Uphilldowndale

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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Gone fishing

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Bird watchers

The Bird Watchers -1

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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!’


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Cold Feet

Cast you minds back, to November and I’ll tell you the adventure of a bold, but not very bright bird. Primrose the chicken.

Dusk arrived early, and the role call of chickens showed we had a problem.  Primrose was missing.

We called the neighbours, searched their gardens, scoured the lane by touch light, looked in the shrubs and bushes,  all to no avail.  Eventually we had to conclude she might have been picked off by a fox, who, made bold by hunger, made twilight strike, or she had gone broody and gone off somewhere to make a nest.  We called off the search.

It was bonfire night, rockets streaked across the night sky scattering glittering stars in their wake,  Spud the dog shifted uneasily in his bed.  Eventually all fell quiet, and then the rain came by the bucketful pounding on the roof in the small hours.

At first light, Mr Uphilldowndale went out to resume the search, to be honest he was expecting to find a drift of feathers somewhere nearby.

He couldn’t find anything. However, he could hear something.  Cluuuuccckaaaa, Chahhhaaa, Cluck! But where was it coming from?

As befits the start of a pantomime ‘It’s behind you!’ he turned on his heels to find…

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Can you see in the bulrushes, in the middle of the field pond? Oh you silly bird.

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She’d been standing, up to he knees (do chickens have knees?) in the water, all night.

Mr Uphilldowndale gallantly went in , braving chilly waters and slippery pond liner to get her*.  If you’d like to see how he got on, pop over to the video.

We took her into the kitchen to warm up. She can’t have had much sleep she kept nodding off in Mr Uphilldowndales arms.

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we don’t know why she was there, she will flap and fly a little, especially if startled.  She obviously didn’t have sufficient ‘runway’ to make her way back again.

* I think I’d have built a bridge, I’ve never been fond of cold water.


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Seasonal Selection

Striding out in the light and fresh air, can be a challenge on short winter days.  I’m lucky that I can flex my work a little, so as to grab the best of the day, for a cobweb blowing yomp up the hill.  My was it chilly today, the wind was biting.

A seasonal selection of photos.

Banks of cloud sit on the hills

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I find it interesting how some fields at the same altitude seem ‘hold the snow’ more than others, I imagine it is  to do with how they have been grazed

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So nice of the drystone walls to underscore the beautiful view

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Feasting sheep,

Hungry sheep

and no place like home at dusk on a snowy winters day

Home -


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Christmas Confessions

Before I confess,  let me wish you all a happy and healthy 2018.

OK the confession. I took the tree down early this year, on the 28th.   I have to say it’s rare that it would still be in place come the 12th night,  and as I’m not superstitious about such things, I’ve no qualms about packing the baubles away.

Some years I just feel the need to make everything ‘calm’ again. I suspect  lot of this glitter Grinch, would have to do with working in retail,  as for many years, I was surrounded by as much glitz glitter and poinsettias as could be squeezed into the shop, and had been for weeks before the 25th of December arrived. I just used to want to come home to a clean clutter free zone and relax.  Those years are long since gone, but the habit remains. 

It’s been a different kind of Christmas this year, quieter than most, Tom has gone travelling in New Zealand, he left at the beginning of December and Joe returned to Uni to party in the New Year with his friends, we didn’t even manage to get down to Oxford for a family gathering as our travel plans were thwarted by a fall of snow.

Now that reads as a rather dour kind of Christmas, it wasn’t at all,  we had good times with neighbours and friends, we were even to be found in the village pub on Christmas eve for a very convivial couple of hours (it must be 30 years since I was last found in a pub on Christmas eve!)

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So whilst the baubles and my very precious lights are packed away, as usual, I have left some lights in place, a colourful welcoming string in the kitchen window, and an globe of lights in a  vintage carboy, shine on, longer days will come.

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Two for the price of one, part two

After a night at Welbeck, we travelled on to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

It’s not the first time I’ve blogged about this wonderful place.  This was a favourite exhibition

Here was an exhibition that was going to appeal to both of us,  Tony Crag, A Rare Category of Objects

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Mr Uphilldowndale, likes nice pieces of wood, especially when they are constructed like this

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It’s not all natural materials though,

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Sensuous curving dice

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and pinnacles of steel

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They have a feel of sandstone weathered through the ages, this made me think of the cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney.

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There were also working drawings and maquettes, that illustrated how Cragg’s time spent working in laboratories, provided inspiration, here you can see glass flasks and test tubes, layer upon layer. 

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It was his biggest exhibition to date in the UK, and there were many sculptures in the park. This storm laden sky had me worried about the sculptures ability to conduct lightening! 

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