This weekend we decided to take the caravan for a little outing to Burra. These are two islands, East and West Burra that are joined to another island of Trondra. Thankfully all connected by bridges and about a 25 minute drive with the caravan attached.
We parked our little 1993 caravan next to a Pile of super posh newer ones. We were in the Bridge End Outdoor Centre which also has spaces for caravans. £20 a night wasn’t too bad.
Today we went to Banna Minn beach…
This one was a but busier than my usual beach visits… there must have been twenty other people there. Minn beach is one side of a tombolo. We didn’t bother today, but you can walk over onto Kettla Ness. Esther has been doing some survey work over on it and they discovered some iron age pottery last time they were there.
There are lots of great views across the water down there and lots of great places to sit and admire the views… sadly I found a place to sit that wasn’t that great!
Here is another beach that I have only been to once in the seventeen years I have lived here. More weirdly it is two miles from work and I basically drive past it twice a day. So this is Raewick, derived from the Norse – red sand bay.
As you can see, totally overrun with people… eleven people including the five of us.
Now to be fair, we got here at 16:00 but based on the footprints there weren’t many here all day.
Today we decided to take the dogs a bit further afield and ended up heading west to the burn of Lunklet. The name supposedly comes from the old Norse lyngklettr which means ‘rock on a heath’ this place has a lot of the vegetation that Shetland used to be covered in such as dog rose, eared willow St John’s Wort.
One of the more striking features however, is the small waterfall…
It has been quite dry recently so not much of a whoosh in progress.
When the stream is in spate then it us extremely expressive, and loud! I have got a photo of it tanking through, but cannot find it anywhere. You can see an image Here .
The other think of note nearby are the ravens. Again in old Norse the area is known as hrafn-holl meaning Raven Hill. Sadly none were visible today.
As you can see from the photos, it wasn’t the brightest of days and there was a bit of a stiff breeze too, but still a pleasant walk. Sadly we couldn’t stop at the cake fridge as it was rather busy. We did nip into Aith charity shop on the way past though.
Today we went to a new beach, we have been past it a few times but never to it. In fact it is the longest beach on Shetland. It is right down towards the South end of the island near Quendale. Furthermore it was a lovely sunny day with temperatures around 9C.
My kids being like they are were in paddling straight away…
It was crowded as …usual…
We did get some nice photos though…
Quendale was where the dunes pushed right inland and covered a number of farms. One was excavated from the 17th century with amazing preservation as it was quickly covered by the sand.
On the way back home we stopped off at Makenzie’s Farm shop and cafe and got a late lunch. I ate mine at 15:00 and didn’t want to eat again until about 23:00. I was stuffed.
We normally go for a walk on New Years Day, but with torrential rain and Gales tomorrow we went for one today.
There were some awesome patterns in the sand at the beach…
We had a mooch at the old Church near the beach,
Evidently the air is clear here, as shown by the lichen on the gravestones…
St Mary’s was the main church in the Sandsting Parish. It was built in the 12th century. It originally had a thatched roof. It was still in use in the 1560’s. It eventually fell into disrepair in the 1760’s.
This is all that remains of the church now.
The wall to the left is not part of the original building but is now a walled family plot.
As I said yesterday I was off today to look at the Viking and Norse Steatite quarry down in the South Mainland.
This is down at Catpund, just a bit below the village of Cunningsburgh. The actual quarry is a bit of a climb up a hill, it is only 150m up, but it is a steep ascent, luckily a modern talc quarry ran a track up there in the 90’s so at least it was a dry walk. The quarry was used to make industrial Talcum Powder… from what I remember they removed over ten tons in the time they were in operation.
The historical strategy is about 50 – 60m away from the more modern site.
So we got up there and had an explore around the site.. we spent most of the time in a small area, but the actual original quarry went up and down the burn… so anyway here we have some spots where the Norse workers removed some blocks…
As you can see, these are rectangular gaps, this is pretty specific to the Norse period. More circular gaps are either earlier or later.
We also found evidence of where the chisels had done their work in removing the blocks…
The above photo was a pure fluke as the light was pretty rubbish due to cloud and mist. Just when I was about to give up, the clouds parked and the chisel marks leapt into focus.
I took a photo down the burn to show some of the Mills and associated buildings, including a planticrub (a walled raised bed).. this is the squarish structure on the left of the photo.
Today was an exploration into the wilds of Collarfirth Hill to look for the evidence of neolithic stone factories. Now to be fair lots of people knew where they were… I didn’t though. This a view South from where we parked.
The body of water visible to the right is the head of Ronas Voe, the place mentioned in my naval battle post a while ago. Ronas hill is the one in the distance to the right of the photo.
As you can see from the photo it is a pretty rough landscape with loads of Granite strewn around.
Granite is one of the reasons we are here. Felsite is an igneous rock that is found alongside granite, it is an intrusion so on the hills the veins of felsite are in stark contrast to the reddish granite.
After about 45 minutes walking we came across the first of the quarries… we parked at the towers in the distance.
All of the felcite has been taken, and interestingly once this has been done the quarry was back filled. An archaeological excavation took place just behind where I took the photograph. The OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) data came back with a date at the bottom of the trench as 3600bc… so quite a while ago.
The stone was removed from the ground using hammer stones and wedges, we know this as they have been found nearby with some of the wedges still in situ. They were roughly worked at the extraction site and then moved for further work about 500m further down the hill.
When we get down to the main work site we found hammer stones and part worked axes…
This is a one that was left behind as it would seem that something had gone wrong with it. The weird thing is that I might have been the first person to touch this in thousands of years. The chips around it are spread for tens of metres with here and there hammer stones and the remains of failed axes.
A couple of hundred metres away from the work place we found the first of the houses. This hasn’t been excavated so we can’t be for sure the exact date. The Guy in the red, Steve, was our guide for this expedition. Steve and my wife Esther started Archaeology Shetland.
So there we have it a very ancient part of Shetland’s history, or rather pre history. The axes got further worked nearer to home, this is an example of further working
Once Felsite is exposed to air for thousands of years it loses its colour. The axes were either left worked or for a higher status item they would be polished.
The axes are found all over Shetland so it would seem that they were traded up and down the islands.
One thing we don’t know is why this particular stone was chosen as a high status item. It is a good old height (230 metres) up on the top of a rather large hill and would take a lot of time and effort to extract it , shape it and then hundreds more hours to polish it.
The one thing we didn’t find was ‘the tree stump. Shetland is known for being pretty treeless overall and then at 220m is rarer still. But evidently in dry weather the Peat recedes and the stump appears. It is from a Scots Pine that was 18 years old when felled. Dating would have it in the second century. Unfortunately when Steve took the GPS reading of where it was he emailed it to himself then lost the email. So, as you can imagine, trying to find a short tree stump amongst all the boulders, and Small valleys was nigh on impossible.
It was really good day out, I managed 14000 steps even with my injured back. Somehow I ricked it last night and was dosed up in paracetamol to help me out.
Yesterday, we went for an explore of a naval battle in March 1674…to be honest this was a new one on me.
So anyway, on 16th December 1673 the Wapen van Rotterdam set sail from Texel to the East Indies with orders to travel ‘North About’ to avoid the pesky English in the Channel as the Dutch and English were at war (third Dutch Anglo war). They made good progress but unfortunately severe weather blew up and caused the ship to lose both it’s rudder and a mast. It limped into the secluded Ronas Voe on the north west Mainland of Shetland. The idea was to sit and wait out the storm and make repairs, but a lack of timber stalled these repairs.
She was still sitting there in late February, the crew trading goods with the local populace. Unfortunately someone on Shetland of high standing reported the ship’s presence and a force was dispatched north to remove the interloper. Interestingly the peace accord was in the process when the ship’s were sent.
Four ship’s were dispatched, these being the Newcastle, the Cambridge, the Crown and the Dove. These all being 3rd and 4th rated ship’s if the line. Unfortunately the Dove was wrecked off the coast in Northumberland on 24th February 1674. The rest made it into Shetland waters in Early March. They sent in the Crown to check the enemy ship was still there and she was. Unfortunately even with her 70 plus guns she was no match for the three English ships and was captured by the Newcastle. Of the 400 crew and soldiers only 100 were said to have been captured. The rest were buried in a mass grave in the south side of the Voe.
Shot are still found on the beaches in the Voe, and some like this bar shot made it into the museum
Here local legend has it as where the bodies were buried…
You can just about see the curve of the mound in the photo above.
Here we have a shot towards the open sea and then towards the top of the Voe…
The grave is up near the grey building in the far distance. As you can see from the photos, there certainly wasn’t much room to maneuver.
Wikipedia has a good recount of the battle and gives further information on the captured goods that were sold.
The wind caused some amazing patterns in the sand… tiny sand dunes were in patches.
The down side was the wind that caused the sand to blow. Going with the wind wasn’t too bad, but coming back into it meant sand and, later on, drizzle. This meant being sand blasted with sand that stuck.
As it was such an awesome day my two youngest and I donned our shorty wetsuits and headed off to the loch. There were quite a few jellyfish left stranded on the sand after the tide had gone. So we waded out (aka strolled about 200 metres until the water was deep enough to swim in, well for me anyway. We messed around in the deeper bits … by deeper, please read this as around 1m 25cm.
We had great fun, the best bit was swimming through a whole host of moon jellyfish. They were awesome. Now the one thing I didn’t know was that they have tentacles on the side of the bell. Usually they have four purple circles visible on the bell, however we found one with six and a few with five. By all accounts these circles are the reproductive organs… who knew…
We also saw loads of small fish and a huge crab 🦀… well it’s carapace was about 12cm across. We followed that for a good while.
Unfortunately no photos were taken, but after that we went into town and they now have snorkels and masks so we can have a proper look around.