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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There it was, gone.

There it was gone. Is that an expression local to North Derbyshire? Something that appears briefly and then disappears…

The blue skies and warm sun have gone and we are now expecting storm Freya to arrive on Sunday. Whilst it was very enjoyable, in a world of shifting weather patterns, it was also a little disconcerting for  a few days in February to be so mild, this time last year we had the Beast from the East

But  before the cloud came we had more visitors to the pussy willow,  a comma butterfly

Comma_

Who had a very neat vanishing trick up its sleeve. Now you see me, now you don’t.

Comma underside_

The Comma is a fascinating butterfly. The scalloped edges and cryptic colouring of the wings conceal hibernating adults amongst dead leaves, while the larvae, flecked with brown and white markings, bear close resemblance to bird droppings.

The species has a flexible life cycle, which allows it to capitalize on favourable weather conditions. However, the most remarkable feature of the Comma has been its severe decline in the twentieth century and subsequent comeback. It is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.

I might be a bit slow on the uptake, but it wasn’t until recently I realised that some butterflies over winter, I assumed that they emerged from their chrysalis in the spring.

Wrong, this is how the comma butterfly spends its year6.comma

We’ve been busy bees, having a serious clear out of our barn,

Pussy willow bee

well its actually turned into a kind of archaeological dig, so much stuff! It was during this process, we found lots of hibernating butterfly tucked away behind old cupboards and pieces of timber, sadly I also found a lot of dismembered wings! I suppose a spider needs to eat.


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Mud Larks

When in Devon,Mrs Ogg and I went mud larking, I’ve a fondness for finding bits of pottery, and down on the foreshore of the Salcombe estuary I’d found a  quiet spot where there was plenty.

I think there must have been an old bottle dump nearby, that’s now giving up its treasures to the waves.

mud lark 2

It took a little while to get your eye in, broken pottery tends to look very much like broken sea shells.  I think Mrs Ogg had the best find of the day, I thought it looked like it might  Gothic Revival style what do you think?

crown swan

 

So what will we do with our treasure trove?

beach finds_

Earlier in the day I’d seen a rather inspiring piece of recycled ceramics. Mr Ogg thought we should cut out the mud and just buy it.

Pot pig_

I don’t think he quiet realised it was pretty much life size (and pigs, in my experience, are always bigger than you think they are going to be). 

But maybe Mrs Ogg and I should set the bar a little higher?

 

We weren’t the only ones to find treasure on the beach, Spud the dog returned home from his holidays with nine more tennis balls than he started with (and we know how much he loves tennis balls ) he made a nest of them in his bed. Happy dog.

Spud balls


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Fortunate Finds

I’ve been squirreling away any little pieces of old crockery that have emerged during the building work (much to the amusement of some of the builders). I’ve had a fancy for a couple of decades now (you can’t rush these things) to make some sort of mosaic from the bits I’ve found…

Whilst most of it has been  Victorian blue and white pottery plus quite a lot of earthenware; some pieces stood, out as looking earlier.

slipware

I did a bit of rummaging around (AKA research)and found this delightful blog (which is sadly ‘resting’  as it is full of fascinating posts to be enjoyed) which would suggest it is indeed from the 17th or 18th century.

If I see our local museum is having a finds day, I’ll take them along and see what I can find out (they do write an interesting blog).

 

I’ve mentioned before that it is quite tricky to know just how old our house is. However a neighbour made a chance discovery, that a map of this area, from 1606 (yes sixteen hundred and six) rests in the National Archives at Kew.

He ordered a copy. It is delightful. I was so excited to see it, it was far more decorative and detailed than I imagined.

Map 1606

The detail, the trees, the gates and the fields (the boundaries of which we can still recognise) are carefully included. We can’t be sure our house is represented, as some of the detail doesn’t quite match up, but there were certainly homesteads nearby at that time. Maybe that is where the pottery out of ‘trench one’ came from. Who knows?

Map 1606 2

 

I think maps from this time must be quite scarce , apparently that this one survives results from the area, albeit in Derbyshire being part of the Duchy of Lancaster,  the map was drawn up in a land dispute, and forms part of their archives.

It has certainly whetted my appetite to try and find out more, when the dust settles.


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Gilding the Lily

Lilies do not need gilding, nor do orchids really. But I couldn’t quite stop myself  from adding this art deco brooch to an orchid plant. The colours are just magnetically drawn to one another.

gilding the orchid

I‘ve spent the afternoon, surrounded by magazines and scraps of paper and glue, in an arty collage workshop event, I had a lovely time. I do need to play out more,things have been far too serious of late.  I need to feed my soul.

 

I’m told it is my blogs seventh birthday today, my blog would like me to play out more too.


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The Recession is Over

Look, it must be, I took Mr Uphildowndale to the store in York, where I’d seen signs that the recession was deepening.

And lo, it has to come to pass that all discounts are off,

recession ends

the asking price is back too £9.99

recession ends 2

Ahhh, but wait, it’s not actually sold yet has it? Maybe we shouldn’t count our Easter chicks before they’ve hatched.

 

Barnitts  store is a bit of a gem, I could have left Mr Uphilldowndale in there for many happy hours, it sells what our friends Mr and Mrs Ogg  might refer to as ‘items of faffness’ Mr Uphilldowndale loves such places and enjoys seeing all the very useful faffy things, woodworking  tools, small things in little plastic bags, balls of string and other  very important things*.  See  dodgy photo below. as they say in York, “if Barnitts haven’t got it, you can’t get it anywhere!”20140415_103315

On entering Barnitts I thought I was going into a small shop selling light fittings (I’m always trying to source light fitting I like, I’ve not managed it yet) to my amazement, it was like entering, Narnia I found myself in  a warren of departments, all on different floors and levels I emerged an hour later from a door way two shops down from where I’d gone in!

I discovered many shops are like this in York, the result of trying to squeeze modern shopping fashions into a historic city of jumbled buildings.

If you wanted to buy a new tea pot, Barnitts will have 20 to chose from, a flask to keep the tea warm? dozens.’ Letter boxes? Did you want brass or wrought iron? and a door knocker to match? I can’t imagine what it must be like to stock take, but I do know the total stock value must be massive!

This letter box is in a door at York Minster, not Barnitts, but I’m rather taken by it.

 

letter box york minster

 

 

*String is a very important thing
  Rope is thicker
  But string is quicker

Spike Milligan

Of course for full on faffness, you could make your own string