Uphilldowndale

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


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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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Voyage of Discovery

Orchid Stromness_

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts that started in June and are still limping along! I’ll get there in the end…  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_22

You may have noticed it has been taking me a while to get these posts out, there are many reasons,  good and bad,  but one of them is how long it takes me to read around the links I want to add to my post. With every click of a search engine, I’m finding more and more that grabs my attention and imagination. There is the occasional disappointment of course, something I wish I’d know about before we set off on this journey, something we’ve missed as a result. I suppose it is the eternal dilemma of travelling, how much do you prepare, or  how much of the fun of travel is the  unexpected discovery.

The town of Stromness, Orkney for example, it  was full of surprises,  from the orchids (photo above) growing on a little waste ground near the campsite,  to the town itself, it appears perfectly preserved, look at the main street.

Stromness 3

(We missed a sign taking us an easier route to the campsite, I did wonder what rabbit hole I was disappearing down as I drove the camper van through the ever narrowing street).

So little street furniture, signs, road markings, sale boards  and general stuff. I wondered how it had managed to remain so intact, has it been restored to this, or has it just sidestepped change? Then (wandering around the Internet again) I found photos of this street from the 70’s and 80’s it looked  pretty much just the same (a gorgeous little collection of photo journalism).  I also discovered that the Townscape Heritage Initiative is the mover and shaker of this exemplary street, and for support the beautiful shops and galleries 

Stromness 8

It is a town stuffed with sea faring history, with a heritage of whaling, exploration and was the recruitment centre for The Hudson Bay Company, the knowledge and skills of the seamen of this town being highly sought after.

Stromness 10

 

I found this enchanting little film, made by the primary school children in Stromness, I’m sure I recognise the cat that makes an appearance, the film will tell you all about the history. I wanted to show you the crow-step gables, a feature of Scottish architecture

Stromness crowstep 

At every corner, a route down to the quayside, back in time there would have been wooden piers built to cope with the influx of mackerel boats and so many boats moored here, you could walk across them.

Stromness 11

The museum is full of quirky artefacts, and slightly scary mannequins (which did seem to be a feature of the museums we visited)

Stromness 9

But maybe the biggest surprise though was The Pier Arts Centre, a vibrant gallery, of contemporary art, including over 20 works by Barbara Hepworth, what a gem of a place. 


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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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Tomb of the Eagles

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney landscape_

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_16

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.

Tomb of the Eagles, (or less dramatically, Isbister Chambered Cairn)  was on our ‘must do’ list for our visit to Orkney, having watched a TV documentary about its  archaeological importance.  The visit starts at the visitor centre (not surprisingly) and  what I liked about this, was how you are allowed to handle some of the exhibits, to hold a five thousand year old Stone age axe in your hand and feel its balance, is quite something, something that you can never get a handle on from seeing it exhibited in a glass cabinet. 

After our tour of the centre, the tomb is accessed by a  mile long walk along a track, passing as you go, another significant bit of archaeology  a Bronze age mound of burnt stone, a modest 3,000 years old

Burnt Mound Orkney_

Mr Uphilldowndale was a little puzzled that I seemed more interested in photographing the plants than ancient relics, I pointed out that this plant, and I don’t know what it is, looked as thought it might have been hanging out here since the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

spiky plant Orkney

It was late when we arrived at the tomb, the visitor centre had closed behind us, and we were free to take a look inside the tomb at our leisure, in a kind of ‘let yourself in, the doors on the latch’ way (lovely bit of drystone walling here).

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney entrance 2

In reality you enter the tomb, on a little bogie cart, 

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney entrance_

My photos in the tomb, don’t do it justice, I’ll admit, being on the slightly claustrophobic spectrum, I happier outside than in, so I didn’t hang around for long.  As last visitors of the day, I didn’t fancy being entombed for the night. The tomb is divided into stalls, by stone orthostats (love that word, hard to drop into conversation though) the remains of the sea eagles and 341 humans have long since been removed to safety.

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney 2

It was cool, dark and had an unusual earthy kind of smell,  but what did I expect of a tomb

Mr Uphilldowndale kindly demonstrated the technique for entry and exit

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney 4

The return walk, takes you along the edge of the  South Ronaldsay cliffs, where there were beautiful flowers

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney Squill 2

as blue as the surrounding sea

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney sea

in places the flowers were named with tags, a lovely touch,  by the Simison family, a family (dad, discovered the tomb, fifty years ago) that values the sharing of information about this special place. The plastic tags did seem a little incongruous to me though, maybe wood or even written on stone would have been more fitting, you know I fret about plastic and the sea.

Tomb of the eagles  Orkney Squill

By the time we returned to the van, it was just us and the rabbits, and maybe, soaring on the wind, the spirits of the eagles, looking for a tasty rabbit,

Rabbit Orkney_