Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Voyage of Discovery

Orchid Stromness_

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts that started in June and are still limping along! I’ll get there in the end…  something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_22

You may have noticed it has been taking me a while to get these posts out, there are many reasons,  good and bad,  but one of them is how long it takes me to read around the links I want to add to my post. With every click of a search engine, I’m finding more and more that grabs my attention and imagination. There is the occasional disappointment of course, something I wish I’d know about before we set off on this journey, something we’ve missed as a result. I suppose it is the eternal dilemma of travelling, how much do you prepare, or  how much of the fun of travel is the  unexpected discovery.

The town of Stromness, Orkney for example, it  was full of surprises,  from the orchids (photo above) growing on a little waste ground near the campsite,  to the town itself, it appears perfectly preserved, look at the main street.

Stromness 3

(We missed a sign taking us an easier route to the campsite, I did wonder what rabbit hole I was disappearing down as I drove the camper van through the ever narrowing street).

So little street furniture, signs, road markings, sale boards  and general stuff. I wondered how it had managed to remain so intact, has it been restored to this, or has it just sidestepped change? Then (wandering around the Internet again) I found photos of this street from the 70’s and 80’s it looked  pretty much just the same (a gorgeous little collection of photo journalism).  I also discovered that the Townscape Heritage Initiative is the mover and shaker of this exemplary street, and for support the beautiful shops and galleries 

Stromness 8

It is a town stuffed with sea faring history, with a heritage of whaling, exploration and was the recruitment centre for The Hudson Bay Company, the knowledge and skills of the seamen of this town being highly sought after.

Stromness 10

 

I found this enchanting little film, made by the primary school children in Stromness, I’m sure I recognise the cat that makes an appearance, the film will tell you all about the history. I wanted to show you the crow-step gables, a feature of Scottish architecture

Stromness crowstep 

At every corner, a route down to the quayside, back in time there would have been wooden piers built to cope with the influx of mackerel boats and so many boats moored here, you could walk across them.

Stromness 11

The museum is full of quirky artefacts, and slightly scary mannequins (which did seem to be a feature of the museums we visited)

Stromness 9

But maybe the biggest surprise though was The Pier Arts Centre, a vibrant gallery, of contemporary art, including over 20 works by Barbara Hepworth, what a gem of a place. 

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Momento Mori

Momento Mori Kirkwall pointing hand 2

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_21

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts that started in June and are still limping along! I’ll get there in the end…  something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

A visit to St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall,  sadly if was only a brief visit, we managed to slip in  for a quick look around, just as a children’s concert was closing  (there was much fiddle playing, but more of that in a moment) and preparations  for a wedding were beginning , mind you I’d rather see a building that is very much part of the community than one preserved for tourist like me.

There are some wonderful tomb stones, its true to say I find them fascinating,  on many levels, and Orkney has many that are note worthy (there’s probably another post to be had, Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you I spent a lot of time mooching around grave yards on our trip). These  stones I loved because they, leave the viewer in no doubt, we are all just passing through, momento mori, ‘remember you must die’  an hour glass, a spade, a coffin, a skeleton,  cross bones and skull have you got the message? No use spelling it out, if the viewer can’t read, and not many would have been able to circa 1600, so lets be visually bold.

Momento Mori Kirkwall 4

Here, there is something about the hand, with the pointing finger, that made me smile, there is a touch of the Monty Python  about it, what looks like a sleeve, is actually a clasp holding the stone vertical.

Momento Mori Kirkwall pointing hand_

The font was rather wonderful, made with beautiful  marble, or are they pieces of agate? I know they make jewellery with Scottish agates; it reminded me  of another font made of precious stone

Font St Magnus Kirkwall

The external fabric of the cathedral itself has taken a hammering from the elements,

Stone exterior St Magnus_

Momento mori, even if you are a lump of stone

Stone exterior St Magnus 2

After we returned home, I read of a  battered fiddle, bought at a car boot fair, for £20,

It turned out that the fiddle had been made in 1919 by Thomas Sutherland from Flotta, and that the wood had come from HMS Vanguard.

More than 800 people died when the battleship sank in Scapa Flow in July 1917 after a series of internal explosions.

Do have a listen to the restored fiddle, being played in St Magnus cathedral, it will give you goose bumps.