By Bernie Bell
Pics by B&M Bell
Orkney News readers may remember my tale of Cottascarth https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/07/05/bernie-bell-orkney-walks-with-stories-cottisgarth-2/
Once again, Autumn called us there, and, this time, we mostly focussed on the inside of the hide, which is named after local naturalist Eddie Balfour, who conducted years of research into Hen Harriers on Orkney – here pictured with his tame Hoodie (Crow, that is!), standing on his head.
As you step inside, filling the end wall nearest the door, is a mural by Ann Bignall, who illustrated ‘The Orkney Book of Wildflowers’ https://www.orcadian.co.uk/shop/nature/586-the-orkney-book-of-wildflowers.html. This covers the wall, and covers the varied aspects of life at, and around, Dale, which was/is the name of the croft itself.
The croft is now a ruin, but a ruin of what was a homely, welcoming house, with a luxuriant sycamore tree, shading the front.
What is now the RSPB hide, used to be the byre of the croft, and, inside, one side of the room is wrapped in art work produced by the P5, 6 & 7 pupils of Firth Primary School. These are images of Hen harriers, one of the birds which the Cottascarth Reserve is famed for.
I called this piece, ‘Inside The Hide etc’ , but, of course, from inside, we can see the view of outside, and the hills which surround this very special spot – and these works of nature, fill the remaining side of the room.
You can sit, and watch, and find some peace here. There are books to help you to identify what you see through the windows – whether birds, or other forms of wildlife, and a book in which you can note down what you’ve seen, for other visitors to see, and….for the RSPB records!
Someone had written in this book “Hills devoid of life.” And I wondered how long that person had spent there, how closely they had looked, and exactly what their expectations had been? To quote Basil Fawlty – “Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically -?”
We then had a wander around outside, stood under the sycamore tree, which is a wonderfully peaceful thing to do. If ever there was a tree, with its own being, way of being, personality …this one is one of those trees. The branches stretch out and reach down, so I could stand, with my arm resting on a branch, looking up into the tree, listening to the leaves rustling in the breeze, stroking the moss gardens on the branch. It soothed my soul. Not just the fact of my standing there, but – the tree engaged with me, soothed my soul, did me a world of good. I came away feeling entirely different – clearer.
We noticed that we could look through the tree, right through the windows of the hide (complete with bird cut-out to prevent collisions), to the land beyond……
A perfect way to spend a day – peace, welcome, tree, flowers, LIFE.
Which the hills are not devoid of – far from it.