Communications Hub

We took the camper van out to stretch it’s legs, just a one nighter, not far, just a 30 minute drive into the White Peak, pretty much my old commute in days gone by. We’d made some repairs and alterations to the van since our last ‘big trip’ to Scotland in May, and we wanted to check things worked as intended, the leaky tap is no more, and the new fridge, has a TARDIS like capacity, it’s smaller than the old fridge and yet it can accommodate a four pint bottle of milk AND a bottle of wine in an upright position, no more fridge wrangling! Result.

And if that wasn’t enough van excitement, Mr Uphilldowndale used space gained by the smaller fridge to build a cutlery drawer. ‘Tis a thing of beauty, I’d share a video of me opening and closing it in sheer delight, if I’d fully mastered uploading videos on to this WordPress editor.

We visited the lovely village of Monyash had a delicious and leisurely brunch at The Old Smithy Cafe, a favourite coffee stop of Mr UHDD on his Sunday bike rides, we shared our table and travel tales with a motorbiking couple from the Midlands, before striking out to Chatsworth.

The village can attribute its existence, and its name, to water. Lying underneath the centre of the village is a narrow band of clay deposited during the Ice Age. This resulted in pools of standing water, a highly unusual feature in a limestone area. Over time meres (ponds) were fashioned into the clay by the villagers to provide a constant source of water. At one time the village had five meres and at least twenty wells providing the inhabitants and their livestock, as well as passing drovers, with a plentiful supply of water right up until recent times.

The centre of the village is always where the gossip is, here the now superseded phone box has been repurposed as a mini library, the post box still functions, but you won’t get as many collections these days. (At least this one hasn’t been stolen.) But it is still a place to stop for a chat.

Monyash Derbyshire

Through the stile into the small enclosure is a clue to how this spot must have been a meeting place for hundreds of years, with what we took to be a capped well

I rather liked the view back onto the village green, and much admired the worn stile, which would have kept the local livestock out of the village water source.

We take turning on the tap for fresh water so much for granted. Getting water, must have consumed so much time and energy, especially in this part of the Peak District, where the porous limestone gobbles up rivers and streams. I really shouldn’t complain about a leaky tap.

Open mind

Open your mind and let it all out…

Flybrary, by Christina Sporrong

Part of Radical Horizons, the Art of Burning Man, at Chatsworth House Derbyshire

The Flybrary is a 20-foot large steel head with book-like birds flying out of the top. The expression on the face is one of contemplation. The face itself is nonbinary and is a mixture of all races, colors, and creeds. The birds represent our thoughts, the eyes thoughtfully looking up towards them.

It’s been a week of contemplation. We’ve lived here for over thirty years, and never before have we seen a temperature of 35.8c as we did on Tuesday, deeply worrying. We were very grateful to be in a house with very thick stone walls and a heavy stone slate roof, plus the windows are for the most part small by modern standards. We could keep ourselves comfortable.

Perhaps most worrying is now the the temperature is back to a regular 19c, it’s as though it was a bad dream, a couple of days of very uncomfortable hot weather, not a bellwether for climate change. My concern is as a species we don’t seem able or willing to take action now.

A familiar feeling

Since my last post, which had been a long, long emotional time in the making. I’ve found myself back in a way of thinking that I’d lost touch with. And I have to say it is a nice familiar feeling.

It’s taken me back to composing little blog posts as I meander along. Maybe it is time to start posting again. I’ve had a few false starts before, but I’m up for trying again.

Lets open the gate, and see where we can go, and what we might find.

Art Deco gate. East Portlemouth Devon

I always stop and admire this gate. I imagine that by now the fiery orange montbretia will have bloomed along the steps, making the colours sing just a little brighter and louder.

We’ve been holidaying in our often featured, favourite Devon spot a little earlier than usual. And whilst we enjoy being able to visit outside the school holidays (it’s more peaceful, and a lot cheaper) we miss the fun and games we used to have with the ‘Mill Bay Gang’. The children are all grown up now, and scattered around the country and the globe. We the remaining grown ups have had to find new ways to entertain ourselves, it has involved a number of long leisurely lunches, but we are getting the hang of it.

So, maybe if I can push through the gate, I can also delve a little deeper, and explore some unfamiliar places and stories and report back to the blog. I like the idea of opening a few drawers, for a good old rummage around, ‘though few drawers will be as glamorous as these.

Chest of drawers, Agatha Christie’s bedroom. Greenway Devon

I’ll see what I can find.

(PS, how in my absence, did writing a blog post, get quiet so complicated? Please, am I missing something?)

Comfort and Joy

I’m told my blog is fifteen years old. And whilst not a lot has been posted on it recently, I do refer to it often. Every time there is a question about when was it ‘such and such’ happened, this blog usually has the answer. It is stuffed full of memories.

Never more so than since Boxing day, the 26th of December 2021, when we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog Spud

Spud and his antics were a very important part of this blogs narrative.

His death, was both peaceful and timely, we miss him so very much, his absence ambushes us painfully time and time again.

We buried his ashes in the copse at the bottom of the field, I can see the spot, from my desk as I type. Near the Buckthorn tree

Spud the pup

I made a little wreath of winter greens and trimmed it some of his favourite things, a feather, he loved a feather.

Spud with feather

An apple, which the black birds then ate, through the short winter days. Spud couldn’t resist an apple,

Wrong kind of tree Spud… No apples here.

even climbing trees to reach them and leaving them as trip hazards through the house

Spud with and apple

A tennis ball, he was obsessed by them; we figured that if another dog passing along the footpath might take his ball, it wouldn’t be unreasonable, for Spud had more than his fair share of tennis ball acquisitions in his life time, on one occasion bringing home from his Devon holiday, nine more balls than he started with!

He adored a beach so a seashell was included too

We’re indebted to our local veterinary surgery, who whilst working under sever staffing pressures and Covid restrictions, made it possible for us to have the time and privacy to discuss an end of life plan for Spud. He had become slower and achy, and when in November he started showing symptoms of Horner’s Syndrome, the suspicion was that something serious was developing. We knew that that putting him through any invasive tests and procedures would not be in his best interests and it was agreed just before Christmas that he should be kept comfortable at home, being spoilt and eating lots of turkey.

Nearly five years ago, Spud had a very nasty and complicated break to his leg, something called Springer Elbow, whoever knew… The very skilled vets at Pride Veterinary referral center, meticulously fixed him up with metal plates and screws, this along with kind, skilled canine physiotherapy (which Spud and I enjoyed in equal measure) gave him a good quality of life, far more active than we could have imagined.

Here is his last visit to a beach, September 2021 Calgary Bay, the Isle of Mull.

He would have had a good zoom around given half a chance, but we’d learned, even if Spud hadn’t, that charging around too much made him rather sore and stiff, so we just allowed him a modest zoom. You can see he enjoyed it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/9623286@N08/52094153263/

Remembrance Day 2021

Lest we forget.

On our travels through Scotland in September, we came across these war graves.

This is the final resting place of five unknown sailors of the Merchant Navy, their bodies were washed ashore between the 6th of September and the 14th October 1940

Kilmore Cemetery
Dervaig – Island of Mull

No description available.

You can read more about the circumstances of their deaths here.

Considering the span of these dates over which the bodies were recovered I wonder if these were shipmates of Able Seaman Davies (see above) of S.S. Bibury, or crewmembers of S.S. Thornlea. Both vessels were travelling in the same convoy OB205 which dispersed on 30th August 1940. The two vessels remained together and were torpedoed by U46 on 2nd September 1940 off the West coast of Ireland, 55.41N 14.30W. The S.S. Thornlea however only lost three crewmen, the rest being rescued by the Canadian Destroyer H.M.C.S. Skeena, and the Norwegian S.S. Hild.

Other bodies were found on the beaches of the island of Iona.

And in the cemetery in Lockerbie, a war grave from the First World War, to commemorate Private EP Fergusson, of the Highland Cyclists Battalion.

The Highland Cyclist Battalion was a bicycle infantry battalion of the Territorial Force, part of the British Army. Formed as part of the Volunteer Force in 1860, it became a Volunteer Battalion of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) in 1881. In 1909 it became an independent unit and served in the United Kingdom throughout the First World War. In 1920 it was converted as part of the Highland Divisional Signals.

No description available.

Scotland in September

Scotland is a beautiful place to be in September, you know the weather has the potential to be lively, and that’s OK, just pack the right gear, although having not been out and about in the campervan since the start of the pandemic, we had kind of forgotten some of the rudimentary rules of dealing with wet gear in a confined space, and way more stuff became damp and soggy than should have done, it took us a day or two to dry out, but we had a great trip and we came back physically refreshed and our camper van skills rebooted.

So in no particular order, a September jolly north of the border, carefully following the Covid-19 rules and regulations, as laid out by the Scottish Government, and keeping ourselves to ourselves, as much as possible; no wild camping and staying on pre-booked approved campsites.

Whilst heading north, a visit to Jupiter Art Land south of Edinburgh, a sculpture park. We’ll start with the Gateway, a glorious quirky swimming pool

Gateway, designed by artist, Joana Vasconcelos

The nine meter wide pool, looks a fabulous place for a party! The house in the background is the home of the Wilson family, the art and parkland that surround it are a trust.

Beautiful things at every turn.

Who can resist going through a gate like this?

Waving from over here

How are you all? I hope you are all well.

It’s a long time since I last posted. I took a quick snap of some sweet peas from the garden today, and my mind wandered back to a very early blog post I wrote about sweet peas flourishing so late in the season. The memory prompted me to pitch up here.

It’s years since I’ve grown sweet peas, they seem to need lots of tender love and care and coaxing in the month of May, and into early June, which is our favoured time to take off in the campervan for a few weeks. It always seems a big enough ask of our neighbour to take care of the cat the hens and the house plants, without complicating matters with tender garden plants.

A ‘big van trip’ wasn’t something we wanted to do in May, with the vaccination programme still rolling out.

So I thought I’d give them ago if I was at home to look after them. Despite the random weather this year, they have thrived*, the perfume has lost its intensity now, but they are still throwing a party in the kitchen!

We might not have had a ‘big van trip’ but we did get away at the end of September, to Scotland, and yes it was our lovely neighbour continuing to pick the blooms in our absence that has led to this glorious flush of blooms. I hope you have neighbours as generous as ours.

* I tried the same with dahlias this year too, disaster, not a bloom. Which is a shame, I’ve always loved a dahlia. Can you see me?

Moving meadows

The field, continues it’s journey into summer, never has it provided more pleasure than this year, and it’s always been a delight, but being on our doorstep, it is a wonderful distraction from the woes of the world.

The weather we have had since lock-down has made it quiet magical. So many insects and butterflies  After the heavy rain of the last few days, when the clouds clear and the sun breaks through, the bugs and butterflies rise up with the warmth from the ground. It makes me smile.

This was yesterdays treat, a dark green fritillary  

The name comes, if you are wondering, from the colour underneath the wing.

Fritillary_

They like to feed on knapweed 

Knapweed is a plant we introduced to the field, about eight or nine years ago, having had work done to remedy a problem from theoutflow of the septic tank ( sorry you weren’t expecting that were you?) we took the opportunity to reseed the area with a native wildflower seed mix,  some of the species decided the field wasn’t for them, but the knapweed liked the neighbourhood and flourished

knapweed

The bees are delighted.

knapweed 3

Run for home

It’s been nice to go out and about today, the weather broke over night and the temperature dropped to a more comfortable level than it has been for the last few days, it’s been necessary to dodge some heavy showers though.  Downpour dodging_

The last week has been a good weather window for the farmers, they’ve been able to cut their grass crop for winter fodder in without too much weather angst, today’s weather forecasting must make the task so much easier than it was for their forebears .

So there I was, admiring the colours and patterns of the freshly cut fields

Downpour dodging 3

and having a very nice time, until the wind suddenly picked up and I realised it had ‘gone a bit dark over Bill’s mothers’. 

Time to run for home, at least it was downhill! Downpour dodging 4

Socially Distanced

Maybe we should take a leaf (pun intended) out of the sycamore aphids book of social distancing.  They seem to have it sussed.

sycamore aphids 3 However, an Internet search* led me to discover it’s not about them being apart,  on the contrary, it’s actually about them being able to touch one another (but at least the little bugs have a plan how to deal with a life threatening situation and are sticking to it!)

One of the most striking features of the sycamore aphid is the way in which the individuals space themselves evenly under the leaf. the spacing is such that they are just close enough together to touch each other with their long antennae, so if an individual in one part of the leaf is attacked the alarm spreads from aphid to aphid in a wave of antennae-waving across the whole leaf.

Sycamore aphid

Just about every leaf I could see was covered in the aphids,  there must be millions of them; which probably explains why the blue tits, that consume a fortunes worth of food through the winter ( the bird food  bill comes in at more than  the cat and dog food budget combined) are not very bothered about cleaning the aphids off the roses in the garden, you’d think it was the least they could do?

*It’s rather gratifying to find the information you were looking for, in a blog you already follow, Cabinet of Curiosities  by Phil Gates, in addition to reading the authors words in The Country Diary in the Guardian too.