Uphilldowndale

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


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Dig Deep

I want to go to Big Pit, said Mr Uphilldowndale, after we’d been wallowing in the history of the industrial revolution in Ironbridge. ‘That sounds interesting’ I said, ‘but I’m not going down it.’ For decades Mr Uphilldowndale has been regaling me with his description of what it was like, back in the very early 1980’s, when he went down to the  48 inch thick coal face of Emley Moor colliery and there was no way I was going to be wriggling around 300 feet underground. Far to claustrophobic for my liking.

So we  headed south into Wales and rolled up at Big Pitt,

Big Pit National Coal Museum (Welsh: Pwll Mawr Amgueddfa Lofaol Cymru) is an industrial heritage museum in Blaenavon, Torfaen, South Wales. A working coal mine from 1880 to 1980, it was opened to the public in 1983 under the auspices of the National Museum of Wales. The site is dedicated to operational preservation of the Welsh heritage of coal mining, which took place during the Industrial revolution.

big pitt

Mr UHDD went to check the lie of the land and came back to tell me that I wouldn’t have to crawl around I could stand up throughout our tour, that admission was free (I had been feeding the dogs) and that we were going down the pit now, as they were expecting 70 school children to arrive in twenty minutes time. So cajoled by added headroom and propelled by the thought of not wanting to be caught up amongst 70 children in a confined space we were on our way down Big Pit.

No photos allowed I’m afraid, cameras, phones, digital watches are all contrabrand

The mine is covered by HM Inspectorate of Mines regulations, because it is still classed as a working pit.[4] Visitors wear a plastic hard hat, safety lamp, and a battery on a waist belt which weighs 5 kilograms (11 lb). Visitors must also carry on their belt a rebreather, which in case of emergency will filter foul air for approximately one hour, giving a chance for survival and escape.[40]

The tour guides are men who used to work at the coal face, or either Big Pit or another colliery, so you got a real flavour of what it was like ‘in their day’ and plenty of history too. Who can start to imagine what it was like for children,  working underground.  There was enough to  see and hear about keep my attention from wandering to the fact, I was in a coal mine, most of the time.  I was surprised about the amount of woodworm in the pit props and timbers though! They can’t treat the timber with chemicals, they just have to keep on replacing it.

They had some beautiful shiny miners lamps, I’ve one at home, it looks a little neglected to compared to Big Pit’s lamps. No canaries down the mine but they did have some in the lamp room (I hadn’t been reunited with my camera at this point!)

Big pit canary

Plenty to see around the mine

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Many of the original buildings are accessible,  from the explosives store,

big pitt book

to the medical room,

Medical room Big Pitt

And displays of equipment and ephemera.

Big pit nurse poster

The locker room, what a lot of lockers! I’d never thought about the fact a miner would have two lockers, one for his coal soiled clothes and one for his clean clothes.

lockers

I can imagine both would have been popular.

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The arrival of ‘pit head baths’ must have transformed the daily routine, for the miners and the women at home…  I love these towels, their style is on the edge of my childhood memory.

showers big pitt

In the showers they also had a recording of  singing, I thought it was Tom Jones, but then a lot of Welsh miners would have sounded like Tom Jones…

 

 

 

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The Day After the Guns Fell Silent

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like as the troops started to come home. To a landscape that had changed forever.  And wondered what those who came home, brought home with them.

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Memories so horrific, that they could never be spoken of, so horrific that they haunt the subconscious twenty four hours a day. Shattered lives, broken bodies and minds, the camaraderie of shared experiences, disbanded.

Peace Poppy Cornflower

Flowers of remembrance, Flanders Fields Museum Ypres Belgium

We went to the local park, its a memorial park, with a war memorial, we gathered round at 11am, for an act of remembrance and of course two minutes silence. The rain stopped, a wind shook the trees, and a drifts of amber coloured beech leaves drifted down on us, it was easy to think of them as poppy petals.

It was special, and a lot of people had worked very hard to make it so. As just a few weeks a go a mighty oak had fallen and smashed the memorial, it was  quickly made safe and temporary repairs put in place (fortunately they panels inscribed with names, survived the impact).

There has been a lot to learn about the Great War. I’ve been discussing and reading about how  those grieving (and there can’t be many who weren’t) coped in the aftermath of WWI. It seems that it  many ways, open display of grief was suppressed as it seemed like the only way of coping. Maybe its something we’ve made a habit of?

It made me think of the other fallen oak I’d seen this year, in the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres

Ypres Oak slice_

The dark stains are caused by the wounds of war

Oak detail

I’ve heard grief described like this, as rings within a tree, grief is not something that goes away, or is ‘got over’; its wounds stay there, inside, time passes, but the wounds, like in the damaged rings of this tree, are there, deep within and hidden from view, but always there.

Lest we forget.


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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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N is for nurse

For me part of trying to understand the Great War is about trying to understand the social norms of the time. 

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And what was ‘the norm’ seems  strange and sometimes abhorrent now.  Attitudes to gender, race, class,  the fate of those that were shot at dawn, for cowardice, for what now would have been recognised as shell shock.

Both Mr Uphilldowndale and I have family that were either medical orderlies or medics,  my great uncle is on the far left of this photo, I’m assuming he would have served with the Sherwood Foresters regiment, but I’m not sure. (If any passing reader can tell me anything about when and where this photo was taken, please do, as there is not detail written on the back).

WW1 Medical

It was when I saw the bunker at Essex Farm Cemetery  that was used as am advanced dressing station the grim reality of the conditions hit me. Confined and claustrophobic,  the stream of catastrophically wounded soldiers that passed under its gas curtain is an unbearable thought. 

It is the grim reality that adjacent to the advanced dressing stations were the hastily dug graves, that became the last resting place of many of the casualties. I suppose at least these guys had a marked grave.  Small mercies.

Women weren’t allowed this close to the front, they were further back in the evacuation line, which was all things considered very sophisticated, and necessity being the mother of invention the Great War led to many medical advances that we take for granted today. But at such a cost.

Nurse Nellie Spindler was one of only two women to be killed and buried in Belgium during the Great War, she was a Yorkshire lass.

Watch and listen here


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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


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Spud the dog, an update

You may remember, Spud the dog is recuperating from an operation to remove a lump from his shoulder.

The good news is the lump was nothing sinister, and he has been taking his recuperation very seriously

spud 2

However the wound wasn’t healing well, so he’s had his stiches removed and after weighing up all the options it was decided the best bet for Spud was to leave the wound open to heal. It’s not been pretty. But he has been a very good patient and has allowed me to bathe the wound in salt water and apply an ointment containing Manuka honey *  The good news is that  it is healing, its not weeping now and  the hole in skin has gone from hens egg size to small plum size in the last six days.

We’ve found a  protective collar that is more comfortable for him and us, a Buster collar

Spud Buster

it just about stops him from reaching the wound, for as you can imagine a combination of salt and honey is as near a salted caramel as he’s going to get, and smells very tasty! So he is keen to give the area a good lick.

He’s in reasonable spirits for a Spring Spaniel under house arrest, nothing wrong with his appetite though.  Here he is fancying a rather delicious egg custard that Mr Uphilldowndale isn’t willing to share.

Spud Buster 2 

He’s waiting and waiting to play ball…

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* I think the vet may well have prescribed the Manuka Honey as a placebo for me, the ‘first-aider’ in me has struggled with the concept of leaving the wound uncovered.


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Sick of Snow?

Most people seem to be so, there’s still plenty of it about; there have been beautiful bright days; the sort of thing that would normally send me scurrying for my camera. snow landscape 3

But there have been a bit of a problem. Joe and I have had a nasty bout, of what we think was Norovirus,  not nice at all, I can tell you.

Joe was first down, in the small hours of Sunday morning. I followed on Monday night, I certainly don’t feel up to par yet. What can I tell you about Norovirus? Stay close to the bathroom, really work and get fluids down and I mean work, a pack of rehydration treatment in the medicine cupboard would be a good idea.

I went into quarantine in Tom’s room, rough as I felt, I did still love watching the light move across the snowy hills and the beautiful moonlit nights (I didn’t draw the curtains).

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and I did have some company.

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Spud and squeak were as interested in  warmth, sleep and comfort as I was.