Uphilldowndale

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


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Blight and Blossom

Here we are May 14th and the blossom struggling to break out.

Some features of spring are as they should be, across the valley I can see small flockettes of lambs zipping around the fields, they may be in playful mode, they may just be trying to keep warm, its difficult to tell; from this distance it’s like watching an early video game.

So what blossom have I found? A snow flake of wild plum

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A claw set cluster of crab apple, so near yet so far, as the weather is cold and wet, it may even snow tonight.

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I’d a plan to post about blossom in April, I’d have posted beautiful blossom and then delivered seamless segue into beautiful music,  however nature has been slow off the mark, but the music can wait no longer.

Recently we were fortunate enough to have a real gem of an evening of live music, it was a tiny village hall sized affair where we saw Ashley Hutchins and his son Blair Dunlop perform. I’m sure sure Blair’s  musical future is much bigger than village halls (Ashley’s is already in the bag).  Blair’s album is called  Blight and Blossom.

Blair has a  linage of music and poetry,  it is in his  very DNA and, as my mum would say, ‘what’s in tree comes out in the branches’. Enjoy.

It was touching to see (no, make that feel, it was an emotion that was palpable in the hall) Ashley’s pride in his sons performance and craft (and if its not pushing the tree metaphor a tad too far, it was a moment, a memory, to be laid down in the heart wood of the tree.)


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Family Tree

We spent yesterday morning felling a tree. We’ve had chainsaw adventures before, but this was a different beast to slay. Mainly because of its proximity to the house, the oil tank, two drystone walls, the telephone line and us! Also to be factored in to the equation was the size of the tree, 44 feet.

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It was a carefully researched mission, there was only one way it could fall.

There was much measuring of angles, a rope attached with a couple of strapping teenagers hanging on the end.

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A ‘cheese’ taken out of the trunk, some strategic cuts and then, with some tugging, down she came.

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It is hard to remember that when we first moved into the house,  this tree was so small we used to drape the it with lights at Christmas, an exercise that needed no ladders.

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It was quite a nerve wracking task. The boys were quite giddy when the mission was accomplished.

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By the end of the morning, we’d worked it down to just the ‘spine’.

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Iced Plum Jam

The deep freeze continues. But there are buds of hope. Jammy the kitten-cat would like to show you, look he’s pointing.

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Tiny blossoms are lying in wait.

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Here is the same tree on the 28th March 2011  it looks a little different, frosted granted, but not marooned in snow and ice. I think it’s wild plum, look I’ve even found a recipe for a recipe for wild plum blossom ice cream, written by Blanche Vaughn (I really couldn’t line up any more snowy, white  icy themes if I tried).

The snow isn’t going anywhere fast, here is the lane to our house.

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Here is Jammy tip-toeing through the snow.

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Snow Spectrum

It’s March for goodness sake, not even early March come to that, frosts and snow showers are acceptable but not blizzards.

I’ve been feeling a bit better today,  I felt inspired enough (from the warmth of my desk) to get the camera out of the bag  and capture  the snow, as seen through a bowl of iridescent glass baubles

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I was less keen about Jammy the kitten-cat and a bowl of baubles though.

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A Walk in the Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park to be precise. I walked further than I expected, but it wasn’t a problem, the day was bright and crisp.

I was bewitched by an ‘intervention’ by David Nash.

Seventy One Steps

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Made from oak that is charred and oiled they follow the lie of the land. The steps are set into 30 tons of coal, they will weather and erode into the landscape.  Climbing them, they felt were quite magical. They are no ordinary steps.

I thought the woods at the top of the steps were rather magical too.

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I loved the gnarled roots. I’m sure I heard somewhere that 90% of a trees roots are in the top two feet of the soil?

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Duncan obviously like it here, once upon a time.

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Hare Today

The snow keeps coming and going, this morning we woke to delicate confection,  a butter cream topping of snow upon a squelchy sponge of a soggy muddy field (I despair of keeping the mud out of the house) the light was  diffused and sort of floury for want of a better word, I rather liked it.

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Spud the dog, Jammy and Dodger the kitten-cats  all came with me for my turn around the field, but I’ll save the resulting mayhem for tomorrow.

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We’ve more snow forecast for tomorrow, how much remains to be seen.  Here earlier drifts lie under today’s ‘top dressing’.

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I was just about to go back indoors to toast my cold toes when I spotted a brown hare in the next field.

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I do like hares, but I never get very close. Maybe I need a longer lens…

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He lolloped over by the sheep, before exiting over the ridge.

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Derbyshire Harrier has some lovely shots of mountain hares, over on his Flickr page


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Behind the Bling

The  third and final post about the John Rylands Library in Manchester

I started out calling this post ‘Behind the Bling’ but that felt a little uncharitable. I’m not sure The John Rylands Library in Manchester ever ‘set its barrow down’ to be ostentatious, more a philanthropic sharing of knowledge, the gift of education  and a celebration of art, architecture and craftsmanship. (Oh and the fact northern money was as good as southern!)

An on the hoof  exterior photo as we dashed for our train, in the fading winter light

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Within  the building is a spectacular collection of historical documents and books. painstakingly catalogued and preserved for posterity.

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it is the third largest academic library in the United Kingdom, and the Deansgate building houses over 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items.

Many  are painstakingly shrouded for  their protection

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I looked at these books and carefully stored documents

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and thought how I would be a disaster working in this field

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(as disastrous as I’d be as an air traffic controller! each to their own!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour around, pop over and have a look at the secrets of a more modern building over at VWXYNot? Fascinating.


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Tell It To The Trees

We’re still here, the boys and I have been on holiday this week, Mr Uphilldowndale has been dipping in and out of the day job.

It’s been not so much a week of rest and relaxation, more a case of downtime, which was much needed.  Sadly news keeps reaching us of family, friends and colleagues who are, for a host of reasons, not having the best of times at the moment. I’m tempted to think that if I’d been on holiday on a desert island, with nought but a couple of palm trees a hammock and cold drink, a message in a bottle would have washed up on the shore.

It was suggested earlier in the week I should go out and hug a tree, and its true to say some of the most restorative time this week has been spent in the garden.

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A good place to count our blessings and breathe…


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The Lightning Tree

I’ve been intending to post photos of the lightning tree since Spring, you may have thought it dead. But it was not.

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Life forced its way back out into the world

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Clever eh?

I’ve been searching for this poem since Spring,  following a bit of a banter with Gerry,  it was something about trees and seasons, I can’t now remember what. It would have helped if I could have remembered who wrote the poem, it was Roger McGough.

It is National poetry Day, so it seems fitting to have finally got my act together.

Trees Cannot Name the Seasons
Trees cannot name the seasons
Nor flowers tell the time.
But when the sun shines
And they are charged with light,
They take a day-long breath.
What we call "night"
Is their soft exhalation.

And when joints creak yet again
And the dead skin of leaves falls,
Trees don’t complain
Nor mourn the passing of hours.
What we call "winter"
Is simply hibernation.

And as continuation
comes to them as no surprise
They feel no need
To divide and itemize.
Nature has never needed reasons
For flowers to tell the time
Or trees put a name to the seasons.

~by Roger McGough
[This poem can be found in McGough's
book Melting into the Foreground, 1986]

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