THE ISLE OF NOSS
After the lashing rain and winds of last night the day dawned warm and calm and sunny. I took Phoebe to stretch her legs and we wandered down to the jetty in the sunshine looking a the light reflecting on the dappled waters of the calm little harbour. Phoebe was sniffing around taking in the new sights and smells. There was a big lump of mouldering seaweed and an old fish skeleton picked clean, presumably by the gulls, plus she was alarmed by the fact that this extra large puddle (the sea) kept coming towards her, and made sure she stayed behind me as the gentle waves lapped at out feet. The sunlight glinting off the waters made the harbour shoreline of Lerwick over the water most picturesque. I had forgotten to take my camera, and intending to get it I turned, and there just a few feet away from us, bobbing in the sea, was the face of a seal, quite a way out of the water and regarding us with unabashed interest. He looked me straight in the eyes for quite a few minutes - and I was certain that it was a he - there is something in the directness of the gaze of the male of any species, calm and unafraid, whereas the girls tend to look sideways, always ready to run away - or probably in this case swim away. I went back for the camera but when I returned he had lost interest in us and was alternately fishing, or sunbathing with his chin out of the water, so I couldn’t take you any photos, but the gaze we exchanged will stay in my memory.
I stopped on for most of the morning and took some photos of the church and school and spotting a seal again, but further out this time tried to get some shots, and was amazed that I had missed a whole group of them hauled out on a small spit of seaweed covered rock. One in particular did a lot of flipping and flapping as I pointed the camera and I wondered if it was the cheeky chappy from earlier in the morning.
Having enjoyed the old harbour and the seals for a while I decided to explore the island a bit.
Sitting next to a couple at the Up Helly Aa morning assembly in the hall I had asked what might be worth looking at and The Isle of Noss was mentioned so I decided to maybe try going up there. I had been given directions but they had sort of got lost in the excitement of the Up Helly Aa, and I thought I would drop by the shop and ask. I had re-sorted out the Wretched Rack so we pulled up the road and parked in the hall carpark.
Interestingly the shop is called The Post, and I imagined it was the local term for the post office, but no, the name is the old word for sand and the property was named before we had the Royal Mail and post offices
I never like asking directions in a shop without buying something so I looked for a bar of chocolate, something I rarely buy for myself. Mum was chocolate and sweet mad, so I used to buy in bulk from Lidl, and after I lost her I still had bars and bars of chocolate and pounds of mixed boiled sweets, mints and toffees to be given away. The Crunchie I bought was sixty five pence, and not having bought one for probably fifteen or so years I was appalled at the price, but refrained from exclaiming “How Much!!!” As Dad would have said – thirteen shilling for a kid's bar of chocolate! He died from his old heart trouble not long after they decimalized the currency, which coincided with a period of rapid inflation, and I imagine his increased blood pressure when buying things did not extend his life span.
The ladies in the shop were very nice, though they looked doubtful about me getting Thebus up there. What I really wanted to be sure of was that when I reached my destination there would be some sort of carpark to turn round in, and I would not need to reverse all the way back. Yes, apparently there was, but once again a look of doubt about Thebus' size appeared on their faces, but someone said that in the summer small buses took the visitors up so they could take the ferry to Noss so I decided to give it a go. See how brave I am getting!
The road was narrow and quite steep to start, but not much worse than I had already encountered. Then we entered the moor. And through a very narrow stone sided entrance. If I hadn't already tackled Long Meg and Her Daughters I may well have turned back at that point. But at Long Meg was obviously a dairy farm and I knew they would have to get the bulk tankers up there to collect the milk, so guessed if it was wide enough for them it was wide enough for me, and this entrance looked about the same size, so with eyes focused straight ahead and moving slowly so we could stop at the first hint of grinding we made it over the bumpy cattle grid.
The road of course now got narrower, but before long an approaching land rover had pulled into a passing place to allow me through, and I stopped to check that I would make it okay. He said the roadway didn't get much narrower (eek!) but he thought we would make it.
At one point it got a bit hairy in that Thebus' wheels were level with either side of the road and where it took a sharpish bend through a particularly peaty, boggy section Thebus' wheels on one side slipped off into the bog, and it took a bit of driving to get them back on again without oversteering and going into the bog on the other side. But we finally made it down the last steep slope to the carpark over-looking the bay beneath on what felt like a cliff, but was actually a steep heather slope running down to the shore beneath. I did a very careful three point turn and parked Thebus sideways to the drop, and my knees felt a bit weak when I got out to look over the edge at the view, so I was glad of the sugar rush from the Crunchie and it was worth every penny of the price, - I just wished I had bought two!
It was lovely there, and would have been nice to spend the night, but the weather is really changeable here and I decided to head back before dark, but made a cup of tea and a sandwich first. Well it wasn't actually a sandwich – the first time I had popped into 'The Post' I bought some soft rolls and they are delicious. Very soft and almost sweet to my taste, but as I rarely have sugar in anything I am very aware of the taste of sugar. So I had one of these with some cheese and the last of the cucumber. Delicious. Even if I had eaten my sweet before my lunch!
I was more aware of the boggy bit on the corner and we got through more easily on the way back,and dropping down into a little hollow in the hills, with just a glimpse of the sea to the north and beside a lovely little loch was a big pull in just right for easily parking Thebus. As I had jokingly said to the ladies at The Post when they were looking doubtful at our intended trip up to Noss that if I wasn't back in three or four days to send out a search party, I thought I had better phone down to the shop and explain just in case someone did think I had got into trouble when I didn’t re-appear at the old harbour. Plus they had mentioned there was an Up Helly Aa Hop that night and suggested I came along - so I might have been missed. The reason I choose the moors over the hop was if I was down in the village with the lights of Lerwick just over the water and the northern lights did perform I would have missed them yet again. So we spent a happy night up on the tops looking north, though of course once again everything was quiet on that front.
I have been very worried about running out of LPG whilst up here in Shetland and Orkney but having done some research on what works which bit of equipment in Thebus, and getting a bit more up to speed on electricity (I was rubbish at physics) it turns out my generator runs on petrol and produces 50 amps of power though on the American system of 120 volts, so I should have 25 amps to use – I think I have just about understood it – and that will enable me to heat Thebus, cook on my induction ring and boil water in the kettle. So I feel happier now, and last night allowed us some proper heating secure in the knowledge that if we do run out of LPG for the heater I can fire up the generator and plug in the electric fan heater. Great. We can stay up here in the north for as long as we like.
The night turned very windy at around ten pm and by the time I got into bed it was howling and I wondered whether I would sleep, but having decided we are reasonably unlikely to blow over, its just the noise and rocking, and I am getting more used to that, and before long I was fast asleep, though the wind wuthering (lovely descriptive word that) round the windows and catching the scooter cover woke me at oneish,but I just checked the time and drifted off again.
I usually sleep with the long blind on the back window pulled down, and then either open one or the other of the little blinds next to the pillows on the bed, but for some reason I had forgotten last night so when I woke I could see the view outside and it was wonderful. Although the sun wasn’t shining early, before very long it broke through, so I felt I had to include a photo. I waited until I went outside with Phoebe as currently the back window is pretty grimy from the muddy, slushy, snowy, gritty, sleety, sandy and sea-spray conditions we have been through since leaving Wolverhampton for the Burn's Night trip. I will have to think how to get Thebus cleaned up as he is such a big boy it will be difficult for me, and the last bad wrench of my arm at Inver has taken my confidence again.
There was an excellent internet connection (you can just see the masts on the top of the hill) so sitting in the driver's seat busy with my laptop on my little table I was suddenly aware of a small group of sheep on the road headed towards us. They were obviously amazed at this big stripy object blocking their way, but though it was frightening they were determined to pass, and I imagined they were moving to pastures new. They had come down from the hill side opposite and I could see more small groups of them further up also walking purposefully this way, threading their way down through the heather and round the edge of the loch to break into a bob tailed run when they had passed the front end of this terrifying monster.
I wondered what could be so different about the grazing they were headed for, and it wasn't a drink they needed as not one glanced at the loch as they passed. Then later over on the horizon I saw the reason for their migration. It was about three minutes to nine and the entire flock, which had by now caught up with each other, were congregated next to a stone wall and I could just make out a tall figure striding back and forth amongst them, and though it was definitely too far to see I just knew he had a bag of sheep nuts with him.
Bressay Seal Colony
Cheeky Seal on rocks - and below really showing off and clapping his flippers
View towards The Isle of Noss
These photos give no idea of the panorama and depth and height of the view
Phoebe on watch
Morning view of the little loch on the top of Bressay
Early Morning views over the little loch