Uphilldowndale

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


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Skibbereen

We touched on Ireland’s Great Famine in the last post,  It’s difficult to comprehend, it needen’t have happened. Greed, arrogance, indifference and even ‘fake news’, that monies sent to help the starving would be used to buy arms, now where have we heard that?

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There’s always a bit of a dilemma when you’re travelling, how long to stay in one place how far to push on, have we seen everything we want to see, is there something else just around the corner?  We’d decided with this trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, ‘we’d get as far as we get’ there was no final destination, we’d a ferry home booked from Dublin, we’d  travel around the  south west coast and get as far north as we wanted, then hack east across country to catch our ferry. I’m glad we did this because otherwise, we could have missed spending time in Skibbreen, and finding the Skibbreen Heritage Centre, diminutive in size, it packs a punch, it caught me a little of guard to be honest. Some of its material is harrowing. Time spent there, informed the rest of our journey.

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Here in this communal grave are  the remains 9,000 men women and children, many more died along the roads, or trying to fee to safety emigrating to America in the ‘coffin ships’.

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The grave is the two areas of mown grass, near the wall, next to the now busy road

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We paused to reflect on what we’d seen in Flanders earlier this year, and how the human race can think its self so clever; and yet it never learns, history repeats itself, and is in so much danger of doing so again

 

 

 

 

 

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Eleven years on

Apparently today is my blogs 11th birthday.

Trees have been a constant blog companion over the years, so my blog buddies, what is this? We saw it at Burghley we thought it might be an ash, from the leaf shape

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and the  purple-black buds, what do you think?

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But Ash can be complicated, one of those things I only found out whilst writing a blog post. That’s the kind on thing that captures my curiosity and has kept me blogging along for eleven years, what makes blogging a feast and social media a snack.

The flowers appear on the tree before the new leaves in spring. They are small and dark purple in colour, occurring in dense clusters, with the female flowers being slightly longer than the males. Unusually, ash can be either monoecious (meaning that both sexes occur on an individual tree) or dioecious, where any one tree has either all male or all female flowers. Some trees also alternate their flowering, bearing only male flowers in one year and females the next.

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It was in the sculpture garden, we had a nice time there, and it did get a little silly from time to time, its what happens when you get a group of mates together who have know each others since they were in the Scouts together, they still think they are sixteen, not sixty; brilliant.

I liked the cattle sculpture

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And the detail of some more abstract works.

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Then there was the floating swans, that drifted around on the breeze. I’m sure the central hub of this installation was supposed to be more low key than it appeared. A pair of coots, had made it their home, they were very house proud.

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we were impressed by the male who was bringing his best sticks to be added to the nest, expertly ducking between the rotating swans,

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it must be a risky job on a windy day, like crossing the M25 at rush hour!

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Barking up the wrong tree

There has been an explosion of leaf growth. Spring seemed so long in coming this year, well the handbrake is now off. The trees have a fine new suit to wear and they look splendid.

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You might remember me waxing lyrically about the roe deer that had been in the field? And how I came up close to it in the village? Well it has lost its Bambi status.  look what it did to my silver birch sapling, a silver wedding present…

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If we were regularly visited by rabbits and deer, I suppose we’d use tree guards, but I’m on a bit of a rant about these plastic wrappers at the moment. I saw so many when we were down at Rutland Water, on the nature reserve for heavens sake, that had become embedded within the trees. Tree guard 4.jpg

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here is the archaeology of the future.

At least there are alternatives

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The sooner we crack on with using them the better.

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Always in the kitchen at parties?

More from our visit to Burghley House

It seems kitchens have always held an attraction, warmth, food, drink, what’s not to like.

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You’ve noticed the skulls? Turtles.

Now every piece of meat that passed through this kitchen would have been ‘headed up’ by a skull at some point, but obviously turtles were note worthy. In the 17th century turtle soup was  a very prestigious  dish to set before your guests. So much so, you’d have had a special dish from which to serve it.

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Turtles were shipped live to the UK, in specially built tanks and barrels onboard ship. I thought that must have been a bit grim. But  then a lot of things were at that time. 

It’s amazing that a new cook didn’t come along and say ‘for goodness sake, get those  ugly dusty old things out of my kitchen!’

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We don’t know how this chap arrived.

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We stayed in a holiday let on the estate, The Dairy, we were quite a crowd,  the Dairy can accommodate up to twenty guests; we were celebrating a special birthday.

Now think what an old dairy looks like, even if it is one on the estate of a stately home.  Now think again.

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No one minded being in this kitchen, well actually there were two kitchens…  an heir and a spare of kitchens!

Sumptuous, and Spud the dog was a model guest, he took one look at the sofas and realised he hadn’t a cat in hells chance of being allowed on one, so he sprawled on the under heated floors instead and was content.

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The Cross country course for the Burley Horse trials runs straight past the garden, you can hire The Dairy then if you like, and you can afford.  

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After three nights of excellent company food and wine, none of us were quite ready to go home to our own kitchens.

 

 


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Tulip Mania

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Tulips under a skylight, at Burghley House

After swooning over barn owls, we moved on to Burghley House,  the plain walls and unadorned surfaces in the image above, were not the norm, opulence is the house style.

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A few fresh flowers make a house a home,  but I would say that.

The tulips seemed especially suitable, I’m sure a passion for tulips must have passed through this house before, a costly game. 

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That could cost you your home however stately.


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Nothing is just black or white

Wisely our guide Patrick, took us to look at different perspective of the Great War in the Ypres area, we visited Langemark cemetery one of only four  German cemeteries in Flanders area. I’m glad he did. 

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Below is the main entrance, the style is very different to the Commonwealth War Graves sites, it has a completely different atmosphere, but then how we remember our dead, varies from one end of the country to the other, let alone another country and a very different set of circumstances.  The white stone of the British and Commonwealth cemeteries is an obvious difference to the dark stone of the German. 

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Although to my mind British and Commonwealth War Graves, and this German cemetery have a common theme, its a sense of enclosure,  that goes a little way to bring  the unimaginable enormity of this carnage (over 44,000 burials here) into, a place, however symbolic, that provides a sense, that is somehow, protective and embracing.

The  tablet shaped stones bear the names of many, we counted seventeen on one.


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Inside one of the two chambers at the entrance to the cemetery engraved in oak are the names of the men who are known to be buried here, but their grave is not identifiable, each day the rise and fall of the sun arcs  light across them.

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The cemetery is planted, with oaks, a  German symbol of strength ( remember there are no trees here that pre date the Great War, they were all destroyed by shelling and gun fire, these oaks are 80 years old)

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There is a wreath made of bronze oak leaves, mother nature slipped her own oak leaves in amongst the castings

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A visitor had left a poppy,

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the  German flower of remembrance is a corn flower,  Patrick told us more British and Commonwealth visitors come here than German. Whilst  we were there, there were several British school parties, I’m so pleased about this, its so important, and government funding is available for schools to visit.

There is a striking bronze sculpture of grieving soldiers

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They look out over an area of grass, an area not as big as a tennis court, this is the communal grave for 25,000 soldiers, yes twenty five thousand,

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the names of only half of them are known.  This small patch of grass, contains the equivalent of the population of our nearest market town. I stood and thought about this for sometime,

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Patrick pointed out a gateway too us

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And  then showed us a photo of Hitler, walking through the gate in June 1940. Chilling, how, why?

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New Zealand’s warriors, so far away from home.

There were many surprises  that came from our visit to the World War One cemeteries around the Belguim town of Ypres.  Things we’d just never given any thought too before,  for example I’d only been thinking of the  British nationals that were buried in the immaculate grave yards, surrounded by poplars trees, and a vast expanse of fields and sky, the kind of image we are all familiar with.

 

We booked a guide, Patrick Jonckheere of 2explore, this was the best move we could have made.  He suggested we should start our first day at the Flanders Fields Museum, in Ypres, to start to familiarise ourselves with some of the key events.  He then picked up in his car and whisked us away, taking us too places we’d probably never have found or thought to visit on our own. like the Yorkshire Trench, in the middle of an industrial estate. It’s a long time since I’ve  been quite so focused or learnt so much in five hours! However the tour was so well paced and knowledgeable it simply flew by (we’d not asked for any specific places to be included, but Patrick prides his ability to research and deliver tours particular regiments, events, or people) .

In my naivety, I’d not thought about the fact that WWI was at the time of The British Empire, and those fighting and dying came from across the globe. Would I ever have thought of a Maori Battalion from New Zealand? (Over 16,000 New Zealand soldiers died during WWI).

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The memorials to the soldiers of New Zealand, are both  beautiful and evocative

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This  image is taken from within an art work, that  forms part of a New Zealand memorial garden at the Memorial Museum, Passchendaele, it made me wonder what it was like deep within those muddy trenches.

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I’ve not yet written about the act of remembrance that takes place at the Menin Gate in Ypres each evening. I defy anyone, not to be moved by it, but  this video brings a very special and, powerful and emotional energy, just watch.