Uphilldowndale

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


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Tomb of the Eagles

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney landscape_

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_16

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, and August, I’m so,so tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

Tomb of the Eagles, (or less dramatically, Isbister Chambered Cairn)  was on our ‘must do’ list for our visit to Orkney, having watched a TV documentary about its  archaeological importance.  The visit starts at the visitor centre (not surprisingly) and  what I liked about this, was how you are allowed to handle some of the exhibits, to hold a five thousand year old Stone age axe in your hand and feel its balance, is quite something, something that you can never get a handle on from seeing it exhibited in a glass cabinet. 

After our tour of the centre, the tomb is accessed by a  mile long walk along a track, passing as you go, another significant bit of archaeology  a Bronze age mound of burnt stone, a modest 3,000 years old

Burnt Mound Orkney_

Mr Uphilldowndale was a little puzzled that I seemed more interested in photographing the plants than ancient relics, I pointed out that this plant, and I don’t know what it is, looked as thought it might have been hanging out here since the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

spiky plant Orkney

It was late when we arrived at the tomb, the visitor centre had closed behind us, and we were free to take a look inside the tomb at our leisure, in a kind of ‘let yourself in, the doors on the latch’ way (lovely bit of drystone walling here).

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney entrance 2

In reality you enter the tomb, on a little bogie cart, 

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney entrance_

My photos in the tomb, don’t do it justice, I’ll admit, being on the slightly claustrophobic spectrum, I happier outside than in, so I didn’t hang around for long.  As last visitors of the day, I didn’t fancy being entombed for the night. The tomb is divided into stalls, by stone orthostats (love that word, hard to drop into conversation though) the remains of the sea eagles and 341 humans have long since been removed to safety.

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney 2

It was cool, dark and had an unusual earthy kind of smell,  but what did I expect of a tomb

Mr Uphilldowndale kindly demonstrated the technique for entry and exit

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney 4

The return walk, takes you along the edge of the  South Ronaldsay cliffs, where there were beautiful flowers

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney Squill 2

as blue as the surrounding sea

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney sea

in places the flowers were named with tags, a lovely touch,  by the Simison family, a family (dad, discovered the tomb, fifty years ago) that values the sharing of information about this special place. The plastic tags did seem a little incongruous to me though, maybe wood or even written on stone would have been more fitting, you know I fret about plastic and the sea.

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney Squill

By the time we returned to the van, it was just us and the rabbits, and maybe, soaring on the wind, the spirits of the eagles, looking for a tasty rabbit,

Rabbit Orkney_

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Lichen

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_08

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July!) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

Lichen, a symbiosis between fungi and alga.   The islands of Orkney have the most sumptuous lichen I’ve ever seen 

Lichen Wall Orkney_

I’ll not pretend to try and understand of identify them, the most accessible information I could find is on The Woodland Trust website, which is ironic because if there is one thing Orkney is in short supply of its trees. 

Lichens are often an indicator air quality and pollution. The leafy and beardy species being the most fragile, in their response to the air quality.

lichen wall 3_

I can confirm the air on Orkney is palpable in its freshness, its a  striking feature of the islands; as is the quietness (apart from the  gorgeous, gorgeous,birdsong)

Lichen_

its’ a quietness that presses on the eardrum, as unfamiliar with this void of noise, it seems to scan for familiar sounds amongst the white noise of wind, sea and birdsong

lichen wall 4

Orkney has so much archaeology it makes it your head spin.  It has standing stones a plenty. The perfect host for a colonisation of lichen

lichen standing stones 3

  In close view they look like maps of different worlds, which I suppose they are.

lichen standing stones 2

There was a time when man  deemed a good idea to clean the precious stones of lichen.  The lichen fought back.

lichen standing stones

They  also takes hold of more contemporary standing stones

grave stone lichen_


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Tight Fit

A second belated post from our weekend, back in November in the Yorkshire Dales . We went to

Hawes 2

There was still snow about.  Yorkshire drystone walls have different coping stones than Derbyshire walls

Hawes

You don’t often see paved foot paths around here either, we were glad of them though, it was very wet and muddy.

Yorkshire stiles 3

The stile however posed a bit of a problem for Spud, they are obviously built for Yorkshire terriers, or maybe Whippets, but not Springer spaniels

Yorkshire stiles_

Poor Spud, he needed a lift.

Yorkshire stiles 2

the local  working dogs have got it sussed though. Gates open for them.

Hitching a ride


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Magpie Mine

Magpie mine, an ancient and historic lead mine, near Sheldon in the Peak District, here having a bit of a winter solstice type moment. 

Magpie Mine sun flare 2

Lead smelting has been going on in Derbyshire for 3500 years  It a fascinating place,  let me give you a tour round, but let’s take care.

 Magpie Mine Notice_

There is something about the place that doesn’t feel quite right, I think it is the lack of accoutrements to the working life that once thrived here. It would have teamed with life,  there would have been noise, smoke, the rattle of harnesses as horses turned the gin wheel. But now It does feel rather eerie.

Magpie Mine buildings  2

You can almost feel the life it once had but not quite. It’s as though there is a life inside and below that we can never know.

Magpie Mine Back lit window_

Something going on behind these locked doors.

Magpie Mine door

As though the shadow of the gallows frame, might start to turn.

Magpie Mine Back Pit Head Shadows_

Mr Uphilldowndale however is less fanciful than me, he wants me to point out to you, how the lower section of  the chimney in this image is out of plumb* and when a later  brick extension to top has been built they’ve built it vertically, he’s forever the engineer.

Magpie Mine Laning Chimney_

We both admired the tunnel flu to this chimney, now partially collapsed

chimney magpie mine_

we admired the view too

Engine shed  magpie mine_

All around the site are the remnants of spoil from the mine, a bing 

 Magpie Mine Gate Spoil Heaps_

Spoil from lead mines, still poses a problem for farmers, and can kill livestock .  You can often see  clusters of trees, usually with walls around them,

spoil trees wall Magpie mine

the trees to cover the spoil with their roots,  and the walls as an added deterrent to livestock

 trees wall Magpie mine

Nature takes its course though and flowers and plants grow here that can tolerate the toxicity of the soil ‘metallophytes’,

plants such as the nationally scarce spring sandwort (known locally as leadwort) and alpine penny cress, and Pyrenean

survy grass and mountain pansy.

sky magpie mine_

 

*Plumb, did you see what I did there? [Middle English, lead, a plumb, from Old French plomb, from Latin plumbum, lead.]

17/2/16 Edit…   Lost and now found, the link that has to go with this post,  Peak District Mines Historical Society


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Out early, and down the dale

I decided to set out to work early this morning, so I could factor a walk into my day.

I met a bunny before I could get the camera out of the bag

Walk to work bunny_

The majority of the cows were still in the milking parlour

Walk to work cow

There some beautiful bees and colourful thistles

Walk to work bees

It was all rather glorious

Walk to work 2

The walls meandered as much as I did

Walk to work walls

a view down  the dale, Chee Dale to be precise

Walk to work Chee Dale_

I’m still after that elusive crisp wagtail shot.

Walk to work wagtail


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Thirty days wild. June 25th

The best thing that you can do for nature is too make it part of your life. That’s why we’re asking thousands of people to make room for nature in their everyday lives this June. Please spread the word amongst friends, colleagues and family and get them to sign up, too! After all, all our lives are better if they’re a bit wild… ‘

I’ve signed up to 30 Days Wild with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust,  with the aim of blogging each day, a little bit of the nature of my world.

I thought this a wall must have been a labour of love, such small slender stones, its not far from a quarry, maybe it was made with ‘free spoil’ that were too small for other tasks? I must take this blog on an away day to the National Stone Centre, its near Wirksworth

drystone wall 2


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A Reflective Walk

Loweswater-3

I’m not doing very well at posting, after my promise. Not to worry, I’ll get there, it may take a wee while to find my  blogging mojo. I’ve all sorts of adventures stacking up ready, just waiting.

I mentioned whilst the fell race was on, I took a stroll along the shores of Loweswater, en route I stopped to watch the fish, suspended in pools of sunshine, seemingly motionless in the flowing water, it is easier to see the shadow than the fish itself.fish river

I admired a handsome doocot*

doocot 

And look, a fine drystone wall and gateway, becomes something quite magical, by the addition of an over arching span of  Cumbrian slate.

stone arch

I listened to the cows, with their methodical munching and tearing of sward, they may get bad press from time to time, and deservedly so, but I’ve an affection for them.

cattle

In the wood, foxgloves  swayed and cow parsley effervesced in the scattered sunlight.

foxgloves in glade_

At the waters edge, I found a swing.

swing @ loweswater_

I had a go at finding my inner child, but concluded that the child needed to concentrate on having a good time. Play on the swing, or take photographs, it isn’t wise to try and combine the two. I have the bruises to prove it. 

selfie @ loweswater_

*it is 23 years since I lived in Scotland, but some words stay with me in  the Scots dialect, swithering, dreek, and poly-poke are a few of my favourites.