Uphilldowndale

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


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The sum of the parts.

We’ve been been travelling around a bit over the last few months, and it’s time I caught up with my blog posts.

We took the train to Birmingham, to visit Soho House, Soho House was home to the entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, from 1766 to 1809,  it was January, it was raining, we didn’t linger on the outside, so here is sunny photo, to get you in the right frame of mind. Rather elegant isn’t it?Soho house Copy

Matthew Boulton, was a member of the Lunar Society

Soho House was also a favourite meeting place of the Lunar Society, a leading Enlightenment group. The Lunar Society would meet every month on the night of the full moon to dine, conduct experiments, and discuss philosophical matters of the day.

Members of the society included Erasmus Darwin, James Watt and Joseph Priestly who all gathered around the Lunar Room table and engaged in a lively exchange of ideas which inspired many new discoveries and inventions.

They would meet in this room

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To dine

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and no doubt have a glass of wine or two

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They were an amazing group of people. One of Mr Uphilldowndale’s ancestors was a member.

They were led by the larger-than-life physician Erasmus Darwin, a man of extraordinary intellectual insight with his own pioneering ideas on evolution. Others included the flamboyant entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, the brilliantly perceptive engineer James Watt whose inventions harnessed the power of steam, the radical polymath Joseph Priestley who, among his wide-ranging achievements discovered oxygen, and the innovative potter and social reformer Josiah Wedgwood. Their debates brought together philosophy, arts, science and commerce, and as well as debating and discovering, the ‘Lunarticks’ also built canals and factories, managed world-class businesses — and changed the face of Birmingham.

It seemed there was nothing they weren’t interested or curious about, this is one of Boulton’s creations, made from Derbyshire Blue John stone,  I have a little Blue John, but nothing on this scale!

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This is Boulton’s study, where they conducted experiments and studied fossils,

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I suppose those evenings must have looked something like this! (with added dramatic lighting)

Fixed size image

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

as this painting is by one of the Lunar Society members, Joseph Wright of Derby. Note the moon visible through the window.

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The Day After the Guns Fell Silent

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like as the troops started to come home. To a landscape that had changed forever.  And wondered what those who came home, brought home with them.

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Memories so horrific, that they could never be spoken of, so horrific that they haunt the subconscious twenty four hours a day. Shattered lives, broken bodies and minds, the camaraderie of shared experiences, disbanded.

Peace Poppy Cornflower

Flowers of remembrance, Flanders Fields Museum Ypres Belgium

We went to the local park, its a memorial park, with a war memorial, we gathered round at 11am, for an act of remembrance and of course two minutes silence. The rain stopped, a wind shook the trees, and a drifts of amber coloured beech leaves drifted down on us, it was easy to think of them as poppy petals.

It was special, and a lot of people had worked very hard to make it so. As just a few weeks a go a mighty oak had fallen and smashed the memorial, it was  quickly made safe and temporary repairs put in place (fortunately they panels inscribed with names, survived the impact).

There has been a lot to learn about the Great War. I’ve been discussing and reading about how  those grieving (and there can’t be many who weren’t) coped in the aftermath of WWI. It seems that it  many ways, open display of grief was suppressed as it seemed like the only way of coping. Maybe its something we’ve made a habit of?

It made me think of the other fallen oak I’d seen this year, in the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres

Ypres Oak slice_

The dark stains are caused by the wounds of war

Oak detail

I’ve heard grief described like this, as rings within a tree, grief is not something that goes away, or is ‘got over’; its wounds stay there, inside, time passes, but the wounds, like in the damaged rings of this tree, are there, deep within and hidden from view, but always there.

Lest we forget.


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Sewing a Seed of Remembrance

It was almost by chance we saw the installation of poppies at the Tower of London that marked the hundredth anniversary of the start of WWI, they both moved us and captured our imagination,

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we managed to buy a poppy, and plant it on the map, just one of the 888,246 poppies that were made

It was the start of a journey, that amongst other things led us to visit Ypres in Belgium and listen to the last post at the Menin Gate We saw so many young people there, so important.

Menin Gate School

Some of the poppies  were retained from the tower, and have been exhibited around the country. We’ve managed to catch up with them in a couple of locations.

Here at Carlisle Castle, the number of poppies here are roughly the same as the number of men who signed up to serve in the war,

Carlisle poppies 2

within these walls, and never returned.

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to the city and surrounding villages.

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Carlisle poppy 2

Lest we forget.

 

 


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Away with the fairies

Onwards into south Wales, Joe is living and working in Cardiff , on his placement year, part of his university course. We brought a van load of ‘essentials’ and helped settle him into his new abode.  We took the opportunity to head on to our favourite spot on the Gower peninsular, Nicholaston camp site, as well as  the joys of underfloor heating in the shower block, it has easy access down on to the beach. The path takes you through ancient woodland, with many autumn delights

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Once through the woods, the path laces through the dunes,

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that have abundant flowers

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so much for snails not liking sand and prickly things

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I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t brought Spud the dog down to the beach with me, but the plan had been for a medative kind of meander, that was led by the eye, not the tennis ball; walking three Springer Spaniels must be a whole different ball game

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There was much  beauty hiding in plain sight

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A reminder of the lunacy of British politics flashed up every now and then.

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The tide sorts the shells by size, the waters draining from Oxwich marsh,

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sweep them out to sea again.

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The beast from the east ate my garden

Warm weather has arrived, hooray, its been a long time coming, mind you we have a yellow weather warning for rain, so one mustn’t get too excited.

I’ve been taking stock of the damage done by the winter storms, namely the Beast from the East. There were casualties

Mahonia, euphorbia, viburnum all took a hit.

Ate my garden_

Some things seem to have been freeze dried.

Ate my garden 2

As I’m something of a sentimental gardener, I particularly sad to lose a lavender plant from my mum’s garden, and it touch and go if an Edgeworthia Chrysantha, from my father in laws garden will survive (I do have an heir and a spare so to speak, by way of another plant, potted up in a container, that I took into the barn for safe keeping)

But perhaps the thing that made me go ‘ohhhh noooo’  has been the demise of my Dad’s ‘degging can’ . I can’t remember a time when this wasn’t part of my gardening life. It was precious

Anyone know a tinsmith.

leaky watering can_

 

 


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Sad and Shocked

We are sad and shocked, that our lovely cat Dodger has died suddenly, he was only five.

Hunter, fisherman, all round mischief, strong enough to drag a fat pheasant up the field, it doesn’t seem possible.

Dodger-1

At 8pm he was in fine spirits, lying on his back, in one of his favourite places, on the hot spot of the kitchen floor, where the underfloor heating pipes converge, legs  akimbo, batting the odd swipe at Spuds ears as he walked past. A happy, healthy and content cat.

cat nap

When we saw him again just after 9pm, he was very distressed and ill indeed. We rushed him through the snow and ice to the vets. Where poisoning and trauma were ruled out, it wasn’t a fever or infection either. He was given pain relief and we decided to bring him home, with a plan to take him back in the morning for blood tests and a scan.

Spud and Dodger 2

But it was not to be, he died during the night. Given the sudden onset, the most likely cause was a blood clot.

B S LOL-1        jammy dodger -1

Gone fishing

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Bird watchers

The Bird Watchers -1

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Cold Feet

Cast you minds back, to November and I’ll tell you the adventure of a bold, but not very bright bird. Primrose the chicken.

Dusk arrived early, and the role call of chickens showed we had a problem.  Primrose was missing.

We called the neighbours, searched their gardens, scoured the lane by touch light, looked in the shrubs and bushes,  all to no avail.  Eventually we had to conclude she might have been picked off by a fox, who, made bold by hunger, made twilight strike, or she had gone broody and gone off somewhere to make a nest.  We called off the search.

It was bonfire night, rockets streaked across the night sky scattering glittering stars in their wake,  Spud the dog shifted uneasily in his bed.  Eventually all fell quiet, and then the rain came by the bucketful pounding on the roof in the small hours.

At first light, Mr Uphilldowndale went out to resume the search, to be honest he was expecting to find a drift of feathers somewhere nearby.

He couldn’t find anything. However, he could hear something.  Cluuuuccckaaaa, Chahhhaaa, Cluck! But where was it coming from?

As befits the start of a pantomime ‘It’s behind you!’ he turned on his heels to find…

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Can you see in the bulrushes, in the middle of the field pond? Oh you silly bird.

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She’d been standing, up to he knees (do chickens have knees?) in the water, all night.

Mr Uphilldowndale gallantly went in , braving chilly waters and slippery pond liner to get her*.  If you’d like to see how he got on, pop over to the video.

We took her into the kitchen to warm up. She can’t have had much sleep she kept nodding off in Mr Uphilldowndales arms.

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we don’t know why she was there, she will flap and fly a little, especially if startled.  She obviously didn’t have sufficient ‘runway’ to make her way back again.

* I think I’d have built a bridge, I’ve never been fond of cold water.