Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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An afternoon with added value

Yesterday morning, it rained and rained, it was hard to imagine anything much could be salvaged from the day, but I was wrong, about two PM the clouds parted and the sun shone through. I grabbed the camera and shot off to Mam Tor, we’ve been there before. The sun gods turned on the charm.

Top of Winats Pass

and gave me a much needed blast of lumens, to keep the blues away.

The Edale valley.

Edale

came complete with a bedraggled looking film crew, something to do with a man on a bike, but more than that I can’t tell you

Edale film crew

Love how the bonfire smoke is flowing off down the valley.

Rushop Edge

The reason for my visit was that I’d been to a presentation about the geology and scenery of the Northern Peak District,hosted by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust; and I wanted to see if I could identify some of the features I’d heard about. However an added bonus was an encounter with a stoat

Stoat 3

He bounded along by a nearby wall (stoats bound, weasels hunker down to the ground)  at times  airborne

 Stoat 

it looked in good form, weaving in and out of the tussocky grass

Stoat 4

its coat had a conker gloss

stoat 4-2

In the end it was chased off by a rook, and it slunk away under a fence in to a marshy field (you can just see the stoat by the fence post).

stoat and rook 2

Well that was an unexpected treat.

By the time I worked my way back to the car, the sun was low enough to catch the marsh grasses,

marsh grasses_

and some very large puddles,

marsh grass 3

I’d have been wise to take a change of footwear.


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Riverside Walk

After our visit to the Tower, we walked along the Thames embankment

We came across this party of school children, painting pictures of Tower Bridge*

children painting tower bridge 2

Each child had their shoes and water bottles neatly set beside them, and were totally absorbed in their task.

children painting tower bridge

 

They completely ignored the slack jawed British tourists who openly expressed their amazement at the children’s exemplary behaviour,

children painting tower bridge 3

we reckoned there must have been 60 or more children, and as far as we could see, only two adults overseeing them. I don’t think you’d get that ratio past a school trip risk assessment in the UK.

We had tea and cake at the Tate Modern, where we were privileged to watch peregrine falcons, perched on the roof, through telescopes provided by the RSPB

 

Mr Uphilldowndale succumbed to  a little green tractor envy

little green tractor envy 

 

we had fun trying to photograph St Pauls Cathedral and London busses.

St pauls_ 

It is a very long time since I’ve played ‘tourist’ in London, back in my day, you needed an A-Z,  it seems they are things of the past; how do we get home?

No A-Z

 

(have you heard about the new glass walkway at Tower Bridge? Not for the faint hearted).


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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red; a different view

 

 

After yesterdays post, a little background information, on both the installation and the Tower of London.

 

The poppies were planted by  teams of volunteers,

 Poppies Tower of London Vols 2

It must have been an operation planned with military precision.

Poppies Tower of London setting out

It would have been an overwhelming task without a master plan.

Poppies Tower of London setting out 3

(and surely packing them all up again is going to be harder?

Poppies Tower of London box

Although that warm fuzzy glow, of feeling part of something special, is the thing that keeps volunteers coming back for more

Poppies Tower of London setting out 2

My favourite shot form our day (29th August) is poppies with shadows. War casts very long shadows.

Poppies Tower of London shadow

There was something about the mottling  effect of the shadows that reminded me of the solar eclipse in the UK, in 1998, another event I found more emotional than I anticipated.

It was quite early in the installations development when we visited, whilst I’d read about it in the press, there wasn’t the wall to wall coverage there has been in the media this week. So a gripe for us at the time was that there weren’t enough information boards

Poppies Tower of London mechanics 2

Some might call it a theatrical event rather than artistic installation, the weeping window has caught the public imagination.

Poppies Tower of London weeping window

However I did think a bit of ‘set dressing’ might have been in order, when I sold flowers for a living, including poppies, we never let the viewer see the mechanics of our arrangements. I thought the scaffolding pole, lump of timber and blob of foam holding the cascade in place could have benefited from being hidden by a couple of yards of fabric and some cable ties.

Poppies Tower of London mechanics

But working in a place as ancient, historic and protected as this, must come with scores of problems. You can’t go around damaging or changing the fabric of such a place, well not these days, you could in the past.

Poppies Tower of London walls_

We found it both moving and reverential,  but there were, if you looked very closely, little witticisms to be found. What I thought was a can of Coke on a window ledge, turned out to be (when seen with the aid of a long lens) a Beefeater cookie jar, placed just for fun.

Poppies Tower of London little beefeater

Beefeater or Yeoman Warders as they are more properly known, do have something of a sense of fun, see below (and be careful if you are drinking tea whilst watching, you’ll splutter it all over the keyboard).

 

 


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Remembering So Many Losses

WWI

From the family photo album, the boy was their son, he died in 1917 in  an accident when a hay cart ran away. 

 

In the summer we visited the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London, for overseas readers, it is 888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British fatality during the First World War. Designed by Tom Piper and  Derbyshire artist, Paul Cummins, it is an art work that has provoked debate. Which is no bad thing.

tower of London_

Visiting with friends we found it very moving. Our ‘haven’t seen you for ages’ chatter stopped and we all fell quiet.

One life one poppy, hard to comprehend, but we must.

Poppies Tower of London

 

The concept of poppies, being symbolic of the loss of life in the First World War or any other conflict, has deep meaning for me.

As a child we had very elderly neighbours, who lived in a large rambling house at the corner of the lane, my mum used to go each morning and ‘light the fires’ and make them a hot drink  for them. I can remember going with mum on winter mornings, probably in the Christmas holidays, for the thing I remember most distinctly was  how bone gnawingly cold and dark their home was,   that and their Christmas tree, it was a sparse  dour affair, made of  material like thin green bottle brushes it had no  ornaments, just red poppies, in memory of their son who was killed in the World War Two. (I wrote about it on this blog, in 2007)

 

 

One life, one poppy, one life, one poppy, if this art work can make that more tangible to our generation , during this the centenary of World War One,  I think it is working. If the poppies could be white, how nice that would be. As for the glorification of war? No sorry, it wasn’t what our visit said to me. It said what a grievous event it was..

 

When we got home, I went online and ordered a poppy, the monies raised going  top of our to Services charities. It will be sent to us once the installation has been dismantled. It may or may not get here in time for Christmas. If it does, it will be going at the top of our Christmas tree.


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Exotic Blooms

One of the many things I didn’t get around to posting this summer, was the unexpected arrival of an orchid in the garden. Strange but true. I’ve never ever seen them growing locally, and there it was. I was gazing  out of the window in my default absent minded sort of way, when it jumped up and went boo! The house is cut into the hillside, so from windows at the rear of the house, the view is eye level with the lawn.

And there it was, a solitary pink spike of bloom, catching the last of the evening sun.

Orchid 3

Just a bit special, do you not think? Is it a marsh orchid?

Orchid 1

I felt rather honoured that it had taken up residency with us; but mystified as to how it arrived.

Orchid 2

Maybe there are many more out there, that we keep slicing the blooms off with the lawn mower.

We’ve had a lot of men in big boots about the place over the last few months, one of the reasons for the dearth of posts of late. But the orchid has been afforded special protection,

orchid_

 

I can report it has survived and gone to seed, and perhaps inspired by a very special visit to the Millennium Seed Bank (another post in waiting) I thought I’d have a go at propagating the seed.  However think I’m out of my propagation league, it seems far more complicated than the lovely marigold seeds Flighty sent me.

 

From the Hardy Orchid Society…

Seed sowing at home

Many members of HOS sow orchid seed in home laboratories (otherwise known as kitchens or spare rooms) with some success! Various back issues of the HOS Newsletter give excellent detailed advice on how to get started. The following items need to be considered.

Sterile working area: A HEPA filtered laminar flow cabinet is ideal – but hardly likely to be accessible to beginners. Try rigging up a ‘glove box’ or a modified fish tank on its side. See see HOS Newsletter issue 3.

Autoclave: A pressure cooker to sterilise everything.

Germination/Growing medium: There are two distinct types:

1. Medium based on agar gel and porridge oats with suitable fungi (symbiotic growth).

2. Medium based on agar gel containing nutrients to be used without fungi.

 

Maybe I’ll just let nature take its course.

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