Uphilldowndale

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


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Mothering Sunday

The title Mothering Sunday, rather than Mothers’ day is a nod to my late mother in law. She’d no time for the latter as  for as far as she was concerned, it has it roots in commerce not religion.

 

As you might imagine, its been a bit of a melancholy one for me. But is has been a beautiful spring day.

 

Wild plum_

Joe knows what he thinks of Mothering Sunday, he ‘pot washes’ at the village pub at the weekend. Today he and his shift mate washed up for four chefs and 110 covers.


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Vintage Years

We finished emptying Mum’s house this week,it goes without saying that it was emotional work, but there was laughter as well as tears. Here is a photo I found, that Mum had taken in  July 1997, the garden in full bloom.

Pride and Joy

It all looks a lot sunnier than it did on Tuesday.

There many discoveries, of lost childhood memorabilia, forgotten heirlooms (notably, a spectacularly hideous antique plate that had been waiting for its moment to shine, for over five decades, hidden away in the back of a cupboard, as I lifted it out, the bag it was in disintegrated, the plate fell to the floor, smashed beyond repair. My brother who’d recently seen a similar plate on a TV antiques programme, refuses to tell me just how much it was worth).

In the cupboard under the stairs, I found six crates of my Dad’s home brew, dating back as far as 1989.

 

home brew

Some of it looked very dodgy, and alarmingly it was in screw top bottles.

home brew 4

After a dynamic risk assessment, I decided a little eye protection wouldn’t go amiss before moving it.

home brew


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Sending…

On Saturday one of Mr Uphilldowndale’s running buddies (I’ll  not publish his name, I’ll just call him ‘G’) was seriously injured when he was in a road traffic collision whilst out on his bike. We’re all sending  our thought’s, love, good wishes, prayers or what ever we have to give, to G, his family and those who care for him. Worrying times and we feel impotent, we wish we could do more.

 

I came across G a while back here.

Change in the  weather 4-1 

 

We were both on our  way to work, he had stopped to admire the view,  whilst I more likely, had stopped to catch my breath. We chatted, he was in reflective mood. I told how  him how Mr Uhdd was frustrated at not being race fit and was niggled by minor injuries. G offered this advice. ‘Tell him to eat more pies, he thinks he need to keep his weight down but he doesn’t, he need to eat more pies; I know I’ve done it myself.’

 

So I’m sending pies, or at least the metaphorical health giving properties of pies, its all I can do.

 

Heather x


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Ripening

There looks to be a glorious crop of elderberries on the way.

 

Elderberry

 

As always, seeing these swelling  juicy berries I think of my late father and the  glug, glug of his demi-johns of ‘home brew’ elderberry wine* which during the 1970’s he used to nurture along, snuggled up in the warmest place in the house that he could get away with (against the chimney wall in the bedroom; actually I’m not sure how he got away with that at all!)

It may be the dutiful daughter  in me, or the hunter gatherer, that thinks I should be ‘making something’ of this  bountiful hedgerow crop.  Oh well, I’ll settle for making a blog post, the birds can have the feast.

 

*Along with elderberry wine there was dandelion, elderflower and most pungent of all (in the brewing at least) comfrey.


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And Then There was One

 

 

Joe was back at school on Friday, both Mr Uphilldowndale and Tom were at work, I found myself home alone. It was something of a novelty, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I think it must be as far back as May since the house had been this quiet.

I decided to take on the glut of eggs nestling in the kitchen window. We’ve a couple of new chickens (Warrens) and whilst they are not laying yet, the three senior birds, apart from being hen pecking bullies to the new girls, took the huff and went off to lay their eggs any where other than in the hen house, eventually   Mr Uphilldowndale found 18 eggs hidden in the undergrowth.

Whilst my four cakes* baked I nipped out and picked a batch of blackberries to make bramble jelly,

best of the bunch_

 

I needed 3lb of fruit, the first two pounds came easily, the rest was a struggle, I found myself having to climb in and amongst the brambles and nettles to reach the more elusive berries. I’d perhaps been a little premature in picking them, I should have waited a day or two for more to ripen  that way I’d have more fruit and less stings and scratches…

 

* three now residing in the freezer; non of them are chocolate cake though.


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Have Crab Will Travel

Mr Uphilldowndale and I found ourselves down at the fish quay in Salcombe one morning. It was a bit of an eye opener.

Salcombe crab live export 2

 

There aren’t the vast numbers of fishing boats I imagine there were in years gone by. But none the less there  was frenetic industry.

One boat was tied up at the quay, The Emma Jane, her crew of six were busy unloading some  their catch of crab in to floating ‘fish boxes’ and getting ready to sail.

 

Unloading Crabs

She goes out for up to six days at a time, and her catch of crab and lobsters are kept alive and in good condition in vivier tanks on board (more about that in a moment).

 

In addition a larger floating fish box was being unloaded of its live cargo.

Some crabs seemed not best pleased and were making a break for freedom.

 

I'm out of here!

 

We were a little stunned at the quantity of crabs ( this isn’t just one layer of crabs, there are  many many more below). The box had been hauled up the slipway (or maybe the tide had fallen as they worked, who am I to know about such things, I live about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK. I just imagine it’s best to work with the tide not against it).

 

Salcombe crab Live export-2

 

We were also surprised to see that the crabs, once out of the fish box and weighed were put into a articulated lorry, with vivier tanks  of well oxygenated sea water (vivier means ‘fish tank’) 

 

Salcombe crab live export

to keep them alive and in tip top condition for their onward journey to Portugal, yes Portugal, mind they could have also have gone to France Spain, Hong Kong and mainland China. You can see the size of the floating fish box in the shot above.

 

Salcombe crabs are obviously a very valuable catch, they are also very labour intensive one.  We were told by harbour staff they are caught in crab pots, the muscle in their main claw is cut to stop them attacking each other in the fish box. The smaller fishing boats return each day with their catch and add them to the fish box.

 

Salcombe crab Live export3

 

The aim is to keep them in the fish box the minimum amount of time possible as they are not feeding whilst in the box.

 

Unloading Crabs into floating box

 

And if you are wondering what happens to all those crab shells, in a moment of serendipity, I stumbled across the answer today, when looking for felting wool, who would have thought it; apparently you can make fibre from the chitosan in the shells. not to mention anti-fungal treatments for seeds and in medical dressings to reduce bleeding.  My, blogging is so educational.


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Drifting

Drifting_

How long have we been home from the seaside? It seems like an age, the blog has been drifting, we’ve been rather busy.

I’ve just about managed to stuff everything back in the cupboards from whence it came. The airing cupboard* was a particular challenge. Mr Uphilldowndale (Mr Uhdd) if far more competent at such things than I am, its all that folding of sails he’s done over the years. He can make it look like an up market shop, I  can only ever achieve something at the jumble sale end of the retail spectrum

 

On holiday Mr Uhdd had an exciting time sailing his new boat, watching him from the beach it looked more like he was playing Buckaroo than sailing.

RS 

The general consensus of the deck chair critics was that Mr Uphilldowndale needs to eat more pies (or Devon pasties) as a little weight for him, unlike the rest of us** would be a good idea as it would help him keep the boat, an RS100, upright, she’s a feisty little number. (There  did seem something inherently wrong in the suggestion of a weighted lifejacket)

I would add, that we, the deck chair critics know very little about sailing, and that our extensive knowledge of the state of the tide is only founded in the need to know if it is low enough to make it possible to walk along the beach to the Venus cafe to buy ice cream, or if it is so high its necessary to take the less picturesque route along the road.

 

*Not sure why I’ve bothered, the whole lot will have to come back out again in a few weeks time during the installation of our new  central heating system, a ground source heat pump, watch this space.

** How annoying is it that Mr Uhdd lost weight on holiday, however he did gain a lot of bruises.


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Meadow Hay

It seems hard to believe that it was only Wednesday morning that Mr Uphillldowndale and I took a turn around the field wearing Wellington boots, the meadow grass was flattened to the ground,

Wet grass 2

 

by the weight of rain that had fallen over night. 

Wet grass

 

Jammy the kitten cat got wet feet,  he was unimpressed and protested loudly, and completed the rest of the walk along the wall.

 

Jammy wet feet

 

Spud, well, he was just  Spud,

 

wet springer spaniel_

 

By late afternoon the sun had come out, our neighbouring farmer had come along and mown the grass, he obviously knew what the forecast had in store. Because since then it has been wall to wall warmth and long sunny days, by this afternoon, the grass had been rowed up and bailed, job done.

 

In a previous post I mentioned not really knowing what made a ‘traditional meadow’, then by chance I heard Jim Dixon, The Peak District National Park Chief Executive  (his blog is here) being interviewed on BBC radio Derby, on the very subject.  The roll call of species should include buttercups, yellow rattle and pink clover we have lots of those!

 

Natural Meadow Derbyshire_

 

So the surrounding fields are now empty, Spud the dog will be able to find his ball.

 

Spud hay field_

 

Since the fields have been mown there has been a forlorn curlew banking around the fields and across the valley, calling  plaintively. I suspect it might have lost it’s nest to the mower;

 

Curlew_

 

I’m surprised, I didn’t know it was there, I hadn’t seen any curlews around on a regular basis since spring.   Most curlews around here are up on the higher, rough pastures, where there are nests and young will not be disturbed by the pressures of making hay while the sun shine and  the timeline that dictates  commercial farming. Sad.  It wouldn’t have been done intentionally of that I’m sure.  As Jim Dixon mentioned in his interview,  in trying to preserve traditional meadows we are asking farmers to be ‘farmers, factories and museums’. It’s not easy.


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Lunch at Sharpham Vineyard

Following on from yesterdays post, the very tasty  set lunch for ten.

Cheese shapham -1

Special thanks to Mrs Ogg for driving us in comfort, through the narrow Devon lanes

lunch 2-1

lanes which are (understandably) currently chocked with agricultural machinery, whilst the farmers make hay and gather in crops whilst the sun shines, they’ve no time for leisurely lunches.

lunch-1

May I say thank you farmers for what we eat.

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