Friday 16 April 2010


I finally got to my first speedway of the season last night. Due to a combination of the trackworks at Ipswich being delayed by the bad winter weather, and Easter falling slightly earlier this year, I missed our first three meetings. Usually I get one or two in before scarpering to the Hebrides - this year I had to be content with Press Day until we got back. Last night saw the Eastbourne Eagles visiting, and the night ended with a narrow win for the Witches. The new track is excellent - and from my point of viewstill a brilliant place for photos, although inevitably it will take a bit of time to get fully used to it.  All in all it was great to be back and see everyone again - lots of news (gossip!) to catch up on too!


Monday 12 April 2010

Another day, another bird....

The journey home passed off uneventfully I am pleased to say, and we're now settling back into normal life back here. I was still off work today though as there were the normal returning from holiday things to get done, so having done them, I decided to head over the the Amwell Nature reserve where there is a hide with feeders right next to it. Nothing particularly exciting to be seen although others at the reserve were getting excited about a pair of Greylag geese....and some Redshanks! I didn't quite have the heart to point out that, where I've been for the last fortnight there is such a serious problem with the Greylags that there is now an open season on shooting them......felt that might not go down too well, if I'm honest!


Friday 9 April 2010

Last one.....

...from the Hebrides for now. Today has been the usual last day of running around buying foodie bits to take back with us. Oatcakes, Salar Salmon , Hebridean Smokehouse Pate and also some of their hot smoked salmon, and Scallops from Kallin Shellfish - all delicious. We have in mind to do a "smoked Salmon tasting" for some friends in due course as we now have three different types of the hot smoked salmon and it will be interesting to see how they compare. 

It's now time to get things packed up and sorted out, whilst enjoying the last of the fantastic views and general peace and loveliness. As I type this I am sitting looking out to my right at the view above - although it looks completely different at this time of day. There are Common Gulls, Lapwings, Greylag Geese and Oystercatchers in view on the small headland you can see sticking out into the Loch, and occasionally a Buzzard passes by. What you would think of on the mainland as quite a strong wind is blowing (over here it's just classified as a breeze) but it's not enough to be a problem. The fire is laid ready for tonight and once we're packed up we will head out for a meal, on to the pub for a last beer with Alastair & Elisabeth, then back here to make the most of the final few hours. 

Next one from me will be from home......


Thursday 8 April 2010

What a load of..


You may know I have a bit of a thing for quirky signs. I like ridiculous pictorial ones (somewhere not too far from here there is a "Beware of the Hens" sign complete with a picture of a madly flapping hen!) and I also know of a "Cats - please take care". When we were here last year I blogged "Caution - Disabled driver!" if I remember correctly.  I also like those which, like the one above, are trying to make a serious point, but thanks to poor use of the English language, say something different to that which was intended. (I may well have blogged the one seen by the side of the A1 at a closed for refurbishment petrol station which said "Very slow contractors working") The one above is a firm favourite and has been for many years now - I live in hope of one day seeing someone attempt to carry out the instruction contained in it. I'm sure one of these days someone at Caledonian MacBrayne will realise the mistake, and it will be corrected, until then though we will continue to snigger each time we board one of their ferries and spot the sign!


Quick Extra post...

Just because, as I said before, I like these. And this one - posing for the camera - was particularly endearing.


Wednesday 7 April 2010

A long day...

So just a quick post tonight to go with the pic above which is as you can probably see, a Gannet. I was trying to take shots of these diving earlier on - but got nothing to show for it but a "splash" so you'll have to do with this one flying instead.
Up at 5.30am this morning to get to Berneray for a 7.15am ferry across the Sound of Harris - weather beautiful.
Got to Stornoway, got the new tyre for the car, learnt how the spare tyre is MEANT to be put back in place (show it who's boss!), very nice helpful chap, and the tyre cost less than it might well have done on the mainland so full marks to Lewis Tyre Services.
Visited the butchers, bought Black, white and fruit puddings, and a Haggis.
Visited Tesco (yes, I know!) and bought various delicious  bits and bobs from the Stag Bakery range of produce - local to Stornoway and absolutely wonderful. Also Some Scottish bottled beers.
Visited the Stornoway Fish Smokers and bought kippers, cheese (yes Mum, I DID get one for you too!) and some of their smoked salmon to try.
Ambled back down through Lewis and Harris and got the ferry back. Weather atrocious.
Were royally fed by Alastair and Elisabeth back at the Westford - bless them! Chilli and rice - delicious!
Home now and going to bed - I'm shattered! More tomorrow!

Tuesday 6 April 2010


Another on a theme I've explored before, today. It does fascinate me, up here, the way perfectly respectable looking dwellings seem to just get abandoned by folk. Sometimes it's understandable - they are upgrading to a place with better facilities, more often than not right next door to the house they are leaving, but this one is just, well, abandoned. You wonder what has happened to make the people just walk away - perhaps it was someone living alone who died, with nobody who wanted to make use of the property to leave it to.  Some - like this one - appear structurally sound, whilst others are nothing more than the remains of some walls and possibly a chimney still standing defiantly. One not so far from here is the perfect shell of a house - four walls, chimneys, and two dormer windows standing proud, but the roof and interior walls completely missing. Sometimes they are close enough to the road that you can risk a poke around - others, like this, lay some way back off the road and to go any closer would be intrusive, even if to all intents and purposes the house is now unloved by anyone else.

Tomorrow is our annual shopping trip to the bright lights and big city that is Stornoway. The early ferry beckons and a late-ish return here tomorrow may mean no post on here tomorrow. We'll see though.


Monday 5 April 2010

Very, FERRY, windy!

Firstly, apologies for the pun. I'm afraid it simply had to be done though.

I can honestly say I would not have liked to have been on board MV Hebrides when she sailed from Lochmaddy earlier today - the wind was blowing so strongly that out on the headland where this was taken from it was difficult to stand up against it - indeed this shot (taken with the 300mm lens) was only possible thanks to Ben shielding the worst of the wind and the IS on the lens working away..... The ferry made all of her sailings today though although she was an hour and 15 minutes late when she finally returned to Lochmaddy to her berth for the night - it must have been an incredibly long day for the crew. The freight ferry is cancelled again tonight for the second night on the trot, and sailings between Berneray (to the North of here) and Harris (which is the alternative route for freight, allowing them to then cross to the mainland from Lochmaddy) were suspended from just after lunchtime so the Co-ops will be low on stock tomorrow.  Such is Island life though - since the collapse of Highland Airways the folk on Lewis are getting their newspapers across on the early ferry - meaning that the papers aren't getting to the shops until mid afternoon at the earliest. They're not happy about this, and vast piles of papers are being left unsold.


The wind is still howling about now - although less so than a couple of hours ago when it peaked.  It's still hard enough now though to make the glass in the (double glazed) windows bow slightly, and I'd guess we may have lost a few more slats of fence in the morning. 

Sunday 4 April 2010

A rake about on the beach....

We usually make our middle Sunday here a lazy day - the islanders mostly still consider Sunday very much a day of rest and we've always felt that it's a good thing to respect this and not go charging about all over the place. Accordingly, this morning started with a bit of a lie in, before a slow start to the day via several cups of tea and some sitting outside in the Sunshine. Alasdair popped by, firstly to warn us of the forecast for very high winds tomorrow (indeed, they are already battering the cottage as we speak, and the overnight freight ferry from Stornoway - Ullapool is already cancelled with, I suspect, more cancellations to follow on that front) and secondly to give us the new corner storage rack for the bathroom which needed putting together and fitting. We had a bit of  chat with him before he went off to see to the sheep and we settled down to the job of first re-stringing the clothes line and secondly, building that storage rack. A light lunch followed before we headed off just a few miles up the road to the island of Baleshare to see if we could find a beach for a bit of an amble along.....
Beachcombing up here can be great fun, and very absorbing, with all sorts of odds and ends being washed up - today though we found a mass of broken stoneware and pottery - all from around the start of the 20th century we think, so not that old but interesting nonetheless. More usefully however, we found plentiful signs of the presence of cockles, so Ben went back to the car for the buckets and a rake and we settled down to some foraging. They were not quite so easy to find as in our usual more favoured spot, but we still managed to collect enough to form the basis of a nice dinner tomorrow night.
Better news still is that Alastair and Elisabeth are back from England and the pub was open this evening.
ps - additional photos from this trip are going onto my Flickr album - the link is to the right of this page.

Saturday 3 April 2010


The cottage above is at South Glendale, South Uist. All over the place here there are these homes which have just been left to decay - many of them seemingly still in very good condition at the point at which the owners moved on. In a lot of cases you can see "house history" - the ruins of an old blackhouse, next to that a more modern whitehouse, then a 1920's - 1950's style building, then in many cases a more modern bungalow or "one and a half storey" house. See above for a good example of one of the above - it's peculiar mainly to Scotland I think. This is another case of a subject telling me what treatment it wanted - (Nick, I thought you might enjoy this one as I know you like your mono shots!) although the corrugated iron roof was once painted in red most of the colour has flaked away leaving very little colour in the building itself. 

At the point of taking this shot I had quite startlingly wet feet - on the walk we had just completed I had managed to go into a peat-bog up to the knees, and the problem with very waterproof walking boots is their reluctance to let water out, once it has got in. Squelch. My boots are now sitting in the kitchen drying........


Friday 2 April 2010

And now for something completely different.... size, at any rate! From the majesty of yesterday's Sea Eagle, todays offering is somewhat smaller and - dare I say it? - cuter. These are Ringed Plovers - and these particular Ringed Plovers can be found at the Balranald RSPB reserve which is where we have been this afternoon. It's a fantastic place - there is a circular walk you can do taking several hours which encompasses all the different habitats you find up here from rocky coastline to white sandy beaches, all backed by "Machair" which is a fertile sandy grassland particular to the Hebrides.  Today we settled for a walk up the track and onto the beach, before settling down on our favourite rocky outcrop to see which birds would come closer. After a while of just sitting quietly they tend to forget that you're something to be scared of, and as a result you get them behaving naturally up quite close. The reserve is known for Corn Buntings - in decline elsewhere in the UK thanks to the destruction of their habitats they are thriving up here in the Hebrides - at one stage earlier on we were watching 10 or 12 of them at once, not more than 10 - 15 yards away from us. Fantastic stuff!


Thursday 1 April 2010

A last minute change of heart....

I had my blog photo for today all settled in my mind - knew which shot I was going to use almost as soon as I'd taken it, and had even started piecing together ideas for the text in my mind. We'd been for a walk on Berneray - walked on the beach, seen some birds, then climbed a hill for some superb views of the island - plus across to Harris, Skye and the Mainland. We'd narrowly escaped being soaked by a heavy hailstorm by taking shelter under a ledge of rock, and had thoroughly enjoyed a nice afternoon out in (hailstorms notwithstanding) glorious sunshine, so what better picture to put up than a lovely landscape, bright blue sky and lovely white clouds......? Then the chap above flew overhead and those plans all went straight out of the window.  We are currently waiting on confirmation on whether it is in fact a Golden, or a young White Tailed Eagle, whichever it was though it was truly massive, and flew above us closely enough that we could practically feel the downdraught!