Uphilldowndale

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


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Sleeping with corncrakes

It was one of my Hebridean holiday aspirations to see a corncrake, a secretive little bird, that at one time used to live in our meadow,  here in  north Derbyshire so Freddy the farmer told me.

Killed off: The Corncrake

Freddy was born around 1920, and farmed from this house until the 1970’s, when during that life time the corncrakes disappeared from our meadow, I don’t know, but I do know that there are now only  just over a thousand calling males (and hopefully a similar number of females) in the UK. The birds demise has been a result of changes in farming practice, and the birds reluctance to break cover when the grass is mown, you can guess the rest.

One of the best places to find them is the islands of the Outer Hebrides, where much work is being done to give them the best chance of breeding safely.

One you’ve heard a corncrake, you will know its call forever.

We heard plenty but didn’t see a one.  They favour clumps of nettles and long grass.  I spent a long time staring at clumps of nettles, knowing the blighters were in there.

what no corncrake.jpg

They’d lure you in with a call, then fall silent for fifteen minutes or so, then, just as you were starting to think you’d move on they’d give another rasping call.

The best time to see and hear them, is at dusk, or dawn, or just after it has rained. the problem with dusk and dawn in the Outer Hebrides in June, is that dusk is very late and dawn is  very early.  We heard plenty, especially around four am. I have the badge to prove it.

I slept with corncrakes!

A calling corncrake is a lullaby I can sleep with.

 

 


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Pobull Fhinn

Time for a view,  from, Pobull Fhinn (Finn’s people)  a stone circle on the isle of North Uist,  over looking Loch Langass Lochens_

We had a fine lunch (if a little upmarket by our usual campervan standards) at Langass Lodge .  A hunting shooting and fishing kind of establishment, with a hearty stock of midge repellent and tick removers for sale in reception.  Ticks yuk, we’ve had trouble with them in the past during Mr Uphilldowndales fell running days they can get anywhere! Time to tuck our trousers in our socks!

We met some of the locals,

Deer Outer Hebrides

who probably have quite a few ticks between them.

Deer Outer Hebrides 2

 

 

 

 


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A room with a view, Dun Carloway

A Broch cut away
More modern local buildings are a little more modest, but will they still be standing in 2000 years time?.
Dun Carloway 2

 


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Brutalist Bus Stop

Following on from the Brutalist style church, a Brutalist bus stop with postbox, on the isle of Lewis

Bus Stop Lewis_.jpg

Looking like a remanent of the cold war, a bus stop with presence, its quarters offering shelter from which ever way the wind blows.

I couldn’t help but think if you were back at home in Derbyshire and tried sheltering around the back of a bus stop, the 199 bus would sail straight past without stopping.


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Riparian

Where the peaty brown river meets the sea.

Barra river meets sea

Where the water flowing from the flanks of Beinn Mhartainn, on Barra, meets the sea.  I thought there must be a special word , for when a river meets the sea, but I could only find estuary, which just didn’t seem to capture the moment, so I’ve gone with riparian, which means located by the banks of a river , stream or other body of water.  (Is this where ‘rip tides’ come from?)

Barra river meets sea 2

I’m sure that this rich mahogany coloured water is the kind of thing that must enhance the flavour of whiskey? But I can only find references to the use of peat in the process of distilling whiskey, not the water that goes into it..

Mr Uphilldowndale took to rock hopping, and pretending to make a beach landing.  Spud the dog and I kept our feet and the camera kit dry.

Island hopping Barra

 

 


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Travel Arrangements

There’s more than one way to arrive at the Outer Hebrides,  we sailed, from Oban to to Castlebay on the island of Barra, but not before we had a very tasty lunch at the cafe at the ferry terminal, lovely food, delivered by lovely people, I had a bowl of cullen skink, delicious, safe in the knowledge the weather was fair and we were in for a smooth passage, it probably wouldn’t  be the best dish for heavy seas! Spud the dog is pretty chilled about ferry crossings, he stays in the van on the car deck, but there is a lounge on the ferry where you can be with your pets for the passage, but we think he’s happiest in his home on wheels and it avoids him having to navigate the precipitous stairs between decks.

But back to Barra, you can if you wish arrive by air

Plane Sign .JPG

If the tide is out. Barra Airport

It is the only airport in the world, that has a scheduled service that lands on the beach. Barra airport is compact and bijou. Its been voted the second most scenic airport in the world

Barra airport tide in_

I was especially taken with the baggage reclaim.

Baggage reclaim_

And my many friends who like a Landrover, will be taken with the fire engine.

Barra Airport fire engine_

It also has a cafe, I’d been told  in advance about its legendary fish and chips. But we were out of luck, I was gutted, it was to be a reoccurring theme.

Fish supper

We waited for the flight to arrive, there is something that feels very wrong about standing in the path of an aeroplane as it comes into land!

Barra beach take landing 3

Plenty of spray, you probably don’t want to buy a second-hand plane from this route!(All that salty water can’t be good for the mechanical bits).

Barra beach take landing spray

It taxis up to the door, and the ground crew attend.

Barra beach landing_

The passengers disembark, take a selfie or two.

Barra beach landing passengers_

Things that need to be done for the return flight are swiftly attended to, and away they go again, before the tide comes in.

Barra beach take off prep

You can watch a landing, they are using one of the two other ‘runways’, landing across the beach rather than up the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Passing Place

It’s been a while since I posted, we’ve been on our travels, we’ve been winding our way along the single track roads the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland

passing place

It’s a very beautiful part of the world, with dramatic landscapes, and the  most exquisite white beaches

header Barra

and turquoise seas.

Barra

I’ve places to share and tales to tell, oh, and quite a few photos to edit.