Uphilldowndale

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


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Meander

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

The staircase in my last post, was much admired, so I thought you might like this beautiful boardwalk.

Why travel in a straight line when you can meander. This is a typical Department of Conservation path

NZ DOC curve walk

Like the staircase, they allow the average visitors (and locals) to access places that they could never see otherwise.

NZ DOC board close up

 

NZ swamp walk_

Mr Uphilldowndale stopped on his meander to watch the  little fish swimming in the swamp beneath his feet.

NZ DOC swamp fish

The DOC provide information boards, and suggested routes and the time needed to complete them, perfect for the travellers!

NZ DOC board_

Walk across the swamp and the path leads you into the rain-forest,

NZ Spanish Moss_it seems possible almost everywhere in New Zealand  to walk through every type of environment in a few strides.

NZ DOC zone 3

New Zealand has a fern for every occasion

NZ DOC pink fern

NZ brown fern

To my untrained eye its difficult to know what is a fern

NZ fren 2

and what is a moss or a leaf

NZ bridge Moss 1

But I can tell you there is abundant beauty

NZ tree buds

 

 


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Will there be lupins?

That is the question I asked Tom when we’d booked the flights to New Zealand,  all  the websites and brochures I’d looked at showed photogenic images of luscious lupins, framing ice blue water and snow topped mountains. ‘ Yes, they are every where Mum’ he replied. Which is a bit of an issue, but we’ll come to that later, first, lupins. Enjoy.

Lupin 4 NZ

These images were taken at Lake Tekapo,  on South Island, the water  really is that blue, no filters here. In the distance Mount Cook and Mount Cook National Park. They were taken in November, so early summer for New Zealand

You can imagine how excited I was by this vista, Tom and Mr Uphilldowndale couldn’t stop sneezing though, but they tolerated the pollen long enough for me to play amongst the lupins and bag my very own lupin shots.

NZ Lupin close up

So how did they get here? The plant is native to  North America.

The story goes that,

As a schoolboy in 1949, Scott helped his mother, Connie Scott, of Godley Peaks Station, near Tekapo, scatter lupin seeds along the roadside. She bought about £100 worth from the local stock and station agent, hiding the bill from her husband for many months, hoping simply to make the world more beautiful.

1949, £100 of seed? That would have been an awful lot of money!

Maybe there is some artistic licence in that story?

NZ Lupin pink and blue_

Some see them as an invasive species.

The Russell lupin, Lupinus polyphyllus, hailing from North America, and used in a hybridisation program that subsequently gave it increased vigour, is such a mild-mannered and quintessential cottage garden plant here in the UK and a complete thug in New Zealand. Colonising streambanks, just like in the picture, they are taking over a habitat so important for New Zealand’s unique wildlife. Riverbed birds such as wrybill, black stilt and banded dotterel are being pushed out of their natural home by a garden plant introduced to New Zealand.

NZ Lupin_

and others see them as a valuable fodder for sheep

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZMCo) is drafting a new protocol to promote lupins as a high-country fodder crop, and seeking the support of Environment Canterbury, as well as conservation groups and farmers. It’s a bid to stay on the right side of environmentalists and ecologists who see lupins as an environmental time bomb.

 

NZ Lupin shore line_

I’ve tried growing them at home, I’ve never managed to get them established, they seem to be a slug magnet. The trip has inspired me to try again though, I’m confident they won’t be colonising the Todbrook reservoir though.

 

 


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Outside Eden

So you’ve discovered, reclaimed and restored the lost gardens of Heligan, what do you do for an encore, what is the next great quest? How about building the worlds largest green houses in a china clay quarry, in the heart of Cornwall? That is what Tim Smit and friends did next. The Eden Project, this is what they started with.

Image result for eden quarry image devon

And how it looks today

Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall

I’ve visited before, way back in 2009, Mr Uphilldowndale had not, I was very keen to show it  to him, it’s grown a lot.

Eden domes_

As with nature the Eden Project is constantly morphing and changing,  and as with Heligan it has a delightful dash of creativity, with added playfulness.

Eden mirror.jpg

It’s an educational charity.

Eden Ext

Part of the vision for the Eden Project was that the domes should remain hidden in the depths of the quarry, revealing themselves as you approach. As we approached, the main entrance, revealed to us on the information boards, photos of Mr Uphilldowndale’s  late aunt and uncle, they are in the foreground, the photo captures them perfectly, with their bright enquiring minds and love of lively conversation.  Sadly, they are no longer with us, they died in 2009 and  2011, they lived not to far away in South Devon and were early visitors to Eden, the public were encouraged to visit, before it was even finished, to engage with the dream and watch the project grow.

Eden info board.jpg

It is fascinating to see how the lunar landscape of the quarry has been brought back to life since 2000,  it was a millennium project. Especially how they solved the engineering challenges, I think we’ll have to bring Joe along next time we visit.

 


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Flowers of the Burren

The flora of the Burren, on Ireland’s West Coast, are beautiful, and world famous

Flowers Burren 14

Botanically, the Burren is one of the most fascinating regions in Western Europe with plants normally found in widely separate parts of the continent growing alongside each other. Thus mountains avens, a species usually found in sub-arctic and mountainous areas, can be found alongside such southern European species as bloody cranesbill and the dense-flowered orchid whose distribution is centred on the Mediterranean. In addition, plants ordinarily associated with acidic conditions such as heathers grow abundantly on the Burren limestone and plants typical of woodland flora commonly grown in open conditions.

There are many different habitats, meadows,

Wild flowers Burren_

deliciously cool hazel groves,

Wild flowers Burren 6 the open, and at first glance, barren, limestone pavements.

The Burren_

But it’s not just flowers of course. This little frog was beautifully camouflaged, I wanted him to hop under a shady leaf, surely his skin would burn on such a hot day?

Frog Burren

I could try naming all the flowers we saw, I’ve even got  a book to help,  Wild Plants of the Burren and th Aran Islands, by Charles Nelson, but it needs further study, I’m going to take a stab at this one, I think it O’Kelly’s spotted orchid

Flowers Burren 12

We saw an elderly couple, who looked like they might be botanists , dressed in full ‘Indiana Jones’ fatigues, with rucksack bulging, striding out along the track, having been droped off by a local taxi. It must a dream destination for them.

It’s a magical place. and one to which I’d happily retun.

Flowers Burren 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Slow to germinate, part one

It would be churlish of me to complain about the weather, its been wet grey and dismal, but we’ve had nothing like the troubles of great swathes of the UK.  I’ve not been out with the camera, I’ve been very happy to fall into a state of semi hibernation. It’s the time of year where curling up with a seed catalogue in front of a warm fire seems like an ideal  way to pass  the time.

So it perhaps seems fitting to dig up a post that has been lying  in  a dormant state in my  blog drafts since June 2014. Yes 2014

Some of you may have been around long enough to remember that the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew hold a special place in the  hearts and history of Mr Uphilldowndale’s family.

It was as a result of this connection we had the privilege of visiting Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank  at Wakehurst in Sussex ;  in a nut shell, the aim of the seed bank is to provide an insurance policy against extinction of plants in the wild.

seed bank ext

When HRH Prince Charles opened the Millennium Seed bank he described it as a ‘a gold reserve … a place where this reserve currency, in this case life itself, is stored’.

It’s a special place.

breathing planet_

We  had a full behind the scenes tour.  Seeds arrive from all over the world, some are collected by Kew scientists in the field,

so many seeds

others are sent directly, volunteers help sort and prepare the seeds for storage.

MSB4

Just sometimes, the seeds arrive  from the four corners of the world with excess baggage, the staff need to keep their wits about them, and a sense of humour.

big spid

Identified and catalogued

seed vault 4

this most precious of treasure is prepared

seed jars

to be stored in an underground vault, at a chilling –21C

seed vault 2

You need specialist clothing to hang about in there, and certainly not shorts;

seed vault 3

We settled for pressing our noses and camera lenses against the glass

seed vault

It’s one thing keeping all these seeds, and knowing where you’ve put them, I’d be rubbish at that! But you also need to know, what you’ve got will germinate.  I was very taken with the x-ray images of seeds, that can tell the trained eye, a lot about the viability of the seed samples; I thought they were rather beautiful.

xray seeds_

Part two to follow.


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Taddington Moor High Mere

Taddington Moor High Mere looked nothing like this when I stumbled upon it today. I was on one of my pre work diversions again, I thought I might be in with a chance of mist mantled hills, punctuated by field barns or piercing church spires. But I simply couldn’t get above the cloud that has superimposed the inversion mist I’d hoped for.

Never mind, the beauty was in the detail.

Scabious seed head

scabious_

Rosebay willow herb

rosebay willow herb 2

There were so many beautiful flowers, but it was the cobwebs that stole the show.

web four_

Here soggy  thistledown has caught in the web

soggy down_

web one_

I’ll go back another day in search of the view

what no view_

It only took until lunch time for my trousers to dry out….


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Thirty Days Wild. June 2nd

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_02

 

The best thing that you can do for nature is to 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 I endeavour to bring you a post everyday.

 

Well that was certainly a wild night if not a day wild. A storm did rage.  What a difference a day makes, this morning not a dandelion clock could be found, not one in sight, in four acres.  Where ever the seeds were blown too, at least they would have been well watered.

30DW Clock_

 

Dandelion clocks are a joy

I had planed to show you some of the goings on at the nuthatch box that Tom fixed up for me at Christmas, it seemed to have a nest of blue tits in it, yesterday I could just about see a beak or two, and their was a lot of cheeping;

30DW Bird box_

today it is deserted. Either that or they are having a long lie, after such a wild and disturbing night. I hoping for more shots like this.

Little bird 2

My nest on the other had is full, Tom is home, for a few days, before he goes off on a big adventure.