Calm and Relaxing

You really don’t have to travel far to find some lovely views on Shetland… okay I am being s bit trite, but for some reason this evening the sycamore in the kale yard attracted my attention… I have been past there loads, so why tonight should be any different I am not sure. The leaves were just beginning to open and a heavy shower had covered a lot of buds and branches in raindrops.

Mr Blackbird was doing his evening song, he sits on the same wire most evenings, you can probably just about hear his rival off to the west…

And finally on the way in I took a shot along the valley…not bad for after 10.00pm…

You can still hear the blackbird singing, amongst others.

A Day of Up and Downs

What a day… we were going out in the caravan today… so I changed the wheel, put on the replacement jockey wheel (salvaged from the old caravan) and got the thing dragged out ready to go… sadly the off side wheel had decided to not turn again… so much hitting with a hammer continued, but it became obvious that it wasn’t going to budge. It would turn backwards (as they should) and as I turned it, it sounded like there was a spring loose in there.

So I got it parked up and headed out for a day out to Sumburgh (right at the South end of the Island) the puffins are starting to return, there weren’t a huge number but we got to see some…

Now I learned something today, that I had not known… Puffins can shoot their crap about 4x their body length!

I also managed to get a shot of my favourite summer visitor… the great Skua.

Funnily enough four of them came low over the house this morning and got attacked by every ground nesting bird in a 500m radius. I have seen one over the house in the 12 years I have been here so four was pretty impressive.

Sea bird colonies can be a little on the loud side…

So as we were meant to be ‘camping’ we were going to get fish and chips for dinner. We dropped into town and purchased them and went up to the farm to get the horse in… on the way back down the hill the bloody clutch went on the car… so we needed the AA to come and rescue us… on the up side we had fish and chips to eat…on the down side I told the staff not to bother putting any salt and vinegar on as I was taking them home to eat…

To be honest I am being pretty Zen about it all… yeah the clutch going was a right bugger, but it could have gone at any time at any point along the journey to or from the south end. It could have gone with a caravan on, on one of the single track roads.. so yeah I have been going Ommmmmm lots today and raking gravel into pleasing patterns… well maybe not. I am not sure how much a RAV4 clutch will cost, but I don’t reckon it will be cheap.

The one thing you notice a lot up here is how much lichen you get due to the clean air…

So here we have a gratuitous shot of A Puffin again…this was taken over the wall with all the lichen.

There are plenty of seabirds about, the summer visitors are all starting to return…

From what I remember these are the guillemots and razorbills.

If you want to watch from the comfort of your arm chair then the cliff cam is now operational …

A New Beach

This is a slight misnomer as the beach has been there for at least 130 years, but it was new to us. My son has been to this one a couple of times and we decided to give it a try out… sadly it was heaving….

That’s two of mine in the foreground near the weird pier.

Yes it was heaving, I have never seen as many whelks in my life!

This was actually a small amount.

A lot of people up here said that they have never seen the tide so low, it did allow us to find some awesome things though…

The starfish was rescued from up the beach, it survived the gulls as it was upside down and covered in sand, as you can see it was quite a biggy. The urchin (or scabby man’s head as they call them up here) was the first I had ever seen in the wild… as you can see, it was not that big.

We followed this trail for about 3 metres and at the end of it was a small fly…

This was a lovely place to visit on a Sunday afternoon, but it does have a bit of a dark past (by today’s standards). Those weird things heading into the sea had a definite purpose.

They were used for whale hunting in the 18th and 19th century. This bay was mainly used for hunting pilot whales. The last Hunt here was in 1899 where 71 whales were run ashore…the last time before that was 1855. This was nothing compared to the 1540 that were killed in Quendale bay in 1845.

The photo above is from the archives, this is what it would have looked like, the traditional Shetland boats were normally used for deep sea fishing, but would be utilised for an easy hunt like this instead.

Driving Bottle-Nosed Whales – Shetland, 1891
Richard Harry Carter (1839–1911)
Shetland Museum and Archives

One of the last hunts took place just over the hill from me in 1903. Pilot whales used to be the most numerous cetaceans around Shetland… they are still seen in pods of up to 40, but normally in smaller pods between 10 and 20.

We loved the beach and the beach evidently loved us!

Shetland, Werewolves and Fish

So now that Christmas is over I was reminded the other day about the Shetland Werewolf. This legend has some similarities to the monster variety and bits that are about as far away as is humanly possible.

So as you know, or may not know, I live on the Shetland Islands, never ever call them the Shetland’s! We sit half way between Aberdeen and Bergen and as such have an interesting mix of myths and legends. Some come from Scotland and others from Norway.

So anyway, the Shetland werewolf… up here he is called Wulver and he is not a true biomorphic beastie. He has a head of a wolf and the body of a man and is covered in short brown hair. He never changes and remains in this state. A full moon does absolutely nothing apart from allow him to be seen clearer.

He has none of the malignant nastiness of the werewolf of other cultures, the Wulver is seen as a kind spirit and if you leave him alone to live life how he wants then this happy state remains. No-one really knows what happened if he was molested, perhaps no-one survived to tell the tale!

Sightings of the Wulver were supposedly common until the 20th Century. He isn’t mentioned any earlier, but with the vast majority of Shetland folk way back speaking Norn then written accounts would not exist.

The written account came about in 1932. He was described like this in Shetland Traditional Lore…

The Wulver was a creature like a man with a wolf’s head. He had short brown hair all over him. His home was a cave dug out of the side of a steep knowe, half-way up a hill. He didn’t molest folk if folk didn’t molest him. He was fond of catching and eating fish, and had a small rock in the deep water which is known to this day as the “Wulver’s Stane”. There he would sit fishing sillaks and piltaks for hour after hour. He was reported to have frequently left a few fish on the window-sill of some poor body.

Siltaks are young saithe (coley) up to one year old and piltaks are up to two years old… news to me as I thought they were different species!

Photo by Mike Pennington

The Wulver would be known to share his catch with passers by and would often help people who were lost in the wilds. One of the other things that he is known for doing is that he would leave fish on the doorstep of people who had fallen on hard times. He would also be heard crying outside when someone in a house was dying. This was seen as a kind gesture and not as a harbinger of death.

So there you have it, a fish eating werewolf with a gentle side… People have tried to hypothesise that it could be someone with a congenital complaint of Hypertrichosis…

To end with, George MacDonald in 1871 (I think), wrote a story called ‘The Grey Wolf’ which is set in Shetland, which is a little unusual as there is no record of wolves ever being up here.

SOE, Shetland and the Norwegian’s

Today was a nice day so we went exploring out towards Lunna. This small out of the way place is synonymous with Norwegian resistance and WW2 as it was from here the Shetland Bus ran. The Shetland bus was not, as might be thought, a vehicle with four wheels. It was in fact a small fleet of vessels that ran from Shetland to the Norwegian coast and back again.

After Norway fell in 1940, the king and Norwegian government (plus a whole lot of gold) were put aboard HMS Glasgow and were taken to England to set up a government in exile. A whole host of refugees arrived on Shetland in fishing boats and other craft. They had made the 200 mile crossing to escape occupation.

The first base of operations for the Shetland Bus as just over the hill from me in Kergord, about a mile away as the crow flies. This is pretty much inland so a suitable location was required and Lunna Ness fitted the bill. Although the naval side of things moved to Lunna, Kergord was still used for the training of agents as well as mission objectives and debriefing of those returning.

To begin with Norwegian fishing boat captains were asked if they were willing to take agents and supplies in, the ad hoc arrangements were soon made more permanent in early 1941 by formation of a group of men and boats to take on the role. The main purpose of the group was to take agents into and out of Norway and provide them with weapons, radios and other supplies. They also evacuated Norwegians who feared arrest by the Germans.

This is Lunna house today, taken from down near the church

Interestingly the local Fishing Bod, has had some alterations…

These weapon slits are rather unusual in a 19th century fishing building. But as this became a bit of a training ground for agents, I wonder if the addition made this building into a training bunker or some reason like that.

This small stone beach had an important purpose as it was used as a training location for the chariots that attacked the Tirpirz.

A number of Norwegian’s were interred in the Small Church in Lunna. One was the first of the Shetland Bus casualties of the war. In October 1941 22 year old Nils Nesse was killed when his boat the Siglaos was attacked by aircraft. Others were casualties that were washed ashore.

Operations were moved from Lunna to Scalloway as the boats could be repaired there. By 1943 the fishing boats were put to rest as they were too vulnerable. To put it in to context in late 1943 twenty four men from a unit of sixty were lost.

Three lend lease sub chasers were given to the unit. These could make the journey a lot quicker and were more heavily armed than the previous boats. This is probably a story for a visit to Scalloway.

Seaside Shenanigans

My daughter and I decided we would make a blog of the things we see and do on Shetland. Yesterday we went rock pooling over towards Nesting. The rock pools were pretty treacherous so we had a mooch on the beach too.

On the way we nearly stood on this little chap..

Spot the Arctic Tern chick!

As the tide was going out more and safer rocks were exposed so we sat on them for a while and these swam and walked into our little net… we caught some young Pollack (I think) as well as hermit crabs and other smaller shore crabs.

We put them straight back after we took the photo.

The kids all wanted to go paddling… paddling to me is rolling your trousers up to your knees, evidently not this lot!

It was a typically crowded beach!

My sister is in the distance.

We intend to go back and see what else we see, sadly no orca made an appearance, which probably pleased this trio of seals.