STUCK IN A RUT
I had thought to go to the next Up Helly Aa, but looking at the map it was in the far south of Shetland and there is so much that I have not seen up here yet, plus the weather forecast for the day was poor, and remembering my cold night at the Bressay Up Helly Aa I decided to stay in the north of the Mainland and go the the final Up Helly As of the year in Delting next weekend.
So having crossed to the Mainland again on the wonderful ferry network I parked up in the harbour, knowing strong winds and rain were forecast and thinking it would be reasoanbly sheltered there with the added advantage of internet. I parked within about fifteen inches of the pebbled shore with the sea some fifteen yards away. The stones and boulders which make up the harbour approach are known to have an otter holt, and though I spent even more time looking I still was not lucky. The day was windy and rainy so I would guess, like me they preferred to stay somewhere sheltered.
I was parked up by some other buses, though proper commercial buses, and when I took Phoebe to stretch her legs a cheery bus driver popped out of his cab for a good natter as he was just going off shift for the day. He was from Liverpool and moved up here with his young family four years ago, and is loving it. He works very hard, though says the pay is good owing to the oil wealth in the area. Jobs are easy to come by and no-one goes without a job if they want to work, his whole demeanour beamed happiness and contentment, he couldn't speak highly enough of the local people and loved Shetland. Its a pleasure to have such encounters - I have met some wonderful folk on my trip so far.
I had used the wet day yesterday to get on the internet and plan my next couple of days. And with a beautiful dawn to the new day we were ready to set off. I met up with the bus driver who was just coming back on shift ready for the early morning ferry passengers, and we shared a cup of coffee before he started.
A little wander round the coast began our day, the weather was deteriorating and though you knew the views were good it was too overcast to do them justice. Eventually we headed for Lunnas House, I knew it would be shut – pretty well everything is until May, so in general I hardly bother. But just before there was the sign to Lunnas Kirk. I must admit I expected the door to be locked on that on too, but to my delight it was open, and what a joy to look round.
The Kirk nestles below Lunna House perched high on a hill looking out over the fishing grounds, and having heard the story of the fishermen at Gloop it makes more sense when you are told that the Laird of Lunna had the lookout errected so he could spy on the fishermen. Knowing now about the haff fishing, the men would have obviously been using his boats and tackle and were employees rather than fishing for themselves. Whether it was for the pleasure of the view, or for spying on the fihsermen, or as suggested in some quarters watching out for the Customs Men and the Laird and his family indulged in a little smuggling this is the Lookout in the distance
Next to the Kirk and Kirk Yard is a walled enlcosure with a fine set of stone gateposts and step-stiles, the gates long since gone. It seems very odd as the wall, which one would imagine surrounded the house, in fact curves the other way, and it is full of stange rocks and mounds. There seems little information as to what it was and no one local seems to know either, Perhaps a Time Team Challenge? But they probably wouldn't get any of their fancy modern equipement in there.
Lunna House was chosen as the base of the original "Shetland Bus" which was a secret second world war operation to support the Norwegian Reistance. Even driving there today it really does seem remote, and back in the 1930's it would have been even more so -if you want to read more about the part it played then this is a good link
Talking of roads, and Shetland, and buses, and remoteness, the road out of the Kirk was not particularly narrow -in Shetland terms - but with Thebus doing a right angle turn onto an equally narrow road is difficult at the best of times, and this particular turn was almost wanting us to go more to our left and back to the main road, than where I wanted to go which was to the right towards Lunna House to then continue futher on down towards the sea and the end of the road.
I try to be careful, so didn't make the turn in one, but backed up to re-position and get round in the direction we were headed. There was a stout fencing post quite hard up against the road on our right and the ground in front of us to the left was sloping sharply off the road, and looked very wet, Everything was going well, then I felt Thebus back off side wheel lift slightly. I hadn't noticed any impediment and assumed it was a stone in the ground. Thebus breasted it easily then fell and there was a thud as his underside lodged on the stone or whatever it was. As the road from the junction rose steeply to where Lunnas House was sitting on its eminence I thought my best bet was to accelerate, as I knew if we were on soft grass we could easily get stuck. Not a hope. Thebus was going nowhere. I switched everything off and got out to see what had happened.
The stone I had gone over was in fact quite low, but just high enough to conceal the three foot drain behind it taking the water from aforesaid sharp hill to funnel it under the road we had just come out of. Not a hope in H..L of getting out of this one. I was still down in the ditch assessing the situation when pick-up with a stock trailer in tow came down the hill. It was a local farmer and his son, just bound for the Westside. He looked at it with me and agreed that a tow out would be the only way, but seemed to think it didn't look too difficult. He had a JCB back at the farm and would be back in about ten minutes. I apologised for delaying his journey, and thanked him for his offer of help, though as he pointed out he hadn't much choice in the matter as I was totally blocking the road, and it was the only one out of their part of the island. So expertly reversing the pickup and trailer back up the steep pitch they disappeared round the corner behind Lunnas House
Sure enough they were back in a flash and brought with them a good strong tow rope, which was put round the front axle (I must check out towing points and get a suitable tow rope to keep on board)
I asked what they wanted me to do in the way of driving but it was decided that Dad would drive Thebus while his fourteen year old son would pull us back up the hill and out of the hole with the JCB - a good sturdy one on caterpillar tracks rather than wheels.
The whole operation was accomplished in less than a quarter of an hour of my falling in. If something like that can be lucky then I certainly was. They suggested I call at Lunnas House anyway, as even if it was out of season the owners wouldn’t mind showing me round, and I did but I think they must have been out walking the dogs, - the doors were open, but no-one around so I carried on down to the sea. I had asked my kind rescuers if there would be room for me to turn around – but I think my driving skills need further honing, I am certainly not as good as that fourteen year old.
So rescued and back on the road I thanked them both profusley for their timely and most welcome help. They were now free to carry on with their journey with Thebus out of the way, and they also said that although Lunnas House was closed for the season just knock on the door and it the owners would be happy to show me around. I parked up near the farm buildings at the bottom of the drive but although I knocked loudly on the door no one seemed to be around, so sadly I did not get to see inside and hear the story of the 'Shetland Bus'
I carried on towards my intended destination which was where the road ended at the sea shore.
Imagine my surprise when, approaching the end of the road, which in fact terminated at an old farmhouse, I saw a somewhat decrepit sign announcing - Antiques and Curios For Sale' !!!! Well I really couldn't imagine they would get much 'passing trade' in such an unlikely spot.
There was a bit of a turning place and I thought it looked tight for our 32 ft, but there was a farmtrack ahead with what looked like a better chance. I think if everything were not so very wet I might well have fared better, but unbelievably I managed to get one of Thebus' rear wheels off the roadway and was instantly down in the boggy, peaty mud, nearly up to his hubcap. Feeling crestfallen and thinking I would need to ask for help yet again, I got back in and putting him in lowest gear (and praying hard) I managed to get him out, then complete a very careful sixteen point manoeuvre to make sure not one bit of his wheels got into the bog again. And back up the road to take the ferry to Whalsay. - I wished I had a couple of Crunchies with me – I was in desperate need of a sugar rush.
The charming 18th C. interior of Lunna Kirk
The two tier or double decker pulpit at Lunna Kirk
The higher section was used by clergy when preaching, and as they didn't always attend every service the lower desk would be used by the Parish Clerk who would read out the services but not preach.
The height of the pulpit allowed the preacher to see those members of the congregation who were sitting in the gallery.
I think the incubent that had this pulpit erected had a fine sense of his own importance.
Lunna Kirk Gallery
Above - Walled In Lumpy Bits
Below - Fine Stone Gateway to Walled in Lumpy Bits
The huge stone gateway above, with the lookout just glimpsed in the distance through its pillars, stands directly opposite what was obviously the original driveway to the house, though quite how anyone would have driven over 'the lumpy bits' is beyond me. I would have explored but the rain and the sheep had made the ground very muddy and slippy, and I didn't want to risk a fall
Lunna House, looking down to the big stone gateway with the remains of a roadway leading through the gates and up to the house. All most odd. There is a mention somewhere of a garden, so perhaps it was a walled in pleasure garden, but why such big gateways, and why would you need such huge stone step stiles and on either side as well?
It looks at though we are just stuck in a ditch,
but in fact Thebus back wheel was actually
in mid air over a drain
Rescue in Progress
View from Lunna House