A Short Mooch At Howton

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

I know, it’s now spelt Houton – but, on an OS map of Orkney dated 1960, which we have pinned up on a door, it’s spelt Howton – and that’s how  it’s pronounced – so, I’m going with that spelling.

We got the idea of going to Howton, from a woman we were talking with on Aikerness Beach on Christmas Day – keeping our distance!  We were talking of the things to be found on beaches, and I was saying that there isn’t as much glass to be found, either whole bottles or ‘jewels’ of sea-worn sea-glass, as there used to be. She said something which, for some reason, had never occurred to me – that there are less glass containers, and more plastic containers, than there used to be, so, beaches may have plenty of plastic bits, but not so much glass.  Indeed, the containers which once were glass, are now plastic – with all that that entails.

She told us that the Bay of Howton, in Orphir, still has bits of glass, and shells too, so we decided to add it to our list of places to investigate.

The morning of the 27th of December, we woke to find snow on our garden, and could see snow on the Orphir Hills and the Hoy Hills. It was cawld enough for two pair o’ socks, and I put two jumpers on!  We didn’t want to travel far, so thought we’d go to Howton, going by the Germiston Road, through the Orphir Hills. Conditions weren’t too bad, a bit slippy in places, but we went very carefully and slowly – deciding to come back on the main road!

We parked in the car park for the ferry and walked along the road to the right, until we came to a place where we could cut down onto the beach.  It’s a stony beach, not sandy, but the lady at Evie was right, there are some nice bits and pieces to be found in among the stones.

This is my ‘haul’ ……

Not to everyone’s taste, but, to me, treasures of varied interest and appeal – what are they? How did they get there? Where did they come from?  Shapes, colours and textures.  Bits & pieces of life and lives.

The biggest, clear, piece of glass is the bottom of a Brylcreem jar – you can just about make out the writing.  We were talking of how Brylcreem is probably now in plastic tubs, not in the little stubby glass jars of old.  Do you remember the advertising slogan for  ‘The Brylcreem Bounce’?  The memory of that smell brought to mind my big sister’s ‘Teddy-boy’ friends – hair slicked into a quiff at the front, and a ‘D.A.’ at the back.

Mike was remembering old fashioned Barbers shops with shelves lined with jars of Brylcreem, ‘Bay  Rum’ ( not to drink – to put on your hair!), ‘Styptic Pencils’ for if you ‘nicked yourself shaving – dab it on and it stops the bleeding, but, he tells me, it stung like hell, so he called them ‘Wasp Sticks’.  And, not forgetting – “Something for the weekend, Sir?”

As we walked along, we stopped to look across at the two jetties, one for folk working at Flotta Oil Terminal, one for ferries to some of the other Orkney islands….

….and to the Holm of Howton, in the Bay….

We retraced our steps along the shore, then walked back up the road, passing both jetties…..

The bank by the ferry jetty has some sea defences, not as extreme as the ones for the Churchill Barriers https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/04/26/the-churchill-barriers/ , but still necessary to face the Orkney wind and waves.

We watched the sun set over the jetty……

…and a boat in the Bay.

Then home – on the main road this time!  Looking down at the Holm of Howton, nestled in the Bay, and then, along the road, pulling into a side road to be awed by the sight of snow on the Hoy Hills, across the water.

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