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Sunday, 31 July 2011

From on high...

Sorry I've been silent for a few days. No I haven't been lazing in the sun or chilling out on the beach - though we have had *some* sun and warmth this week, but it was fleeting. I'm just catching up on work and other activities. But here is a photo from "on high" in the meantime. This was taken from the heather clad hills of Orphir on the Orkney mainland and you can see the small island of Graemsay with the island of Hoy and it's hills in the background.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

More Archaeology News

As I've posted many times here, archeology is "big" in Orkney.  This last week an exciting find was discovered by some builders on the island of Sanday, one of the Northern Orkney islands. It was a stone slab about 4ft 6 inches long bearing what is thought to be a 1,200 year old carved Pictish stone cross. Click here for more details.

Summer is also the time for various archaeological digs in Orkney, and here are some links to their blogs:

Ness of Brodgar 

Info on a dig on the island of Rousay

Brough of Deerness Blog

General news about archeology in Orkney

I'm hoping to visit the Ness of Brodgar dig again this year so will post photos! (Previous posts 2010, 2009)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Tenn et lys for de døde og skadde etter tragedien i Oslo og Utøya.

"Light a candle for the dead and injured after the tragedy in Oslo and Utøya"

Orkney shares strong bonds with Norway. We were part of Norway until only 400 years ago. Last week many Norwegians were in Orkney on the Tall Ships, and today they sail from Shetland to Stavanger in Norway on the next leg of the race.

So sad to think of the tragedy that has touched their country. Our thoughts are with them at this time.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Farewell to Stromness....

"Farewell to Stromness" to quote the title of a piece of music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Monday and Tuesday this week the tall ships began leaving Stromness Harbour to sail up to Lerwick for the next leg of the Tall Ships Race.  It was sad to see them go, but so lovely to have been able  to see them.  Here's the last lot of photos......sigh....

Svanhild and Sorlandet in harbour

Masts seemingly intertwined.

Beginning to sail away

A favourite "folk" song in Orkney is "Lonely Scapa Flow" - it charts the rise and fall of Scapa Flow's fortunes throughout the ages. It seems really appropriate having just watched the ships sail away. Here is a recording of young Andrew Mowat of Graemsay singing the song and playing the guitar too - click here

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A sail in a Yole

An Orkney yole is a particular type of boat that used to be very common in Orkney. Now there are only about 20 in the water. During the Tall Ships weekend, the Orkney Yole Association were running trips in four of the yoles (see here for more info on yoles) and I managed to get a sail. It was brilliant - I've wanted to go in a yole for years, but I don't like being that close to water! This trip was perfect as it was just around the harbour and out to the point of Ness.

It gave a completely different perspective to the tall ships and the town.

This is now the Pier Arts Centre, but has been converted from old pier buildings. All the buildings along the shore side of the town had piers or steps down to the water, and all the properties on the other side of the street has access rights to these piers.  The life of Stromness was based upon the water!

The buoys around the harbour are welcome resting spots for seabirds including this Shag

Old and new ships berthed side by side

Here's another yole with a different rigging of sail (and that's as technical as I get!)

When the yoles are in the water a small row boat (with outboard) is used to reach them from the pier. The Orkney Yole Association boat is a "flattie" - a particular type of boat which is broad and wide.

And here is the Svanhild - this was my favourite boate - built out of wood in 1889, and after she fell into disrepair was lovingly restored.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Take a look....

.... at Fiona's blog for some fantastic photos - click here  Fiona has a proper camera AND knows how to use it so these photos are *good*.

More on Tall Ships

OK, I have a bit more time now so can explain about the Tall Ships being in Orkney. The actual Tall Ships Race of 2011 is in three legs, the first was from Waterford in Ireland to Greenock in Scotland. The second race will be from Lerwick in Shetland to Norway. But between Greenock and Lerwick the ships come into other ports on a "Cruise along with the Tall Ships" event. So people could buy tickets for trips down Scapa Flow, or for parties on the "poop deck". Over the weekend folk could wander over all of the ships and ask questions of the crew.

It was also an opportunity for a "gala" with lots of shore events going on. The Stromness Museum was open with special exhibitions, the Pier Arts Centre had a special Tall Ships exhibition, all along the pier head were marquees where local charities and organizations could have a "pitch" to raise funds, so lots of fun stalls and things to buy. There were carriage rides in a horse and carriage, pipe bands, and even a parade of the local riding club. There was a band stand at the Stromness Pier Head and various bands and performers were playing throughout the weekend.  The town had a real carnival atmosphere, even though the weather was "changeable"! Below are some photos of Stromness celebrating the Tall Ships.

Some of the Stromness Pipe Band

Local shops dressed their windows for the occasion

This is an old photo but "photoshopped" to include the faces of local women!

This is one of my favourites

The local Riding Club paraded through the town

The lifeboat went out and escorted each ship in. In the UK the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) is a charity and the lifeboats are run completely by volunteers with an army of folk behind them to raise funds etc.

And of course not forgetting the tall ships - this is the Eendracht

The boats were immaculate, as you would expect. On one vessel, the Svanhild, even the rope was arranged artistically (I'm sure there's a perfectly practical reason for this, but I liked the design!).

Most of the ships are on their way up to Shetland now, but I've been snapping them as they sailed past and will share those photos over the next few days.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Statsraad Lehmkuhl leaving Stromness today

Here's a photo of the "Statsraad Lehmkuh" leaving Stromness today with Graemsay in the background. Thanks again to Iain Ashman for the photo (copyright).

The tall ship "Gulden Leuuw"

Here's some photos of the tall ship "Gulden Leuuw" arriving in Stromness, above sailing past Hoy High Lighthouse, and below sailing past *my* house.  The photos were kindly provided by Iain Ashman (copyright). I didn't get any photos of the ships in sail so was delighted to receive these, especially as they have Graemsay in the background!

In the photo above you can see a traditional Orkney yole sailing in ahead of the tall ship. The yole is the "Graemsa" and sailed by Maurice Davidson who has Graemsay connections. Many island folk would have owned a yole and the boat nousts are still around the island. I'll post more about the yoles later. At the moment I'm too excited about the tall ships!! Lots more photos to follow and will post them over the next few days.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Orkney Tall Ships Race

I've just returned home today after visiting family in Guernsey (Channel Islands) and Hampshire (England), but more of that later. I arrived back in Orkney just in time for the Orkney leg of the Tall Ships Race. Most of the vessels are sailing up to Shetland but a number have put into Orkney on their way. Several sailed from Kirkwall in the East of Orkney, round to the harbour of Stromness in the West. I managed to see some of them on my way back from the airport in Kirkwall. 

The town of Stromness was really buzzing this afternoon with lots of visitors awaiting the arrival of the ships. Only one came in under sail, most dropping their sails further down the coast and motoring into the harbour. But they were still a sight to see! 

I'm off to Stromness again tomorrow to enjoy more of the spectacle so you will have to bear with me for a day or two until I get "caught up" on things!  Meanwhile, above is a photo of two of the "tall ships".

Monday, 4 July 2011

Self satisfied or what?

The cockerel that is..... I never got round to naming him, he's just "The Cockerel" or I greet him a "Hallo mate!" - but I'm sure he's strutting about with his chest puffed out even more lately with so many chicks around! And three more hen are still to emerge so there may be MORE chicks to come....  As you can see he loves sunbathing but hasn't the decency to pick up a trowel and help with a little light gardening!

The weather has been particularly settled these last two weeks. Very little rain, lots of sun and no wind. Bliss! Farmers are out cutting hay or silage, lambing and calving are well and truly over, and all the livestock are out in the fields again. I love this time of year!

And of course sunset is still about 10.15pm and it's light way beyond that.  The photo below was taken about 11.20pm without a flash!

And again we have had some beautiful sunset - a couple of photos below..... sorry if I'm boring you! And yes they are usually taken from the same spot - outside my back door! Sorry, but I'm a lazy photographer....

Saturday, 2 July 2011

It's too hot!

That isn't something that I say very often in Orkney! But today it HAS been too hot. It's probably been in the low 70s F. Which for Orkney is HOT! It's about as much heat as I can take, any more and I just wilt. But I just love, love, love the warmth. I sat outside the house on my garden bench and drank tea. But it was too hot to do anything in the garden till about 5pm when some shade began to descend on one end of the veggie patch and I could, at last, plant out some of my courgette plants that I'd grown from seed. I also needed to weed among the broad bean plants which are coming along well.  Sadly my carrots seem to have failed this year. No idea why. I planted several varieties in the bed from different sources but not a carrot in sight. Ho Hum.....

Button has been enjoying lazing in the sun for short period but even she found it too hot. Below she's giving herself a wash - look at how long her tongue is!

And here are some fuzzy oystercatchers - well they're not really fuzzy but they are a bit out of focus. However these were in the *garden*! I think these are adult parent birds and a young-ish chick. They are often in the garden recently and scold me if I have the temerity to go there myself!

Earlier today I brought Ethel down to see the progress in the garden. Ethel is in her 80's and is the oldest Graemsay-born resident on the island. She was telling me how she remembered old Mrs Sutherland, who used to live in this house till the death of her husband, John Daniel, in the mid 1950s. Apparently Mrs Sutherland would hang her washing out to dry in the walled garden (I still use the same washing poles), and she grew lettuces and other veggies along the wall where I now have *my* vegetable patch.  I'm glad I'm carrying on the tradition.

The photo at the top of the post was taken outside Ethel's house, Western Horn, down towards Scapa Flow. Hoy High Lighthouse and Sandside are on Graemsay, but the hills in the background are in Orphir, on the Orkney Mainland.

Oh and earlier today apparently there were Orcas coming down past Graemsay and into Scapa Flow. Sadly I didn't see them but my neighbours did. I've instructed them to let me know if they see them again - even if it's early in the morning. *Some* things are worth getting up for - tee hee!