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Hebridean journal

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Saturday 9th June 2007

I make no apologies for all the sky photos which appear on this Blog. In most urban areas little can be seen of the sky because of surrounding buildings and the slight reduction in brilliance caused, even nowadays, by pollution. Here on the Isle of Lewis the sky is not only an integral part of the landscape and seascape but also an ever-present glory in its own right. (I am purposefully forgetting some of the experiences of previous holidays here where the nearest one could get to seeing the sky was a cloud a few metres above the ground and horizontal rain a few metres in front of one's face.)

This is Lower Bayble from Tigh na mara at the same early hour of the morning.

As well as pandering to my needs and desires, GB has been working hard in his garden in this brief spell between trips away. (Note the bright red garage door which Pat and Dave can see from all the way across the valley in Upper Bayble - and which Pat likes so much - Not!)

It did not take long for the Painted Ladies to be swarming over the rockery plants in GB's garden this morning, renewing their energy after their long flight.

The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland. Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonizing mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.

We called over at Pat and Dave's and sitting on their front door was a Netted Mountain Moth. Regrettably it did not stop long enough for me to get a photo. Instead I photographed the view over the valley to Tigh na mara.

"Let me out!" Briagha has recently had an operation and is not yet allowed out off the lead....

GB and I headed out for the day and went across the Isle of Lewis on the Barvas road. I like the little huts used by the peat cutters along this road, though they cannot match the summer shielings on the Pentland Road for picturesqueness. (OK - so there is no such word as picturesqueness but you knew what I meant!)

As we have been travelling I have been taking dozens of pictures through the car window and many of them have been surprisingly successful. On today's run the weather was so clear I took a number with the mountains of Harris and Uig on the horizon.

At Shawbost it began to get misty. We stopped here for a while and after photographing a boat on a little loch we had a walk across the moor to the Norse Mill and Kiln which has recently been restored.

Lewis was once home to 200 small horizontal wheel mills. Here this was housed in the further of the two thatched buildings. The front one was the kiln in which the grain was dried.

This is the mill. Shawbost Mill, also known as The Mill of the Blacksmiths, was operational until the 1930s. The last operational mill on Lewis only stopped turning in 1945. This was first restored in the 1960s and again in 1995 with a smart new path added from the road in 2003.

This is the interior of the mill.

On we travelled, turning left at Carloway which think is one of the prettier townships on the island with its distinctive church and bridge.

GB then took me to the blackhouse village Na Gearrannan - a marvellous place.

As we were leaving the village we heard two Corncrakes quite close. Their call, like the sound of a comb being played, is certainly one of nature's most distinctive and compelling sounds. It seems strange to think that in my mother's youth they could be heard every year in the field across the road from her house - well within the boundary of the City of Liverpool. Now, even here on Lewis they do not seem as common as when I first came up to visit GB in the 1970s.

Some Silverweed was in flower at the side of the road as we looked over the crofts in the outside (and vain) hope of seeing a Corncrake.

Between Carloway and Callanish, as we passed through the area around Breasclete, I continued to take lots of photos through the car window as I have done all holiday.

At Callanish we called on Ann and admired her garden which a Large Red Damselfly was also enjoying.

The views from Ann's house and garden include the sea loch, the stones of Callanish and the mountains of Uig. Not a bad location!!!

Meet Ann's greyhounds - Dandy and Shona.

And one of Ann's next door neighbours.

At the Callanish Stones we were greeted by a Skylark singing his heart out from the top of one of the stones - a most romantic perch.

As always the Callanish Stones provided the photography and atmosphere that typify the island for me. The view from the stones over the sea lochs was magnificent.

Each individual stone is a wonderful thing – a work of art in its own right.

It is thought that the Stones were erected by a Mediterranean peoples who colonised the Western side of Britain by sea and built not only Callanish but Stonehenge as well, in the second millennium B.C.

Close by the main Callanish Stones are two more circles – Callanish II (above) and Callanish III (below).

This is my chauffeur!

The road home – across the moors of North Central Lewis.

The occasional stand of planted conifers can be seen – some have been replanted after the original Lodgepole Pine and Sitka Spruce (planted from 1968 to 1972) were ravaged by the caterpillars of the Pine Beauty moth in the 1990s. I think there are beautiful views along the A858 though for some the scene would be too desolate.

GB stopped in Acha Mor for me to take photos of a ruined crofthouse that has been in that state for at least thirty years. This has been a favourite spot of mine for a long time and I have pictures of it taken in the pre-digital age.

From there we went across the moorland road which I love for its little shielings, some of which are so attractively painted.

We paused to photograph a man stacking his peats, a job I recall helping GB with in the 1970s. (Or at least taking photographs while he did the work!)

After a day of constant sunshine we suddenly hit the mist as we drove across the Braighe onto the Eye peninsula.

Posted by tigh-na-mara at 12:01 AM BST
Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007 11:33 AM BST
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