you find others yourself then please let me know and I’ll pop them up on here too.  A couple of things that I’ve found useful.  1) To plan routes, I use two apps based on OpenStreetMaps – one called PocketEarth which has an optional upgrade which gives you contour line.  The second called Map3D which has a great route planner and also shows the route in 3D which is helpful for the kids of understand the route.  2) I have found having loads of snacks keeps the kids going!


Walk To Refuge de Buffere

This is a beautiful family friendly walk up to a fantastic mountain hut which is lovely place to eat.  It’s easy to achieve with children because the paths are straight forward and mostly tree covered.  The tree lined section is the steepest section but our 4 and 6 year old managed without any problems.  At the start of the walk, you need to park in the Navache car park and take the shuttle bus up the valley (6 euros for adults and free for kids).  It’s worth asking the driver to stop at the right place because most people on the bus will be travelling further up the valley.   On the way back, you can either retrace your steps to the same bus stop or walk down the valkley to Nevache which add 2.5km onto the day.   It’s a lovely walk down along the river with beautiful waterfalls.


The stats are 380m assent, 548m decent and 6.4km distance.


The shuttle buses go from right next to the carpark.


Here is where you end up.  The food is great and you can get beer too.  Main courses are 9-12 euros.  Ice creams 2 euros.  The kids enjoyed omlettes and I enjoyed the pasta carbonara.  But the prize went to my wife, who ordered the assiette vegetariane.


This is the steepest section to the walk.  It’s not actually hard and there are plenty of places to stop for a snack.


You arrive back into Navache where there is a lovely bakery and ice creams.


Walk around Lac de L’Orceyrette

This gourgous family frienly walk takes you into a quiet nature reserve about 35 minutes outside Briancon.  You have to drive towards Ayes on roads which aren’t always tarmaced and you feel like you’re driving into the back of beyond.  However, as you arrive, you are greeted by a massive car park and it suddenly become okay.  It’s a fantastic circular walk which kids will love.  You should go around clockwise because this gives you best views of the lake as you come down and a nice rest by the side of the lake at the end. The first part of the walk is the hardest work as you climb up through the woods and then you can stop of a picnic in a meadow full of butterflies. You then traverse through woods, finally popping out onto a gravel road which takes you down to the lake.  I left my kids (with wife) at the lake to rest and then walked the final part and brought the car up to the lake to pick them up.


The stats – the whole thing circular route is around 9km.  It’s around 7km just to the lake.  There is 360m of ascent.  It took around 4 hours for us at a leasurely pace.  You go around clock wise.


You park in a large carpark next to the river.   We walked the route on a Saturday and it was filled with families playing in the river and camping.


Here is a photo of then entrance of the walk.  It’s a little unassuming and so you can easily walk passed it. This photo is taken looking back on it.  I.e you will have walked up from the carpark below.


Heading up between the trees.   It’s interesting walking and perfect for keeping the kids going,


The traverse is stunning with great views of a typical Ecrin skyline around you.


You get some lovely views of the lake.


Walking along the lake at the end.


Vallouise River Walk

Vallouise is pretty little villiage about 35 minutes drive from Briancon.  This family friendly walk is excellent for children.  It starts from the centre of the Vallouise.  You walk up one side of the river to a bridge and then down the otherside.   The first part of the walk is a flat gravel track and would be suitable for a buggy.  The second half of the walk has some reasonable exposed walking along a narrow path – so it’s sometimes worth holding kids hands.

The stats:  It’s only 3km long, with just 70m assent and took us roughly 2 hours.   Go around counter clockwise.


The walk starts at the bridge in the centre:


The best views are on the way back.


The path is quite thin but totally manageable for kids.


A High Walk In Montgenèvre

Montgenèvre is small ski resort about 30 minutes east of Briancon.   This is a great child friendly walk to do with your family because you can use the lifts to get up high – saving lots of time and energy    You need to get the lift pass which allows you to take both lifts right to the top.  It costs €12 adult, €8 child and children under 4 are free.  The only annoying thing about this walk is the mountain bikers who also use the lifts in the summer to race down.  It only affects the first section when you walk from the top of the first cable car to the second.

The walk is mostly in meadows.  You walk down the ridge towards a col.  You then talk through an undulating meadow to reach a beautiful lake which is perfect for a picnic lunch.  You than walk back up the col and then almost in a straight line through meadows back to the top of the first lift.  The meadows will be brimming with crickets, marmots and butterflys.  It’s a real treat.

The stats: 6km (not including the lifts), 490m decend and 130m ascent.  It took us 3hr.

The view from the top of the lift looking back at Montgenèvre.

Panoramic views from the top lift.

Looking down at the lake.

Having a picnic 🙂


Walk To Refuge des Drayères

This is very easy child friendly walk in the Claree valley.   The walk starts in the same way as the walk to Refuge Buffere.  You park in the Navache carpark and catch the shuttle bus to Laval which is the final stop of the bus.  The walk follows a river and there you can either follow the track to the right of the river or a much smaller and more interesting foot path to the left.   You should be aware that sometimes the footpath can flood in the spring.   The Refuge des Drayeres is a very friendly and welcoming refuge.  The food is reasonably priced. For example: omlettes – €9, beef bourguignon – €12.50 and coffee – €1.80.  If the weather is poor there is plenty of space to eat inside.  It’s also worth noting that the Refuse de Laval is at the start of the walk (about 2 minutes from the bus stop) and so you can get a pre-start coffee.

I recommend going around clockwise.  The stats are: 5.5km and 190m ascent.


Here is where you will end up. There are tables outside and inside.  The staff are very friendly.


Here is the walk up on the footpath.  The views are spectacular.  This is the steepest section.   Small sections of the path have drops off the side and so worth holding hands for.


There was a delightfull little girl in the hut.  She had some colouring which she kindly shared with our kids.  They loved it.  We are planning to come back to this hut and spend the night with the girls!


Walk To Lac de L’Oule

This walk is perhaps the highest of all the walks.  It’s about 45 minutes drive from Briancon up a narrow winding road.  You arrive at the Col de Granon which has a cafe, lots of old millitary baracks and a large car park.  It is perhaps the most popular walk of all the walks that we did.  It is full of families walking up the large paths.  It’s an easy walk because you can’t get lost and it has minimal height gain.  You can vary the lenght of the walk by either going down to the lake or turning around at the col.   The only down side in my opinion is that it is too popular.  In the other walks, we found peace and lots of nature.  This walk is all about the views though.

The stats:  6.5km and 290m ascent (assuming that you go all the way down to the lake).

There are two lakes.

The walking is really easy and path really clear.


I hope this post was useful to someone.  Please leave me a comment if you like it.

Great Alternative to Adobe Illustrator

I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for perhaps 16 years.  It’s been a trusty workhorse for me.   My old version of Illustrator stopped running well on new versions of MacOS – so I had to upgrade and move to their subscription model.  Since then, I’ve been trying to find another program to use.  I hated seeing the £16 leaving by bank account each month – especially when I’ve haven’t used it for a few weeks while I’ve been on holiday.

Finally – A good alternative to Adobe Illustrator... I needed a program which works on Mac and Windows.  I’ve tried the free programs like Inkscape (I love open source stuff) but it just isn’t as good enough.  Finally, I found Affinity Designer .  It’s a modern updated / rebranded version of a program called DrawPlus that’s actually need around for donkey’s years.   It costs around £50 and so it quickly pays for itself.   The really cool thing that they’ve done is make a trilogy of three graph programs which intergrate really well with each another to make a really cool workflow.  However, this post isn’t really about that.  It’s about their alternative to Illustrator.

Here is screenshot:

I mostly use Affinity Designer to create marketing material, patent drawings or design documents.  I’ve been using it for a while now and here are difference between Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator that I’ve noticed….

Improvements Over Adobe Illustrator

It Feels The Same – Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that 99% of the application feels the same.   The quick keys (such as “v”,”a”,”space-bar”) are all the same.  It feels natural (unlike swapping from Photoshop to GIMP which everyone tries at some point and then gives up).  The UI is basically the same.

Copy and Paste – This might seem slightly picky and random but something that I have always hated about Adobe Illustrator was the copy and paste function.   Illustrator would put the pasted object somewhere seemly random on the document.  With Affinitiy Designer it puts the pasted object on the top of the object you are copying.  The first time it happened, I searched around for the object and couldn’t spot it!  Copying the new object on top of the old one is excellent because you don’t have to search and often I find that I want the new object next to the first thing anyhow.

Selection – In Illustrator anything is in a dragged out selection box is selected.  I used to find this really annoying because you might just catch a tiny bit of an object in the selection box and then you have do a shift-click to deselect it.  In Designer only things which are entirely in the selection are sellected.  This is much much better usability.  I love it.

Disavantages Over Adobe Illustrator

Speed – Affinity Designer claims to be really quick.  I use it on both a Mac and Windows.  On my Mac it seem fine but personally, I don’t find it quite as quick as Illustrator on my Windows machine.  I’m sure that there is way to speed it up but out the box it seems to be the case.

Patterns – There isn’t a fill pattern library.  (Yes, this is hard to find in Illustrator but at least it exists).

Not everythings in the menu – Affinity Designer has loads of features and a context based menu.  This is great but you have to know what the icons on the menu do.  For example, it’s hard to find out how to evenly distribute objects until you find the button.  Which is here:

I will keep updating this post as I find more differences.  I hope this helps someone.






Another Short Canoe Camping Trip Along Thames

I thought it might be worth putting up my notes of a two-day canoe and camping trip that I did with some friends just south of Oxford.  Our kids are between 6 and 8.  They totally loved it.

The overall plan is to go from Clifton Hampden to Shillingford.

Camping Day's Lock Oxford

Day 1 – Clifton Hampden to Days Lock – 4km (approx)

You can get into the water very quickly at Clifton Hampden.  You can park next to the Church and carry the boats down to the water’s edge.  I then moved the car to another car parking space (so that the Church has the parking spaces available on a Sunday).

It’s a lovely paddle down passed lots of beautiful houses and fields.  It’s about 1.5 – 2hrs slow paddling.  As you near Day’s Lock, you can see the Wittenham Clumps in the distance.  The lock itself is motorised, and you don’t need a lock key.  The campsite is below the lock.  It is on an island and you can only enter from a small platform.


This is the entrance to the campsite.

The campsite is well equipped.  It has toilets, bins and water.  It also has a shower (but no hot water because the power was off).  The ground was quite flat.  You can’t officially have a campfire (apparently there are by-laws which prohibit them).  The campsite also feels a little hemmed in.  You have to get a key from the lock keeper to walk off the island because there is an imposing gate to keep people out.  Frankly, it didn’t feel as welcoming as it could have done to me.

There is a beautiful place to swim in shallow water in the NNW part of the island.  You can step out the boats (while in the river), tie them up and go for a swim.

Day 2 – Days Lock to Shillingford – approx 4km.

We headed up the Wittenham Clumps in the morning for breakfast.  The kids loved playing in the field, rolling down the hill and looking at the view.

We then pottered down the river to Shillingford.  Again, it took about 1.5 to 2 hours.

It’s pretty straightforward to get out at the Shillingford bridge hotel.  They have parking and you can grab a cheeky pint too.   Hope this inspires someone to do this route!

Hyperdock Stopped Work – An Alternative

Hyperdock (a windows manager for MacOS) has stopped working.  Hyperdock has been broken since late 2018.  Everyone tries removing, adding it again, deleting the preference, disabling and reenabling it.  So, it seems the developers have given up.

The best alternative to Hyperdock that I’ve found is Magnet which cost about £0.99 – so hardly anything for the usability improvement that you get.


It basically just works.  Hope that helps someone.

Wild Camping in the Brecon Beacons – Black Mountain

I’ve been trying to find places to wild camp in the Brecon Beacons. I found this lovely wild camping blog post which was really inspiring. There are a number of good places to wild camp on the Black Mountain which is on the west side of the Brecon Beacons. The Black Mountains are quite wild and don’t have very many visitors – so it feels like a nice place to camp.

I got some beautiful light in the morning.

The Route

I parked here – outside the Church just down from the Tefarn-Y-Garreg pub. It is just a short walk up the road to join the path. The weather forecast showed that it was going to be clear and dry on the first day but was going to be cloudy and raining the second day. I choose a route which involved doing most of the walk on the first day.

On the first day (shown in red), I walked the ridge, down to the second lake and then back under the escapement back to the first lake. The walk is really stunning. Here is a photo looking back along the ridge while over the second lake.

It took me about 5 hours. The following day, I climbed back onto the ridge from the first lake and then walked down the other side of the ridge.

Camping Location

I found a pretty flat spot perhaps just 10 metres from the lake (51.88460/-3.70052). It was out of the wind because was just below a hillock.

What I took with me

I tried to pack as light as possible. I have brought a Wild Country Zephyros 1. It worked really well. It’s fast to put up. The only thing that I didn’t like is the door which can’t be clipped back. The sleeping bag was only rated 10’c comfort and 5’c limit. I have found that sleeping on an inflatable mattress and wearing a t-shirt while sleeping allows me to stretch this. It was around 3’c and I felt pretty warm.

  • Tent – Wild Country Zephyros 1
  • Sleeping Bag – Decathlon Down Sleeping Bag
  • Inflatable Sleeping Mat
  • Silk SLeeping Bag Liner
  • Trangia Stove + Swedish Steels
  • 3 litres of water
  • Hat + Gloves
  • Socks x 2
  • Walking top x 2
  • Walking Trousers
  • Waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Light fleece
  • Puffer
  • Cuttlery
  • Map + Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Toothbrush + Toothpaste
  • Wet wipes

The view from the tent.

I hope post inspires someone else to wild camp here. Let me know if you do :).

p.s. I left my rucksack in the tent porch. I had taken my dog Pip with me and accidentally left some dog food on the porch. I was woken in the night by a fox which wanted the dog food and was rifling around. It had a beautiful bushy tail with a white end bit. I watched it for a while from the tent and then it finally rang off into the night.

Short Canoe Camping Trip Along Thames

Here are the notes for my first overnight canoeing trip down the Thames. I thought it might be useful for someone else doing a similar trip.

Day 1: Bablock Hythe To Pinkhill Campsite – 3.7km

We launched on the east side of the river opposite the Ferryman Inn at Bablock Hythe (51.735252, -1.371328).  It took an hour to prepare the boats and we set off at 3:30pm. There is a carpark where we could leave a car overnight. It was about 4km from the launch site to Pinkhill lock. This is about an hours paddling at a comfortable speed.

It’s a beautiful stretch of the Thames with very little traffic and noise.  It feels really peaceful.

Pinkhill lock has a totally beautiful campsite. It is situated on an island with a lock on one side and a wier on the other. It is really quite and relaxed. There is plenty of space but it has a really intimate feel because the campsite is limited to five tents only (although frankly you fit 10 tents on the site). You can have open fires and the trees provide plenty of kindling. There is a toilet with a shower around the back of the lockmasters’ house. Our kids (5 and 8 years old) loved it. It felt very safe and was a perfect enviroment for them. You can get your boats out of the water to the left of the moorings and carry them to the campsite.

Day 2 – Pinkhill Lock To Wolvercote

The journey from Pinkhill Lock to Wolvercote is around 9km depending on the route that you take.  For example, you can go via Kings Lock or further north.   The river is straighter than day 1. This is the view from the Pinkhill lock down the Thames towards Oxford.

We left the Pinkhill campsite around 11am and arrived at Wolvercote around 2pm.  We stopped for lunch along the way by mooring up by the side of the river a short way from the Kings Lock.

We greatly enjoyed the trip and can highly recommend it as an easy overnight route for canoeing on the Thames.