Uphilldowndale

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


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The Hoard

Having visited Soho House, we headed back into the centre of Birmingham, to dry out and warm up with lunch at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the museum is a one of those classical buildings,  built when such cities were rich and philanthropists gave generously. Its galleries have high lantern windows in the roof, and it being such a grey day, there were times some of the galleries felt a little dreary, I wanted to ‘put the big light on’!

But there was no shortage of bright shiny things in what we had come specifically to see,  Staffordshire Hoard,  some of the 4,0000 items, from the sixth and seventh century AD, found by a metal detectorist in a field, nr Litchfield in Staffordshire.  My photos are somewhat dismal, as per the light, so I’ll direct you to the excellent website for the find

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The craftsmanship in these items is astounding, I was blown away by it; over 3,500 garnets, from the Czech Republic and Indian subcontinent, delicate braided gold and gold foil  what puzzles me is how on earth the makers managed to see to do this work, what tools do you use to slice garnets in to wafer thin slices, and then place them over gold foil, to make them sparkle? They must have had perfect vision, no glasses or magnification and no ‘big light’ would have been available, they must surely have all been under the age of 40, to see what they were doing, they’d have had to perfect their craft from an early age? (Mind you, I don’t imagine life expectancy was very long either!)

What a find for the detectorist and the farmer who owned the field! There was a fear once the significance and scale of the find started to emerge, that the finds might fall victim to Nighthawkes, who would plunder the items for their value as scrap, what a tragedy that would have been, so as a deterrent, whilst the archaeological dig was underway a rumour was allowed to grow that it was a police murder investigation that was going on in the field.

We’d rather like it if another series of The Detectorist, would return, a rare, gentle and rather lovely drama, set in ploughed fields, and the  accompanying music is all of those things too.

 

 

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Sometimes a little magic flies by

We’ve been away, we’ve been to Rutland Water for a couple of nights in the campervan.  we had a lovely time, I hired an electric bike, such fun! I went wheeeeeee!

I’ve not ridden a bike for many many moons.

After that we went on to the nature reserve, and watched nature in all its Spring busyness.feed me_

From a hide we watched the osprey, they were a little too far way for my camera, but we were much closer to them than we had been before, in addition there was a large TV screen showing live footage taken by cameras looking directly into the nest.

Now that sound like an excellent day, doesn’t it? We settled down for the evening, with a glass of wine and some tasty Long Clawson stilton cheese.

And  then the magic arrived

Barn Owl Rutland 4

A barn owl flew in across the meadow, next to the camping field, quartering, searching for prey,  it swooped past us time after time

Barn Owl Rutland 3

It’s the first time I’ve seen a barn owl in the wild, I’ve had other owl encounters.

Barn Owl Rutland 2

It went on and on, taking prey off to its nest

Barn Owl Rutland

and returning, to our delight.

Barn Owl Rutland 5

The next morning, Mr Uphilldowndale went out on his bike at about 7:15 am, for a proper bike ride, one with pace and miles and without me going wheeeeeee all the time.

After he had gone I contemplated making a second cup of tea, I sat up in bed and peeped around the curtain and there it was again.

Right in my face, this time carrying its breakfast.  I’m such a lucky girl.  Barn Owl Rutland 7

All the photos were taken through the tinted privacy glass of the van, the last image with added condensation…


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Flashes of Light

How it has rained, and rained this week. The occasional burst of sunlight was very welcome.

Spring sun_

I can report that the  neighbouring lambs are ‘growing up with the grass’, or in this case the nettles, as this nettle bed seems to be a favourite haunt.

growing up with the nettles_-2

This morning the sun brought out the bees, to the vetch ( in my head I could hear the theme to 633 Squadron as this bee swooped in)

Incoming_

And the winberry flowers 

polinators

Remember I was given a Trophy Cam for Christmas? Well its only taken us five months to actually set it up (blame the DIY) but look what we ‘shot’ on the second night.

M2E1L0-3R350B300

Brock the badger, we’ve always thought he was around, from the scrape marks and poo pits in the field; but other than one sighting in the lane (which must have been many years ago now, because Mr Uphilldowndale and Joe were coming home from Beaver Scouts) we’ve never seen him (or her) in the flesh.


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Frosted Fizz

A sharp frost overnight gave the great outdoors a bit of a boost this morning.

frost fizz

The garden was lifted from its damp decay.

frosted mahonia_

And the field effervesced

frosted leaf 

The remains of the field maple glowed in the cold.

berry

And a spiders web was frosted filigree

frosted web

Whilst the hedgerow was barbed with ice.

frosted hedgerow-2

 

As a family we’ve come close to hibernation over the last couple of weeks,  I think we all needed it. I’m feeling torn now, between wanting to regain some semblance of routine back to my life, or staying in my cosy little world. Sigh.


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The Further Adventures of Spud the Dog 6th April 2014

 

Have you missed Spud? Here he is, his leg is much better, but not quite right yet.

IMG_8558

 

He got a bit excited today, Jimmy the farmer turned up in his big red tractor, with blade harrow in tow, to do a bit of remedial work on the field, where the pipes for the ground source heat pump were laid*.

big red tractor

 

Jimmy  jumped out of the cab for a natter, leaving the engine running. Time passed we carried on, nattering , putting the world, and the meadow to rights. When somewhat startlingly, the big red tractors engine went ‘Vrooooom, vrooom as only the engines of big red (and possibly green) tractors can.

‘Ahhh’, said Jimmy, knowingly,without missing a beat, ‘the dog will be ready for off then’.

big red tractor dog

Just as well, that as bright as they are, border collies can’t quite mange the clutch and the handbrake as well as the accelerator. A working dog has no time for idle chat and needs to put his paw down firmly from time to time.

 

* I will eventually get around to telling the full story of our magical heating system


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Buttercup Syrup

There can’t be a more  soothing linctus than sitting in a field of buttercups on a sunny afternoon.

Buttercups 2-1

This springs bizarre weather seems to have bothered the buttercups little. Our field is swathed with them.

Buttercups 3-1

We do little to our meadow, it gets cut for hay* (or haylage) depending on the weather by a neighbouring farmer, he ‘mucks’ and harrows it as required. And puts sheep on it to graze it for a few weeks each year. We pull out a few docks and clumps of nettles each year; but other than that, nature takes its course.

Buttercups 7-1

If it were a commercially farmed field I’m sure it would have been ploughed and re-sown by now, the luxury of lolling around in the buttercups I suspect is not a financial option. In the photo below you can see another field across the valley that would appear to be managed in a similar way to ours, if the  yellow haze of buttercups are an indicator that is.

Buttercups 6-1

I suppose we have a wild flower meadow, although in my head I think that would mean more diversity and less buttercups, I don’t know. I need to do a little research. 

This year is the 150th anniversary of Manchester to Buxton railway line, look I’ve managed a shot of a train trundling up the valley (I was lolling around for quite awhile, as whilst it is a vital line, that  fortunately escaped Beeching’s axe, its not a busy one)

Buttercups 9-1

I wonder what the fields looked like 150 years ago, Freddy the farmer told me there were corncrakes here. Not now. I suppose now there is no way of knowing just how it was.

* Hay from this field smells sweeter than anything Penhaligon’s could sell you.