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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A mixed bag of Spring Weather!

The weather forecasters always talk of "April showers" - well there has been rain, hail, sleet and snow for the last week!  But lots of sunshine too.  The sun is now setting past the tip of Graemsay so I KNOW Spring is here.  And the days are definitely longer now.  Sunset will be 20.54 tonight.

And there are lambs in the field!  I feel so sorry for them though in this changeable weather.  I want to bring them all indoors!  Here are just a couple.  The ewes and lambs are numbered so the farmer can tell which lamb belongs to which mother when doing the head count.

When the sun comes out there is warmth in it and it is a joy to see. AND we are having more sun than not.  This next photo was taken on a calm day....  This is the "main road" round the island! A single track of tarmac. There are no "formal" passing places so you need to judge your direction just right at boat times or there's a lot of frantic reversing so folk can get to the pier in time.

The hens enjoy being out in the sun, and the grass is coming through nicely in front of my house so they are happy to peck away at that.  In the background of this photo is Stromness, across the blue water.  Lots of sky in the photo is deliberate.  I love big skies!

And a wandering male pheasant!  Not native to Orkney but introduced to the island some years ago.  Not prolific breeders (or at least not successfully!) but there are always a few around.

And then there is the weather over the last few days..... choppy seas, fluffy clouds and blue skies during a gale yesterday.

Hail/sleet shower over Hoy in the distance.

Hail battering the study window at the back of the house yesterday.

And a slightly warmer reminder to finish this post - a sunset. with the sky ablaze.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Bag the Bruck 2016

"Bag the Bruck" is an annual event in Orkney and is the time communities go out collecting bruck (rubbish) from around the beaches.  Not only does it make the beaches look better, but more importantly it helps the environment and all the marine life and birds that live along the shore.

This year Team Sandside were out in force - Irene from Breckan, who together with myself, co-ordinated our team which was made up of Becky, Katiem and James Braddock.  They did all the scampering around among the dunes, sand and rocks collecting all sorts of bruck.  They are very switched on to this and James was explaining how the rope and string on the beach might catch around the feet of the birds and they would die, trapped on the shore.

Becky valiantly helped remove the tyre from the beach which had been full of sand. It was a joint effort, I spotted the tyre, James scooped out all the sand, and Becky carried it up to the road.  I asked her if it was too heavy for her to carry, to which she replied "It's lighter than Mum's handbag".  Hee hee....

James collected driftwood with a vengeance.  I'd spotted this wonderful long piece of driftwood across the beach, but gave James the chance to get it as I'm sure a wee boy will have more fun with it. He said he's well armed against vampires now.

It was a very cold, windy day and sand was blown into our faces, but we valiantly carried on!  The two beaches we cleaned up were actually not too bad. They are the most frequently visited and most folk try and remove any litter or "bruck" they see.  Though as Katie said, it was remarkably clean considering there was nothing between it and Canada!

So thanks kids for an entertaining time, and you will now be a permanent addition to Team Sandside, which used to just be made up of Irene & myself, and formerly her old dog, Shandy, and once, HRH Princess Button.  But Button stayed indoors snoozing today. Way too cold for a puss cat to be out and about.

Other folk on the island will be doing other beaches and then all the bags will be sent over to be collected by the local authority for disposal.  All around Orkney over the last two weekends lots of groups will be "bagging the bruck".  A great community effort.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The old pier at Sandside

(Click on the images to see in the "lightbox" - bigger!)

There is a lovely old pier that separates the two beaches I walk on most days.  On one side is the curve of Sandside Bay, a sandy beach with a few shells, but not many, and on the other side is the coral beach and lots of rocks.  I always imagine there is a sub-sea roundabout with directions to each beach depending on whether you are sand or coral and shells.  Hee hee.

Anyway, this pier was built around 1860 specifically for the building of the two lighthouses on the island, Hoy High and Hoy Low.  The "Lighthouse Stevensons"  built most of the lighthouses around Scotland over a 150 year period, including the two on Graemsay.

The stone for the towers and lighthouse buildings were cut over on the Orkney Mainland and then shipped across to the pier at Sandside and taken by carts to the each location.  I'm not sure where the stone originated from, but it will have been one of the quarries in Orkney I would think.

Anyway, back to the pier.  It has always fascinated me as it just appears to "sit" upon the rocks.  I have NO idea how it was built but I love it's shape and form.  So here are a few photos. In some ways it's a tricky pier to approach by boat as there are lots of rocks on one side and as the tide goes out it's easy for a small boat to hit these, but there IS a channel safely through - you just have to find it!

Here the pier ends and joins the land.  Various efforts have been made to stop the coastal erosion around it, including cement bags, and dumping loads of concrete blocks!

This is the familiar view as I approach each day (usually with Button!).  Stromness over in the distance and the Point Of Ness (near the white pointy marker in the water just to the left of the harbour) where the stone for the lighthouses would have set out on it's journey across to Graemsay.   At low tide you can see the rocks!

I love the curve in this pier, a bit like a "buttress".  This is the bit that Button usually walks down.

This is at the end of the pier, just to the right in this photo.  Steps leading down to the rocks....

At low tide you can walk right out - though it's quite slippery with seaweed.  When the tide is in this makes a nice natural pool to swim in.

When you are standing in the "pool" at low tide the rocks rise up around you.....

This might be a better view - probably should have taken pier photos on a dull day! I love the stone work...

And here is another familiar view!

Both Button and I love this old pier - as you can tell as it features in most of our beach photos :-)

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Another beach walk....

Button insists I take a walk to the beach most days.  I think she may have been a dog in a former life! She goes back and forth to the door, meowing, and refuses to go out unless I put on my wellies (rubber boots), coat etc and set forth to the beach.  Usually the coral beach first then the sandy beach, weather permitting!

There is little sand on the coral beach, and very little coral (or shells) on the sandy beach.  I am convinced there is a sub-sea traffic light system.  Coral to the left, sand to the right, hurry along now! Ha!  I know it probably has something to do with the tides, currents, pier, rocks etc.  But still it always amuses me....

I love the patterns in the sand.

And I love the huge flagstones on the shore....

And Button loves the sandy beach too.  It must be much softer on her paws than the coral and shells!

Tail aloft!

Though she gingerly walks over the small streams that cut across the beach.  This is water that is running off the fields on the other side of the sand dunes and road.

There are always oystercatchers along the shore, even in Winter.  Though most of the summer flocks are returning now.  They don't actually eat oysters (though they might I suppose if they found some!). But mostly they poke about in the sand for all sorts of good stuff.  I watched one of this pair get a small crab out the sand and run off behind a rock to eat it as it's first one was stolen by a herring gull. Great scavengers Herring gulls.  Why work when you can get someone to do it all for you.!

Button wants to go  NOW please....

Clear blue skies, blue sea, no breeze.  Ah bliss!  This was the coral beach the day before our Sandy Beach escapade....

The tide is a looooong way out! This natural "swimming pool" is quite empty.

Button is contemplating a walk to check where the sea has gone.... here she is at the bottom of the old Sandside pier.

But she settles for climbing the steps and having a look out from the top of the pier instead.

Lots of shells piled up against the old stone pier.

Random photo of the old sail shed (where all the sails and bits and bobs from the yoles (small boats) that sailed from the shore here would have been kept.  Wouldn't provide much shelter now!  And you can see it's starting to come away from the main building (the old stable and byres). You can also spot where other "openings" had been, maybe a door maybe a window.  The main low building used to be a dwelling house before the main Sandside house was built.  All the old buildings got altered over the years. Lots of beach stone around to use!

And then back home in time for lunch.  Lunch did you say?  Ooooh yes please say the hens.....sigh....

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Chickens enjoying the Spring!

Though the chickens (15 of them, 12 hens and 3 cockerels) get plenty of food in their henny house, including layers pellets and lots of scraps (veggie only), they also love rootling for worms and such like in the garden.  AND they eat grass.  I didn't know that till I actually SAW them.  It does mean once I start getting young shoots appearing in the garden the hens dive on them for a feast, so any veggies or new plants need to be protected.

They like rootling among the dead grass under the willow trees too. Lots of nice creepy-crawlies to eat...

And it's an ideal place to have a rest and do a bit of grooming and preening.....

and then on for another graze....

Though the daffodils mostly out, much of the garden comes to life much later than in the South of UK.  Well I can't blame it.  Stick your head above the ground too early and it will get blasted by the winds!  This border is starting to come to life again with pulmonaria (lung wort), other perennials as well as the daffs.

Here are a lovely wee group of miniature daffs. They come out quite early and seem to do very well in my garden.

And the fluffy buds are appearing on the willow trees!  Keeping the young leaves safe and warm inside....

While on the other side of the wall over in Stromness a mist is hanging over the landscape....

But it's that time of year when I can use this sign again, to let folk who come "a-knocking" where I am,  so I'm a very happy person :-)

Monday, 28 March 2016

Easter weekend

We've had mixed weather in Orkney this weekend.  A gale the other night (but NOT Storm Katie, oh no, we just had a "gale" while the rest of the UK got "Katie" a day later. Hee hee... we get used to being ignored.... ) Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, today has been lovely (mostly) with blue skies, sunshine, and the odd rain shower.

Now, in most of the UK, Good Friday and "Easter Monday" are public holidays.  However in Orkney, for reasons I've yet to fathom, only "Easter Monday" is the public holiday.  But I wasn't working this weekend anyway  so,  of course,  there were potters to the beach..... with Button....

Did I mention showers?  "Incoming!".....

Though last night there was a lovely sunset....

And a rainbow after the showers..... (and earlier winds gusting to 81 mph on the hills!).

And the crocus and daffodils are out!  Ahem, Button has to get into the photo, purely for perspective, she tells me....

"Look", she says, "You can take an action shot photo of me chewing this dried grass. People will want to see that".

"What do you mean, you are taking photos of these FLOWERS?! WHY?"

AND we are now on British Summer Time!  So the clocks went forward an hour at 2am on Sunday morning.  And THIS is the view from my bedroom...... ah yes, lighter morning and longer days.  And even warmth in the sun!