Uphilldowndale

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


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Sleeping with corncrakes

It was one of my Hebridean holiday aspirations to see a corncrake, a secretive little bird, that at one time used to live in our meadow,  here in  north Derbyshire so Freddy the farmer told me.

Killed off: The Corncrake

Freddy was born around 1920, and farmed from this house until the 1970’s, when during that life time the corncrakes disappeared from our meadow, I don’t know, but I do know that there are now only  just over a thousand calling males (and hopefully a similar number of females) in the UK. The birds demise has been a result of changes in farming practice, and the birds reluctance to break cover when the grass is mown, you can guess the rest.

One of the best places to find them is the islands of the Outer Hebrides, where much work is being done to give them the best chance of breeding safely.

One you’ve heard a corncrake, you will know its call forever.

We heard plenty but didn’t see a one.  They favour clumps of nettles and long grass.  I spent a long time staring at clumps of nettles, knowing the blighters were in there.

what no corncrake.jpg

They’d lure you in with a call, then fall silent for fifteen minutes or so, then, just as you were starting to think you’d move on they’d give another rasping call.

The best time to see and hear them, is at dusk, or dawn, or just after it has rained. the problem with dusk and dawn in the Outer Hebrides in June, is that dusk is very late and dawn is  very early.  We heard plenty, especially around four am. I have the badge to prove it.

I slept with corncrakes!

A calling corncrake is a lullaby I can sleep with.

 

 

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A room with a view, Dun Carloway

A Broch cut away
More modern local buildings are a little more modest, but will they still be standing in 2000 years time?.
Dun Carloway 2

 


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Riparian

Where the peaty brown river meets the sea.

Barra river meets sea

Where the water flowing from the flanks of Beinn Mhartainn, on Barra, meets the sea.  I thought there must be a special word , for when a river meets the sea, but I could only find estuary, which just didn’t seem to capture the moment, so I’ve gone with riparian, which means located by the banks of a river , stream or other body of water.  (Is this where ‘rip tides’ come from?)

Barra river meets sea 2

I’m sure that this rich mahogany coloured water is the kind of thing that must enhance the flavour of whiskey? But I can only find references to the use of peat in the process of distilling whiskey, not the water that goes into it..

Mr Uphilldowndale took to rock hopping, and pretending to make a beach landing.  Spud the dog and I kept our feet and the camera kit dry.

Island hopping Barra

 

 


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Travel Arrangements

There’s more than one way to arrive at the Outer Hebrides,  we sailed, from Oban to to Castlebay on the island of Barra, but not before we had a very tasty lunch at the cafe at the ferry terminal, lovely food, delivered by lovely people, I had a bowl of cullen skink, delicious, safe in the knowledge the weather was fair and we were in for a smooth passage, it probably wouldn’t  be the best dish for heavy seas! Spud the dog is pretty chilled about ferry crossings, he stays in the van on the car deck, but there is a lounge on the ferry where you can be with your pets for the passage, but we think he’s happiest in his home on wheels and it avoids him having to navigate the precipitous stairs between decks.

But back to Barra, you can if you wish arrive by air

Plane Sign .JPG

If the tide is out. Barra Airport

It is the only airport in the world, that has a scheduled service that lands on the beach. Barra airport is compact and bijou. Its been voted the second most scenic airport in the world

Barra airport tide in_

I was especially taken with the baggage reclaim.

Baggage reclaim_

And my many friends who like a Landrover, will be taken with the fire engine.

Barra Airport fire engine_

It also has a cafe, I’d been told  in advance about its legendary fish and chips. But we were out of luck, I was gutted, it was to be a reoccurring theme.

Fish supper

We waited for the flight to arrive, there is something that feels very wrong about standing in the path of an aeroplane as it comes into land!

Barra beach take landing 3

Plenty of spray, you probably don’t want to buy a second-hand plane from this route!(All that salty water can’t be good for the mechanical bits).

Barra beach take landing spray

It taxis up to the door, and the ground crew attend.

Barra beach landing_

The passengers disembark, take a selfie or two.

Barra beach landing passengers_

Things that need to be done for the return flight are swiftly attended to, and away they go again, before the tide comes in.

Barra beach take off prep

You can watch a landing, they are using one of the two other ‘runways’, landing across the beach rather than up the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Luxury of Lux

The sun shone brightly today, it’s been so grey, I was quite giddy with it.

Tulips on my desk glowed

tulip sunlight

The hazel catkins, as hot as mustard

hazel catkins_

Pussy willow, shooting stars against a deep blue sky.

pussy willow star light

The Christmas lights in the kitchen window (I can never bring myself to take down all the lights, until at least late January, I need  a little sparkle on the darkest days) caught the sunlight and were truly solar powered

solar powered fair lights

Then in a magical moment they flashed a rainbow  across the kitchen sink to the north side of the house.

rainbow and the kitchen sink

(These swift  light markers of the changes of the seasons, we call ‘sun on the lintel’ moments).

Hummm, the light  also indicated that a little house work might be in order, cobwebs on the fireplace,cobweb fire place.jpg

but that can wait. I’m off out into the sunshine.

 


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Let there be light, and transparency

It might have been cold the day we visited Haddon Hall, but at least it was bright. We’ve had some very wet, slag grey days this last week, I doubt we’d have managed to see some of the historic detail had we been there on those days.

The windows at Haddon are beautiful.

Haddon leaded light

We debated the windows, Mr Uphilldowndale said the undulating waves of glass was a feature designed to add strength, I said it was to make it look sparkly.

Haddon leaded light 3

During the 19th and early 20th century a great number of important medieval houses were restored and had their windows returned to an earlier style of glazing. The glazing of the western range of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, is particularly effective as each pane is set at a different angle to those adjacent, creating jewel-like facets when seen from the exterior. 

Look at the graffiti,  you’d need to be posh to leave your mark, back in the day, not every one had a precious stone ring, with which to make a statement. Haddon leaded light writing_

this window tells you what a posh gaff it is.

Haddon leaded lights  panel.jpg

A very pretty addition to the Christmas decorations was the Wishing Tree, set by the window and bathed in sunlight, it was beautiful in its simplicity

Haddon wishing tree

You could add your own wishes if you  wanted too. I guess we all have many things to wish for in 2019,  I for one wish for a little more light and transparency from our world leaders and politicians, is it too much to ask?

Haddon wishing tree 2