Uphilldowndale

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


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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


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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


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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. 

 


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Welcome

Sunshine and showers, heavy at times.

It’s been a relief to get some rain, after the exceptionally dry weather we’ve had since lock-down began.  Earlier in the year I’d high hopes for the foxgloves, the young plants were so abundant, they obviously loved the very wet early spring, its hard to please everyone. But after the dry spell they were starting to suffer, looking somewhat stunted and under par. 

But with a good dousing of rain they have risen to their full height and glory! 

It’s turned out to be a vintage year for foxgloves. 

Fox gloves bank_

Much to the delight of the insects. 

Fox gloves bee


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Meadow Muse

I hope you are all keeping safe. It’s a long time since I posted, time seems to have taken on a different dimension, I’ve little comprehension of what day or date it is. Sometimes this state of affairs seems to have been forever, then I’m surprised that another week has passed.

The lifting of restrictions on travel and social meetings, seemed premature to us, so we’ve pretty much carried on as we were. We count ourselves very lucky not to live in the vicinity of some of the most popular beauty spots in Derbyshire, and other places that are not beauty spots, but that seem to attract people with very little in the way of common sense .

We have been able to keep ourselves to our selves.

The garden, pond and field have been a rich source of pleasure. The pond seems to have relished the prolonged dry sunny period, in spite of the spring that feeds it drying up. With the irises bursting into flower it had a showy ‘Ta Dah’ kind of moment.

There have been droves of damselflies, I tried to identify them, and rapidly brought it down to the following categories, red

and blue.

It was enough information for me.

We are relieved that our son Tom, is safe and well in the happy place called New Zealand. We’d be lying if we didn’t admit to being more than a little envious of how quickly the New Zealand government have been able to lift their restriction. I fear we are in this mess for a long time to come.

So I’ll keep on watching the grass grow.

And try and workout the new WordPress editor. I’m reminded of a washing machine that has about 30 different program options, when you only ever use two or three at most.


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On the home front

 

I hope you guys are all OK, I’ve not managed to find my blogging mojo through the last three weeks.  I’ve not really been able to concentrate on much to be honest, I’ve not read a single book.  I’ve made a lot of soup, which comforts twice I always find, its soothing to prepare and to eat, and fills the kitchen with homely cooking aromas.

Outside spring it carrying on a pace, and as far as the garden is concerned I’m not keeping pace!

We’ve Joe is home with us, from what was to have been his final months of study in Swansea, we did a round trip in a day, to gather  up both him and his worldly goods before lock-down. Poor Spud the dog, he was bewildered, he spent over 12 hours in the camper van, and ended up back where he started, without so much as a grain of sand between his toes.  Tom is locked down in Wanaka in New Zealand,  I try not to think about the fact we couldn’t get on a plane and go to him, or he to us if the need arose. But I know he’s in a good place with good mates, and a country that didn’t falter to put it’s citizens health first.

Here are some sunny New Zealand Lupins

Yellow Lupin_

We’re keeping our heads down, and feeling very lucky indeed to have the space both indoors and out for it not to be too claustrophobic.  We’ve been alarmed by the numbers of people that came to Derbyshire and the Peak District, we’d like to keep the numbers down.

Suspension bridge New Zealand

NZ bridge x10

Stay safe xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i thought I’d share a sunny


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On reflection

A world of blogs and blog buddies is a good place to escape to right now.

There is only so much of the Covid-19 news stream that can be taken at one time. We need to pace our selves for the long haul, when we can’t see what lies ahead.

NZ self portrait

I’m planning to continue  blog the journey through the photos of New Zealand, from November 2019, when things seemed simpler and more secure. I’m going to try and find things of beauty to share here, to bring a little fresh air to our days. To nourish and to salve.

We are all going to need to look out for others as well as ourselves. When I talk to people who are carers,  I often use the analogy of the drop down emergency oxygen masks on planes, and the instruction to put it on yourself first, before you can help others.  Let yourself breath. A little bit of mindfulness, some exercise if you can, a warm bath, a phone call to a good friend. Little things can make a difference.

Before I disappear into the beauty of New Zealand again,

NZ Lupin pink and blue_

Please be careful where you take your Covid-19 information and advice from, there is a lot of misinformation out there  

Overseas readers might be surprised to learn that Derbyshire has history when it comes to containment of disease, of sacrifices by a community to protect others.  Dating back to 1665 in  and the  ‘plague’ village of Eyam   It seems all the more extraordinary when you think about how little they knew about how disease is transmitted!

An outdoor church service at Eyam in 1666, from a display in the local museum.

Stay safe.


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Meander

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

The staircase in my last post, was much admired, so I thought you might like this beautiful boardwalk.

Why travel in a straight line when you can meander. This is a typical Department of Conservation path

NZ DOC curve walk

Like the staircase, they allow the average visitors (and locals) to access places that they could never see otherwise.

NZ DOC board close up

 

NZ swamp walk_

Mr Uphilldowndale stopped on his meander to watch the  little fish swimming in the swamp beneath his feet.

NZ DOC swamp fish

The DOC provide information boards, and suggested routes and the time needed to complete them, perfect for the travellers!

NZ DOC board_

Walk across the swamp and the path leads you into the rain-forest,

NZ Spanish Moss_it seems possible almost everywhere in New Zealand  to walk through every type of environment in a few strides.

NZ DOC zone 3

New Zealand has a fern for every occasion

NZ DOC pink fern

NZ brown fern

To my untrained eye its difficult to know what is a fern

NZ fren 2

and what is a moss or a leaf

NZ bridge Moss 1

But I can tell you there is abundant beauty

NZ tree buds

 

 


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Kea, a very smart bird

 

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

Kea are alpine parrots, found in parts of South Island, New Zealand,  my first sighting was in the carpark at Arthurs Pass, sat on top of a bus shelter!

Sadly this  particular bird wasn’t interested in coming down to see us, which was a shame as they are very inquisitive birds, with a reputation for being a bit cheeky,  how did we find a shy Kea?.

So I was delighted to get to see one up close, this time in the car park at the Fox Glacier ( car parks, a reoccurring theme?)

They are a beautiful bronze green colour, not much smaller than a domestic chicken, with  bright crimson red feathers under their wing, which flash as they take flight.

NZ kia moss

Will you look at that beak!  This beak and the birds intelligence, its  ability to learn from each other is what drove them to the brink of extinction,  they developed a taste for mutton fat. This didn’t endear them to the  European settler farmers.

Kea NZ

 

Some birds perch on sheeps’ backs and dig through skin and muscle on the rump to reach the fat around the kidneys, which can result in fatal septicaemia. This behaviour is not common, but was the reason why kea were persecuted for over a hundred years.

Between 1860 and 1970, some 150,000 birds were killed for bounty.

If that wasn’t enough, ground nesting birds, the Kia are vulnerable to large ‘wipe out’  from  predator rodents when the beech mast is heavy. (It was not very long ago that the it was explained to me that ‘masting’  is a movable feast  and I call myself a country girl? )

Date:  08 April 2019 Source:  Office of the Minister of Conservation

Results from extensive seed sampling across the country in February and March point to the biggest beech mast for more than 40 years with exceptionally heavy seed loads in South Island forests. Rimu forests and tussock grasslands in the South Island are also seeding heavily.

Forest seeding provides a bonanza of food for native species but also fuels rodent and stoat plagues that will pose a serious threat to native birds and other wildlife as predator populations build up next spring and summer.

We saw evidence of this plague strolling in the forest near Arthur’s Pass, dozens and dozens of little rodents scampering across the path.

NZ rodent beech mast Arturs Pass

It was more  a climb than a stroll, through the forest. Stunningly beautiful.

NZ steps Arturs Pass 2

To the  Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall

NZ waterfall Arturs Pass 2

The Kia are curious and smart birds, they know, that wherever tourist are they are in with a chance of being fed, despite many notices explaining how this is not good for these rare birds.

So now to the most disturbing image of a Kia.  From the Department of Conservation social media feed.

My social media feed is awash with  birds,

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/03/study-finds-parrots-weigh-up-probabilities-to-make-decisions?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1_aJMi782ixSsngw7L0TYFsc0Al2cK5x60qY7DP5OYMekYPFIWUnUIj2w#Echobox=1583269684

And  penguins,  I had to share this, for Shoreacres 

And this because it made me smile. People who care for birds make me smile.