Click on pictures to see them in a photo stream : Comment moderation on due to excessive amounts of spam!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Spring sunset...



Ah yes the sun is moving across the sky once again.  Above was the sunset in the last few days, and here it was on the shortest day - well and truly sunk behind the Hoy hills!  Whoo Hoo Spring is here!


Sunrise in Orkney now is 05.58 (London 0605), and sunset time is 20.26 (London 1955).  Bring on the daylight I say!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Graemsay Spring....



We've had a fairly dry spell till the last few days then we had heavy rain, light showers, hail, gales.... and today it's back to blue skies, and barely a breeze, though still a bit chilly.  So here are some photos taken over the last few days to show Spring has arrived...sort of....

Above is the view from my bedroom window. I have managed the first cut of the grass, the "daffs" (daffodils) are out and the willows have catkins and new leaves. The sea is a lovely blue and the Hoy Dragon is quietly puffing some clouds of smoke over her head....

I love the catkins on my willow trees....they are so pretty and look so delicate. Indeed the wind does tend knock them off pretty easily. Nevertheless the bees have been buzzing around them which is A Good Sign.


And quickly they get leaves.....bright green and fresh looking. Eventually they turn a beautiful silver grey for the summer.....


They are so exuberant though once they get going with catkins and leaves...



And the rosa rugosa is sprouting....all over the place!


And I mentioned the first mow of the season....


The perennials in the border are coming to life again now. The forget-me-nots are already in bloom. These travelled all the way from Kent...


And of course in Spring on Graemsay there are..... Lambs!!  These are some of the first of the season....


One or two need a little extra food...... I love "helping"!  Though I'm a fair weather helper and left the hard work to the farmer in the gales!


Ah yes the changeable weather.... at least I could see the rain approaching and get indoors....


The poor sheep and lambs were out in it!  This is a nursery pen where the ewes go when they have first had their lambs in the shed. After a day or two when everything seems OK they go out into the big field proper. But it's easier to catch both ewes and lambs in this smaller space. They get extra feed here too....


But a few minutes later it's back to blue skies again....


And the "Hamnavoe" sailing off with her Viking to the North of Scotland (Scrabster)....


Easter is on the way and along with Spring flowers, lambs, chocolate (of course!), there will be tourists beginning to visit Orkney once again.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Betty's Reading Room



I had a friend from London staying recently so took the time to go on a few "jaunts". The weather wasn't too bad, though was chilly and breezy.  So I was delighted to take A. on my first visit to "Betty's Reading Room" in Tingwall on the Orkney Mainland.

There's a clip from the BBC News website which explains how and why the reading room was set up : click here

I have to say, having visited - I want to move in!!  It's a magical place, created as a memorial to a friend who had died suddenly.  There was no fire burning on the day we visited but we were still drawn to the place and wanted to linger.  I hope these pictures give you a flavour of the place and do take time to visit if you're in Orkney.  As I say it's near the Tingwall ramp for the ferry, just tucked round a corner from the car park.

Comfy sofas to sit upon while reading....


Fairy lights, lots of books.... no not a ghost. A. moved, so is unrecognisable which means I might get away with this photo!


Everything can be borrowed, or books taken or added to. There used to be a collection box, but sadly, even in Orkney, money was taken. So now folk are asked to pop some money in the first collection box they see when leaving the Reading Room. A lovely idea....



Much loved objects in the window. Big Ted has a view!




Gorgeous stained glass window.


Hares are a theme. I love hares....


And another one...


This is Betty...... I'm sure wherever she is she's looking down on the room with a smile on her face.


Outside a sculpture by local artist, Frances Pelly, a mermaid....


And this is the wee cottage.... as I said.... I want to move in!


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Happy Valley


Yes, there is a wee valley in Orkney, known as Happy Valley in the parish of Stenness.  It's now owned and managed by the local council, though there is a group called the "Friends of Happy Valley" who help maintain the garden and extend the planting. In 2011 it also became a local nature reserve.  Happy Valley is a very large garden, filled with trees, a babbling burn, and wild flowers, nestling in the bottom of a valley. It was created by Orcadian, Edwin Harold, from scratch between 1948 and the 1990s.  Edwin returned from WWII and wanted to live out a quiet existence in the valley. He maintained it until ill health prevented him and he died in 2005. Many folk in Orkney have fond memories of visiting the place either as part of a school trip to see the variety of trees (not so many in Orkney), or just to see Edwin and have a wee blether and a wee dram.

Work continues at Happy Valley to maintain his legacy. The old house has been renovated using traditional methods with a stone slab and turf roof, and lime pointing. New windows and doors but in the old traditional design.

Edwin also created various water features along the burn, and he even had a small generator powered by the burn to give some light to the house. A small waterfall.....


A fleur-de-lis atop the waterfall and a wee bridge....


The weir at the end of the garden......


Edwin created pathways and steps around the garden, taking you on a journey through this Wonderland...


The burn rushes along at some points, and meanders quietly at others...


And borders farmland on either side...


The water wanders through the trees....


Early Spring the area is covered in snow drops, later in March the daffodils are out, and in April or May the bluebells bloom - April this year I think as the winter has been so mild....


I just love the snowdrops..... they are the first flowers I am aware of starting to bloom in the late winter...and always reassure me that the year is starting again and Spring will soon follow.


And sure enough, new growth on the trees.....


As you can see, some trees have a tough time in Orkney. These have been bent by the wind over the years....


I love the tiny lichens on the branches....


New steps have been built into the landscape to lead to a newly planted area.....


And here are some of the young willows planted a few years ago.


I love visiting at different times of the year.  Happy Valley has something to share whenever you walk through the gate.....


And it's full of surprises....a Monkey Puzzle tree!  And a New Zealand Flax (I think) and in flower too.


I hope you enjoyed your meander through Edwin's Happy Valley!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Old buildings....



My house used to be part of a larger farm, and though I own the land around the house and a field at the back, these old buildings have remained in the ownership of a neighbour.  However they let me store my lawn-mower in one of the buildings, and my hens live in another. Plus Charlie, the barn cat has taken up residency and helps keep the mice down (no rats on Graemsay!).  Mostly the buildings are now used for storage, but I love looking over them and imagining the folk of old living and working in them.

You can see in the picture above that the buildings are in a "close". But they have been altered many times over many generations. The history of them is unclear, but it is known that a farm has been at Sandside for several hundreds of years, even before these buildings were put up.


The buildings on the left in the photo at the top lost their roof a long time ago. There was a remnant of a roof on this building till a few years ago when a gale finally lifted the remains off.  The timbers were rotten through and the slates were just strewn around the yard.  But you can see here behind the hay rack, what looks like an old bricked up chimney.  And indeed that is what it is, because originally this was a dwelling house where the family lived. But as the building got into poor condition as a house, or maybe the family got larger, another house was built (the one at the end of the close). And this was then turned into byres for the cattle.


The cattle would have been chained up in the stalls (still remains of chains to be seen), and eaten hay from the rack. Other feed would have been in the gulley at the bottom close to the wall. Not sure how they were provided with water in this particular set-up.  So heads to the wall and tails to the gutter where all the - er - effluent would have collected, liquid down the drain, the rest to be mucked out by hand.


Three more stalls on the other side. You can see the old slates stacked in a corner - these were what remained after the wind took the roof off!

Meanwhile in another low building, you can see this too was a dwelling house, with evidence of chimneys. This is the house that the family lived in before my house was built in, we think, the mid 1800s.


These stalls are different - big wooden posts with a manger at the end. The one in the middle would have been where the farm horse stood.


Here you can see the partition more clearly.


And this would have been where the horse would have eaten the oats....


It's a very handy sized..... just big enough for a hen!  So my "ladies" enjoy laying here in semi-darkness, nicely protected from wind and rain. One of the eggs bears a blue cross - I always leave an egg in a nesting box to encourage the hens to continue laying. If I remove all the eggs they get the idea very quickly - that I steal their eggs! And they move on to a new site. But seemingly they can't count so as long as there is an egg in a box, they are happy to carry on laying!


Through a doorway is another area where cattle would have been kept.  This is more modern, and has had water piped in so the cattle could drink from the small bowls in the middle.  Two animals would have been tethered in this stall.


While at the end of this building you can see again evidence it was once a house. The wee alcove in the corner would have perhaps been a cupboard, or at least have had shelves. There are similar alcoves in my house too. Though sadly they had to be covered over during the renovation because of the way the walls were lined - we would have ended up with a cupboard about 1 foot wide!



Outside you can see just how close to the shore these buildings are!  You wouldn't be able to build a house so close to the shore nowadays, particularly given the subsidence and coastal erosion along this part of the coast.


I love the details in these buildings.  These are the walkways outside. Each stone laid vertically to produce a cobbled effect - not so slippery as if they had been laid horizontally. Now my hens love poking about between the cracks for grubs and things.


This old lean-to is beginning to come away from the main building. About 40 years ago apparently you could drive a tractor round the side of it - now it's subsided and I doubt you'd get a wheelbarrow there!


These old buildings fascinate me and I often wonder about the families that lived in and farmed in them...