Uphilldowndale

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


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Purakaunui Bay

More from our travels in New Zealand, November 2019 

One of the joys of travelling with Tom through South Island was his knowledge and network. He’d plenty of places he wanted to show us, and plenty that his mates thought we should be taking a look at.  If he didn’t know the answer he could find it in a jiffy, assuming there was some mobile reception!

This is Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins Coastal Area 

NZ Purakaurui_

We stayed on the Department of Conservation Campsite, just rock up and drop a registration form and cash in the box*

Here is our pitch, and our  hire van for the trip.

Quiet site_

It must have been a bit of a culture shock for Tom having not seen us for 23 months, to then share a van with us for two weeks. He survived, making himself a den on the double bed above the cab, we pitched camp at the back of the van.

New Zealand is geared towards campervans ( Scotland’s The North Cost 500 route, could learn a thing or two from the Kiwis).  Our van had a loo and shower, hob, fridge etc, and could sleep six, but that might be a bit of a pinch, and test most relationships!

For Freedom camping Campervans need to have a ‘Certified Self Containment‘ certificate, to show they mange their own water and waste needs for a minimum of three days. Just about every village/town has a public dump station where you can empty your tanks, and even the most basic of campsites had a ‘long-drop’ loo at the very least. (NZ toilets need a post to themselves, believe me, I was so impressed).

On the beach we found what we first thought were logs, but turned out to be seals

NZ DOC campsite_

They might have well been logs for the amount they moved though, I was hoping for a nice video taken from the discrete safety of the dunes. (You don’t want to get the wrong side of a seal I’m reliably informed by a wise women).  It seemed like mum and pup had a belly full of fish and milk respectively, and were only interested in sleeping and the odd shuffle and scratch in the sand.

NZ DOC Seal ans cub_

At one side of the bay are limestone cliffs,  with trees not so much windswept as impaled on the rock face,

NZ Purakaurui Bay trees

I’m not sure this counts as adrystone wall for my collection, more of a retaining wall maybe?

NZ DOC drystone wall_

At the other side is a geologist dream of lava formations.

NZ Purakaurui Bay Lava 4

Everywhere you go in NZ are the reminders that its  geological power and might are not so very far away.

*we were rubbish at having the right cash (or any cash) available at campsites! A little forethought is required.  There is, other than places like this little call for cash, everywhere takes cards.


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The road ahead

With all good wishes for 2020, health and happiness to you and yours.

May your travels be smoothRoad ahead NZ

Kohatu-Kawatiri Highway, from Hope Saddle lookout, Glenhope, South Island, New Zealand

It’s been an eventful year, we’ve visited some amazing places,  from the Outer Hebrides, to New Zealand.  There have been worrying times,  like when the dam above our village came perilously close to failing, with risk to life and property. And sadness too, with my brothers untimely death whilst we were away in New Zealand.  New years eve would have been his 69th birthday, so yesterday was a day of reflection rather than celebration.

 


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Sleeping with corncrakes

It was one of my Hebridean holiday aspirations to see a corncrake, a secretive little bird, that at one time used to live in our meadow,  here in  north Derbyshire so Freddy the farmer told me.

Killed off: The Corncrake

Freddy was born around 1920, and farmed from this house until the 1970’s, when during that life time the corncrakes disappeared from our meadow, I don’t know, but I do know that there are now only  just over a thousand calling males (and hopefully a similar number of females) in the UK. The birds demise has been a result of changes in farming practice, and the birds reluctance to break cover when the grass is mown, you can guess the rest.

One of the best places to find them is the islands of the Outer Hebrides, where much work is being done to give them the best chance of breeding safely.

One you’ve heard a corncrake, you will know its call forever.

We heard plenty but didn’t see a one.  They favour clumps of nettles and long grass.  I spent a long time staring at clumps of nettles, knowing the blighters were in there.

what no corncrake.jpg

They’d lure you in with a call, then fall silent for fifteen minutes or so, then, just as you were starting to think you’d move on they’d give another rasping call.

The best time to see and hear them, is at dusk, or dawn, or just after it has rained. the problem with dusk and dawn in the Outer Hebrides in June, is that dusk is very late and dawn is  very early.  We heard plenty, especially around four am. I have the badge to prove it.

I slept with corncrakes!

A calling corncrake is a lullaby I can sleep with.

 

 


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Riparian

Where the peaty brown river meets the sea.

Barra river meets sea

Where the water flowing from the flanks of Beinn Mhartainn, on Barra, meets the sea.  I thought there must be a special word , for when a river meets the sea, but I could only find estuary, which just didn’t seem to capture the moment, so I’ve gone with riparian, which means located by the banks of a river , stream or other body of water.  (Is this where ‘rip tides’ come from?)

Barra river meets sea 2

I’m sure that this rich mahogany coloured water is the kind of thing that must enhance the flavour of whiskey? But I can only find references to the use of peat in the process of distilling whiskey, not the water that goes into it..

Mr Uphilldowndale took to rock hopping, and pretending to make a beach landing.  Spud the dog and I kept our feet and the camera kit dry.

Island hopping Barra

 

 


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Travel Arrangements

There’s more than one way to arrive at the Outer Hebrides,  we sailed, from Oban to to Castlebay on the island of Barra, but not before we had a very tasty lunch at the cafe at the ferry terminal, lovely food, delivered by lovely people, I had a bowl of cullen skink, delicious, safe in the knowledge the weather was fair and we were in for a smooth passage, it probably wouldn’t  be the best dish for heavy seas! Spud the dog is pretty chilled about ferry crossings, he stays in the van on the car deck, but there is a lounge on the ferry where you can be with your pets for the passage, but we think he’s happiest in his home on wheels and it avoids him having to navigate the precipitous stairs between decks.

But back to Barra, you can if you wish arrive by air

Plane Sign .JPG

If the tide is out. Barra Airport

It is the only airport in the world, that has a scheduled service that lands on the beach. Barra airport is compact and bijou. Its been voted the second most scenic airport in the world

Barra airport tide in_

I was especially taken with the baggage reclaim.

Baggage reclaim_

And my many friends who like a Landrover, will be taken with the fire engine.

Barra Airport fire engine_

It also has a cafe, I’d been told  in advance about its legendary fish and chips. But we were out of luck, I was gutted, it was to be a reoccurring theme.

Fish supper

We waited for the flight to arrive, there is something that feels very wrong about standing in the path of an aeroplane as it comes into land!

Barra beach take landing 3

Plenty of spray, you probably don’t want to buy a second-hand plane from this route!(All that salty water can’t be good for the mechanical bits).

Barra beach take landing spray

It taxis up to the door, and the ground crew attend.

Barra beach landing_

The passengers disembark, take a selfie or two.

Barra beach landing passengers_

Things that need to be done for the return flight are swiftly attended to, and away they go again, before the tide comes in.

Barra beach take off prep

You can watch a landing, they are using one of the two other ‘runways’, landing across the beach rather than up the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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At a crossroad

I’m still here, not that you would think so, from the lack of posts.

I’ve been busy putting a project to bed, its nearly done now, I’ve only a couple of days work left to do. What next, I don’t know,  I suppose you could say I’m at a small career crossroad .

20190522-IMG_4648.jpg

This extravagance of signage for a modest little junction, is at Wetton Mill in the Manifold Valley


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You have reached your destination

We meandered our way through Shropshire, and the South Wales coalfields, to reach Cardiff, our boy Joe has been working in Cardiff on his industry placement year, what a cracking time he’s been having (he’s studying civil engineering at Swansea University). There is a very handy campsite, near the city centre, (book it is you can it is fully booked more often than not) this allowed us to catch up (and feed, what student doesn’t want mum and dad to turn up and take them out for dinner?) with Joe in the evenings and we got to have a good mooch around the city, with Spud the dog, close at hand.

We were on the doorstop of The Museum of Wales, at opening time, along with a large number of school parties, but we were swift of foot, and savvy to getting ahead of school parties, before teacher could raise their clipboard, we were off and in, to see astronaut Tim Peake’s *landing capsule, which has been touring the UK, it’s got a bit of a Sutton Hoo look about it, in the background, the parachute with which it drifted down to earth or came down with a bump, depending whose story you believe.

Tim Peake 8

It was very well lit, so you could see inside, not much room to swing a cat…

Tim 1_

it looks kind of basic doesn’t it, compared to the smart phone or tablet you might be reading this blog on?

Tim Peake 4

We were comforted to see, that if all else fails, there is a ring bider or two you can refer to for instructions what to do next.

Tim Peake 5

Not sure how you recharge it though.

Tim Peake 2

It looks like it took a bit of a knock, I’m sure a bit of body filler or gaffer tape would sort it though, no harm done.

Tim Peake 3

https://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2016/06/Soyuz_TMA-19M_landing

*Tim Peak is a bit of a hero in our books, not only for what he did in space, but with what he continues to do educating  and encouraging young people into studying  STEM  sciences and with his involvement of  The Scout Association