Posts Tagged ‘2010’

The Pentland Road

February 5, 2016

The Pentland Road crosses the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. It’s a bit of a hidden route and isn’t much used. But when we were there, back in 2010, we made use of it – largely because we are willing to take the odd risk with tracks. In fact it is a perfectly presentable road. But it is a road that was supposed to have been a railway.

This quote is from the BBC’s Island Blogging site.

The Pentland Road is not very well known to non-islanders, and takes a bit of finding. Residents of Carloway and Breascleit use it as a shortcut into town; it’s only 16 miles to Carloway along the Pentland Road, but as much as 26 along the main road through Leurbost and Callanish. Its origins go back to Lord Leverhulme’s years of ownership of Lewis. As I mentioned in a previous article, he had contrived plans to industrialise the island, and one of the projects was to establish a fishery station at Carlabhagh / Carloway. Fishermen from the West Side would land their catches at the pier there, which would save them the trip round the Butt of Lewis to Stornoway. They would refuel at Carloway and set out again. Their catches would be transferred to Stornoway by railway.

The Carloway Railway never came into existence. New information suggests that Lord Leverhulme abandoned his industrial revolution for Lewis, because the Stornoway merchants were opposed to them. They saw those industries as competition and a threat to their businesses and interests. So, they agitated amongst the crofters with whom they traded, telling them that Leverhulme was out to get them off their land. With the Crofting Act barely 35 years in existence, and the memories of the land struggle of the 1880s still within living memory, they did rise up.
The Pentland Road was left as a dug out trackbed, barely passable in a motor vehicle. A branch was created to Breascleit Pier, where until very recently a small pharmaceutical plant operated. It was used for extracting a compound which was used in the treatment of cancer. Its uptake was limited, for the simple reason that its efficacy was not adequately proven. Nonetheless, the loss of 11 jobs is a blow for a small community like Breascleit. I am not aware that anyone has taken over the enterprise. 

The terrain the Pentland Road crosses looks a pretty unlikely place for a railway for it is barren and bleak in the extreme, albeit flat enough and level enough. To add to the sense of desolation, we had some dreadful weather so here is a view of the terrain this road traverses probably looking as bleak as it could in summer.


There certainly wouldn’t have been many passengers wishing to use this, had it been a railway. This really is wilderness.


Seals at rest

January 11, 2016

It’s all too easy to look back in time and say, ‘if only’. Here, I’m looking back to say, ‘if only I had had a super zoom camera’! But I didn’t so I made do with what I had got, which was really a perfectly OK camera with a limited zoom.

Back in 2010 we wanderers from the south of England visited the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. Most people in the UK will have little idea of just how far away these islands are so to give some idea, here are some timings.

Let’s imagine we started in central London (which we didn’t) and drove our car to Uig on the Inner Hebrides island of Skye. That would take, according to a motoring organisation web site, some 11 hours and 46 minutes of driving time to cover the 638 miles. The ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides takes an hour and 45 minutes. That’s about a thirty mile crossing – further than it is from Dover to Calais. When we went we were heading for a place called Daliburgh which is on the island of South Uist. The islands in a chain here have been linked by causeways so we drove down through North Uist, across Benbecula and continued on down through South Uist. That’s another hour and five minutes according to our motoring organisation for about 38 miles.

Let’s just say that it will actually take much longer for we haven’t factored in stops for meals, using the loo, overnight accommodation and just plain marvelling at what there is to see on the journey. But, by heck, it is so worthwhile.

Eriskay is another island near Daliburgh and it was in the loch that we photographed seals at rest on a low beach of sand and stone that just peeped above sea level.


The way that photo is a bit ‘vignetted’ with dark corners reminds me that this was an occasion when I held a binocular in front of my camera lens to take the photo. And really it worked tolerably well. I can digitally zoom in a bit closer.


What fabulous creatures they are and no wonder they spawned actual fables about mermaids. They really are quite absurd on land, attempting to use those little flippers as legs, but they become animals of grace and power in the water.

Just grand!


On Rippon Tor

January 8, 2016

Back in 1961 a trip down to Devon was a totally new experience for me. Up until then I had not ventured outside the south east of England. All my fellow bloggers who write about ‘the only way is travel’ may be horrified and alarmed by this. How could anyone be a fully rounded human without travel and new experiences? That seems to be the line on many a blog. Now I’m not averse to travel and it can broaden minds and experiences. But so, too, can staying put and learning about places in detail. Being as open minded as possible is what matters to me.

image002 This is me and my sister. We are on Rippon Tor on Dartmoor. There is a photograph fault at bottom left.

Let’s deal with us first. Many folks will remember a photo of Prince Charles and his first wife looking in opposite directions and looking glum. This instant snap was used as an indicator of a failing relationship. Well, my sister and I clearly have turned our backs on one another and, at that time, I don’t think we did get on all that well together. She regarded me as a silly little boy. I regarded her as just silly. But clearly we are both occupied with geology. And we got on well when we both grew up!

This was my first experience of igneous rocks. My life in the south east had limited me to sedimentary rocks only. Here we had granite, full of sparkly crystals. It had to be explored.

My dad had travelled – World War 2 had seen to that although he never actually left the UK. But I believe this was the first time he had got close and personal with granite. I know he was captivated too.

Almost inevitably I fell in love with Dartmoor and still visit quite often, albeit often only to drive across when heading to or from Cornwall

My own children had a much younger experience of the moor than I had.


That was in 1982.

And Dartmoor again in 2010.



December 17, 2015

Hallan is near the west coast of the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist. Hallan on Sea was just my name for a stretch of silver sand near Hallan. I wrote this back in 2010 after we visited.




I could have called it the place where the sun shone but the sky was black. Much of the East Coast of South Uist looked like this – silver sands with some seaweed and the machair behind.


And there was the wild Atlantic – still calm as a millpond.


It looked as though heavy rain was falling towards the Island of Barra.



Swirls seem to be the in logo of the 21st century. Here’s one, ready-made for South Uist.

Or should we add a squidge to the swirl with a jellyfish?


We were not alone on the beach. I guess this chap, quadding gently along, was a local.



image024 We returned taking a different route finding plenty of flowers.



But it wasn’t only flowers. Scrap-metal merchants don’t exist around here so scrap gets dumped.


There’s not a lot of life left in that vehicle.


That one doesn’t look so bad though. Just as well. It was our car at the time.


We were in a remote spot – there had to be a graveyard.


More junk! That old grass cutter won’t do any more work. When a local farmer needs to cut his mixed cereals he’ll need something else to do the job.



On the Machair

March 8, 2014

Machair is a Gaelic word and means fertile plain. You find machair along the west coast of some of the Outer Hebridean islands and elsewhere. It’s an area of wonderful wild flowers.

My photos were taken on South Uist in early August 2010. South Uist is a fantastic island.


This is machair scenery looking across to the more rugged east side of the island. This is near the village of Dalabrog (Daliburg).


It was awash with the yellow daisy like flowers.

Ox-eye daisies were coping right on the edge of the beach.


Out on the dunes near the ancient Hallan settlement there were different flowers.




Just magical! Such a glorious place!

Skye Folk Life Museum

December 18, 2013

Back in 2010 we holidayed in the Hebrides, crossing over the Isle of Skye. Our time was a bit less than we planned because I developed what turned out to be a non-serious eye condition which necessitated a change of plan and a trip to the hospital in Inverness. Reassured, we continued our holiday for a briefer than planned visit to Skye.

We camped on the west coast, at Uig, and found we were near the Skye Folk Life Museum. Local museums about local people are often the best as far as I am concerned. I can relate to ordinary folk far more than I can to the ‘great’ leaders and the powerful people. I liked this museum up in the north west of the island.

A couple of times, fairly recently I have written about shepherding, both as a lad and as a grown man. I have kept sheep, I have shorn sheep, and we (my wife and I) have carded and spun wool. We have died it using locally found colorants and we have woven the result.

So there’s an area of folk life I really can understand and enjoy – and they had this at the Skye museum.


I love that wool which is far better in quality than anything I ever produced. And what gorgeous colours – including that in the woven cloth in the background.

The loom they had on display is far bigger than anything we ever used. It’s a grand bit of simple, understandable machinery – all human powered, of course.


As you might expect on a Hebridean island, the situation for this museum is coastal and dramatic.


There’s a range of small agricultural devices – all well painted against the hostile, salty environment.

The buildings at the museum are traditional in style and give a reminder of the wild, west coast conditions. A thatched roof needs some weight to hold it in place against the power of the wind.


And what better than hefty rocks.

It’s a museum that is well worth a visit. But then so are the Hebrides in general – both inner and outer.

Llama Spotting

October 8, 2013

I like llamas. I confuse them with alpacas and tend to call all of them llamas. They are such cute looking animals, albeit well known for an ability to be bad tempered and to spit. Actually, I have never known that to happen, but it maybe as well not to take chances.

Here’s one that I saw a few days ago. It lives, with a friend, close to where I live.



This pair also lives locally. It is believed that if you keep a llama or two with a flock of sheep then foxes will stay away.  That’s very useful at lambing time for a fox can take a new born lamb.

Although these animals have a South American origin, you can see them throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles. These are in Cornwall.


They live on a farm near the delightfully named Beeny.


That’s me grabbing a photo back in February 2009.


This one is sheltered by a little cottage in the north of the island of Lewis. That’s some 550 miles in a straight line from Beeny – a huge distance in UK terms. We visited on our summer holiday in August 2010.



These were at another location on the west coast of the island.

Somewhere in the middle, between Beeny and Lewis, is Wincle in Cheshire – a place where my wife’s ancestors once lived. When we visited, we found llama/alpaca.


That was in February 2007.

What delightful extras to the beautiful British countryside.

Coates Mine Engine

September 2, 2013

There’s a blog I look at frequently at . In a recent post the writer commented that castles didn’t really do it for him, but an old quarry – well that was something special. This set me thinking about what was special to me and of course, there are loads of things but I’ll jump to an old Cornish tin (or indeed copper) mine engine in a dramatic cliff top location. Now that’s something special.

This is Wheal Coates and it is one of my favourites.


It’s near St Agnes on the North Cornwall coast. What an amazing location and to me that bit of old industry – now restored to keep it safe – adds to the scene. I can gaze in awe and wonder at that scene, imagining the incredibly hard life the miners had. Amongst them could have been Joel Trounson who was one of my wife’s 3 greats grandfathers. He was a miner and like all of the miners he had quite a nomadic life. But we reckon he was in St Agnes in 1825 when daughter, Grace, was baptised there. Grace was one of my wife’s 2 greats grandmothers.

The photo above was taken in 2003 but I still found myself drawn to this mine in 2010.


Yes, that mine engine does something for me.


It is simply stunning.

The Mill at Maintenay

August 26, 2013

Back in 2010 we hired a small gite in France for a week, celebrating a significant family birthday. Our gite was in Tortefontaine, still in Pas de Calais but quite close to the Somme estuary

Our meanderings took us to Maintenay which is on the River Authie and here we found a delightful water mill. I liked the photo and for some time had it as the wallpaper on my computer. I faded the edges to blue to provide a better background for the computer shortcuts.


The mill is said to be restored and working and so it may be. But we were out of season and there was no sign of life anywhere. It all looked a little ramshackle – and I loved it for that.

We don’t pick tourist spots for trips to France. My wife speaks French quite well and I get by. We go to enjoy France, French language and French people. These less favoured (by tourists) spots serve us just as well – particularly when you come across little treasures like this.

By the way, I don’t often go in for the kind of photo alteration shown here – this one was for a specific purpose. I have been a digital photographer for fifteen years (since 1998) and I guess ultra-manipulation is something many of us pass through. But there is an exception which I’ll make the subject of the next blog.

The arrival of the Egret

July 19, 2013

This nerd likes birds – but certainly isn’t a twitcher. This post is about a UK incomer species.

The little egret has become a very common water bird in the south of England.  That’s an amazing statement for a bird which first appeared in any significant way in 1989 and first settled and bred in this country in 1996.

The little egret is a pretty bird in the heron family. It has big cousins and they, too, have put appearances in on this side of the English Channel. But it is the little egret that has invaded the south and, seemingly, conquered it. I wouldn’t expect not to see egrets on significant waterways.

Let’s see a picture or two.


This – not a brilliant photo – was taken from my own home in my own village in Wiltshire. This was in February 2010 and the waterway the bird is surveying is a very small stream.

In 2012 we were awaiting a train at Looe in Cornwall


Across the estuary we could see a dozen or so egrets. I think we have eleven of them in that photo.

This year, in Kingsbridge in Devon there seemed to be an egret that had got used to close proximity with people. As the tide dropped at the head of the estuary we could watch it wiggling its feet in the underwater mud which, I assume, helped bring tasty morsels into view.


The expanding range of this bird is a sure sign that, despite some lousy weather at times, global warming is a reality.