Monday, April 27, 2009


I'm a bit of a stone hugger on the quiet and every now and then I like to go and sit in one of the numerous circles here and commune with who knows what, to clear my head a bit. For reasons that you will understand, I don't do this very often and when I do, it's usually early in the morning or late in the evening, when there are no other souls about to look at me sideways. Callanish 111, shown above, is a wonderful small circle, situated on a little hill and surrounded by big hills. The views are sensational on a clear day and I often wonder what the prehistoric folk who raised it there were intending to achieve in placing the stones in that position. These stones are about half a mile or so from the main Callanish site and by no means inferior. No one really knows why standing stones were erected and there are many theories. One local legend says that giants living here on the island refused to be converted to Christianity by Saint Kieran and were then turned into stone as a punishment. I think that is probably as good an explanation as any.

Technology Rules ok. The Royal Mail have announced that the first post vans in Europe to be fuelled by Hydrogen will be based at the sorting office in Stornoway and used to deliver mail all over Lewis. Two Ford Transits are being adapted to burn Hydrogen and will be delivered this Summer. We have a recently built multi million pound high tech waste disposal site here which has a bio digester to process rubbish without it having to be buried or taken off the island by boat. Organic waste collected from wheelie bins is decomposed in the digester to produce Methane. The Methane then powers a gas engine, to create electricity which is used to electrolyse water to produce hydrogen, which will fuel the vans. As always with tecky subjects, I haven't a clue what I'm talking about and have gathered this fascinating story from a newspaper.

Now for geese and cockles. During the time I've been writing this blog, I've regularly mentioned the war of attrition that exists between crofters and the rapidly increasing Greylag Goose population here. The geese are considered a major nuisance because of the amount of good grazing grass they eat and the damage and mess caused by their droppings. In some quarters, they are considered to be public enemy number one, well in front of the poor hedgehogs and the vicious mink, both of which are being progressively eradicated throughout these islands by trapping.
A variety of methods, including scaring and shooting, have been tried to reduce the geese numbers, but still they breed and multiply. With obsessive desperation, Scottish Natural Heritage are about to start an ingenious sounding pilot scheme to control the breeding productivity of the geese by oiling their eggs. The plan is for SNH staff to locate goose nests and then coat all eggs found with liquid paraffin. This will seal the shell and sterilise the egg. The theory goes that until the egg deteriorates over a period of weeks, the birds are fooled into believing they are sitting on viable eggs. Eventually, they may lay a second clutch of eggs, which are then also oiled. If the experiment works, the oiling project will become widespread all over the isles.
I don't for one moment think this will be the end of the Nation v Greylag Goose battle and I look forward to boring you rigid with further updates in future blogs.

The plane to Barra lands on the beach runway on Traigh Mhor. The sands there are home to huge amounts of cockles which have been collected for hundreds of years by local people for food and more recently by professional collectors to sell. There are a few people who earn a living by harvesting the cockles. A new study has just discovered that the number of cockles present has dropped dramatically in recent years and that current levels of harvesting are not sustainable. Earlier studies, between 1964 and 1993, found a total of about 1000 tonnes of cockles on the beaches. The mass of cockles found in the new study is the lowest ever recorded at about 200 tonnes and no one is quite sure why.
The Western Isles Council and Scottish Natural Heritage, who funded the latest survey, are now going to ponder the implications of these findings and come up with a management plan.

In my blog of 1 November last year, I told the tale of how the lifeboat and coastguard on Skye were called out to investigate some red and white flashing lights which had been seen offshore and were thought to be from a boat in distress. The lights turned out to be attached to a model boat which had been launched and which carried a banner bearing the legend 'Happy 42nd Birthday Ollie'. The rescue services were not pleased to have their limited resources used in this manner.
Well, a similar event has happened again, this time in Orkney. An air and sea search involving 50 people was called off yesterday morning after what were believed to be distress flares turned out to be paper Chinese lanterns launched from Kirkwall. Members of the public had contacted the coastguard to say they had seen multiple red lights in the sky. Two lifeboats and a helicopter from Orkney searched the area for seven hours, assisted by a Northlink ferry. Kirkwall airport had to be opened so that the helicopter could refuel twice during the overnight search. The police also lent a hand, but nothing was found. Later, the coastguard discovered that a group of people in Kirkwall had launched some glowing red paper lanterns into the sky. The lanterns apparently have candles inside and work like miniature hot air balloons.
A spokesman for the coastguard is reported to have said, ' I don't yet know how much this major operation cost, but I wish people wouldn't do this sort of thing'.
Not a happy chap.

1 comment:

Les said...

Callanish III is indeed a fine circle with the added benefit that nobody ever goes there. Somehow these stone circles almost demand to be visited alone which is odd as I presume that when they where built they where probably very busy communal meeting places.
We went to Callanish once close to the Summer Solstice and were horrified by the number of people crawling all over it - probably the closest Lewis gets to Piccadilly Circus!