Culture

The Things You Find On An Orkney Beach

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

The day had started soggy, then cleared up, so we thought that a walk on a beach would be best – no wet herbiage to soak our trousers – waterproof trousers can be a boon, but I don’t like wearing them in the warmer weather!

We went to Dingieshowe https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/01/18/orkney-tings/, parked the car in the car park by the toilet block (closed at the moment due to…..).  We went up the steps, over the dune, and along the beach, first right, then left. When we reached the end of the sandy bit, we went up onto the path at the top of the bank, through the dunes and crossed the road, then the grassy bit, to get onto Sandi Sand.

Sandi Sand Dingieshowe credit Bell

It’s not a particularly appealing stretch of sand – the name is a bit misleading – it’s quite a ‘muddy’ bit of sand, but it has much of interest in it.  The first thing you notice are the cockle-shells – hundreds/thousands of them, stretching right along the bay, many spread out, some in clusters, and some in great sweeps.

cockle shells Sandi Sand Dingieshowe credit Bell

First, we walked to our right, across the sands, and Mike spotted a real find – a WW2 gas mask, half buried in the sand.

gas mask Dingieshowe credit Bell

A little bit of history, right there, in/at Sandi Sand.  I was in two minds about bagging it up and taking it home, but we decided to leave it there, to maybe become the archaeology of the future.

On reaching the end of the bay on the right, we turned and walked back, across the open sand, until we got to the breakwater over at the left hand side, and skirted along that, looking for somewhere to cut back onto the road. And this was when we came upon our second ‘find’ – an old bottle dump which is eroding out of the bank at the top of beach.

bottle dump Dingieshowe beach credit Bell

This had a mixture of jars and bottles – some of more interest than others, such as a bottle which used to contain ‘California Syrup of Figs’ – does anyone remember Syrup of figs? That vile-tasting cure-all remedy for constipation!

syrup of figs bottle beach find Dingieshowe credit Bell

If you go on Sandi Sand with children or dogs, do be careful, as there is quite  a lot of broken glass there, especially near where the bottle dump is eroding out. Having written those wise words – I have to fess’ up – I cut my finger!  I saw a piece of deep blue glass – the colour known as Bristol Blue https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_blue_glass , which I particularly like.  I was scrabbling to see if it was something complete or not – it wasn’t – and I got a cut finger.

Fortunately, these days, we keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car, so, a thorough wipe with a wet-wipe, then a thorough lathering in hand sanitizer, and I should be OK.  I should have known better, though – it was a foolish thing to do.

 We took some of the bottles and jars home with us, limited by the fact that we only had an empty bread bag to carry them in.

Then, on to Newark Bay  https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/01/24/newark-bay-life-on-the-edge-of-the-ocean/ , to eat our sandwiches in the car, just as the sun went in, and the rain came down.

When we got home, we cleaned up our haul for the day, which we were very pleased with….

bottles on beach find Dingieshowe credit Bell

…then Mike went on the Internet to see if he could find out about the ones which have writing on them, and he discovered that the green Gordon’s Gin bottle, probably dates from the 1920’s, and the California Syrup of Figs bottle, could date from the late 18th Century/early 19th Century.

Another little bit of history from Sandi Sand.

1 reply »

  1. Ooops – I’ve done it again – instead of saying “late 18 hundreds to early 19 hundreds”, I said “late 18th Century/early 19th Century”, in reference to the Syrup of Figs bottle. It’s a very different thing! And, for some reason, I have a habit of doing that – muddling the hundreds, with the century, if you see what I mean!

    Mea Culpa.

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