Most of the UK is experiencing a heatwave at the moment, I hope you’ve somewhere cool and comfortable to be. An old house with thick stone walls, small windows and perched on a hill, is a very fortunate place to be.
This is Chee Dale, a cool deep limestone dale in the White Pak area of the Peak district National Park.
Stepping stones, to the left, tucked under the overhanging rock, keep your feet dry when water is more plentiful and look at those lovely limestone bedding planes to the right. We like a limestone landscape.
The path can be a bit of a scramble in parts, stout footwear is required, especially when wet, the limestone can be fiendishly slippery.
We took the camper van out to stretch it’s legs, just a one nighter, not far, just a 30 minute drive into the White Peak, pretty much my old commute in days gone by. We’d made some repairs and alterations to the van since our last ‘big trip’ to Scotland in May, and we wanted to check things worked as intended, the leaky tap is no more, and the new fridge, has a TARDIS like capacity, it’s smaller than the old fridge and yet it can accommodate a four pint bottle of milk AND a bottle of wine in an upright position, no more fridge wrangling! Result.
And if that wasn’t enough van excitement, Mr Uphilldowndale used space gained by the smaller fridge to build a cutlery drawer. ‘Tis a thing of beauty, I’d share a video of me opening and closing it in sheer delight, if I’d fully mastered uploading videos on to this WordPress editor.
We visited the lovely village of Monyash had a delicious and leisurely brunch at The Old Smithy Cafe, a favourite coffee stop of Mr UHDD on his Sunday bike rides, we shared our table and travel tales with a motorbiking couple from the Midlands, before striking out to Chatsworth.
The centre of the village is always where the gossip is, here the now superseded phone box has been repurposed as a mini library, the post box still functions, but you won’t get as many collections these days. (At least this one hasn’t been stolen.) But it is still a place to stop for a chat.
Through the stile into the small enclosure is a clue to how this spot must have been a meeting place for hundreds of years, with what we took to be a capped well
We take turning on the tap for fresh water so much for granted. Getting water, must have consumed so much time and energy, especially in this part of the Peak District, where the porous limestone gobbles up rivers and streams. I really shouldn’t complain about a leaky tap.
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.
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
Maybe we should take a leaf (pun intended) out of the sycamore aphids book of social distancing. They seem to have it sussed.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Whilst I’d resigned myself to not being able to identify most of the wonderful birds we came across on our trip, and I’d no desire to go to see captive birds, we were agreed it was worthwhile putting some effort into seeing a couple of species we were unlikely to see anywhere else in the world.
Penguins were were in pole position. We were extremely lucky, whilst on a trip to Doubtful Sound, to see Fiordland Crested penguinn, look it’s here, in the centre of the photo, sat on a rock, can you see it?
I know, hardly a National Geographic image is it! But never mind, we got a better look with Mr Uphilldowndales binoculars, which were a gift from his employers for 30 years service, and are very useful for seeing into the future. */**
We tried again at Curio Bay. We waited, and waited as dusk fell, but they didn’t show.
We’d been told that the town of Oamaru held the best chance to see the Little Blue penguins,
I can’t think about the little blue penguins without out this song running on a loop in my head. Little blue, how do you do.
The town is very proud of its penguins, this ‘green box’ (utility box) made me smile.
Down by the waterfront we found one of the penguin wardens, clad in hi-vis vest, they were more than happy to tells us all they knew about their special residents. And tell us where to wait and how not to disturb them as they waddled back to their nests.
They come ashore in rafts, as in swimming together, not sitting on rafts! The thought of rafts coming ashore does kind of conjure up an image of something slow moving; wrong, they are more like little torpedoes!
It was too dark, to capture much in the way of images, as you can see. But I’m thrilled to say I saw them
And what’s more, a pair were nesting under some decking, very near where we were staying, and I drifted off to sleep that night, listening to their distinctive calls, (starts at 11 seconds)
Which was every bit as magical as the NZ dawn chorus.
*we forgot to take them out with us 75% of the times we needed them, on the Doubtful Sound trip we remembered them, but forgot the packed lunch!
**At Mr Uphilldowndale’s long service awards dinner, every employee at our table was, like Mr Uphilldowndale, working their notice, having been made redundant. It has to be said though, he’s never looked back.
30 years of employment with the same employer is a thing of the past I guess.
I’m bewitched by the birds too, there is something so endearing about them, they look so helpless I guess, it reminds me of childlike clinging of Australian Koalas, that we’ve seen so much footage of in the last few months, as the lucky ones were plucked from the bush fires. Who wouldn’t want to rescue them