Uphilldowndale

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


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Meander

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

The staircase in my last post, was much admired, so I thought you might like this beautiful boardwalk.

Why travel in a straight line when you can meander. This is a typical Department of Conservation path

NZ DOC curve walk

Like the staircase, they allow the average visitors (and locals) to access places that they could never see otherwise.

NZ DOC board close up

 

NZ swamp walk_

Mr Uphilldowndale stopped on his meander to watch the  little fish swimming in the swamp beneath his feet.

NZ DOC swamp fish

The DOC provide information boards, and suggested routes and the time needed to complete them, perfect for the travellers!

NZ DOC board_

Walk across the swamp and the path leads you into the rain-forest,

NZ Spanish Moss_it seems possible almost everywhere in New Zealand  to walk through every type of environment in a few strides.

NZ DOC zone 3

New Zealand has a fern for every occasion

NZ DOC pink fern

NZ brown fern

To my untrained eye its difficult to know what is a fern

NZ fren 2

and what is a moss or a leaf

NZ bridge Moss 1

But I can tell you there is abundant beauty

NZ tree buds

 

 


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Bird talk #2

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

Before mankind arrived in New Zealand,  it was the place of birds, there were no mammals, save for a couple of species of bat.

When humans arrived in New Zealand about 700 years ago the environment changed quickly. Several species were hunted to extinction, most notably the moa (Dinornithidae) and Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei). The most damage was caused by habitat destruction and the other animals humans brought with them, particularly rats – the Polynesian rat or kiore introduced by Māori and the brown rat and black rat subsequently introduced by Europeans. Mice, dogs, cats, stoats, weasels, pigs, goats, deer, hedgehogs, and Australian possums also put pressure upon native bird species. The flightless birds were especially sensitive.  

NZ able tasmin nesting gull

New Zealand takes its nature conservation very, very, seriously. It has a zero tolerance of anything coming into the country that might pose a threat to the endemic wildlife. When you arrive in New Zealand, don’t expect to skip through bio-security checks. (I’d had a heads up on this from Tom, when he went out to NZ he took two mountain bikes out with, I saw the hours of cleaning prep he put into them before he packed them up).

With our farm address,  all our footwear disinfected before we were allowed to pass through, it all took some time, but mainly because we were the last passengers off   the last of four planes that arrived in quick succession into Queenstown airport, that and the fact we were behind a party of a dozen or so South Koreans, who seemed to have suitcases filled with food!

The Department of Conservation, seems a much more robust organisation than anything we have in the UK,  they’ve nailed their colours to the mast.

Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten our nation’s natural taonga, our economy and primary sector.

Join us in eradicating New Zealand’s most damaging introduced predators: rats, stoats and possums. Going predator free will bring us a huge range of environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits.

Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) brings together central and local government, iwi, philanthropists, non-government organisations, businesses, science and research organisations, communities, land owners and individuals like you.

It can be a  controversial programme, especially the use of poison  which is dropped by helicopter into the bush, as well as baited traps.

NZ no trapping_

there are bounties too

NZ possum

In the UK we have ‘hospitals’ for hedgehogs, but in NZ hedgehogs are on the wanted list, because of  their  voracious appetite for the eggs of ground nesting birds.

There is obviously a large education programme ongoing too.  Trying to engage the next generation in Predator Free by 2050, by getting them to design a rat trap. (As seen in the stunning Te Papa museum in Wellington)  

It made me smile,  but on balance I think the rat might have preferred the poison.

NZ rat trap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Bird talk #1.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019.

One of the first things I noticed when I stepped out of the car at our accommodation in Wanaka, was the birdsong, beautiful melodious birdsong.

Tom told me ‘This is nothing, wait till we get to Fiordland’.

I’m going to like this place I thought. I’d better buy a bird book. So the next morning I tracked down the book shop and bought myself a copy of The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. A weighty tome.  Later with a glass of nicely chilled Sauvignon  Blanc I started my studies, I opened the page at cuckoo, good place to start, I know what a cuckoo looks like,  only to find that  there a possible six species of cuckoo in New Zealand, two endemic and four vagrant. Humm, this is going to be a bigger job than I realised.

New Zealand is home to over 200 native bird species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. 

So at that moment I decided that trying to identify different species, or even attempting to photograph them, was missing the point, much better, I thought, to simply enjoy.

And wherever you are in the world, garrulous gulls are always going to pitch up, if only to see what is in your pack-up.

NZ able tasmin gull posturing

So be it a little bird

NZ bird fan tail -!

a big bird

NZ Picton bird

a wading bird

NZ bird spoonbill

a pair of squabbling birds

NZ bird waders

or a bird enhancing a photo composition. NZ bird on fence

Every bird is a joy.

 

 

 

 


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The scent of the sea.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

A stroll to Nugget Point,  Catlins Conservation Park,  South Island, the rocks were named by Captain Cook, because of their golden colour,

NZ Nugget point light house 2_

The the drop from the path was precipitous in places, not Mr Uphilldowndales favourite kind of terrain.

NZ Nugget point light house 4

We could look down on dive boats and fur seals wallowing in sun warmed rock pools.

NZ Nugget point divers_

The east coast of South Island, it’s not a sheltered spot.  The wind shorn shrubs, look like they’ve been applied with a palette knife, smeared on to the exposed cliff face.

NZ Nugget point lighthouse cliff

Each shrub finding its own crevice to anchor its roots.

NZ Nugget point shrub root

You’d think the predominant scent of a place like this, would be the tang  of brine and seaweed (but it seems there is more to the scent of the sea than that).

But  to my surprise and delight, the strongest scent was that of flowers, this one seemed to be the most perfumed, but I don’t know what it is.

NZ Nugget point scented flowers

But I’m pretty sure this is a daisy, clinging to the edge of the world. A Catlin costal daisy?

NZ Nuget point_

It is so nice to be looking through the photos of our trip, with their sunshine and colour, whilst storm Dennis rages at the window. 

 

 

 

 


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Purakaunui Bay

More from our travels in New Zealand, November 2019 

One of the joys of travelling with Tom through South Island was his knowledge and network. He’d plenty of places he wanted to show us, and plenty that his mates thought we should be taking a look at.  If he didn’t know the answer he could find it in a jiffy, assuming there was some mobile reception!

This is Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins Coastal Area 

NZ Purakaurui_

We stayed on the Department of Conservation Campsite, just rock up and drop a registration form and cash in the box*

Here is our pitch, and our  hire van for the trip.

Quiet site_

It must have been a bit of a culture shock for Tom having not seen us for 23 months, to then share a van with us for two weeks. He survived, making himself a den on the double bed above the cab, we pitched camp at the back of the van.

New Zealand is geared towards campervans ( Scotland’s The North Cost 500 route, could learn a thing or two from the Kiwis).  Our van had a loo and shower, hob, fridge etc, and could sleep six, but that might be a bit of a pinch, and test most relationships!

For Freedom camping Campervans need to have a ‘Certified Self Containment‘ certificate, to show they mange their own water and waste needs for a minimum of three days. Just about every village/town has a public dump station where you can empty your tanks, and even the most basic of campsites had a ‘long-drop’ loo at the very least. (NZ toilets need a post to themselves, believe me, I was so impressed).

On the beach we found what we first thought were logs, but turned out to be seals

NZ DOC campsite_

They might have well been logs for the amount they moved though, I was hoping for a nice video taken from the discrete safety of the dunes. (You don’t want to get the wrong side of a seal I’m reliably informed by a wise women).  It seemed like mum and pup had a belly full of fish and milk respectively, and were only interested in sleeping and the odd shuffle and scratch in the sand.

NZ DOC Seal ans cub_

At one side of the bay are limestone cliffs,  with trees not so much windswept as impaled on the rock face,

NZ Purakaurui Bay trees

I’m not sure this counts as adrystone wall for my collection, more of a retaining wall maybe?

NZ DOC drystone wall_

At the other side is a geologist dream of lava formations.

NZ Purakaurui Bay Lava 4

Everywhere you go in NZ are the reminders that its  geological power and might are not so very far away.

*we were rubbish at having the right cash (or any cash) available at campsites! A little forethought is required.  There is, other than places like this little call for cash, everywhere takes cards.


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Crab apple way

A few nights away in Cumbria, nr Ullswater, at one of our favourite sites, The Quiet Site (not sure why I’m telling you about it, every one will want to go, what with it’s swishy new zero waste shop an’ all   In the morning Mr Uphilldowndale had been charging around the hills on his bike, I put the kettle on to boil, to sustain my needs for tea and curled up under the duvet with a book, what a treat. Spud the dog snoozed contentedly.  In the afternoon we took a gentle walk along a track near the site, whilst the surface has been sealed at some time it looked little used by traffic.

Apple walk 3

We were surprised by the number and variety of crab apple trees we passed. I know that south Cubria is famed for its damsons, in fact the Westmorland Damson Association, celebrates them in every way.  

But I’d not seen so many apples before, It must look very pretty when they are in bloom, and a source of food for wildlife through the seasons.

Apple walk 8

They are hardy looking trees, that don’t give up when they are down

Apple walk 2

So many colours, bronze green

Apple walk 13

acid greens,

Apple walk

honeyed yellows

Apple walk 4

rusty red

Apple walk 10

rich plum shades

Apple walk 7

We don’t see crab apples in our hedgerows here in north Derbyshire, I tried asking a local, about how come there are so many varieties in just a mile or so of track, they weren’t very forth coming.

Apple walk 5

They can hardly have germinated from an apple cast aside by a passing car or (cart) can they?

The trees arising from discarded cores are genuine wildings, each one unique and with the potential to contribute their characteristics back into the apple gene pool, 

 

The apples had out paced the blackberries, the devil had seen to that.

Apple walk 6

Spud the dog usually like to bring home an apple or two, but these seem to have been a little too tart of his tastes.

Apple walk 12

 

 

 

 

 


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Inside Eden

We decided on balance, we’d rather be warm and wet than cold and wet, so we didn’t linger outside in the grounds of The Eden Project, we went in to the rainforest biome,

Eden weather

It took a while for my lens to clear and even then, it was hard to capture the scale, I’ll settle for  telling you it is massive.

The Rainforest Biome covers about 16,000m² and is 50m high – you could fit the Tower of London inside it! The structure weighs 465 tonnes and contains 426 tonnes of air (dry air at standard temperature and pressure).

You can walk along  the canopy walkway, taking you high amongst the tree tops.

Eden mist

Beautiful orchids amongst the lush foliage.

Eden orchid

This reminded Mr Uphilldowndale and I of our visit to Borneo, many many moons ago, we were privileged to stay in a tribal longhouse;  I wonder, and worry if that part of the world still has it’s rainforest.

 

Eden long house

We ambled around in and amongst a party of lovely school children from Gordano school, who were having a ball.

eden school girls_

Their teachers told us The Eden Project has exceptional educational materials for the kids to use. We waited our turn to go up, right to the very top with them, Mr Uphilldowndale was not keen about the height,

Eden sky walk 2

But he was determined, he stayed in the centre of the platform, whilst I had a peek over the side, it was a long way down,

Eden sky walk 3

In this shot you can see the next batch of children patiently waiting to come up (not the place for overcrowding!)

Eden sky walk

The platform and the steps are suspended from the roof by wire ropes, so the steps sway a little, nothing  too dramatic, but enough to slow down even a teenager!

eden school boy

A magical place.

Eden flower

 


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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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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.