Uphilldowndale

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


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Hope Show

August Bank holiday Monday, means Hope Sheepdog Trials and Agricultural Show. (I’ve shown you a shot of the Hope Valley before) Hope Show, as it more usually known, is a traditional sort of agricultural event, cattle,sheep, horses, dogs, tractors, beer, burgers and ice cream, all you need for a grand day out.

I nipped in and out of the show this morning, I’m not one for lingering on the Peak District roads on a bank holiday, they’re too busy for my liking.

Plenty of photos to play with later in the week, but as a taster; fine looking animals

Hope show-1

In a beautiful location

Hope show-2


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Sunshine with a sting in its tail

Last weeks weather was dominated by heavy bursts of rain that were followed by the sun punching a hole through the glowering clouds:  an excellent combination for a bit of on your doorstep photography, or so I thought, I threw on my wellingtons* and dashed into the garden.

The iris leaves by the pond were bejewelled,

Sun and rain 2

the apples looked scrumptious, I was having a lovely time;

Sun and rain 3

then a wasp (one of the many that are feasting on the fruit that’s been splayed open by crows)  crawled up my trouser leg and stung me on the thigh, that was Monday and I’m still having to slap antihistamine cream on it today.

*I knew those wellingtons were too short, if they’d have been a decent length I’d have tucked my trousers in and none of this would have happened.


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Summer Grazing

Summer grazing on the Staffordshire moors, these White Park Cattle are a rare breed, not your everyday cattle.

Cattle 7

White Park Cattle are an ancient British breed of cattle.  Their history of more than two thousand years links them with Druids, hunting parks and Stately Homes. They have an intense white coat contrasted by black nose and ears and majestic horns.  They are believed to be Britain’s oldest breed of cattle. A thrifty, hardy and native breed, they are being increasingly used for environmental grazing.  They are used as the symbol of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Cattle 4

We are in the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and use the White Park Cattle to graze the rougher ends of the farm, they prefer the rougher herbage to rich grass.  They do a marvellous job of cleaning up the rushes and thrive on poorer quality grass.  The White Park cattle are genetically pre-disposed to feast and famine farming i.e. they put on the wonderfully marbelled fat during the summer but do not suffer in the tougher times of winter.  In the past we have out-wintered them (no mean feat in this part of the world) but prefer to house them indoors during the winter months.

Cattle 2

I think they are fine looking beasts

Cattle 6


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Run For Home

Happy and naturally dishevelled  geese at Heathylee farm Staffordshire

Run for home

I didn’t realise that in some part of the world (but not Staffordshire I hasten to add) goose down for duvets and pillows is.

They're behind you

 plucked from live birds and the birds are ‘cropped’ every six weeks or so…..

Chin up

Keep your chins up girls, you’re safe here.

below, a pair of Dewlap Toulouse Geese, the dewlap being the wobbly bit under the chin

Two heads


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Difficult

I’ve swithered about how best to write this post, if to even write it at all. But I will. Some of you already know that a few months ago we decided to have our dog Moss put down, she was a four year old Border collie, she was fit and healthy, she was beautiful* and she was vicious.

Now at this point everyone’s default question is ‘was she a rescue dog?’ No she wasn’t we had her from  being an eight week old puppy, we carefully selected her, she wasn’t an impulse buy (we’d had our previous Border collie for 14 years) she had a good home, never ill treated, but not spoilt or indulged, not left alone for long periods and with acres of fields for exercising, we’d selected her as a family pet, expecting that she would share our families life for teens of years. So where did it all go so horribly wrong?

There isn’t a simple answer to that, now with the benefit of hindsight I think that, as has been suggested to us by people who know an awful lot more about dog breeding and dog behaviour than we do, that she may never have been suitable as a pet or a working dog that it was simply in her blood line,  the flawed gene waiting in a game of DNA roulette.  Moss was very intelligent, she could read minds, she was like a satellite dish with a leg at each corner,  not a thing passed her by, but she could not filter out the good stuff from the bad, day to day living in the modern world was an assault on her senses, she could get little respite and it could put her into melt down.

So what do I mean, she was vicious? Well she had bitten Mr Uhdd, Joe and I and we’d had a number of close calls with other people outside the family and now looking back on it now, I can see that in the beginning, like the victim of an abusive relationship, we made excuses (or at least tried to rationalise what happened in each instance) in my case, when out of the blue she attacked me, (I’d only bent down to take her lead off, having been out for a walk) biting at my hand, breaking the skin drawing blood and badly bruising my knuckles and fingers, I blamed myself  ‘I can only think I must have snagged her ear with the clip, when I was taking her lead off.’  It wasn’t the case.

Out of the house, she would display very mixed message, the tail would be wagging, but an extended hand would be snapped at (and please if some one say to you ‘Don’t touch my dog, it might bite.’ Believe them; people, no make that men, just never got it and would always say ‘Don’t worry,I’m very good with dogs!’ only to be snapped at.) Then we thought it was men with beards she didn’t like, or bald men or men with glasses, the list went on and on. In the end we were at pains to walk her away from other people and dogs, it was not pleasant or relaxing, Moss would have sensed all of this, we were stuck in a spiral and things were getting more and more difficult to control. The prospect of going on our summer holiday to a smaller house, with no garden, in a busy beauty spot with about a dozen kids ebbing and flowing through the house was making me sick with worry. Then I saw this photo of Joker and his boy and in an instant it made me realise just how far we had come form Moss being the family dog we had hoped she would be and the stark fact that we couldn’t go on as we were, we’d past a point of no return: I sat at the keyboard and sobbed. It wasn’t a case she might badly hurt someone, but when, and it was our responsibility not to let that happen.

The whole thing was wretched and we looked for as much help and advice as we possible could to try and solve her aggression, now a few months on I think we probably persevered for too long, but it was difficult to accept that things weren’t going to get any better and that we would never be in a position to trust her; this has affected all of us, about how we feel about dogs, photos like this send shards of ice down my spine, if you’ve every seen a family pet turn nasty, you won’t forget it in a hurry.  And If you have ever had to have a pet put down because it is sick, you’ll have have some idea what it was like, except this came with a whole host of other emotions to boot; feeding Moss treats laced with Diazepam, to sedate her sufficiently for the vet to put her down in as humane away as possible was ghastly (she wouldn’t let any vet near her, something else that was unacceptable)  but then again so were the potential consequences of not doing it.

We are very grateful for the help and advice from Border Collie Rescue who were able to offer us some sound sensible and most importantly for us at the time, advice that was detached from the gamut of emotions we were dealing with. We wanted to be sure that we had tried absolutely everything we could, we didn’t want to ever feel we had let her down.

We will be having another family dog, we can’t imagine our home without one, we’ve been waiting a while though, for the wounds to heal up a bit; a different breed, not because we think all Border collies are unsuitable as pets (although you can’t get past the fact they are not the easiest breed to handle) but because we need to make a very clear break from this experience. I’ll leave you with a couple of comments.

From the postman, who had good reason to despise and fear Moss.

‘Beautiful looking dog, she’d got a screw loose though.’

And from a dog behaviourist,

‘If you do decide to have her put down and it may be the only answer in a case like this, you may actually feel you are setting her free.’

They were both right.

*(There are photos of Moss on this blog, but I can’t bring myself to look at them just now.)


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Liquid Lunch

There isn’t much colour in our garden, I never seem to get it right at this time of year, but there’s are plenty around and about for the insects to sup some amber nectar.

Liquid lunch

There’s the heather of course and  there is a lot of ragwort around,

Ragwort

it might be good news for insects but no one else likes it, for a start it is poisonous to livestock and has a 70% seed germination rate (oh that my seeds in the garden could aspire to this figure) and it’s therefore no surprise that it seems to be getting a hold around here

 

Many thanks to all who have voted for this blog on the Dorset Cereals ‘Little Blog Awards’ Tom has been sussing out the competition and tells me I’ve a way to go yet to catch if I’m to catch up with the front runners, but I’ve got till the end of August to win a bumper bag of Dorset Cereals (actually I’m not a muesli sort of girl; but porridge, with a sprinkling of crunchy demerara sugar and a dash of cream, now you’re talking.)

Our breakfast routine has been dealt a major blow, after nearly 20 years of delivering our copy of the the Guardian newspaper, in time for us to give it a quick skim at the breakfast table (or at least look at the photos) the local newsagents ‘new driver’ has announced he won’t drive up the lane to our house, it’s too tricky apparently, the business women in me fumes at the driver dictating the delivery round, for goodness sake (or words with a similar meaning) what’s up with folk, don’t they want to work? I’d read in the newspaper that their is a recession. The chances of him lasting in the job have got to be zilch, this is only August, just wait till the dark mornings, rain, snow, ice grasp his delivery round. If I was the employer I’d be drawing a line under this now, before he decimates the rest of the delivery run, more customers are ruled out,  it all becomes completely unviable and we all toddle off to Tesco’s  for our daily paper and another independent newspaper shop bites the dust.


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Home Sweet Home

Well, I think I have squeezed all the juice I can out of the photos of our Devon holiday, till next year.

Back home summer has moved on, grass has gone to seed and late summer flowers bloom

Harebells

the last few days have had that hint of autumn melancholy about them. Today’s  light has been vivid, it was viewing the world through a polarising filter.

The heather is at it’s best

Heather 1

Giving the moors a purple hue

Heather rowan

Much as I enjoyed Devon I did miss the hills

Heather moor 1 

and the drystone walls.

Heather wall


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And the Light Shineth in Darkness;

This plaque on the door of Sherford  parish church, Sherford, Devon caught my eye

Light

Maybe they didn’t think electricity was here to stay, or perhaps it was just for reasons of economy.

lamp 

That they inserted the electric light bulb into the original oil lamps. Or just possibly it might have been, that having lived through what they had lived through, they took nothing for granted, not even light.

 

* The light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.  John 1:5

How come I can remember that biblical quote from my childhood, but not my seven times table? I certainly know which I practiced more.


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Links and Ties III

One rainy afternoon I was looking to see if I could give some added value to the chore of food shopping on holiday, by turning left instead of right, to see what if anything I could find.  What I found was the village of Sherford. I took a peek in  the 13th century Parish church (sorry I’ve not exterior photos, it was too wet)

Sherford parish church 

The parish of Sherford was part of the area that was totally evacuated, to allow troops to train for the D-Day landings. Goodness knows what it must have been like for the local population, amid great secrecy and haste, to pack up their homes, dispose of their livestock and leave the fields fallow, not knowing if and when they could return,  I found  the transcript of this notice, which was posted at each church’s in the parish: very poignant

TO OUR ALLIES OF THE U.S.A.

The church has stood here for several hundred years. Around it has grown a community, which has lived in these houses and tilled these fields ever since there was a church. This church, this churchyard, in which their loved ones lie at rest, these homes, these fields, are as dear to those who have left them as are the homes and graves and fields which you, our Allies, have left behind you. They hope to return one day, as you hope to return to yours, to find them waiting to welcome them home. They entrust them to your care meanwhile and pray that God’s blessing may rest upon us all.

Charles, Bishop of Exeter

Sherford parish church window

The Church has ancient panels 

Sherford parish church painting

Sadly at some stage a concrete floor has been laid,  probably for structural reasons, which must have snuffed out a lot of the visible history of the building, tomb stones, tiles, worn flag stones

Sherford parish church pulpit

There were a lot of beautifully made kneelers, no two were alike as far as I could see.

Sherford parish church kneeler 1

Some depicted the links and ties to Exercise Tiger

Sherford parish church kneeler

A small list told of a massive loss, especially for the Weekes family. Stone and Tucker are names I’ve seen before (I’m not sure if the list is of casualties of both World Wars)

IMG_1827

 

There was to be a sudden total evacuation of this quiet Devon countryside, involving 3,000 people, their possessions, farm stock and equipment. This fact was made known by the Lord Lieutentant of Devon, on 12th November 1943, at East Allington Church. Later on the same day, the message was delivered at Stokenham Church, where my father would have heard it. I’m sure that when he went home with the news, Mother and all others must have been filled with horror and disbelief, looking at their surroundings and wondering “For how long?” and “Shall we ever come back again?”.

The BBC History link gives a vivid account of the experience of the evacuation, it’s well worth a read

This is the penultimate ‘Devon Holiday’ post, I’ve been back in the real world for what seems an age now, zipping here there and every where, collecting blog posts as I go, the  gentle pace of  a Devon holiday seems very distant already.


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Links and Ties II

 

In the early hours of the 28th of April 1944 eight Landing Ship Tanks (LST’s), full of American servicemen were in Lyme Bay, off the coast of Devon, England. Their purpose to take part in Exercise Tiger, the realistic rehearsals for the D-Day landings in Normandy. The night turned into tragedy as a group of patrolling German e-boats discovered and attacked them. At the end of Exercise Tiger 946 American serviceman had lost their lives.

Slapton 2 

And that is how something as mundane as an empty powdered milk barrel found its way into the Cookworthy Museum in Kingsbridge, it was left in the Trout’s Hotel, which was seconded as an officers mess during the exercise (the whole area was evacuated of civilians; an everyday thing that can only hint at the scale of the operation and its impact on the service men and women and the local population.

The military history of Exercise Tiger can be found here, it was a tragedy,

IMG_1587

that was shrouded in secrecy for over 40 years with many of the families of those who died having no idea about what happened (as my mum is fond of saying about WWII, ‘There was a lot we never knew about’.) Then thanks to the exceptional efforts of the late Ken Small, who managed to locate and lift from the seabed a Sherman Tank that had been lost that night and to then dedicate it as a fitting memorial to all those who died.

Sherman Tank Slapton

I think I have to look at this beautiful place in a slightly different light.