Uphilldowndale

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


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Barking up the wrong tree

There has been an explosion of leaf growth. Spring seemed so long in coming this year, well the handbrake is now off. The trees have a fine new suit to wear and they look splendid.

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You might remember me waxing lyrically about the roe deer that had been in the field? And how I came up close to it in the village? Well it has lost its Bambi status.  look what it did to my silver birch sapling, a silver wedding present…

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If we were regularly visited by rabbits and deer, I suppose we’d use tree guards, but I’m on a bit of a rant about these plastic wrappers at the moment. I saw so many when we were down at Rutland Water, on the nature reserve for heavens sake, that had become embedded within the trees. Tree guard 4.jpg

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here is the archaeology of the future.

At least there are alternatives

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The sooner we crack on with using them the better.

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Home Improvements

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Now, I know, in the scheme of things (especially for North American readers) the snow and cold we have here in the UK at the moment, isn’t such a big deal, but it is unusual for the whole country to be so snowy and cold at the same time, so forgive us for going on about it, we like to talk about the weather at the best of times. 

There has been a flurry of discusion about ‘bad winters’ past, of 1947 and my fathers adventures (and I came across a tragic bit of local history about  the winter of 1947 the the other day, lives were lost).

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I can even dig a photo out of the shoe box of some serious snow in 1901

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I was around for the winter of 1963, in my fetching knitted snow suit.

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But given that we know there was a house on here, as far back as 1606,

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which was during the Little Ice Age we can only  try and imagine how tough it must have been to keep warm and fed.

On that time line, our 26 year living here, is but a blip, but with a new roof, (so good not to have scrabble up there to dig out the snow that had blown under the slates) ground source heat pump, double and a dash of triple glazing and a new door that both keeps the snow out and is thicker that a single piece of plywood. Trust me we are very, very grateful for our warm and snug  home.

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Unseasonal Colours

You could have been forgiven for thinking a splash of colour was hard to come by today, heavy rain and weighty clouds have consumed us. But having watched the Met Office rainfall radar for a window of opportunity, Spud the dog and I grabbed it with enthusiasm. 

We made it to the post box today, another milestone for Spuds recovery, and its the first time he’s been a muddy dog for many a month.   The ‘new’ post box is a more useful size than the old one, but its sad to have lost the heritage of the old one.

We did find some colour, in the understory of a wooded area, from where we recovered the yew tree. I’ didn’t know (or hadn’t thought about) that woods have four distinct levels, canopy,understory, field layer and ground layer (todays blog learning objective has been met).

The understory of young beech trees, have kept their Autumn leaves, why do they do that when the mature trees don’t I wonder?  I’m also not sure why suddenly their are so many of them either, maybe the  grazing sheep have been absent long enough for them to become established, or maybe it was  the result of what a farming friend would call a mast year?

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The  sycamore  soaked by the rain, showed off  its  beautifully textured bark to good effect

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The lichens, seemed to have drawn up the lovely pink hue of the local grit stone;  dressed, this stone is very a very precious  commodity to us and our neighbours, and any that becomes available for sale, is snapped up and kept on the hill from whence it came for any building projects.

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The Life and Death of a Flower

A potpourri of posts, about our adventures and experiences of the last few months whilst I’ve  been a lax blogger. 

November. A visit to London, to see family and a visit to Kew Botanical Gardens, always plenty to see and wonder at

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What ever time of year we visit

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however I wanted to make a beeline* to Rebecca Louise Law’s exhibition, Life in Death, its an installation, in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, right next to the fabulous paintings by Marianne North

It is created from thousand upon thousands of dried flowers, suspended on copper wire

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We think of dried flowers as delicate and ephemeral, and the effect is all of that, but it is something more besides, there is something enduring too.  I particularly loved the shadows of the flowers

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It is immersive, a path winds through the garlands, people come  in and out of view, now you see them now you don’t.  I think I can see where the existential title comes from.

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Given that flowers were, a long time ago, my world of work, I’ve been long aware of the importance many cultures place on flowers, in both life and death, so it was no surprise to read,  where Law’s inspiration came from.

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The exhibition Life in Death showcases her personal collection of plants and flowers, dried and preserved over a six year period. It is her most intricate large-scale artwork to date and examines our relationship with flowers and plants and how they are used, particularly through rituals.

Kew’s Herbarium specimens, including Egyptian garlands made with dried flowers dating back to 700BC, which inspired Rebecca to make this work, are also on display.

The Egyptian garlands made me think of Hawaiian lei (rubbish photo, sorry).

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We then went on to wander in the Autumn sun,

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I picked up a selection of fallen leaves, I had a little art project of my own in mind.

 

Now, if there is one thing that illustrates the the opposing, but complimentary mind-sets of Mr Uphilldowndale and I, it is that I picked up leaves because they were beautiful, he insisted we photograph them with the name of the tree from whence they came. Creative meets Engineer…

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However, it was all to no avail,  as the plan went a little pear shaped, when we left the bag of leaves in the cafe at Kew Gardens;  I hope we didn’t cause a security incident… Sorry.

* Oh no I haven’t written about The Hive yet, I took those photos back in January…


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Seasons Greetings

We seem to have skipped along a season since I last published a post.  Which is a shame, its not that there hasn’t been anything to blog about, there has been plenty.

Lets start with an easy win…

A beautiful thrush, feasting on the berries of my pink rowan. 

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He’s quite protective of this crop, I can’t quite work out if he expends more energy chasing off the blackbirds than he gains in berries he could have eaten.  Surely there is enough for everyone?

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Giddy Pup

Thirty Days Wild, a post each day throughout June, something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

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I confess I’m a little overwhelmed by the number of photos I’ve taken, its an understatement to say that this part of the world is photogenic! So I’ll get in the groove with Spud the dog, being a little giddy on a breeze beach  (flapometer 9.7).

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It was here, a few miles north of Applecross we found the biggest starfish I’ve ever seen, I asked Mr UHDD to pose his foot next to it for scale (I’d like to tell you this shot is slightly out of focus to protect you from an uncensored view of a fellrunners foot, which is never a pretty sight, but actually it sloppy work on a windy beach).

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It was at this moment we realised its tentacles were still moving. Now I’ve had enough drama with Mr UHDD and stinging things to suggest he move his foot fast, he didn’t need any encouragement…

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We think it is a Luidia Cilliaris,

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The Road North

Thirty Days Wild, a post each day throughout June, something that is grounded in our wild world.

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I’m up for this, I’ve done it before, I’ve a bit of a cop out on the delivery though this year.  Mr Uphilldowndale and I are on the road, with Spud the dog of course. We’re taking a three week tour in the campervan, a week visiting  the Orkney Islands, and driving the North Coast 500 route around the northern coast of Scotland. Daily delivery of posts may not be possible,  there are so many variables, when I find an Internet connection, expect a flurry of posts. Posts will not be exclusively ‘wild’  as there is so much to share, but nature will be here in all its glory.

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Post box, Isle of Sanday

First of all how did we get here? It’s a long drive from Derbyshire (over 500m),  we waved as we tootled along past Tootlepedal’s patch, and broke our journey by calling to see the magnificent  Kelpie sculptures at Falkirk, I’d wanted to see them ever since I saw the video of their construction. I was not disappointed.

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How skilful to get such shape and tone to the muscle structure out of sheets of metal.

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Mr Uphilldowndale wanted to know the nuts and bolts of their construction

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The Kelpies were having a little grooming

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We then went on to call, unannounced, on M and J in Kincardine,  M used to work with me in my ‘wee flower shop’, in Alloa, some 26 years ago, we had not seen them since then. We had a lovely evening with them, and camped out on their drive for the night, their kindness and generosity was just as I remembered. A wonderful start to our adventure

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As we travelled north we were struck by the gorse, it was prolific

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and its vivid colour and perfume,  sweet with notes of coconut, swept along with us.

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