Yesterday, being Sunday, we had a quiet day pottering about, Becky and I.
After an early morning jog (okay, that was just Becky), and breakfast, we set off for little stroll, along the GR131 long-distance path, to Orzola, at the far north end of the island – about 10km away. Passed through volcanic landscape, yet with many neat and apparently productive fincas/smallholdings, with innumerable walls or enclosure of volcanic rock providing shelter from the wind (and cold night?) for tender fruit trees or bushes.
Shelter walls, along the GR131, Lanzarote
That’s a bus shelter, by the way. Somehow I can’t see that particular design catching on in Uist.
At Orzola, we stopped for a ‘spot of lunch’, overlooking the harbour. It’s where the ferry to Isla Graciosa sails from, so we picked up an horario [timetable] – for another day when we feel more inclined to exertion and adventure!
Sunday being, by convention, a day of leisure, we had no desire to disturb tradition with anything more challenging than reading our map upside down and calling Holas! to the same old men tending their even older fields that we’d called Hola! to in the morning. So back to Màguez was just the 10km back as well.
So, no, we didn’t do anything much yesterday. It was Sunday, after all.
Not a doing sort of Sunday. More of a Being Sunday.
Denise: As Autumn advances, visitors to the islands become few and far between and the roads and beaches fall quiet. So too at The Big Garden and The Hebridean Woolshed! Over the years, we’ve tended to keep the shop open until … well, until we thought it was about time we packed stock away to protect it from cold and damp of winter. That could be as late as the end of November!
This year, with customers increasingly expecting to find our opening hours on the internet – and us to keep to them!, we decided we could do with more down-time (though that could turn out as more time to make new stock for next year!), so we set the end of the season at 30 September. Except that it won’t be … it will be the 29th. That’s when I’m flying off to ‘foreign lands’ (a-ha! you’ll have to wait to find out where I’m going to!), and J will be kept busy doing … well, doing everything. I’ll be having some real down-time, complete with breakfast-in-bed, reading-in-bed, waited on hand-and-foot.
So, if you’re wanting any Big Garden jam, chutney, lemon curd (there’s two jars left!), fresh herbs, Hebridean hogget lamb – and of course anything from the The Hebridean Woolshed, you’ve got until next Wednesday. After that we’ll be open only for eggs and preserves: anything else and – well, we’ll see you next Easter!
Jonathan: Thank heavens our Becky comes once a year to stir us out of well-worn ways and do something different! Today we went for a walk on the wild side – the wild side of Uist that is – on the east of the chain of mountains and hills that run down the spine of the islands. On the west are roads and villages and fertile crofts and the soft wild of sand dunes and marram grass; but the east coast is a world apart, with but a few roads threading their way across the barren moors to the sea-lochs that in times past served as harbours, with no more than a meagre scattering of croft houses amidst the desolation.
Wild honeysuckle, Liursaigh
Caolas Liursaigh, Isle of South Uist
Detail of old croft house, Liursaigh
From the far end of the Loch Carnan road – past the shrine at the Orasay junction, beyond the power station and Salar Salmon, the road twisted and turned to the point where the blacktop stopped and the road continued on without it, and us without the car. Beyond lay the district of Caolas Liursaidh, with its scattering of ruined croft houses from the 19th century, and also the marks upon the landscape left by those of far more distant times – ancient farmsteads, souterrains and much more. The geology of this area is striking, with a major near-vertical discontinuity running roughly east-west, with a zone of debris infilling the gap – about 30m wide – between the two faces of the fault. In this zone there run underground streams traced out by a line of sink-holes as deep as a man is tall, some with the water itself flowing gushing noisily from a gap amongst the rocks on one side, and on the other sliding silently back into the stygian depths. Perhaps the ancient peoples saw this as a place with a close connection with the underworld, the after life, and indeed that from which all life is built – Earth itself.
As we reached the stone-built house where the track peters out, a fine rain started to drift in off The Minch. We explored the meagre remains of those last brave pioneers that set up here late in the 19th or in the early 20thC, and abandoned all hope of success some time in the 1930s. Perhaps there was symbolic significance in the old iron anchor set up on the cres of a nearby hill, it’s curve complementing the profile of distant hills and islands. Carrying thoughts as sombre as the landscape about us, heading back east to the comfort and convenience of our car; our way was gladdened by the sight of wild honeysuckle cascading down the rocky face of the fault line. And on looking about, we saw that even in such a wild place as this, Nature can work miracles of grace and beauty: tiny flowers carpet the ground – finely wrought yet amazingly hardy, a tapestry of the softest hues. It was later than we’d thought when we got back to the car, so exploring the old road leading south will have to wait to another time.
Jonathan: Parked at Morrison’s supermarket car park in Welwyn Garden City. There’s something calming and reassuring about being settled amongst the comings and goings of so many people. After a walk around the pleasant leafy suburbs of Panhanger, I settled down to read some short stories (Katherine Mansfield – The Dolls House; Susan Glaspell – A Jury of Her Peers), drank a glass, of wine with some cheese and biscuits, and a little nap. It’s turned decidedly cold and blustry. To save money I’m ‘camping wild’ for a couple of nights – hereabouts that means car parks of 24/7 supermarkets or nearby where the delivery trucks park up.
Jonathan: And it isn’t even the afternoon yet ;~(
Ennui, they called it in the 19th century. Women trapped in unchallenging lives by social mores and gender discrimination. It’s the unchallenging and trapped bit that applies in my case – though hopefully not for much longer.
The forecast for the weekend was promising, but in truth it’s just been warm and grey. Not that it would have made much difference if it had been fresh and sparkly: I just don’t have the motiviation, the enthusiasm, the emotional desire to engage in this land of strangers and strangeness.
During the week I picked up leaflets for various cycle routes leading in various directions from Welwyn Garden City. I need the exercise, I love being outdoors, and I love exploring. The Cole Green Way (WGC to Hertford and beyond) I cycle almost every day when I’m camped in Hertford (21 miles a day is definitely exercise enough!) but I haven’t tried the route the other way to St Alban’s. Perhaps I should. Some time. St Alban’s is, I feel sure, my sort of a town: I could even go to communion or evensong in the Cathedral, or both. (That said, I could easily have gone to a service in Chelmsford – but I didn’t).
It’s 1140 already – too late to make the most of the trip. I really should try this next weekend. I’ll almost certainly never have the chance again. I don’t like it here in SE England in general, but I’m sure there’s something at St Alban’s that will lift me out of myself. I’m thinking Cathedral, Roman remains, pleasant leafy avenues, old-fashioned bookshops (but not likely to be open on a Sunday?). There you are, I’ve written it down, I’ve got to do it now! Next Sunday. Unless it rains. ;~)