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


The Great War 1914-18

We’ve been away, our first trip into Europe in the campervan, it’s hard to describe it as a holiday, it was most certainly something we will not forget, more of an experience than a holiday. They say that travel broadens the mind, for us it was a question of wanting to have a better understanding.

We’ve been to Ypres (Ieper), in Belgium to visit the  World War One cemeteries in the surrounding area.

The numbers are shocking, unfathomable.

Tyne Cot-153235

This is Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth War Grave cemetery in the world, the resting place for 11,900 servicemen of the British Empire.

Tyne Cott-0131

The number of dead makes your head swim,


it’s the detail that  breaks your heart.




Seasonal Variations

It all seems a little odd, first we were prisoners to the storm, the beast from the east; we’ve certainly had more depth of snow in the past, but never such a blizzard,  it roared on for 36 hours.

We hunkered down and were grateful for lives both personal and professional that allow for a generous dollop of flexibility, and that no longer involve the great debate of can we get the boys to school in this? Will it be open when we get there? And will it be closing anytime soon? We don’t miss that scenario at all…

Last Sunday the lane was still full to the brim with snow,

Drifts 2018

It was deep enough to dissuade the usual selection of 4×4 adventurers that come out to play when it snows (  and who were busy being helpful to those in need). We were able to get out in the opposite direction, after the top road was ploughed, by one of the farmers who is contracted to clear the roads when the going gets tough.

It was Wednesday before the ‘garden cat’ reappeared from the drift that had engulfed  it a week before


Then more snow came on Thursday and ambushed it again, at least it covered the filthy snow* and as Clive James  describes it ‘hushed the whole thing up’.

Bandit cat-0004

There was something rather disorientating  about so much snow and ice at this time of year, the light, the birds singing, when they could be heard over the roar of the wind, it just didn’t seem natural.  So many hungry birds.

Finch hawthorn-0010

Today it has been 11c, in the defrosting pond toads are croaking (Spud the dog, scared them away from a photo opportunity) and amongst the snowdrops

bee snowdrops 2-0046

bees are humming and feasting. Whatever next.

bee snowdrops 3-0040

* this was the first and probably the last time you’ll find me cleaning windows, at –3c, after the blizzard passed, we couldn’t see out!


Weather Window

Last week we took a couple of nights away, in the Lake District. It’s hard to believe looking at the weather today.

We’ve got the campervan geared up for cold weather, it has a very effective diesel heater and we’d chosen a site with a hook up for power. The Quiet Site,  was perfect for our needs, one of those neatly run sites that keeps everything running smoothly with out being too officious about it and a very toasty shower block was always going to win me over. 

Another bonus was that the site bar was open, being ‘out of season’ we weren’t expecting that . Winter campervanning can be snug and cosy, but it does get a bit tomb like, so a nice beer in front of a roaring fire, just a few yards from the van was as welcome as it was sociable.

 The Quiet Site-194846

Mr Uphilldowndale entertained himself with a bike ride up The Struggle and over Kirkstone Pass the highest major road in the Lake district,  I mooched  around with the camera; we were equally content.



We both took a stroll by lake Windermere,  having visited the wonderful Blackwell House,  I’ll post about it.



Did you know  that lake Windermere had not one but two very early airfields?


The The start of seaplane flying in Britain can be traced to Lake Windermere, where H. Stanley Adams first became airborne in the Lakes Waterbird floatplane on 25 November 1911.


One man and his dog, Windermere


Home Improvements

ShalX 1-1413

Now, I know, in the scheme of things (especially for North American readers) the snow and cold we have here in the UK at the moment, isn’t such a big deal, but it is unusual for the whole country to be so snowy and cold at the same time, so forgive us for going on about it, we like to talk about the weather at the best of times. 

There has been a flurry of discusion about ‘bad winters’ past, of 1947 and my fathers adventures (and I came across a tragic bit of local history about  the winter of 1947 the the other day, lives were lost).

Snow 1947

I can even dig a photo out of the shoe box of some serious snow in 1901

Snow 1901

I was around for the winter of 1963, in my fetching knitted snow suit.

Jane snow 1963

But given that we know there was a house on here, as far back as 1606,

Map 1606

which was during the Little Ice Age we can only  try and imagine how tough it must have been to keep warm and fed.

On that time line, our 26 year living here, is but a blip, but with a new roof, (so good not to have scrabble up there to dig out the snow that had blown under the slates) ground source heat pump, double and a dash of triple glazing and a new door that both keeps the snow out and is thicker that a single piece of plywood. Trust me we are very, very grateful for our warm and snug  home.

Spud and his feild-140701


Sad and Shocked

We are sad and shocked, that our lovely cat Dodger has died suddenly, he was only five.

Hunter, fisherman, all round mischief, strong enough to drag a fat pheasant up the field, it doesn’t seem possible.


At 8pm he was in fine spirits, lying on his back, in one of his favourite places, on the hot spot of the kitchen floor, where the underfloor heating pipes converge, legs  akimbo, batting the odd swipe at Spuds ears as he walked past. A happy, healthy and content cat.

cat nap

When we saw him again just after 9pm, he was very distressed and ill indeed. We rushed him through the snow and ice to the vets. Where poisoning and trauma were ruled out, it wasn’t a fever or infection either. He was given pain relief and we decided to bring him home, with a plan to take him back in the morning for blood tests and a scan.

Spud and Dodger 2

But it was not to be, he died during the night. Given the sudden onset, the most likely cause was a blood clot.

B S LOL-1        jammy dodger -1

Gone fishing

fishing cat 2

Bird watchers

The Bird Watchers -1



Unseasonal Colours

You could have been forgiven for thinking a splash of colour was hard to come by today, heavy rain and weighty clouds have consumed us. But having watched the Met Office rainfall radar for a window of opportunity, Spud the dog and I grabbed it with enthusiasm. 

We made it to the post box today, another milestone for Spuds recovery, and its the first time he’s been a muddy dog for many a month.   The ‘new’ post box is a more useful size than the old one, but its sad to have lost the heritage of the old one.

We did find some colour, in the understory of a wooded area, from where we recovered the yew tree. I’ didn’t know (or hadn’t thought about) that woods have four distinct levels, canopy,understory, field layer and ground layer (todays blog learning objective has been met).

The understory of young beech trees, have kept their Autumn leaves, why do they do that when the mature trees don’t I wonder?  I’m also not sure why suddenly their are so many of them either, maybe the  grazing sheep have been absent long enough for them to become established, or maybe it was  the result of what a farming friend would call a mast year?

little beech-122921

The  sycamore  soaked by the rain, showed off  its  beautifully textured bark to good effect

Sycamore -123143

The lichens, seemed to have drawn up the lovely pink hue of the local grit stone;  dressed, this stone is very a very precious  commodity to us and our neighbours, and any that becomes available for sale, is snapped up and kept on the hill from whence it came for any building projects.

lichen pink -123423


Who so ever plants a tree winks at immortality

Spud the dog and I went for a walk  today, this was a big event; it’s the first time Spud has been out for a proper walk since his accident in August.  His bone is healed thanks to the great skill of his vets. Now he needs to build up some muscle.

We walked up the lane it was full of wondrous scents as far as Spud was concerned, I’ve always thought it a rather magical place. We met other dogs and had a good time.

We found in our absence  the council had been doing some work on the gullies at the side of the road.  They’d grubbed up a young yew tree, it was lying exposed, root ball and all on the far side of the gully. I thought I could probably mange to carry it  home, to plant it for perpetuity, yew trees are thought to be special, you see,  I was wrong, it was far too heavy.

I returned later with the Landrover, and it was a bit of a fight to get it in on my own, a passing neighbour offered to help, but  I declined her offer, she was wearing a beautifully cut tweed jacket, far to nice for wrestling muddy roots of which there were many more that I’d realised.

Look what lovely roots.


I think I’ll let Mr Uphilldowndale dig the hole, once we’ve decided where it will be happy for the next 300 years or so.

It made me think of the quote, by Felix Dennis that forms the tittle of this post, I’d seen it at an exhibition at Kew Gardens. So I looked it up, once I’d got the mud off my clothes, and look at this beautiful, beautiful poem. Felix Dennis, how come I’d never heard of him before?

Whosoever plants a tree
Winks at immortality.

Woodland cherries, flowers ablaze,
Hold no hint of human praise;

Hazels in a hidden glade
Give no thought to stake or spade;

London planes in Georgian squares
Count no patrons in their prayers;

Seed and sapling seek no cause,
Bark and beetle shun applause;

Leaf and shoot know nought of debt,
Twig and root are dumb— and yet

Choirs of songbirds greet each day
With eulogies, as if to say:

‘Whosoever plants a tree
Winks at immortality!’