BERNERAY AND THE MACHAIR
They say what a difference a day makes, but this was just a few hours over the water. Of course perhaps some good weather had blown in but I have to say the greeness of North Uist was startling after my time on Lewis and Harris.
Since leaving Shetland I have been managing with the tourist maps again, so I instantly managed to take a wrong turn, but it was a good decision as I was heading up towards a long stretch of beach with machair behind it. The machair is a springy turf over settled sand dunes. Mostly used for grazing, but with sections fenced off, and the stock kept out from late May while they grow potatoes, oats and barley, plus take a crop off the grass as silage or haylage judging by the black bales in fenced off portions.
The whole of the area is common land and quite beautiful. I chatted to one of the crofters who had driven out to top up a few of her young lambs with a bit of extra milk, and she told me that each croft house has about three acres surrounding it, then they have about fifteen acres of the communal farmed fields plus a share of the machair grazing just behind the shore. It was interesting to see how the various flocks and herds kept themselves to themselves, the different groups only taking an interest when their owners turned up to feed and check them over. It must be a lovely natural lifestyle for them. The rams were still running with their own flocks of ewes and the bulls with the cows and heifers. The larks sung endlessly, and the lapwings spent most of the day defending their nests from encroaching humans or animals. Curlews were crying in the distance, and there were oyster catchers and a busy little flock of what I think might have been Turnstones, though I am not very good on seabirds.
Enough to relax the heart and the mind.
We parked up behind the sanddunes and although it was a long and difficult walk for me through the soft sands I was determined, and Phoebe and I made it to the beach and had quite a good walk along it. Sometimes we were completely alone in our idyll other than the animals and birds and sometimes we were joined by other travellers with tales to swap.
Behind us the grey mists still hung low over the mountains of Harris in the distance, but even those lifted after a while and turned into fluffy white cotton-wool clouds floating just above the peaks. So we spent a lovely healing time there before travelling on southwards again.