Uphilldowndale

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


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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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A brief moment in time

I walk down to the dentist this morning, not something you’d  normally leap out of bed for.

I took the old railway incline down into the village, it was part of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, that brought limestone down from the quarries to the waiting narrow boats in the canal basin. It’s now used as a path, and has been planted with trees (less controversial that current trees V railway issues)

I caught the cherry trees, at just the right moment,

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If the wind had picked up, or if it had rained, it just wouldn’t have looked the same, clusters of blossom were hiding in plain sight

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So glad I decided to walk, rather than drive; on the way back it got even better

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I think this might be the same beautiful animal I saw in the field a few days ago, I think it is a roe deer, not something we’ve seen here before, red deer occasionally from off the moors, but not roe. I felt a little sorry for it, it looked like it might be happier in a herd (but its OK,  it seems they are solitary animals).

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Too think, I nearly didn’t take the camera with me.

 


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Unseasonal Colours

You could have been forgiven for thinking a splash of colour was hard to come by today, heavy rain and weighty clouds have consumed us. But having watched the Met Office rainfall radar for a window of opportunity, Spud the dog and I grabbed it with enthusiasm. 

We made it to the post box today, another milestone for Spuds recovery, and its the first time he’s been a muddy dog for many a month.   The ‘new’ post box is a more useful size than the old one, but its sad to have lost the heritage of the old one.

We did find some colour, in the understory of a wooded area, from where we recovered the yew tree. I’ didn’t know (or hadn’t thought about) that woods have four distinct levels, canopy,understory, field layer and ground layer (todays blog learning objective has been met).

The understory of young beech trees, have kept their Autumn leaves, why do they do that when the mature trees don’t I wonder?  I’m also not sure why suddenly their are so many of them either, maybe the  grazing sheep have been absent long enough for them to become established, or maybe it was  the result of what a farming friend would call a mast year?

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The  sycamore  soaked by the rain, showed off  its  beautifully textured bark to good effect

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The lichens, seemed to have drawn up the lovely pink hue of the local grit stone;  dressed, this stone is very a very precious  commodity to us and our neighbours, and any that becomes available for sale, is snapped up and kept on the hill from whence it came for any building projects.

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Who so ever plants a tree winks at immortality

Spud the dog and I went for a walk  today, this was a big event; it’s the first time Spud has been out for a proper walk since his accident in August.  His bone is healed thanks to the great skill of his vets. Now he needs to build up some muscle.

We walked up the lane it was full of wondrous scents as far as Spud was concerned, I’ve always thought it a rather magical place. We met other dogs and had a good time.

We found in our absence  the council had been doing some work on the gullies at the side of the road.  They’d grubbed up a young yew tree, it was lying exposed, root ball and all on the far side of the gully. I thought I could probably mange to carry it  home, to plant it for perpetuity, yew trees are thought to be special, you see,  I was wrong, it was far too heavy.

I returned later with the Landrover, and it was a bit of a fight to get it in on my own, a passing neighbour offered to help, but  I declined her offer, she was wearing a beautifully cut tweed jacket, far to nice for wrestling muddy roots of which there were many more that I’d realised.

Look what lovely roots.

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I think I’ll let Mr Uphilldowndale dig the hole, once we’ve decided where it will be happy for the next 300 years or so.

It made me think of the quote, by Felix Dennis that forms the tittle of this post, I’d seen it at an exhibition at Kew Gardens. So I looked it up, once I’d got the mud off my clothes, and look at this beautiful, beautiful poem. Felix Dennis, how come I’d never heard of him before?

Whosoever plants a tree
Winks at immortality.

Woodland cherries, flowers ablaze,
Hold no hint of human praise;

Hazels in a hidden glade
Give no thought to stake or spade;

London planes in Georgian squares
Count no patrons in their prayers;

Seed and sapling seek no cause,
Bark and beetle shun applause;

Leaf and shoot know nought of debt,
Twig and root are dumb— and yet

Choirs of songbirds greet each day
With eulogies, as if to say:

‘Whosoever plants a tree
Winks at immortality!’


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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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Momento Mori

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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.

A visit to St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall,  sadly if was only a brief visit, we managed to slip in  for a quick look around, just as a children’s concert was closing  (there was much fiddle playing, but more of that in a moment) and preparations  for a wedding were beginning , mind you I’d rather see a building that is very much part of the community than one preserved for tourist like me.

There are some wonderful tomb stones, its true to say I find them fascinating,  on many levels, and Orkney has many that are note worthy (there’s probably another post to be had, Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you I spent a lot of time mooching around grave yards on our trip). These  stones I loved because they, leave the viewer in no doubt, we are all just passing through, momento mori, ‘remember you must die’  an hour glass, a spade, a coffin, a skeleton,  cross bones and skull have you got the message? No use spelling it out, if the viewer can’t read, and not many would have been able to circa 1600, so lets be visually bold.

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Here, there is something about the hand, with the pointing finger, that made me smile, there is a touch of the Monty Python  about it, what looks like a sleeve, is actually a clasp holding the stone vertical.

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The font was rather wonderful, made with beautiful  marble, or are they pieces of agate? I know they make jewellery with Scottish agates; it reminded me  of another font made of precious stone

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The external fabric of the cathedral itself has taken a hammering from the elements,

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Momento mori, even if you are a lump of stone

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After we returned home, I read of a  battered fiddle, bought at a car boot fair, for £20,

It turned out that the fiddle had been made in 1919 by Thomas Sutherland from Flotta, and that the wood had come from HMS Vanguard.

More than 800 people died when the battleship sank in Scapa Flow in July 1917 after a series of internal explosions.

Do have a listen to the restored fiddle, being played in St Magnus cathedral, it will give you goose bumps.