Uphilldowndale

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


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The Hoard

Having visited Soho House, we headed back into the centre of Birmingham, to dry out and warm up with lunch at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the museum is a one of those classical buildings,  built when such cities were rich and philanthropists gave generously. Its galleries have high lantern windows in the roof, and it being such a grey day, there were times some of the galleries felt a little dreary, I wanted to ‘put the big light on’!

But there was no shortage of bright shiny things in what we had come specifically to see,  Staffordshire Hoard,  some of the 4,0000 items, from the sixth and seventh century AD, found by a metal detectorist in a field, nr Litchfield in Staffordshire.  My photos are somewhat dismal, as per the light, so I’ll direct you to the excellent website for the find

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The craftsmanship in these items is astounding, I was blown away by it; over 3,500 garnets, from the Czech Republic and Indian subcontinent, delicate braided gold and gold foil  what puzzles me is how on earth the makers managed to see to do this work, what tools do you use to slice garnets in to wafer thin slices, and then place them over gold foil, to make them sparkle? They must have had perfect vision, no glasses or magnification and no ‘big light’ would have been available, they must surely have all been under the age of 40, to see what they were doing, they’d have had to perfect their craft from an early age? (Mind you, I don’t imagine life expectancy was very long either!)

What a find for the detectorist and the farmer who owned the field! There was a fear once the significance and scale of the find started to emerge, that the finds might fall victim to Nighthawkes, who would plunder the items for their value as scrap, what a tragedy that would have been, so as a deterrent, whilst the archaeological dig was underway a rumour was allowed to grow that it was a police murder investigation that was going on in the field.

We’d rather like it if another series of The Detectorist, would return, a rare, gentle and rather lovely drama, set in ploughed fields, and the  accompanying music is all of those things too.

 

 

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The sum of the parts.

We’ve been been travelling around a bit over the last few months, and it’s time I caught up with my blog posts.

We took the train to Birmingham, to visit Soho House, Soho House was home to the entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, from 1766 to 1809,  it was January, it was raining, we didn’t linger on the outside, so here is sunny photo, to get you in the right frame of mind. Rather elegant isn’t it?Soho house Copy

Matthew Boulton, was a member of the Lunar Society

Soho House was also a favourite meeting place of the Lunar Society, a leading Enlightenment group. The Lunar Society would meet every month on the night of the full moon to dine, conduct experiments, and discuss philosophical matters of the day.

Members of the society included Erasmus Darwin, James Watt and Joseph Priestly who all gathered around the Lunar Room table and engaged in a lively exchange of ideas which inspired many new discoveries and inventions.

They would meet in this room

Soho house 5

To dine

Soho house 4

and no doubt have a glass of wine or two

Soho house 3

They were an amazing group of people. One of Mr Uphilldowndale’s ancestors was a member.

They were led by the larger-than-life physician Erasmus Darwin, a man of extraordinary intellectual insight with his own pioneering ideas on evolution. Others included the flamboyant entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, the brilliantly perceptive engineer James Watt whose inventions harnessed the power of steam, the radical polymath Joseph Priestley who, among his wide-ranging achievements discovered oxygen, and the innovative potter and social reformer Josiah Wedgwood. Their debates brought together philosophy, arts, science and commerce, and as well as debating and discovering, the ‘Lunarticks’ also built canals and factories, managed world-class businesses — and changed the face of Birmingham.

It seemed there was nothing they weren’t interested or curious about, this is one of Boulton’s creations, made from Derbyshire Blue John stone,  I have a little Blue John, but nothing on this scale!

Soho house 1

This is Boulton’s study, where they conducted experiments and studied fossils,

Soho house 7.jpg

I suppose those evenings must have looked something like this! (with added dramatic lighting)

Fixed size image

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

as this painting is by one of the Lunar Society members, Joseph Wright of Derby. Note the moon visible through the window.


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Thinking of you, New Zealand

There are no words, for such atrocities.  They are beyond reason.

tree fern B&W

Dicksonia squarrosa, New Zealand Tree Fern

Our son Tom is living and working in NZ at the moment,  I’d kind of thought of it as a ‘safe place’ for his travels, but the world is not like that is it?  Just wishful thinking from a mum on the other side of the globe.

I have a brooch, a special present from my mum, made by a New Zealand artist Denna Gracie, who is based in Christchurch,  it’s inscribed with the Maori word Aroha,  

Aroha-2

Aroha, means love, compassion, or affectionate regard.  It seems appropriate for today, as is  the Kiwi expression Kia Kaha, stay strong. 

 

 

 

 


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There it was, gone.

There it was gone. Is that an expression local to North Derbyshire? Something that appears briefly and then disappears…

The blue skies and warm sun have gone and we are now expecting storm Freya to arrive on Sunday. Whilst it was very enjoyable, in a world of shifting weather patterns, it was also a little disconcerting for  a few days in February to be so mild, this time last year we had the Beast from the East

But  before the cloud came we had more visitors to the pussy willow,  a comma butterfly

Comma_

Who had a very neat vanishing trick up its sleeve. Now you see me, now you don’t.

Comma underside_

The Comma is a fascinating butterfly. The scalloped edges and cryptic colouring of the wings conceal hibernating adults amongst dead leaves, while the larvae, flecked with brown and white markings, bear close resemblance to bird droppings.

The species has a flexible life cycle, which allows it to capitalize on favourable weather conditions. However, the most remarkable feature of the Comma has been its severe decline in the twentieth century and subsequent comeback. It is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.

I might be a bit slow on the uptake, but it wasn’t until recently I realised that some butterflies over winter, I assumed that they emerged from their chrysalis in the spring.

Wrong, this is how the comma butterfly spends its year6.comma

We’ve been busy bees, having a serious clear out of our barn,

Pussy willow bee

well its actually turned into a kind of archaeological dig, so much stuff! It was during this process, we found lots of hibernating butterfly tucked away behind old cupboards and pieces of timber, sadly I also found a lot of dismembered wings! I suppose a spider needs to eat.


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Blue is the colour

It’s February, it’s not supposed to be this warm and sunny.  Nature is a little confused.

The pussy willow, has never been so big bold and fluffy,

pussy willow feast 5

its offered a feast for the insects over the last few days.

pussy willow feast

Blue and orange was always going to strike the right note.

pussy willow feast 4

It was so still and quiet this afternoon, you could hear every contended buzz and hum.

pussy willow feast 2


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The Luxury of Lux

The sun shone brightly today, it’s been so grey, I was quite giddy with it.

Tulips on my desk glowed

tulip sunlight

The hazel catkins, as hot as mustard

hazel catkins_

Pussy willow, shooting stars against a deep blue sky.

pussy willow star light

The Christmas lights in the kitchen window (I can never bring myself to take down all the lights, until at least late January, I need  a little sparkle on the darkest days) caught the sunlight and were truly solar powered

solar powered fair lights

Then in a magical moment they flashed a rainbow  across the kitchen sink to the north side of the house.

rainbow and the kitchen sink

(These swift  light markers of the changes of the seasons, we call ‘sun on the lintel’ moments).

Hummm, the light  also indicated that a little house work might be in order, cobwebs on the fireplace,cobweb fire place.jpg

but that can wait. I’m off out into the sunshine.