Uphilldowndale

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


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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.

 

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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.

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(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 

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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.

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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.

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

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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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Puffin, nothin’

I’ve been away from the the blog for a wee while. Nothin’ has been posted.

I’d had high hopes of posting a  wildlife post  each day of June  like I did last year as part of  ‘Thirty Days Wild’  but I didn’t get off to a very good start!

However we’ve been lucky enough to spend a few days in Northumberland and visit the Inner Farne Island, it was fabulous, so much wildlife it felt like 30 days wild, condensed into a few hours . I’ve blog fodder for the rest of the month.

Let’s start with the puffins. I’ve always wanted to see Puffin’s, who wouldn’t?

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You just can’t but smile at the sight of them. I’ve wanted to get a close look at them for a long time,

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I visited Iceland back in the 1980’s (at the time everyone thought I was a little mad) and I only saw one puffin, so this was a puffin fest! I have to admit I was a bit excited.

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So many Puffins

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Their swimming style is not dissimilar to mine, not a very effective stroke (on the water at least)

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it’s a miracle they get airborne, when they do, their flying is distinctive.

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They feed on sand eels, the supply of sand eels is crucial to a successful breeding season, however like all good fishermen’s tales, the ones that get away are the biggest…

Puffin 'this big'


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Time and Tide Part II

I was giving you a tour of Rhosilli Bay on the Gower Peninsular,  but I got distracted. It happens.

I thought you might like to see the remains of   the Helvetia, wrecked  in 1887

Wreck

It is amazing that the tides and pounding storms of the last 129 years haven’t swept away every trace of this ship, especially as it was extensively salvaged.

And given that these are timbers, wood, a natural, bio-degradable material, and they are still with on this beach,  just think  of plastic and of its non bio-degradable qualities, and hold that thought, for a post or two.

Its old  timber bones have simply slumped into the sands

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Explorer Edgar Evans, was born in Rhosilli in in 1876, its said* that as a young boy seeing the drama of the wrecking of the Helvetia was in part, instrumental in him joining the navy, where he became a member of the “Polar Party” in Robert Falcon Scott‘s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole in 1911–1912 from which he never returned.

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* I did read that bit in the pub in Rhosilli, I think I’ve got the detail right. I’m sure someone will correct me if needs be.


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Sun Store

I wish I could keep a box of sunshine on my desk. So that on grey, driech days like today, I could lift the lid and let it spill out. 

It seems churlish to complain really, as this time last week, I was in south Wales and we had the most glorious weather; whilst ‘up north’ was shrouded in mist and fog.

This is Marloes Sands

Marloes Sands

 

As we strolled down the path, I think I was expecting a little bay,  but the size and beauty  of this beach catches your breath. If you’d ask me what my favourite UK beach was, I’d probably have said, Laig on the Isle of Eigg, I’m now ranking them joint first. 

Spud the dog loved it too.

Spud Marloes Sand_

I pondered on the powers of nature, looking at the mighty upheavals of rock and near vertical bedding planes,

bedding planes Marloes Sand_

I didn’t discover until later that it is a great place for a spot of fossil hunting


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Welcome Home Ocean Valour

Salcombe gave a warm welcome home yesterday,  to two young me, Tom Rainey and Lawrence Walters, who had been at sea since May, rowing across the North Atlantic, from New York to Salcombe. It’s a long way in a small boat, that’s them in the centre of the shot

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There were about 200 boats out on the water to escort them into harbour, Mr uphilldowndale was amongst them.. He is easily identifiable in the photos as the only small sailing dingy in the flotilla,

He assure me he wasn’t as close to the lifeboat as he appears to be

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Mrs Ogg and I joined the  watching crowds on dry land, and whilst we kept our feet dry, our eyes were not;  it was very moving.  Tom and Lawrence, set out on this epic adventure, in memory of Tom’s Dad, Luke, who died of a brain tumour and to raise funds for The Brain Tumour Charity. They broke two world records en route, for the youngest pair to row the north Atlantic and for the distance rowed in twenty four hours

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I can’t start to imagine how good a nights sleep might be after such a voyage, but I’ll bet they slept well, and that their families, especially, Tom’s mum, slept just as soundly, knowing they were home safe.

The expression on Tom’s mums face, (in the white jacket) say’s it all.

Ocean Valour Tom's Mum_

Donations can be made to The Brain Tumour Charity at Tom and Lawrence’s Just Giving page.

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the press with the Royal Marines

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A seaside assortment….

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Tender Wooden Care

Another post from my jolly into Norfolk with my friend Mrs Ogg.

We stumbled upon Rescue Wooden Boats,  at Burnham Norton; Mrs Ogg’s eye was caught by their logo, it is by one of her favourite artists James Dodds and we have curious minds so we decided to take a look.

We found a warm and knowledgeable welcome at their museum,housed in old RAF huts. I was particularly impressed by the work they have done to capture the history of the fishing community. You could spend many an hour watching their archive of films (it might take a wee while to get your ear attuned to the accent though!)

After we’d spent some time in the museum we were given a tour of the boat shed where their were several boats undergoing restoration,

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and many more awaiting tender loving care. Rescue wooden boats 6

But not all was history, there was a stunning looking commission being built, in the traditional style

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All  smooth timber, sumptuous glossy varnish *

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and  exceptional craftsmanship

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Glimpses could be seen, that it is was very much a place of industry

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The largest boat under restoration was the Lucy Lavers, a lifeboat, built in 1939 whose very first mission was to take part in the rescue operation at the Battle of Dunkirk,

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She and her history are to big to fit in this post,  but you can read more here.

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I take my hat off to all those who give their time and effort to Recue Wooden Boats. Brilliant work.

 

* The irony being I’d left Mr Uphilldowndale at home varnishing six new wooden doors, three coats each side… He’d have loved to have visited here.