Uphilldowndale

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


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Meadow Muse

I hope you are all keeping safe. It’s a long time since I posted, time seems to have taken on a different dimension, I’ve little comprehension of what day or date it is. Sometimes this state of affairs seems to have been forever, then I’m surprised that another week has passed.

The lifting of restrictions on travel and social meetings, seemed premature to us, so we’ve pretty much carried on as we were. We count ourselves very lucky not to live in the vicinity of some of the most popular beauty spots in Derbyshire, and other places that are not beauty spots, but that seem to attract people with very little in the way of common sense .

We have been able to keep ourselves to our selves.

The garden, pond and field have been a rich source of pleasure. The pond seems to have relished the prolonged dry sunny period, in spite of the spring that feeds it drying up. With the irises bursting into flower it had a showy ‘Ta Dah’ kind of moment.

There have been droves of damselflies, I tried to identify them, and rapidly brought it down to the following categories, red

and blue.

It was enough information for me.

We are relieved that our son Tom, is safe and well in the happy place called New Zealand. We’d be lying if we didn’t admit to being more than a little envious of how quickly the New Zealand government have been able to lift their restriction. I fear we are in this mess for a long time to come.

So I’ll keep on watching the grass grow.

And try and workout the new WordPress editor. I’m reminded of a washing machine that has about 30 different program options, when you only ever use two or three at most.


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Note to self

It’s always tempting when the seed catalogues drop through the letter box on the darkest of winters days, to get a bit carried away by the promise of summer, and spend a lot of money. (Sarah Raven’s catalogue is particularly seductive)

It’s even harder this year with the memory of New Zealand’s summer flowers still fresh and fragrant in my mind.

NZ Geum 2

However, no mater how much restraint I show, yellow and orange geums will be on the list  These  beauties were  in Christchurch Botanic Gardens.  Which felt very familiar,   very British (only sunnier) similar to Buxton’s Pavillion Gardens, in Derbyshire.

The gardens are home to The Peacock Fountain  which was made at Coalbrookedale Foundry in Shropshire, England; this blog has explored the Coalbrookedale  Museum of Iron in a previous post, and its easy to see this fountains linage.

Built  in 1911it’s not always been universally popular,  its quite ornate…

Erected by the Christchurch Beautifying Association from funds bequeathed by the late Hon. J. T. Peacock

Peacock Fountain Christchurch_.jpg

I think we can safely say it has been beautified,  however one writer told the press of the time 

 ‘it exhibited no more taste than the gaudy decoration used by travelling showmen to embellish their merry go-rounds.’

Which I feel is a little harsh.   Now back to the seed catalogue,  which of the Geums will it be?   And do they come with added butterfly?

 

 


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Picture perfect

More of our New Zealand travels,  November 2019

Wanaka

Having flown for 28 hours, it was good to arrive ( flying  Manchester, Dubai, Sydney, Sydney to Queenstown) With two hour stops at Dubai and Sydney, there wasn’t much hanging about and all went as smoothly as it could. I concluded that a kind of ‘shut down’ of the brain was required, I couldn’t concentrate to read, so I watched a lot of film, TV and listened to podcasts,  the £25 noise cancelling headphone were a godsend, than you Mrs B for the tip.

I’ll have to grab the photos of our planes decent into Queenstown  off Mr Uphilldowndale’s phone. What a way to arrive.

It’s not hard to see why our boy has fallen in love with this place.

NZ Lake Wanaka framed_

The following day we had breakfast at the Waters Edge Hotel, the first of many memorable meals of the trip. NZ does food, coffee and wine with aplomb.

Tom drove us out to Mount Aspiring National Park, it wasn’t long before we were forging through fords and on unsealed road, that were altogether less potholed than than the A roads we’d left behind in Derbyshire .

NZ dusty road

It was positively Alpine

Wanaka cool feet

But with attitude, this looks like a high octane way to spend your weekends,  jet boating.

Wanaka power boat

And relax, the adventure, months in the planning has arrived.

Andy and Sam NZ Mt Aspiring NP

 

 


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The Christmas post

If Christmas is a little bit messy, that’s OK.

Christmas card 11.5p Smantha .jpg

I’ve enjoyed  making some of my Christmas cards from stack of vintage postcards I found in a second hand book shop inKeswick, they are reproductions of stamps issued by the post office in the 1970s and 80s. Some had a Christmas theme, like the one above, published in 1981 I wonder what Samantha Brown is up to now, I hope she is still having as much fun with paint as she did back in 1981?

There were some very pretty ones. Christmas card golden apple 1980

This was a favourite

Christmas card 12p 1980

Some were not seasonal at all. I just chose them because they had a link to interests and hobbies of the intended recipient.

We’ve a friend. MR, who is a postal historian, I was delighted to find a postcard for him that celebrated postal history.  Spot on, couldn’t be better.

Every year we always await eagerly  the arrival of MR’s Christmas card to us, as we are curios to see what combination of  stamps he has used,  they are never recent issues, and often include 1/2p  denominations, I guess they must raise an eyebrow or too in the sorting office, they make us smile, we try to reciprocate, I’ve even added a Greenshield stamps   to his card before now, along with the correct postage, of course.

I wasn’t very quick off the mark, making or sending these cards this year, I didn’t start making them until after my brothers funeral.  

One card I was delighted to find was of an old English Sheepdog, it was the perfect one for a friend who is mourning the loss of his own dog of the same breed.

Meanwhile our card from MR landed on the door mat, bearing the very same postage  stamp as the postcard I’d just written and was about send.

OES

Shall we calculate the odds on that happening? Or shall we stick to stamp collecting?

Happy Christmas one and all.


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Crab apple way

A few nights away in Cumbria, nr Ullswater, at one of our favourite sites, The Quiet Site (not sure why I’m telling you about it, every one will want to go, what with it’s swishy new zero waste shop an’ all   In the morning Mr Uphilldowndale had been charging around the hills on his bike, I put the kettle on to boil, to sustain my needs for tea and curled up under the duvet with a book, what a treat. Spud the dog snoozed contentedly.  In the afternoon we took a gentle walk along a track near the site, whilst the surface has been sealed at some time it looked little used by traffic.

Apple walk 3

We were surprised by the number and variety of crab apple trees we passed. I know that south Cubria is famed for its damsons, in fact the Westmorland Damson Association, celebrates them in every way.  

But I’d not seen so many apples before, It must look very pretty when they are in bloom, and a source of food for wildlife through the seasons.

Apple walk 8

They are hardy looking trees, that don’t give up when they are down

Apple walk 2

So many colours, bronze green

Apple walk 13

acid greens,

Apple walk

honeyed yellows

Apple walk 4

rusty red

Apple walk 10

rich plum shades

Apple walk 7

We don’t see crab apples in our hedgerows here in north Derbyshire, I tried asking a local, about how come there are so many varieties in just a mile or so of track, they weren’t very forth coming.

Apple walk 5

They can hardly have germinated from an apple cast aside by a passing car or (cart) can they?

The trees arising from discarded cores are genuine wildings, each one unique and with the potential to contribute their characteristics back into the apple gene pool, 

 

The apples had out paced the blackberries, the devil had seen to that.

Apple walk 6

Spud the dog usually like to bring home an apple or two, but these seem to have been a little too tart of his tastes.

Apple walk 12

 

 

 

 

 


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Shed or shrine, a place to tinker

Tinkering in the shed (well a garage, actually) my late father did a lot of that. It was his happy place.  When I saw this video I was so moved, not just by the dedication of Lee John Phillips, skill and determination to record the contents of his grandfathers shed, no, it was the Flora margarine tubs with there handwritten scrawly labels, that caught my breath.  My Dad did that. I can feel the brittleness of  each tub,  see the aged  yellowing plastic, the presence of its weighty load of rusty screws.

 

Dad’s garage may have looked chaotic to the uninitiated, but it had a filing system as complex as a giant Amazon warehouse,  just minus a robot.   It was all in Dad’s head.

When Mum died five years ago, and we set about the task of  clearing the family home, my siblings and I were pretty confident, we’d got the garage sussed, Dad pre-deceased mum by 18 years and a couple of years after he died, we’d hired a skip (at a price that would have horrified my him) to dispose of all those important little things he’d been saving just in case. Screws, wingnuts, little slithers of Formica, rubber belts and brushes. Old keys and watch faces. Tobacco tins and string. Bits and pieces that would have saved him a penny or two, and given him the priceless satisfaction of making and fixing.  At the time the task seemed never ending, my brother installed greedy boards on the skip as it started to overflow.

The task wasn’t as dangerous as dealing with his secret hoard of home brew,

home brewBut the second wave of garage clearing revealed  more stuff and memories than we’d bargained for (I saved this WWII ammunition box, and a selection of tools for Joe, they cleaned up nicely).

Dad's amo box_

I’m glad I took some photographs, drawing every item would have been beyond me in both skill and time. We’d kind of forgotten how ingenious some of Dad’s creations were, a tad Heath Robinson at times, but he made what he’d got, work for him (here, on the right, a device for trimming the climbing rose around the front door)

Dad's clippers

Dad often made his own tools, the childhood swing that he made for me, would disappear from time to time, seconded into the garage, to be used to support a pulley to lift out car engines, just as he designed and fabricated it to do.

As the world starts to realise the necessity of Reduce Reuse and Recycle, I can think how wrong I was, Dad was ahead of his time not behind it.

 

 


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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.