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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Momento Mori

Momento Mori Kirkwall pointing hand 2

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_21

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.

A visit to St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall,  sadly if was only a brief visit, we managed to slip in  for a quick look around, just as a children’s concert was closing  (there was much fiddle playing, but more of that in a moment) and preparations  for a wedding were beginning , mind you I’d rather see a building that is very much part of the community than one preserved for tourist like me.

There are some wonderful tomb stones, its true to say I find them fascinating,  on many levels, and Orkney has many that are note worthy (there’s probably another post to be had, Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you I spent a lot of time mooching around grave yards on our trip). These  stones I loved because they, leave the viewer in no doubt, we are all just passing through, momento mori, ‘remember you must die’  an hour glass, a spade, a coffin, a skeleton,  cross bones and skull have you got the message? No use spelling it out, if the viewer can’t read, and not many would have been able to circa 1600, so lets be visually bold.

Momento Mori Kirkwall 4

Here, there is something about the hand, with the pointing finger, that made me smile, there is a touch of the Monty Python  about it, what looks like a sleeve, is actually a clasp holding the stone vertical.

Momento Mori Kirkwall pointing hand_

The font was rather wonderful, made with beautiful  marble, or are they pieces of agate? I know they make jewellery with Scottish agates; it reminded me  of another font made of precious stone

Font St Magnus Kirkwall

The external fabric of the cathedral itself has taken a hammering from the elements,

Stone exterior St Magnus_

Momento mori, even if you are a lump of stone

Stone exterior St Magnus 2

After we returned home, I read of a  battered fiddle, bought at a car boot fair, for £20,

It turned out that the fiddle had been made in 1919 by Thomas Sutherland from Flotta, and that the wood had come from HMS Vanguard.

More than 800 people died when the battleship sank in Scapa Flow in July 1917 after a series of internal explosions.

Do have a listen to the restored fiddle, being played in St Magnus cathedral, it will give you goose bumps.


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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


4 Comments

Summer Sheep.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_15

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.

On a warm day, its  good to get your coat off…

IMG_9878


2 Comments

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…