Uphilldowndale

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


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The scent of the sea.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

A stroll to Nugget Point,  Catlins Conservation Park,  South Island, the rocks were named by Captain Cook, because of their golden colour,

NZ Nugget point light house 2_

The the drop from the path was precipitous in places, not Mr Uphilldowndales favourite kind of terrain.

NZ Nugget point light house 4

We could look down on dive boats and fur seals wallowing in sun warmed rock pools.

NZ Nugget point divers_

The east coast of South Island, it’s not a sheltered spot.  The wind shorn shrubs, look like they’ve been applied with a palette knife, smeared on to the exposed cliff face.

NZ Nugget point lighthouse cliff

Each shrub finding its own crevice to anchor its roots.

NZ Nugget point shrub root

You’d think the predominant scent of a place like this, would be the tang  of brine and seaweed (but it seems there is more to the scent of the sea than that).

But  to my surprise and delight, the strongest scent was that of flowers, this one seemed to be the most perfumed, but I don’t know what it is.

NZ Nugget point scented flowers

But I’m pretty sure this is a daisy, clinging to the edge of the world. A Catlin costal daisy?

NZ Nuget point_

It is so nice to be looking through the photos of our trip, with their sunshine and colour, whilst storm Dennis rages at the window. 

 

 

 

 


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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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Picking up the thread

It’s been a while since I posted,  not since our little town was freed from the threat of  the failure of Toddbrook dam,  and whilst I’ve not quiet finished writing about the dam, I feel the need to share a  bright, light post to kick start me into blogging again.

We’ve been having some fun filled colourful days, Joe has been home for a month and we’ve catching up with friends near and far.

Here is a day out with my friend Mrs Ogg,  we went Chatsworth House, whilst our men folk went cycling.  What ever was happening in the big top, we didn’t get invited.

Chatsworth big top

Dahlias

Chatsworth red dahlia peach

and insects were the stars of the show

Butterfly chatsworth

It was that perfect, late Summer meandering in to Autumn weather, which must be savoured, before it is blown away.

Butterfly chatsworth 2

Spiky red dahlias, my fathers favourite flower, although my mother never appreciated the tubers being kept in the airing cupboard over winter!

Chatsworth red dahlia deep

Colours too hot to handle,

Chatsworth red dahlia flame

and gentle buttermilk yellows,

Chatsworth red dahlla custard cream

Cut flowers, prepped for the big house perhaps? They made my ex-florist fingers twitch.

Chatsworth cut flowers - Copy

Dahlias are somewhat ephemeral  as cut flowers, they don’t like to travel, get them straight from the garden, a generous neighbour or a market gardener if you can find one,  they are an endangered species, and enjoy.

Dahlia header_

Autumn is on its way

Chatsworth red leaves

 


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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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Galloping towards Spring

Coltsfoot,  Tussilago farfara, I’d  recently been thinking how I’d not seen this sunny little spring flower for donkey’s years, I’d even thought about going to see if it still grows in the place I remember it as a child (funny how I can remember where that is, but not where I’ve put my phone) and then I stumble upon a magnificent clump a few hundred yards from the house.

Coltsfoot 2

Historically it was used to treat coughs and asthma (although  the toxins it’s now known to contain wouldn’t have done your liver any good) my book also says it was dried and smoked, so that’s not going to improve your cough is it?

Gypsy folklore has it that wherever it grows, coal will be found below. And I have to say, that for the sake of my neighbours house we have to hope its a coal seam (which is entirely possible) and not a coal mine.

Coltsfoot

I’d been reminiscing with some friends about coltsfoot rock, a sweet we used to buy as children, it became apparent from the conversation, that it is a bit of northern delicacy (its made in Lancashire)  

Three sticks of Coltsfoot Rock

My memory is that it tastes not unlike liquorice, and a few weeks later I stumbled upon some in an old fashioned sweetie shop, I was looking for Parma Violets at the time, but that’s another story. I can confirm, it still tastes like liquorice. I bought some for my friends, one was so taken by the memory of it, she took some sticks home, broke them into pieces, so that she could make it last longer, I doubt we did that as kids.

 

 


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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

Fungi -1.jpg

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

Oxwich Bay.jpg

that have abundant flowers

Seaholly.jpg

so much for snails not liking sand and prickly things

snail and seaholly.jpg

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

Three Springers.jpg

There was much  beauty hiding in plain sight

plain sight.jpg

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

Brexit wrecks it_.jpg

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

sand and river.jpg

sweep them out to sea again.

Oxwich Bay_.jpg


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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