The Perched Stone
March is an old English word meaning border – as in the Welsh Marches, or in describing one county as marching with another.
After 72 hours of constant gale-force to severe-gale winds from the south east, with everything chilled to the core and enveloped in a clinging damp that spreads like a virus – today was a relief. Soft winter sunshine, mild breeze …
Tilly and I made the most of it, with a walk following the northern marches of the Cille Bhrìghde Common Grazings.
The boundary was, anciently, marked with a bank of earth and stone, and behind it a ditch from which the bank was raised. The boundary marches close to a curious rock formation – The Perched Stone.
At three or four tonnes, boulder woud be more accurate. It will have left like this by the retreating glaciers, many thousands of years ago.
Jonathan: After two named storms – Barbara and Connor – in quick succession, and a week indoors, the wind died down today, and at last we could get out for a proper walkies with Tilly! It’s been good to get out with the dog under blue skies – and be driven home by a violent hail-shower! So, We’ve made do with a there-and-back walk up the old track to the hill gate below the rocky slopes of Coire Bheinn. It’s lovely to see the wild birds busy finding food, their hunger after days of storm making them bold, darting by our feet: Wren, Redstart, Blackbird, Thrush, Rock Dove … A pair of Lapwing silently wheeled and dived – apparently for no reason other than the sheer joy to be free to do so after days couped up in whatever shelter they can find. An owl quartering the fields e and a Buzzard perched on one of the new power distribution poles. Fence wires are decorated apparently with raffia, fluttering in the breeze: in fact they’re short lengths of dead grass torn away from the ground by the storms.
Drain, Cille Bhrighde, leading into Loch a Bhruga, Isle of South Uist
New electricity distribution line, Cille Bhrighde
Wind-torn grass on the fence wires
Loch a’ Brhuge, Taobh a Chaolais
New electricity distribution line, Cille Bhrighde
Over the years we’ve been here, we’ve learned to expect – and be prepare for – power cuts during and after storms. For the first few years here, those cuts could come several times a day, though mostly for just a second or two, a few minutes … and occasionally for hours: in fact it didn’t even need to be windy, or even Winter! Back then, the network was old and not very resilient. In recent years, a lot of work – a great deal of money – has gone into not only replacing poles and lines, but also adding parallel or higher voltage distribution lines, automatic switching, telemetry. This autumn, there’s been swarms of engineers – most over for the mainland for a few weeks at a time – working hard to complete £3.5m of upgrade before their Christmas holidays. And they made it, too! So, we’ve only had two power outages this past Autumn and Winter, and those were as new lines were prepared for energizing. Well done, everyone!
Jonathan & Denise: Storm Barabara? Storm in a teacup! Blanket of grey cloud. Tick! Billious and blustry. Tick! Damp and Dreary. Okay, perhaps not dreary. How about Liquid and lively? Sure, it’s difficult getting things done outdoors, as it can be difficult to walk in a straight line or even stand still – and carrying anything that you can’t envelope in a tight embrace is tempting fate. Of course we’ve had to fix across the wires that retain the wheelie bins in their stalls (that’s three wheelie bins at each house, nine in all!) – but that’s near to every-day discipline here, in winter. We’re at the peak of the storm, and gusts are little more than 60mph or so, and that is really nothing to write about …
Jonathan: Storm Barbara’s on her way! Since I predicted, a few days ago, a Christmas to Remember, the Met Office’s predictions have been constantly morphing. The path, extent, direction, speed, force and duration of the storm – everything about it. Just yesterday, and for just a few hours, the forecast for Christmas Day looked to be surprisingly peaceful – a brief lull as the centre of the gyrating storm passed right through our end of South Uist. Now, the worst day looks to be the Friday 23rd, with gusts up to 80mph, but with Storm to Severe Storm winds starting the day before and only subsiding late on Christmas Eve … and then powering up again for more of the same from early on Christmas Day right through to late on Boxing Day. Barbara’s on her way, and preparations must be made!
Barbara won’t stand for untidiness! Stuff lying around in a disorderly fashion is liable to flung about violently in a fit of temper! So, today – the last day of sunshine expected for more than a week, I’ve been touring the garden and croft doing whatever is necessary before Barbara arrives! This Autumn has been very mild and temperate, so it wasn’t until early November that I fitted all the protective boards to the greenhouses – around the time that I would, normally, add additional boarding to close the narrow gap between Greenhouse 2 and Greenhouse 3. That gap has remained open until now … for our own convenience. But in severe storms, this narrow gap becomes a wind-tunnel, and generates violent turbulence that could seriously damage or even destroy the two greenhouses. The hit-and-miss boarding – the same pattern as fitted to the greenhouses themselves – filters the wind, which is more effective and safer than a solid barrier. We can still get to the greenhouses (the doors face eachother across the gap) from the sheltered north side.
Jonathan & Denise: This looks like it could be a Christmas to remember!
Weather forecast. Week to 25 December 2016. [XC Weather – Postcode HS8 5TT]