Uphilldowndale

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


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Downy nest down

Spud the dog and I found a nest today, a crushed cornucopia, a squashed tricorn hat, with an extravagant plume of horse hair. Mosses, lichens, feathers and webs, felted into a snug bivi bag of a home.

nest

The fact we found iton the ground suggest its not a story with a happy ending.

nest 2

We found it under the apple tree, near the conifer. I think its the nest of long tailed tits, one of my favourite birds. I’m guessing a magpie had something to do with its demise

nest down

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The lost gardens of Heligan

If you garden you soon come to realise that you are trying to keep control of a force far greater than you, or any number of gardeners, turn your back on your plot and it will revert to a path of its own. Nature will reclaim.

In the benign climate of Cornwall the gardens of Heligan, went there own way, like so many gardens of the ‘big house’ after WWI, when the carnage of  war wiped out a generation of men, who worked the pleasure grounds and productive gardens.  Heligan house was sold, but the land was not. This has resulted in a time capsule.

Heligan tree ferns

Heligan, seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, is one of the most mysterious and romantic estates in England. A genuine secret garden, it was lost for decades; its history consigned to overgrowth.

Heligan jungle

Hop on over to the website for the story of how this magical place was rediscovered, or better still read Tim Smit’s book, I really enjoyed it, Smit, Rob Poole and John Nelson’s drive and determination to restore the gardens was  both epic and obsessive! You can only start to imagine how overgrown it must have been.

Rhode Heligan

We were there before the crowds, Spud the dog was welcome on a lead, we headed down into the jungle. Full of tree ferns, palms and tropical plants, gathered with such vigour by the Victorian plant hunters;  we swung by the Burmese rope bridge. Spud wasn’t allowed on here ( and we know just how much a dogs leg can cost to repair). Spud had to sit on the bank and admire his masters aura, from afar.

Heligan Aura

Cornwall’s gardens are famed for their camellia and azalea.

Camelia Heligan

There were beautiful woodland walks,  listen to the birdsong

Heligan primrose

As well as the time capsule of the old, their was the new, with sculpture and art, you can’t keep a good plant down.

Heligan Head

My favourite part was the productive gardens,  there you can really get a feel for the people who worked here. I just love the anemones in this image, got to be one of my favourite flowers.

Heligan Anemone Glass house 2

But it wasn’t just fruit veg and flowers,  these are bee boles

Bee Boles_

I had plant pot envy.

Heligan plantpots

The head gardeners bothy

Heligan Head Gardners office

The curved shadow are from the distinctively shaped panes of glass

Heligan Glass house

The magnificent pineapple frames, heated by horse muck.

Pineapple frame Heligan

Rare, exotic and hard to grow, Pineapples were a symbol of great status and wealth in Victorian times. A pineapple on your dining table meant you were a person of discernment, style and affluence.

We believe that we have the only working, manure-heated pineapple pit in Britain today. It was unearthed in 1991 and architectural and horticultural historians spent many months researching the history of its construction and technology. The first structure here was probably built in the eighteenth century.

I loved this green house, its light, warmth and scent, and because it reminded me of the painting by Eric Ravilious

Geranium Heligan_

The poignancy of the effects of WWI on the Heligan gardens if perhaps best capture, by the Thunderbox room (the toilet) written on its white washed walls ‘Do not come here to sleep or slumber’ and a list of signatures and a date 1914.

Thunderbox room Heligan

When the guns fell silent so did the gardens.

Heligan leaves and flowers

Take a tour of the lost gardens of Heligan

 


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Missing him already

Joe has been home for the Easter break, it was as though he brought the fair weather with him, the sun shone brightly each day he was home.

No one could say he is a typical student,  one that lies in bed until lunch time*, he caught the 04:35 train from Cardiff, for two reasons he said, one it the cheapest ticket ( he is his fathers son) and two it gave him an extra day at home.  He arrived  at the station in the village, in time for us to pick  him up and collect breakfast from the bakers, and a couple of bags of pet food for Spud the dog and Jammy the cat from the pet shop too.

We seem to have packed a lot into a few days, and yet it’s been very relaxed. The hen house has moved, an old stone gate post has had the ‘stone henge’/ ‘engineers live here’ treatment of rollers and crowbars to move it up the yard, windows have been re-glazed, the drain from the pond cleared ( we are sorry about accidental the demise of a frog though). Friends entertained, ice cream devoured, a birthday celebrated a wedding anniversary toasted to.  Time sat chatting in the sun. Too much chocolate eaten.

Now he’s returned to Wales, and his the world of work and study, his bedding is washed and  on the line.

Duvet

Then the thunder clouds rolled in, a fist full of  delicious warm sunny days and 21consecutive days without rain came to an end, and I had to bring the laundry in.

*OK he does sometimes, but if motivated by a bargain or an archery competition, he will be up and gone before first light.


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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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Blue is the colour

It’s February, it’s not supposed to be this warm and sunny.  Nature is a little confused.

The pussy willow, has never been so big bold and fluffy,

pussy willow feast 5

its offered a feast for the insects over the last few days.

pussy willow feast

Blue and orange was always going to strike the right note.

pussy willow feast 4

It was so still and quiet this afternoon, you could hear every contended buzz and hum.

pussy willow feast 2


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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