By Bernie Bell
Pics by B&M Bell
We hadn’t been to Skaill Bay for months – rules is rules, and we stayed close to home. Now that we can stretch out a bit for our walks, we thought we’d re-visit one of our favourite places. We parked in the car park across the road from the toilet block, which is closed ( good! – middle aged bladder or not, I’m glad they are still closed). We set off along the Bay, to our right, and then something happened which has never happened to us before, there – we were dive-bombed by Arctic Terns! They were swooping to within about a foot above our heads, which was worrying. This is where I’m glad I have a stick, which I raised above our heads, and waved gently in circles as we walked. This meant that the Terns still swooped about, screeching, but they didn’t dive-bomb us. We were walking down by edge of the sea, and maybe they were nesting up above the stones.
I think it’s probably because, as there are less people about, maybe they are nesting where they normally wouldn’t. I’m all for nature re-claiming the wild places, and they were only asserting their ownership of what they obviously consider to be their space, but – it was an uncomfortable experience. They weren’t to know we meant them no harm, and they did the same thing on the way back. This time, I was ready with the stick waving manoeuvre – still a bit uncomfortable though.
We carried on along the beach, passing what used to be a sit-ootery on the path on the way to Skara Brae – but it’s now falling into the sea.
Coastal erosion is a problem in many parts of Orkney, and more of Skara Brae would have gone, but for massive defences which are built and maintained to hold it in place.
And Skara Brae itself – was an interesting experience. It was first revealed when a storm shifted some of the sand of centuries. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/04/26/stromness-museums-new-exhibitions-makers-then-and-now-part-2/
It was thoroughly excavated at the time, maybe a wee bit too thoroughly, as what was dumped as rubbish then, would be a treasure trove of information, now. The archaeologists of the time, did preserve a unique site, which might have gone for good, otherwise.
The site is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, and it is kept very tidy indeed – the grass is scalped. As a lover of the wild things, I was pleased to see how, during lock-down, the grass on the site has been left to grow, and also – wildflowers.
Before an irate HES person, or archaeologist, tells me off – we stood at the gate down at the bottom of the site, by the stone shed…
…and Mike used the zoom on his v. good camera, to get the pictures. Something you won’t see again for a while – a wild, sprouty Skara Brae – which is also still closed to the public.
Then back along the Bay, with scarce a human in sight…
Usually, at this time of year, lots of people go to Skaill Bay, and they like to build towers of stones….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/08/10/someones-been-busy-at-skaill-bay/
We only saw one, small tower on our walk today – a fine Sunday in mid-July.
Lots of birds – very few humans. I’m saying ‘nowt.
It’s all part of the story of Skara Brae and Skaill. Skara Brae was a bustling settlement – it was wiped out. The area became quieter – with the Big House, and farms dotted about. Then, Skara Bra is revealed, and excavated, and usually, on a fine Sunday in mid-July, the area would be bustling again – the Bay, and the ‘settlement’. Now, summer 2020 – nearly deserted again. It was as though we were walking in a possible future for Skara and Skaill, which will still be part of the story.
Time – shifts.
Thanks, Bernie/Mike brought back lovely memories of an afternoon picnic with my new fiancee back in 1972, which seems like a lifetime away now. That was the visit supposedly for two days and stayed two weeks, though staying with my fiancee’s aunt and uncle ( Master Brewer, Scappa Distillery) might have played a small part, LOL.
Aaaaa – a bit of romance – just what we need, right now. Aaaaah!
All the best, to you and yours