Uphilldowndale

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


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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

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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

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I was especially taken with the baggage reclaim.

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

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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!

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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.

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The passengers disembark, take a selfie or two.

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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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Spud on tour

Did Spud the dog enjoy touring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way? (Well, the small part we managed, so much to see, do, and enjoy, we’ll be returning). Yes he did.

Spud beach

It’s twelve months now, since he broke his elbow in three places.  You can see his stance in this photo, it’s not perfect

 

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but he can steam around with all the enthusiasm you’d expect from a Springer, his mobility is far better than we could have ever imagined at the time of his accident. Surprisingly (to us, at least) his biggest issue from his accident has been his hip, which causes him some discomfort, we’d noticed just before his accident that he’s been running with a bunny hop and seemed to find stairs difficult, we discussed only days before that we perhaps ought to be taking him to the vets.  As it happen we’ve been to the vets a lot since then!

Spud has hip dysplasia, as do so many dogs. After his accident and surgery he had to have ‘crate rest’ for six weeks, and many months of little or no exercise, during this time he lost quite a bit muscle tone, and he’s struggles to use his leg as he should and keep its mobility. ‘Use it or lose it’ doesn’t really work for a dog, so he has physiotherapy and hydro-therapy, he’s less keen on the latter, He occasionally falls asleep during his physio sessions though, once the ‘uncomfortable’ bits are done. He’s a model patient.


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Always in the kitchen at parties?

More from our visit to Burghley House

It seems kitchens have always held an attraction, warmth, food, drink, what’s not to like.

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You’ve noticed the skulls? Turtles.

Now every piece of meat that passed through this kitchen would have been ‘headed up’ by a skull at some point, but obviously turtles were note worthy. In the 17th century turtle soup was  a very prestigious  dish to set before your guests. So much so, you’d have had a special dish from which to serve it.

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Turtles were shipped live to the UK, in specially built tanks and barrels onboard ship. I thought that must have been a bit grim. But  then a lot of things were at that time. 

It’s amazing that a new cook didn’t come along and say ‘for goodness sake, get those  ugly dusty old things out of my kitchen!’

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We don’t know how this chap arrived.

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We stayed in a holiday let on the estate, The Dairy, we were quite a crowd,  the Dairy can accommodate up to twenty guests; we were celebrating a special birthday.

Now think what an old dairy looks like, even if it is one on the estate of a stately home.  Now think again.

The Dairy

No one minded being in this kitchen, well actually there were two kitchens…  an heir and a spare of kitchens!

Sumptuous, and Spud the dog was a model guest, he took one look at the sofas and realised he hadn’t a cat in hells chance of being allowed on one, so he sprawled on the under heated floors instead and was content.

The Dairy 2

The Cross country course for the Burley Horse trials runs straight past the garden, you can hire The Dairy then if you like, and you can afford.  

Dairy 3

After three nights of excellent company food and wine, none of us were quite ready to go home to our own kitchens.

 

 


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Generous Hospitality

Continuing our visit to Flanders Fields

 

The people of  the beautiful town of Ypres, were warm and welcoming.

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The town was completely restored after the Great War, it had to be.

 

Photo, City of Vancouver Archives

 

At the centre of the market square is the Cloth Hall,  the clock tower was having a bit of maintenance.

 

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I thought it a very slender scaffold tower, glad to see it was well tied in to the building. It’s a long way down for a comfort break!

 

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I’m more used seeing building sites like this secured, I’m sure if you tried this at home, some likely lad, would think it a blast to scamper up after a few pints!  The footings looked quite relaxed too…

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I’ve hardly any photos of the town, my planned day of  mooching around the streets, camera in hand was scuppered by a dramatic drop in temperature that left us scampering between coffee shops and museums  dodging the icy winds, others have done better than me .

Such a shame the day before had been a beautiful spring day, Spud the dog who came along for his first overseas trip had been lapping up the sun and watching the world go by from his favourite spot in the van

Ypres spud

 

Spud had to have a visit to the vets whilst in Ypres, to have a worming tablet, a statutory requirement if he was to allowed back into the UK and to be marked on his pet passport. We found the vets online before we left home,  the appointment was made by email and it was all very straight forward, and for Spud who has seen more than his fair share of vets over the last few months,  he thought it rather swish and he was more than happy to escape with just a tasty tablet.

 

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We were a bit perplexed the evening before, when we looked down the street where we thought the vets was located, it was all very traditional and looked residential rather than commercial, but in the daylight when the shutters were up we discovered that to accommodate the need for more modern space in such a carefully protected townscape, the façade of buildings are preserved, meanwhile  the walls within are a totally reworked space across several buildings, here at the vets, a carpark is on the lower floor with a sweeping ramp up to the glass walled offices and consulting rooms on the first floor.

 

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I wondered what it was like to live in a town with the legacy of remembrance tourism, tricky sometimes maybe?

But the hospitality we received was generous to say the least, here is a chicken pie, that we ordered ‘to share’  between two of us.

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It goes without saying that Belgium beer is good, and the  chocolate is divine, the scent of which wafts along the main square,

 

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judging by the state of this  last photo, I  obviously took it after the beer,


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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!’