Uphilldowndale

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


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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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Home Sweet Home

Dark nights and cold weather may have arrived, but I’m still traveling through the  Orkney  islands and on the North coast 500 route of Scotland, it’s May and June 2017.

This was once the private home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother, the  Castle of Mey. It is now open to the public.

We arrived early, before the gates were open,

Castle of Mey-1

the drive looks like you are arriving at a fairy tale castle, I’m sure in a certain light these trees could look a little menacing, but paved with daisies, they look enchanting.  I whiled away the time chatting to a robin, who posed in the hawthorn blossom

Castle of Mey Robin-1

The Queen Mother fell in love with this place, when she was mourning the death of her husband, it was derelict.  But not now, its rather beautiful,  you could just imagine the Queen Mum, floating around the gardens of a summer morning with the corgis in tow.

Castle of Mey Gardens 5-1 

The house is open to the public, but you can’t take photos,  for copyright and security reasons we were told, which I can understand: undoubtedly there is a good dollop of ‘set dressing’ for the benefit of the public, but it is non the less an interesting view of her home.

We dodged the showers,  to tour the gardens, which are gorgeous,

Castle of Mey Gardens 1-1

Look, light and flowers, they seem like a distant memory already.

Castle of Mey Gardens 2-1

I have to show you the rhubarb, magnificent, but then everywhere in the far north of Scotland, from derelict crofts to royal residences seems to, the most handsome rhubarb.

Castle of Mey Gardens 4-1

A feature of many fields in the area, are slabs of stone used as walls, I do like a nice stone wall, these are stood to attention, as one might expect, those of the field were rather less regular.

Castle of Mey Gardens 6-1

The veg patch was on a grand scale.

Castle of Mey Gardens 7-1

And the ‘scarecrows’ had a vernacular style!

Castle of Mey Gardens 3-1


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Getting the message across…

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_20

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, and August, I’m so,so tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

Well, obviously

slipway sign_

Health and safety was a recurring theme.

Sign golf four

As a rule of thumb, the more signs a campsite had, the less likely we were to rate it highly,

slipway bagpipe

people can get rather officious when let loose with a laminator and sometimes there are so many signs you just stop seeing them.

However some signs just capture the spirit of a place

Here and There

And because I’m usually the very last person to be  able see a typo, I was kind of proud, in a sad sort of way to spot this one!

Drinking water

We came across a lot of excellent, information boards (or are they called interpretation panels?)  on our journey, usually at laybys and points of interest.  Mind you, there some more unusual and innovative  ways of sharing information.  I particularly liked this,

Rock sign

It explains the geology of North West Highland Geopark

Rock sign detail_


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Sheep under a red tin roof

Sheep outlook_

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_19

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, and August, I’m so,so tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

A sheep, being rather photogenically framed in  the window of a derelict croft

sheep red tin right

No, hang on, not one, but two sheep

Sheep red tin left

I had a lot of fun trying to capture a photo of them both looking out together.  They reminded me of a barometer my gran had in her home back in the 60’s it was a ‘souvenir of Switzerland’, holiday knick-knack kind of thing. A lady came out of a little door if the sun was going to shine and man came out of a different door if it was going to rain.

But they were having none of it, they were wise enough not to try and second guess the Scottish weather, they wandered off, following, well, like sheep.

Sheep red tin left leaving_

I do need to put the location of croft into perspective though. It’s at Drumbeg,  what a stunning place.  Look you can see it on street view

red tin croft_


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Wee Sweeties

 Ring Plover_

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_18

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, and August, I’m so,so tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

I think this  little bird is a ring plover (writing a blog its a bit like handing your school homework for marking,  I know someone will tell me if I’m wrong, just don’t tell me to stop in at playtime and write lines). 

What ever he or she is, I think its a wee sweetie of a bird, I’d call it the bobbing bandit bird, as it bobs about in a clockwork kind of way and it looks like a cartoon bandit with its black eye mask and neckerchief, it was pretty good at hiding itself too, its not easy to spot amongst the pebbles.

 Ring Plover 3

And are these  delightful birds dunlin? .

Dunlin 3

There were so many birds to see on this fabulous journey

Dunlin_

Dunlin 2


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Window Dressing

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_17

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, and August, I’m so,so tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

On our travels I became captivated by windows, especially windows that had seen better days,  windows that seemed a bit down on their luck,  some deserted houses, ruined crofts, roofless churches.

Others that just looked a little weary, we can all get a bit that way…

Window Orkney white

Or  windows that held a story,  or secrets, like the remains of the  WWII  Whale Head chain home radar station at Lopness, on the island of Sanday

Orkney window radar station_

Some looked tense and fragile

Window Orkney_

Others like they might be around for centuries to come

Window Orkney brick

And some had obviously been around for centuries already

Window Orkney church

I couldn’t pass this one by, my parents had these patterned curtains, hung in the hall at home in the 1970’s, barkcloth fabric, I think it was called.

Window Orkney blue

Sometimes doors sneaked into shot

Window Orkney red door

or a nice piece of Scottish lace curtain

Window Orkney bright white net_

a flash of colour might catch my eye

Window Orkney bright white red

And if I was lucky a window, door and welcoming bench, three for the price of one.

Window Orkney shop


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Marine Plastic.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_11

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, I’m tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

It saddens my heart, to find plastic on the beach.  I pick it up when ever I can, as do others (it looks like  their are some very useful bits and bobs in here, reduce, reuse, recycle).

Boat marine waste

It seems a sad fact of life that it seems the more remote the beach, the more plastic washes up

Will plastics be the archaeology of the future?  Here bailer twine is being consumed by dunes.

Dunes bailer twine Orkney

I was pleased to see both on Orkney and in the highlands of Scotland efforts to remove plastic (and other debris) from the beach.

Marine plastic Lopness_

It seems ironic to have to use plastic bags to collect the rubbish in, maybe we could knit string bags from the bailer twine, not much use though, for the smaller pieces of plastic (although,hopefully micro beads of plastic from cosmetics will become a thing (or legacy) of the past)

There was a community feel to many of the beach cleaning initiatives.  Like this one

Marine plastic bin_ 

They even have a grabber thing,  to use if you don’t fancy collecting by hand. And not only a dog poo bin, but a poo bag dispenser!

Beach clean_

All this was at the beautiful Balnakeil beach

Beautiful beach Balnakeil_

Apart from the feel good factor of taking plastic from the ocean, for more careful recycling, there can be other unforeseen perks. I was dragging a large piece of plastic net off the beach above, when I was approached by a man (no photo here, you’ll just have to use your imagination) in his early thirties, he was running along the beach with his husky hound dog, of very athletic build and wearing naught but lycra Jammer swim shorts and a sprinkling of Polynesian style tattoos, he stopped and in a very strong French accent thanked me for ‘helping keep the oceans of the world beautiful’.

Don’t worry girls their is plenty more plastic on the beach…


6 Comments

The Auburn Enigma

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, I’m tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_09

We met some stunning redheads on our travels through Scotland and Orkney: there is much debate about where  the red hair so prevalent in Scotland, has its origins 

red hair

People aside, I do like red cattle, they are my favourites.

Red Highland_ 

They bring to mind a poem from my childhood, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Red head calf

The Cow

THE FRIENDLY cow all red and white

  I love with all my heart:

She gives me cream with all her might,

  To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
        

  And yet she cannot stray,

All in the pleasant open air,

  The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass

  And wet with all the showers,
 

She walks among the meadow grass

  And eats the meadow flowers.

 

red heads group

But it wasn’t all bovines, a street cat in Stromness, who was perhaps trying to tell me something.

Red cat

And then there was this lovely wee man, who like us was on holiday on Orkney, he’d got some fabulous beach finds to take back to school for show and tell, I’m not sure his dad liked the idea of sharing a very long car journey, with the rather malodorous treasures. 

Red head boy beach


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Lichen

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_08

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July!) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

Lichen, a symbiosis between fungi and alga.   The islands of Orkney have the most sumptuous lichen I’ve ever seen 

Lichen Wall Orkney_

I’ll not pretend to try and understand of identify them, the most accessible information I could find is on The Woodland Trust website, which is ironic because if there is one thing Orkney is in short supply of its trees. 

Lichens are often an indicator air quality and pollution. The leafy and beardy species being the most fragile, in their response to the air quality.

lichen wall 3_

I can confirm the air on Orkney is palpable in its freshness, its a  striking feature of the islands; as is the quietness (apart from the  gorgeous, gorgeous,birdsong)

Lichen_

its’ a quietness that presses on the eardrum, as unfamiliar with this void of noise, it seems to scan for familiar sounds amongst the white noise of wind, sea and birdsong

lichen wall 4

Orkney has so much archaeology it makes it your head spin.  It has standing stones a plenty. The perfect host for a colonisation of lichen

lichen standing stones 3

  In close view they look like maps of different worlds, which I suppose they are.

lichen standing stones 2

There was a time when man  deemed a good idea to clean the precious stones of lichen.  The lichen fought back.

lichen standing stones

They  also takes hold of more contemporary standing stones

grave stone lichen_


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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.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_02

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).

Star fish 4

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).

Starfish_

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…

Star fish 3

We think it is a Luidia Cilliaris,

Star fish 2