Uphilldowndale

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


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Fleurs Place

Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you this was his highlight of the holiday.

We rolled in to  the small fishing town of Moeraki  looking for lunch, I’d a fancy for a pie, New Zealand makes very tasty pies.  Mr Uphilldowndale was scrolling through his phone to see what might be on  offer,  he announced ‘Rick Steins favourite seafood restaurant in the world is here, it’s called Fleurs Place*’.  Well, I thought that puts it out of budget then, you could  probably buy a truck load of pies for the price of a lunch with that pedigree.

But we walked down to the harbour, hungry and curious. It wasn’t the brightest of days, to take a look,  from the outside the restaurant  had a time worn patina,  a touch of some village halls I can think of here in the UK, there was a lot of outdoor seating, but it wasn’t that kind of day.

NZ Fleurs Ext

Inside it was warm and cosy, we took a look at a menu; to our surprise the price was do-able for a lunch that had much more promise than a pie; and to our delight, yes they did have a table for three,  they’d get it set for us right away.

They were just about to start the lunchtime service, a member of staff was setting flowers on the tables, I’m always going to gravitate to the flowers, they were roses, the deepest red velvety roses I think I’d ever seen, and their perfume was decadent

Fleurs place NZ roses_

The style of the decor, was eclectic, the kind of thing that looks like it didn’t take much trouble to pull together, but it did.

Fleurs place NZ

The tables, scrubbed; cutlery bone handled, china mismatched.

A wonderful old range, in the corner, made me think of my mother in laws precious range, and her pride in keeping it lit through the winter.

Fleurs place NZ range

We were guided through the menu**,  the starters we were advised are large, the recommendation was that we share a starter. This was good advice.

Fleurs place NZ starter

Tom said if we were paying he’d drive, and we could have some of New Zealand’s lush wine, maybe that is why this photo is not quiet as sharp as it should be?

NZ Fleurs Main Fish_

Fleur herself was front of house, there was no question she is fully in charge of every detail,  the food, staff, presentation, the works. With her mane of surf white hair, she exudes energy  charm and charisma.  You’d never guess she’s 80 years young (Fleur opened this restaurant at the age of 63 after her recovery from cancer).

What Fleur has in boat loads, is the ability to make her guests at ease, it is her homely yet special hospitality that creates an alchemy that makes this place so memorable.  After our meal she came and sat with us, chatted with Tom about where he’s working and what he thinks of  New Zealand, we in turn bought Fleur’s biography,  she signed it for us.

Fleur

As another customer was leaving I heard him thank Fleur and the staff,  ‘I’ll remember that meal till the day I die’.  So will we.

*Fleurs, the record, there is no apostrophe.

**I have one regret, that I didn’t try a dish that was on the menu, mottonbird, it wasn’t until later in our trip that a guide at the museum in Wellington, talked about how muttonbirds were considered such a delicacy that they were shipped out to Kiwi soldiers during WWII to help maintain morale. 

 

 


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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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Tale of Two Trees

A couple of years ago I purchased two Victoria Plum trees,  it was purchase made of nostalgia, Mum always used to buy me a bag of plums on our holidays each year, in my memory they were delicious, over the years I have deduced that they must have been Victoria plums, however these days they don’t seem very easy to find in the shops.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with two trees of plums, Mr Uphilldowndale doesn’t like them, it will be the mad apple lady all over again.

However as time passes I’m not convinced the two trees are siblings. Have I been sold a pup, or is one a late developer? They are growing a few yards from each other, same amount of light etc.

Exhibit one

Victoria left_

Exhibit one, buds

Victoria left bud 2

Exhibit two

Victoria right

Victoria right blossom_

As a foot note, its true what they say, when you plant a tree you always wish you’d done it five years earlier…

 

 


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Apple Tart

We know when it is truly Autumn, its when Spud the dog’s ratio of tennis balls to windfall apples, that he leaves lying around the house is 2:1 in favour of apples.

Apples 2 1 (2)

They are something of a health hazard, one of these days, it will the incident with the toy fire engine all over again, which  as I painfully remember resulted in a very bruised coccyx, rather than a cox

I’ve turned into a something of a mad apple lady, we have so many, the branches are straining under the weight of them and we’ve four trees.

I don’t seem to be able to make any inroads into them at all.  I’ve become obsessed, everywhere I go I have a  basket or box of apples with me. Please take my lovely apples  friends, colleagues neighbours, the ladies at exercise class,  no one can say no. (I could try standing on street corners I suppose, a bit like  like the man with the yards of lettuce).

Apples basket

Mind you, picking them is not without its hazards (Spud has to stay indoors, he runs off with them, and no one seems to keen on apples with canine teeth marks) On trying to reach the biggest and rosiest apples, for my friend Mrs McN,  the ones right from the top of the tree, one hit me in the face, I’ve an apple green bruise on my cheek… it’s ripening nicely


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Daily Bread

Continuing our journey along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Altar church

Altar Church, beside Toormore Bay on the Mizen Peninsula, near Ireland’s southernmost point, is also known as Teampol na mBocht, the Church of the Poor.

It was built in 1847, at the height of the Great Famine.

Before we set off on our journey, knew a little about Ireland’s Great Famine, we knew a little, but we didn’t comprehend its enormity nor its horror.

This church was built, to provide work for the starving.

During Black ’47, The Illustrated London News reported that in the village of Schull, five miles from Toormore, an average of 25 men, women and children were dying every day of starvation, dysentery or famine fever.  At nearby Cove, the population fell from 254 in 1841 to 53 in 1851.

 


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Always in the kitchen at parties?

More from our visit to Burghley House

It seems kitchens have always held an attraction, warmth, food, drink, what’s not to like.

Turtle skull.jpg

You’ve noticed the skulls? Turtles.

Now every piece of meat that passed through this kitchen would have been ‘headed up’ by a skull at some point, but obviously turtles were note worthy. In the 17th century turtle soup was  a very prestigious  dish to set before your guests. So much so, you’d have had a special dish from which to serve it.

Turtle copper.jpg

Turtles were shipped live to the UK, in specially built tanks and barrels onboard ship. I thought that must have been a bit grim. But  then a lot of things were at that time. 

It’s amazing that a new cook didn’t come along and say ‘for goodness sake, get those  ugly dusty old things out of my kitchen!’

Turtle skull 2.jpg

We don’t know how this chap arrived.

Moose.jpg

We stayed in a holiday let on the estate, The Dairy, we were quite a crowd,  the Dairy can accommodate up to twenty guests; we were celebrating a special birthday.

Now think what an old dairy looks like, even if it is one on the estate of a stately home.  Now think again.

The Dairy

No one minded being in this kitchen, well actually there were two kitchens…  an heir and a spare of kitchens!

Sumptuous, and Spud the dog was a model guest, he took one look at the sofas and realised he hadn’t a cat in hells chance of being allowed on one, so he sprawled on the under heated floors instead and was content.

The Dairy 2

The Cross country course for the Burley Horse trials runs straight past the garden, you can hire The Dairy then if you like, and you can afford.  

Dairy 3

After three nights of excellent company food and wine, none of us were quite ready to go home to our own kitchens.

 

 


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Time for Tea

It’s back! We have a phone line, we have broadband! Put the kettle on lets have a nice pot of tea.  Storm Doris is behind us at last.

Mr Uphilldowndale, Tom and I were sat at the kitchen table the other day having a cuppa; idly  we calculated  that our Denby tea pot, purchased circa 1987, has made in the region of 47,000 pots (not cups) of tea. Astounding.

teapot

Tom wryly observed ‘We wouldn’t be working this out if we had the Internet, wed have found better things to do.’ he is probably right.  It also cast my mind back to how we had the majority of our Denby Greystone crockery as wedding gifts. The very first phone call I took, to our landline, from a mobile phone  (a car phone) was about a matter of great importance, a friend and early adopter of such  technology rang to ask ‘This wedding list of yours, we’re just going shopping,  err what exactly is a  ramekin’.

Tom of course has never know a world without mobile phones and the Internet, or for that matter Denby crockery. Tom is 22 today.


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Lock Down

Our chickens continue their enforced confinement , due to the risk of them contracting Avian Flu from migrating birds, they have to stay in their run.

They’ve adapted pretty well to this change of circumstances, I’ve tried to give them things to entertain, as well as replace the amount of fresh grass  and vegetation they normally graze.  And  I’ll confess, that without thinking about it, that for a few days, I was taking them an armful of windfall apples each day, which they loved (we’ve had a prolific year for apples).

windfall 2

That was, until it occurred to me, that the migrating birds I was trying to keep away from the chickens had probably been grazing on these apples. So much for bio security!

I hasten to add that these apples are very much more munched  than back at the start of the lock down in mid December , when they were whole apples with unbroken skin

windfall