Uphilldowndale

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


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Time and tide

More from our travels in New Zealand,  November 2019

Had we not spent so long, wining and dining at Fleurs Place, we’d have arrived to see more the famous Moeraki boulders, before the tide came in!

Moeraki Boulders 3

Tide and a bit of rain wasn’t going to deter us though.

A Moeraki boulder wired aren’t they? Even more other worldly when emerging from the ground.

Moeraki Boulders 2

The broken ones reminded me of the contents of an ancient, open packet of Maltesers,   the kind of thing you might find in the back of the glove box in the car.*

NZ Moeraki boulders inside 2

But here is the scientific explanation

concretion is a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, and is found in sedimentary rock or soil.[1] Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word ‘concretion’ is derived from the Latin con meaning ‘together’ and crescere meaning ‘to grow’. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the host stratum.

NZ Moeraki boulders inside

The Maori oral tradition explanation, I understand this one more readily.

Local Māori legends explained the boulders as the remains of eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara washed ashore from the wreck of Arai-te-uru, a large sailing canoe. This legend tells of the rocky shoals that extend seaward from Shag Point as being the petrified hull of this wreck and a nearby rocky promontory as being the body of the canoe’s captain. Their reticulated patterning on the boulders, according to this legend, are the remains of the canoe’s fishing nets.[5] 

We came across a party of Chinese tourists,no wedding dresses this time though, (the weather was hardly Instagram friendly).

NZ Moeraki boulders chinese tourists

We debated why they felt the need to wear face masks, we wondered if it a cultural thing, but whatever we were wondering in November 2019  it seems rather irrelevant now.

Moeraki Boulders 5

I guess there are no flights of Chinese tourist arriving in New Zealand,  it will be a hard hit for the tourist economy of South Island. But needs most certainly must.  The overshoes, and the rain coat, with a kind of visor hood, was something we’d not encountered before.

One of the party took a shine to Tom,  and wanted a souvenir holiday photo, he willingly obliged

Moeraki Boulders_

We were soon alone on the beach, and Tom couldn’t resist.  I think the tide had turned.

Moeraki Boulders 4

*what chance is there of ever finding forgotten chocolate treats in our car?


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Don’t drink the water

More from our travels through New Zealand,  November 2019

You never know what’s up stream.

NZ Dead Horse Stream_

Every bridge and culvert in New Zealand is named and numbered. And indeed if you’ve that kind of enquiring mind you can read the rational for it, here.

These two were on the road out to Mount Cook, Mount Cook.

birch hill stream NZ 2

I’ve no idea what a worry line is, but it’s worrying me.  You can follow Birch Hill stream up to the snow fields of Jamieson Saddle, but you’d need to know what you were about. 

New Zealand’s roads don’t seem to get a good press,

NZ Rd to Mt Cook Lake Pukaki vista

New Zealand does not score highly in road infrastructure when compared to other developed  nations, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015–
2016.23 The New Zealand road quality is rated as 4.7 out of 7, which places New Zealand in position 43. The perceived comparatively poor quality of our infrastructure may partly be due to our geography and population size.

As the saying goes, New Zealand’s roads are different,  but I thought that report seemed a little harsh, there’s a lot less pot holes in the roads than here in Derbyshire at the moment. And the challenges  that a feisty young  mother nature throws at New Zealand’s road infrastructure, such as earthquakes, floods, landslips, snow and ice must be challenging to say the least.  We shall return to this topic.

 


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Tasty blue sky

It’s a much welcome bright day here in Derbyshire,  one in which I shall try and  in gather all the lumens I can.  You never know how long it might be before the next sunny day.

Here are some some sunny blue sky photos from our New Zealand trip (November 2019), with complementary flash of orange for added zing.

A walk by the Clutha river, at Albert Town, nr Wanaka.  Look, lupins, Tom had promised me there would be lupins ( a photogenic but invasive bloom, but more of that later).

NZ Albert Town Cultha river canoe.jpg

Aren’t these poppies delicious

NZ Albert Town Cultha river poppies

There was a cloud in the blue sky,  but what a handsome  cloud. I think it is a Lenticularis cloud,  but you’d probably have to ask The Cloud Appreciation Society for a definitive answer.

Albert Town Lenticular_

And if this wasn’t tasty enough we followed up with lunch at Pembroke Patisserie,  I don’t know which  herb or spice they season their spinach and feta rolls with, but it make them sing.  So much so we had to go back again another day.

Tom tells me  how grim the weather has been over Wanaka, with the smoke clouds from Australia. It’s hard to imagine the scale of the  Australian bush fires, but to put a little perspective on it,  Sydney to New Zealand is a three hour flight (NZ is not quite ‘next door’ to Australia as we Poms  are sometimes guilty of thinking).  You are in our thoughts Australia.

 


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Picking up the thread

It’s been a while since I posted,  not since our little town was freed from the threat of  the failure of Toddbrook dam,  and whilst I’ve not quiet finished writing about the dam, I feel the need to share a  bright, light post to kick start me into blogging again.

We’ve been having some fun filled colourful days, Joe has been home for a month and we’ve catching up with friends near and far.

Here is a day out with my friend Mrs Ogg,  we went Chatsworth House, whilst our men folk went cycling.  What ever was happening in the big top, we didn’t get invited.

Chatsworth big top

Dahlias

Chatsworth red dahlia peach

and insects were the stars of the show

Butterfly chatsworth

It was that perfect, late Summer meandering in to Autumn weather, which must be savoured, before it is blown away.

Butterfly chatsworth 2

Spiky red dahlias, my fathers favourite flower, although my mother never appreciated the tubers being kept in the airing cupboard over winter!

Chatsworth red dahlia deep

Colours too hot to handle,

Chatsworth red dahlia flame

and gentle buttermilk yellows,

Chatsworth red dahlla custard cream

Cut flowers, prepped for the big house perhaps? They made my ex-florist fingers twitch.

Chatsworth cut flowers - Copy

Dahlias are somewhat ephemeral  as cut flowers, they don’t like to travel, get them straight from the garden, a generous neighbour or a market gardener if you can find one,  they are an endangered species, and enjoy.

Dahlia header_

Autumn is on its way

Chatsworth red leaves

 


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Dam of emotions

It’s been a difficult time. When the dam of our local reservoir, Toddbrook, started to fail on Thursday 1st of August, it was deeply worrying. I was very close to the dam, when events started to unfold. As the first emergency response was arriving, this is what I saw; brown fluid, like clay slip, flowing from under the spillway, and concrete plates, lifted up above the retaining wall at the edge of the spillway. My spine froze. I took this photo on my phone, my hand shaking and left quickly.

Toddbrook mobile

I felt sure that the only way to fix this would be drop the water behind where it was leaking. In the mean time, the breach would be washing away the dam, which has clay at its core. It was a terrifying thought. The water gathering pace and driving more and more stability away.  I also felt sure they would have to evacuate the town.

My very physical reaction to the risk came I think, not from the fact my family is awash with engineers, but simply years of summer holidays watching the boys dam the river on Mill Bay beach in Devon, not for hours, but for days, till their hand were blistered, their cries and shouts as the dam started to fail, ‘Come on you guys, it’s going!’ Joe would yell* and they would all pile in to try and save it with spades and chunks of driftwood as the sand and water swirled away down the beach.  I guess I’m a visual thinker, but the magnitude of what could happen to Whaley Bridge was there in a heartbeat and did not leave me for the next six days..

It didn’t take me many minutes to get home, well up into the hills above the town.  The police were closing roads behind me as I left, I tried to compose myself, I rang Mr Uphilldowndale to tell him. I got through to his answerphone and left a tearful panicky message.

This video show the early response and the work that went on through the night.

 

At 5am the next morning, just 14 hours after the town had been evacuated an RAF Chinook helicopter was bringing bags of stone into shore up the dam.  Working to photos provided by the engineers they skilfully places the bags, where X marked the spot. I watched as they dropped bags into slit on the right hand side of the concrete kerb at the edge of the spillway. I watched 11 tonne bags fall, they just disappeared into the ground, vanished into the void.

 

Toddbrook Chin 3

 

Over a thousand people have been working around the clock, what they have achieved was astounding: new roads, floating pumps, miles of pipes, tonnes of stone to block any more water coming into the reservoir.  For the people of Whaley Bridge, who could only watch the RAF Chinooks have become the iconic sight and sound, we found the distinctive wockwockwock  sound of their  rota blades strangely comforting.

 

 

It was something we could see and hear, from our homes (or the homes of family and friends on higher ground, out of the flood zone) from the kitchen sink, from our bedrooms, from the garden, we stood and watched.

 

Toddbrook Friday Taxal Moor_

 

On the Friday it was intense. I  joined many others and watched from the local cricket club.

 

Toddbrook Friday 2nd 2

 

I found myself surrounded by military aviation enthusiasts, with camera lens as long as a broom handle, who told of their delight at being able to watch Chinooks working outside of an air show. I realised we had very different reasons for being there.

On Sunday, the weather gods, having placed us in this crisis clawed back the threatened clouds and torrential rain that was forecast. You could feel the valley breathe a little more easily: the sun came out, the landscape sparkled despite its open wound.

 

 

Words feel inadequate to thank those who responded: from truck drivers, to the RNLI, Mountain Rescue, civil engineers to construction specialists, Fire and Police, surrounding villages sending food to feed the thousand, 4×4 clubs evacuating residents, local volunteers, social workers looking out for the vulnerable and a thousand and one tasks that I could only guess at.

I think that for many  involved in the Toddbrook dam incident,  it will not only be something they never forget, but a career defining moment, a challenge they may even have relished in both its urgency and complexity.

I can’t come towards the end of this post, without mentioning Deputy Chief Constable  for Derbyshire, Rachel Swann, her clear and decisive leadership was as inspiring as it was comforting. We felt we were in safe hands.  She features in this video.

 

 

On Wednesday, six days after the evacuation, residents were allowed to return home. Tears of anxiety gave way to  tears of relief.

I think our little town will come out strong from this. We will have a new dam, the safest, smartest, sexiest dam in the country! Ready for the next 200 years. We know and value what we so nearly lost, and we know that there is strength and a steadfastness  in our friends  family and neighbours, that we never recognised before.

I’d be lying to say that nerves are not still on edge. On Thursday, the day after the all clear, I was startled to hear what I thought was the sound of a Chinook. It turned out to be the the washing machine on a spin cycle! Stand down everybody stand down. It’s OK.

We’re like the flag at the cricket club a little frayed around the edges.

 

cricket club

 

Take a look at the weather vane on the clubhouse roof, we came very close to losing so much.

*Joe is now studying civil engineering at university, all things to do with water management are his passion!

 

 


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Seasonal variations

My the weather is a little lively this afternoon!

moody cloud.jpg

Thunder, lightning, hail and a little sunshine.

It strikes me I  still have a whole holidays worth of photographs awaiting blogging, from our week in Cornwall,  back in March. If I don’t get a wiggle on, I’ll think they are to ‘unseasonal’ to post.  I’d best get cracking.


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Missing him already

Joe has been home for the Easter break, it was as though he brought the fair weather with him, the sun shone brightly each day he was home.

No one could say he is a typical student,  one that lies in bed until lunch time*, he caught the 04:35 train from Cardiff, for two reasons he said, one it the cheapest ticket ( he is his fathers son) and two it gave him an extra day at home.  He arrived  at the station in the village, in time for us to pick  him up and collect breakfast from the bakers, and a couple of bags of pet food for Spud the dog and Jammy the cat from the pet shop too.

We seem to have packed a lot into a few days, and yet it’s been very relaxed. The hen house has moved, an old stone gate post has had the ‘stone henge’/ ‘engineers live here’ treatment of rollers and crowbars to move it up the yard, windows have been re-glazed, the drain from the pond cleared ( we are sorry about accidental the demise of a frog though). Friends entertained, ice cream devoured, a birthday celebrated a wedding anniversary toasted to.  Time sat chatting in the sun. Too much chocolate eaten.

Now he’s returned to Wales, and his the world of work and study, his bedding is washed and  on the line.

Duvet

Then the thunder clouds rolled in, a fist full of  delicious warm sunny days and 21consecutive days without rain came to an end, and I had to bring the laundry in.

*OK he does sometimes, but if motivated by a bargain or an archery competition, he will be up and gone before first light.