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


The Forgotten Army

Remembering VJ Day

When you go home don’t worry about what to tell your loved ones and friends about service in Asia. No one will know where you were, or where it is if you do. You are, and will remain “The Forgotten Army.” ― attributed to General Slim.

My Mum often told me how hard it was for her, when everyone was celebrating VE Day, not because she wasn’t of course delighted, but because her sweetheart, my Dad was serving in Burma, with the Royal Engineers, and for him the war was not over. So remembering VJ Day is a matter of importance for me.

He’s on the right in the foreground of this photo.

Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 3


This is the letter she sent to Dad, on hearing the news he was coming home, in November 1945, Marian was his older sister.

VJ letter home

The letter arrived too late for Dad, he was on a ship home by the time it arrived. It was sent safely back to blighty,  to his sisters address. I think Mum would be cross with me for posting her letter on the World Wide Web, but then  again she wouldn’t want anyone to forget either.

Dad used to tell just a few war stories, the same ones often!  But  I’m pretty sure they were what he considered palatable,  we never got to hear the full story, he came close once, to telling my brother, but stopped when he became tearful, and he had nightmare throughout the rest of his life.

Fourteenth Army

Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 2Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 3Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 4Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 5Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 6Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 7Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 8Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 9Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  EngineersBurma 

My Dad died eighteen years ago, when Joe was just a few weeks old and Tom was two years old, so sadly they have no memory of him. Joe got his A Level exam results on Thursday, and of course it was one of those moments that you want to phone mum and dad and tell them the news:  looking at these photos, maybe it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Joe has chosen to do a degree in civil engineering…  As they say around here ‘what’s in the tree comes out in the branches’.


Thirty days wild. 16th June

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_16


The best thing that you can do for nature is too make it part of your life. That’s why we’re asking thousands of people to make room for nature in their everyday lives this June. Please spread the word amongst friends, colleagues and family and get them to sign up, too! After all, all our lives are better if they’re a bit wild… ‘

I’ve signed up to 30 Days Wild with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust,  with the aim of blogging each day, a little bit of the nature of my world.


Don’t go losing you head

headless cow_-2

But seek zen calm and contentment

contented cow


Thirty days wild. June 15th

The best thing that you can do for nature is too make it part of your life. That’s why we’re asking thousands of people to make room for nature in their everyday lives this June. Please spread the word amongst friends, colleagues and family and get them to sign up, too! After all, all our lives are better if they’re a bit wild… ‘

I’ve signed up to 30 Days Wild with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust,  with the aim of blogging each day, a little bit of the nature of my world.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_15


When the weather doesn’t know if its blowing hot or cold, I suppose half a fleece is better than none.

half a fleece_


Bless This House

One of the reasons I’ve been absent from blogging  of late, is that we’ve had quite a big building project going on. I’ve no complaints about the guys working here, they’ve been great, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and you certainly can’t knock an old house about without some disruption, noise and dust. It’s a scheme of works we’ve been planning for a long time

Construction gets in your head space, making decisions and sourcing everything from light switches to windows, gobbles up a vast amount of time  energy and money.

We’ve tried to chose our building materials carefully, recycling where ever possible,


trying to do justice to the existing building. In addition we’ve been bringing insulation up to a higher standard.  Here is Rocky the cockerel checking out the acoustics and the under floor heating ( which is heated by  ground source heat pump).

bless this house_


I was pleased when I found that we got to the ‘soft stuff,’  curtains, furniture, pot plants even. I went shopping at Ikea, at the checkout, I helped the Chinese couple in front of me in the queue to find the ubiquitous and ever useful Ikea ‘big blue bags’ I must have earned myself some good karma, for in return they explained that the house plant I had in my trolley was good feng shui for our home, and that it would bring us good fortune.

bless this house 2

All I can say is it certainly seems to be flourishing

good fortune 3

and I am indeed fortunate to have such a beautiful space, Spud and Jammy agree.

Ben Squeak_


Frosted Fizz

A sharp frost overnight gave the great outdoors a bit of a boost this morning.

frost fizz

The garden was lifted from its damp decay.

frosted mahonia_

And the field effervesced

frosted leaf 

The remains of the field maple glowed in the cold.


And a spiders web was frosted filigree

frosted web

Whilst the hedgerow was barbed with ice.

frosted hedgerow-2


As a family we’ve come close to hibernation over the last couple of weeks,  I think we all needed it. I’m feeling torn now, between wanting to regain some semblance of routine back to my life, or staying in my cosy little world. Sigh.


Family Roots

My blog lurches along, in fits and starts. Many things have been bubbling away, they seems to consume vast swaths of time, but if I were to list them all here, the majority would seem very mundane. But I’ll kick start a few posts by telling you about a special event.

We had a family gathering at Kew Gardens in London, to inter my father in laws ashes, long time readers might remember that he died in 2013, his wish was that his body be donated for medical science and we held a memorial service soon after his death.

  After a period of time (12 months in my father in laws case) the body  is returned to the family and they can make their own arrangements, if that is what the donor requested , or the anatomy  society arranges for a cremation and the scattering of the ashes at the crematorium. 

palm house 3


Mr Uphilldowndale’s father visited Kew often, it was a favourite place. One of the reasons for his interest was that a family ancestor, was a keen amateur botanist and a number of plants were named after him by his friend botanist Joseph Hooker, who was a director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. So you can see what a fitting place it seemed to be for the interment. The staff at Kew looked after us beautifully, and extended their hospitality by inviting us to stay on to enjoy the preview night of their Christmas lights, this seemed a perfect way to round off the day, it was quite magical.


So some photos of Kew by night

The palm house, the lights and flames all timed to music, pure theatre

Kew lights 4

Meandering through the glass houses

Kew lights 6


Kew lights 7

Surreal candelabra suspended from trees

Kew lights_

The cacti house seemed other worldly.

Cacti at Kew_

Cacti at Kew 2

The Palm House,

Kew palm house_

ever changing.

Kew lights 3


Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red; a different view



After yesterdays post, a little background information, on both the installation and the Tower of London.


The poppies were planted by  teams of volunteers,

 Poppies Tower of London Vols 2

It must have been an operation planned with military precision.

Poppies Tower of London setting out

It would have been an overwhelming task without a master plan.

Poppies Tower of London setting out 3

(and surely packing them all up again is going to be harder?

Poppies Tower of London box

Although that warm fuzzy glow, of feeling part of something special, is the thing that keeps volunteers coming back for more

Poppies Tower of London setting out 2

My favourite shot form our day (29th August) is poppies with shadows. War casts very long shadows.

Poppies Tower of London shadow

There was something about the mottling  effect of the shadows that reminded me of the solar eclipse in the UK, in 1998, another event I found more emotional than I anticipated.

It was quite early in the installations development when we visited, whilst I’d read about it in the press, there wasn’t the wall to wall coverage there has been in the media this week. So a gripe for us at the time was that there weren’t enough information boards

Poppies Tower of London mechanics 2

Some might call it a theatrical event rather than artistic installation, the weeping window has caught the public imagination.

Poppies Tower of London weeping window

However I did think a bit of ‘set dressing’ might have been in order, when I sold flowers for a living, including poppies, we never let the viewer see the mechanics of our arrangements. I thought the scaffolding pole, lump of timber and blob of foam holding the cascade in place could have benefited from being hidden by a couple of yards of fabric and some cable ties.

Poppies Tower of London mechanics

But working in a place as ancient, historic and protected as this, must come with scores of problems. You can’t go around damaging or changing the fabric of such a place, well not these days, you could in the past.

Poppies Tower of London walls_

We found it both moving and reverential,  but there were, if you looked very closely, little witticisms to be found. What I thought was a can of Coke on a window ledge, turned out to be (when seen with the aid of a long lens) a Beefeater cookie jar, placed just for fun.

Poppies Tower of London little beefeater

Beefeater or Yeoman Warders as they are more properly known, do have something of a sense of fun, see below (and be careful if you are drinking tea whilst watching, you’ll splutter it all over the keyboard).




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