Uphilldowndale

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


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Christmas Confessions

Before I confess,  let me wish you all a happy and healthy 2018.

OK the confession. I took the tree down early this year, on the 28th.   I have to say it’s rare that it would still be in place come the 12th night,  and as I’m not superstitious about such things, I’ve no qualms about packing the baubles away.

Some years I just feel the need to make everything ‘calm’ again. I suspect  lot of this glitter Grinch, would have to do with working in retail,  as for many years, I was surrounded by as much glitz glitter and poinsettias as could be squeezed into the shop, and had been for weeks before the 25th of December arrived. I just used to want to come home to a clean clutter free zone and relax.  Those years are long since gone, but the habit remains. 

It’s been a different kind of Christmas this year, quieter than most, Tom has gone travelling in New Zealand, he left at the beginning of December and Joe returned to Uni to party in the New Year with his friends, we didn’t even manage to get down to Oxford for a family gathering as our travel plans were thwarted by a fall of snow.

Now that reads as a rather dour kind of Christmas, it wasn’t at all,  we had good times with neighbours and friends, we were even to be found in the village pub on Christmas eve for a very convivial couple of hours (it must be 30 years since I was last found in a pub on Christmas eve!)

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So whilst the baubles and my very precious lights are packed away, as usual, I have left some lights in place, a colourful welcoming string in the kitchen window, and an globe of lights in a  vintage carboy, shine on, longer days will come.

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Two for the price of one, part two

After a night at Welbeck, we travelled on to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

It’s not the first time I’ve blogged about this wonderful place.  This was a favourite exhibition

Here was an exhibition that was going to appeal to both of us,  Tony Crag, A Rare Category of Objects

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Mr Uphilldowndale, likes nice pieces of wood, especially when they are constructed like this

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It’s not all natural materials though,

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Sensuous curving dice

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and pinnacles of steel

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They have a feel of sandstone weathered through the ages, this made me think of the cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney.

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There were also working drawings and maquettes, that illustrated how Cragg’s time spent working in laboratories, provided inspiration, here you can see glass flasks and test tubes, layer upon layer. 

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It was his biggest exhibition to date in the UK, and there were many sculptures in the park. This storm laden sky had me worried about the sculptures ability to conduct lightening! 

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Two for the price of one, part one.

A potpourri of posts, about our adventures and experiences of the last few months whilst I’ve  been a lax blogger. 

August. Two galleries in one weekend.  First stop the Harley Gallery,  at Welbeck.  Welbeck and the Portland collection was somewhere  completely off my radar until I stumbled upon a workshop by the very gifted Mrs Bertimus, which was hosted in studios of Hope and Elvis, part of the creative complex of studios in the grounds of Wellbeck.

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I came home to tell Mr Uphilldowndale all about it; so we decided to visit.

As well as the collection and the gallery, with it’s changing exhibitions.

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The neatly landscaped gallery had some interesting fruit trees, this is I’m told a medlar, I’d not heard of  them before, maybe that is no surprise

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and a golden pear.

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There is a farm shop too, oh my, meat out of the league of the average supermarket.

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We pitched our van on the Welbeck campsite, it was quite, we were the only visitors.


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The Life and Death of a Flower

A potpourri of posts, about our adventures and experiences of the last few months whilst I’ve  been a lax blogger. 

November. A visit to London, to see family and a visit to Kew Botanical Gardens, always plenty to see and wonder at

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What ever time of year we visit

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however I wanted to make a beeline* to Rebecca Louise Law’s exhibition, Life in Death, its an installation, in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, right next to the fabulous paintings by Marianne North

It is created from thousand upon thousands of dried flowers, suspended on copper wire

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We think of dried flowers as delicate and ephemeral, and the effect is all of that, but it is something more besides, there is something enduring too.  I particularly loved the shadows of the flowers

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It is immersive, a path winds through the garlands, people come  in and out of view, now you see them now you don’t.  I think I can see where the existential title comes from.

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Given that flowers were, a long time ago, my world of work, I’ve been long aware of the importance many cultures place on flowers, in both life and death, so it was no surprise to read,  where Law’s inspiration came from.

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The exhibition Life in Death showcases her personal collection of plants and flowers, dried and preserved over a six year period. It is her most intricate large-scale artwork to date and examines our relationship with flowers and plants and how they are used, particularly through rituals.

Kew’s Herbarium specimens, including Egyptian garlands made with dried flowers dating back to 700BC, which inspired Rebecca to make this work, are also on display.

The Egyptian garlands made me think of Hawaiian lei (rubbish photo, sorry).

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We then went on to wander in the Autumn sun,

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I picked up a selection of fallen leaves, I had a little art project of my own in mind.

 

Now, if there is one thing that illustrates the the opposing, but complimentary mind-sets of Mr Uphilldowndale and I, it is that I picked up leaves because they were beautiful, he insisted we photograph them with the name of the tree from whence they came. Creative meets Engineer…

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However, it was all to no avail,  as the plan went a little pear shaped, when we left the bag of leaves in the cafe at Kew Gardens;  I hope we didn’t cause a security incident… Sorry.

* Oh no I haven’t written about The Hive yet, I took those photos back in January…


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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,

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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

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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.

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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,

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Look, light and flowers, they seem like a distant memory already.

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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.

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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.

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The veg patch was on a grand scale.

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And the ‘scarecrows’ had a vernacular style!

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Voyage of Discovery

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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

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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.