Uphilldowndale

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


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On the home front

 

I hope you guys are all OK, I’ve not managed to find my blogging mojo through the last three weeks.  I’ve not really been able to concentrate on much to be honest, I’ve not read a single book.  I’ve made a lot of soup, which comforts twice I always find, its soothing to prepare and to eat, and fills the kitchen with homely cooking aromas.

Outside spring it carrying on a pace, and as far as the garden is concerned I’m not keeping pace!

We’ve Joe is home with us, from what was to have been his final months of study in Swansea, we did a round trip in a day, to gather  up both him and his worldly goods before lock-down. Poor Spud the dog, he was bewildered, he spent over 12 hours in the camper van, and ended up back where he started, without so much as a grain of sand between his toes.  Tom is locked down in Wanaka in New Zealand,  I try not to think about the fact we couldn’t get on a plane and go to him, or he to us if the need arose. But I know he’s in a good place with good mates, and a country that didn’t falter to put it’s citizens health first.

Here are some sunny New Zealand Lupins

Yellow Lupin_

We’re keeping our heads down, and feeling very lucky indeed to have the space both indoors and out for it not to be too claustrophobic.  We’ve been alarmed by the numbers of people that came to Derbyshire and the Peak District, we’d like to keep the numbers down.

Suspension bridge New Zealand

NZ bridge x10

Stay safe xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i thought I’d share a sunny


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Picture perfect

More of our New Zealand travels,  November 2019

Wanaka

Having flown for 28 hours, it was good to arrive ( flying  Manchester, Dubai, Sydney, Sydney to Queenstown) With two hour stops at Dubai and Sydney, there wasn’t much hanging about and all went as smoothly as it could. I concluded that a kind of ‘shut down’ of the brain was required, I couldn’t concentrate to read, so I watched a lot of film, TV and listened to podcasts,  the £25 noise cancelling headphone were a godsend, than you Mrs B for the tip.

I’ll have to grab the photos of our planes decent into Queenstown  off Mr Uphilldowndale’s phone. What a way to arrive.

It’s not hard to see why our boy has fallen in love with this place.

NZ Lake Wanaka framed_

The following day we had breakfast at the Waters Edge Hotel, the first of many memorable meals of the trip. NZ does food, coffee and wine with aplomb.

Tom drove us out to Mount Aspiring National Park, it wasn’t long before we were forging through fords and on unsealed road, that were altogether less potholed than than the A roads we’d left behind in Derbyshire .

NZ dusty road

It was positively Alpine

Wanaka cool feet

But with attitude, this looks like a high octane way to spend your weekends,  jet boating.

Wanaka power boat

And relax, the adventure, months in the planning has arrived.

Andy and Sam NZ Mt Aspiring NP

 

 


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Tasty blue sky

It’s a much welcome bright day here in Derbyshire,  one in which I shall try and  in gather all the lumens I can.  You never know how long it might be before the next sunny day.

Here are some some sunny blue sky photos from our New Zealand trip (November 2019), with complementary flash of orange for added zing.

A walk by the Clutha river, at Albert Town, nr Wanaka.  Look, lupins, Tom had promised me there would be lupins ( a photogenic but invasive bloom, but more of that later).

NZ Albert Town Cultha river canoe.jpg

Aren’t these poppies delicious

NZ Albert Town Cultha river poppies

There was a cloud in the blue sky,  but what a handsome  cloud. I think it is a Lenticularis cloud,  but you’d probably have to ask The Cloud Appreciation Society for a definitive answer.

Albert Town Lenticular_

And if this wasn’t tasty enough we followed up with lunch at Pembroke Patisserie,  I don’t know which  herb or spice they season their spinach and feta rolls with, but it make them sing.  So much so we had to go back again another day.

Tom tells me  how grim the weather has been over Wanaka, with the smoke clouds from Australia. It’s hard to imagine the scale of the  Australian bush fires, but to put a little perspective on it,  Sydney to New Zealand is a three hour flight (NZ is not quite ‘next door’ to Australia as we Poms  are sometimes guilty of thinking).  You are in our thoughts Australia.

 


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The Christmas post

If Christmas is a little bit messy, that’s OK.

Christmas card 11.5p Smantha .jpg

I’ve enjoyed  making some of my Christmas cards from stack of vintage postcards I found in a second hand book shop inKeswick, they are reproductions of stamps issued by the post office in the 1970s and 80s. Some had a Christmas theme, like the one above, published in 1981 I wonder what Samantha Brown is up to now, I hope she is still having as much fun with paint as she did back in 1981?

There were some very pretty ones. Christmas card golden apple 1980

This was a favourite

Christmas card 12p 1980

Some were not seasonal at all. I just chose them because they had a link to interests and hobbies of the intended recipient.

We’ve a friend. MR, who is a postal historian, I was delighted to find a postcard for him that celebrated postal history.  Spot on, couldn’t be better.

Every year we always await eagerly  the arrival of MR’s Christmas card to us, as we are curios to see what combination of  stamps he has used,  they are never recent issues, and often include 1/2p  denominations, I guess they must raise an eyebrow or too in the sorting office, they make us smile, we try to reciprocate, I’ve even added a Greenshield stamps   to his card before now, along with the correct postage, of course.

I wasn’t very quick off the mark, making or sending these cards this year, I didn’t start making them until after my brothers funeral.  

One card I was delighted to find was of an old English Sheepdog, it was the perfect one for a friend who is mourning the loss of his own dog of the same breed.

Meanwhile our card from MR landed on the door mat, bearing the very same postage  stamp as the postcard I’d just written and was about send.

OES

Shall we calculate the odds on that happening? Or shall we stick to stamp collecting?

Happy Christmas one and all.


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The other side of the world.

It’s been a while since I posted, not since mid October in fact.  We’ve been away, a long way away. We’ve been to New Zealand to visit Tom, he’s been living and working there for the last couple of years.

My goodness New Zealand is a beautiful country. Lake Wanaka trees NZLake Wanaka

Sadly, whilst we were away, my brother passed away; when I heard the news, I felt every one of those many, many miles away from my family.

I was comforted to be able to be home for his funeral, which took place yesterday.

Since we’ve been home, the the  Whakaari (White Mountain)  volcano has erupted, with devastating consequences   I’m thinking of the families of those who died and those that face life changing injuries.

I’ve much I’d like to tell you about our time in New Zealand,  but for the moment, I’ll just leave this quiet, reflective post here.


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Where did you get that cone?

In a nod back to my recent post about the thriftiness (and sheds) of our fathers, I thought I’d share this ingenious use of a road cone.  My father would have approved of its reincarnation as a downspout from a barn roof.

Rain cone 2_

When you need a road cone,  for use in the road, they are as rare as hens teeth. I’ve sat in on countless discussions of where we might source some cones for use at community events, the County Council nor the police will let theirs out of their sight (hummm, maybe that’s because they end up as downspouts?) That’s if they have any budget to buy them with in the first place.

It takes divine intervention to find cones for loan. 

Sunday Special Jesus Road cone_

Maybe there needs to be a redistribution of  cone wealth?

Coned off

 

 


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Shed or shrine, a place to tinker

Tinkering in the shed (well a garage, actually) my late father did a lot of that. It was his happy place.  When I saw this video I was so moved, not just by the dedication of Lee John Phillips, skill and determination to record the contents of his grandfathers shed, no, it was the Flora margarine tubs with there handwritten scrawly labels, that caught my breath.  My Dad did that. I can feel the brittleness of  each tub,  see the aged  yellowing plastic, the presence of its weighty load of rusty screws.

 

Dad’s garage may have looked chaotic to the uninitiated, but it had a filing system as complex as a giant Amazon warehouse,  just minus a robot.   It was all in Dad’s head.

When Mum died five years ago, and we set about the task of  clearing the family home, my siblings and I were pretty confident, we’d got the garage sussed, Dad pre-deceased mum by 18 years and a couple of years after he died, we’d hired a skip (at a price that would have horrified my him) to dispose of all those important little things he’d been saving just in case. Screws, wingnuts, little slithers of Formica, rubber belts and brushes. Old keys and watch faces. Tobacco tins and string. Bits and pieces that would have saved him a penny or two, and given him the priceless satisfaction of making and fixing.  At the time the task seemed never ending, my brother installed greedy boards on the skip as it started to overflow.

The task wasn’t as dangerous as dealing with his secret hoard of home brew,

home brewBut the second wave of garage clearing revealed  more stuff and memories than we’d bargained for (I saved this WWII ammunition box, and a selection of tools for Joe, they cleaned up nicely).

Dad's amo box_

I’m glad I took some photographs, drawing every item would have been beyond me in both skill and time. We’d kind of forgotten how ingenious some of Dad’s creations were, a tad Heath Robinson at times, but he made what he’d got, work for him (here, on the right, a device for trimming the climbing rose around the front door)

Dad's clippers

Dad often made his own tools, the childhood swing that he made for me, would disappear from time to time, seconded into the garage, to be used to support a pulley to lift out car engines, just as he designed and fabricated it to do.

As the world starts to realise the necessity of Reduce Reuse and Recycle, I can think how wrong I was, Dad was ahead of his time not behind it.

 

 


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Dam of emotions

It’s been a difficult time. When the dam of our local reservoir, Toddbrook, started to fail on Thursday 1st of August, it was deeply worrying. I was very close to the dam, when events started to unfold. As the first emergency response was arriving, this is what I saw; brown fluid, like clay slip, flowing from under the spillway, and concrete plates, lifted up above the retaining wall at the edge of the spillway. My spine froze. I took this photo on my phone, my hand shaking and left quickly.

Toddbrook mobile

I felt sure that the only way to fix this would be drop the water behind where it was leaking. In the mean time, the breach would be washing away the dam, which has clay at its core. It was a terrifying thought. The water gathering pace and driving more and more stability away.  I also felt sure they would have to evacuate the town.

My very physical reaction to the risk came I think, not from the fact my family is awash with engineers, but simply years of summer holidays watching the boys dam the river on Mill Bay beach in Devon, not for hours, but for days, till their hand were blistered, their cries and shouts as the dam started to fail, ‘Come on you guys, it’s going!’ Joe would yell* and they would all pile in to try and save it with spades and chunks of driftwood as the sand and water swirled away down the beach.  I guess I’m a visual thinker, but the magnitude of what could happen to Whaley Bridge was there in a heartbeat and did not leave me for the next six days..

It didn’t take me many minutes to get home, well up into the hills above the town.  The police were closing roads behind me as I left, I tried to compose myself, I rang Mr Uphilldowndale to tell him. I got through to his answerphone and left a tearful panicky message.

This video show the early response and the work that went on through the night.

 

At 5am the next morning, just 14 hours after the town had been evacuated an RAF Chinook helicopter was bringing bags of stone into shore up the dam.  Working to photos provided by the engineers they skilfully places the bags, where X marked the spot. I watched as they dropped bags into slit on the right hand side of the concrete kerb at the edge of the spillway. I watched 11 tonne bags fall, they just disappeared into the ground, vanished into the void.

 

Toddbrook Chin 3

 

Over a thousand people have been working around the clock, what they have achieved was astounding: new roads, floating pumps, miles of pipes, tonnes of stone to block any more water coming into the reservoir.  For the people of Whaley Bridge, who could only watch the RAF Chinooks have become the iconic sight and sound, we found the distinctive wockwockwock  sound of their  rota blades strangely comforting.

 

 

It was something we could see and hear, from our homes (or the homes of family and friends on higher ground, out of the flood zone) from the kitchen sink, from our bedrooms, from the garden, we stood and watched.

 

Toddbrook Friday Taxal Moor_

 

On the Friday it was intense. I  joined many others and watched from the local cricket club.

 

Toddbrook Friday 2nd 2

 

I found myself surrounded by military aviation enthusiasts, with camera lens as long as a broom handle, who told of their delight at being able to watch Chinooks working outside of an air show. I realised we had very different reasons for being there.

On Sunday, the weather gods, having placed us in this crisis clawed back the threatened clouds and torrential rain that was forecast. You could feel the valley breathe a little more easily: the sun came out, the landscape sparkled despite its open wound.

 

 

Words feel inadequate to thank those who responded: from truck drivers, to the RNLI, Mountain Rescue, civil engineers to construction specialists, Fire and Police, surrounding villages sending food to feed the thousand, 4×4 clubs evacuating residents, local volunteers, social workers looking out for the vulnerable and a thousand and one tasks that I could only guess at.

I think that for many  involved in the Toddbrook dam incident,  it will not only be something they never forget, but a career defining moment, a challenge they may even have relished in both its urgency and complexity.

I can’t come towards the end of this post, without mentioning Deputy Chief Constable  for Derbyshire, Rachel Swann, her clear and decisive leadership was as inspiring as it was comforting. We felt we were in safe hands.  She features in this video.

 

 

On Wednesday, six days after the evacuation, residents were allowed to return home. Tears of anxiety gave way to  tears of relief.

I think our little town will come out strong from this. We will have a new dam, the safest, smartest, sexiest dam in the country! Ready for the next 200 years. We know and value what we so nearly lost, and we know that there is strength and a steadfastness  in our friends  family and neighbours, that we never recognised before.

I’d be lying to say that nerves are not still on edge. On Thursday, the day after the all clear, I was startled to hear what I thought was the sound of a Chinook. It turned out to be the the washing machine on a spin cycle! Stand down everybody stand down. It’s OK.

We’re like the flag at the cricket club a little frayed around the edges.

 

cricket club

 

Take a look at the weather vane on the clubhouse roof, we came very close to losing so much.

*Joe is now studying civil engineering at university, all things to do with water management are his passion!

 

 


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My little village

I can’t think of it as town, officially it is. But whatever you call it, Whaley Bridge in the High Peak of Derbyshire, is facing is biggest ever crisis. The  dam of the reservoir above the village holding 300m gallons of water, has started to fail.

Toddbrook droneand the town has been evacuated. We are safe, well above the flood zone, and we’ve family, two dogs and a rabbit staying with us.

It’s a fast changing and unprecedented situation.

whaley bridge toddbrook reservoir flood map graphic

More info here

Todbrook 5


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Missing him already

Joe has been home for the Easter break, it was as though he brought the fair weather with him, the sun shone brightly each day he was home.

No one could say he is a typical student,  one that lies in bed until lunch time*, he caught the 04:35 train from Cardiff, for two reasons he said, one it the cheapest ticket ( he is his fathers son) and two it gave him an extra day at home.  He arrived  at the station in the village, in time for us to pick  him up and collect breakfast from the bakers, and a couple of bags of pet food for Spud the dog and Jammy the cat from the pet shop too.

We seem to have packed a lot into a few days, and yet it’s been very relaxed. The hen house has moved, an old stone gate post has had the ‘stone henge’/ ‘engineers live here’ treatment of rollers and crowbars to move it up the yard, windows have been re-glazed, the drain from the pond cleared ( we are sorry about accidental the demise of a frog though). Friends entertained, ice cream devoured, a birthday celebrated a wedding anniversary toasted to.  Time sat chatting in the sun. Too much chocolate eaten.

Now he’s returned to Wales, and his the world of work and study, his bedding is washed and  on the line.

Duvet

Then the thunder clouds rolled in, a fist full of  delicious warm sunny days and 21consecutive days without rain came to an end, and I had to bring the laundry in.

*OK he does sometimes, but if motivated by a bargain or an archery competition, he will be up and gone before first light.