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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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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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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Buttercup Syrup

There can’t be a more  soothing linctus than sitting in a field of buttercups on a sunny afternoon.

Buttercups 2-1

This springs bizarre weather seems to have bothered the buttercups little. Our field is swathed with them.

Buttercups 3-1

We do little to our meadow, it gets cut for hay* (or haylage) depending on the weather by a neighbouring farmer, he ‘mucks’ and harrows it as required. And puts sheep on it to graze it for a few weeks each year. We pull out a few docks and clumps of nettles each year; but other than that, nature takes its course.

Buttercups 7-1

If it were a commercially farmed field I’m sure it would have been ploughed and re-sown by now, the luxury of lolling around in the buttercups I suspect is not a financial option. In the photo below you can see another field across the valley that would appear to be managed in a similar way to ours, if the  yellow haze of buttercups are an indicator that is.

Buttercups 6-1

I suppose we have a wild flower meadow, although in my head I think that would mean more diversity and less buttercups, I don’t know. I need to do a little research. 

This year is the 150th anniversary of Manchester to Buxton railway line, look I’ve managed a shot of a train trundling up the valley (I was lolling around for quite awhile, as whilst it is a vital line, that  fortunately escaped Beeching’s axe, its not a busy one)

Buttercups 9-1

I wonder what the fields looked like 150 years ago, Freddy the farmer told me there were corncrakes here. Not now. I suppose now there is no way of knowing just how it was.

* Hay from this field smells sweeter than anything Penhaligon’s could sell you.

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