Sunday, June 21, 2009


Balallan is a linear village at the head of Loch Erisort, on the road between Stornoway and Tarbert. It straggles on for about three or four miles and is said to be the longest village in Britain. Not sure if this is really true, but it does go on for ever and has tremendous views all along its length. Before I bought this house, I looked at several properties in Balallan and if I'd found anything suitable, I would have happily lived there.
Sub post offices all over the land continue to be closed and services centralised. The post office in my own village, which occupied the entrance hall to a house for over sixty years, closed permanently last year. There is another post office in the next village, but it only opens between 9am-3pm, so is no use whatsoever to me and I now have to use the post office in Stornoway, fifteen miles away.
For now, this pretty post office in Balallan, which also sells groceries, survives intact.

Each house in the village has its own peat banks on the moor a couple of miles from here. If they are not cut for a few years, they grow over or someone else starts to use them. My house was unoccupied for a number of years until I moved here and I had no idea where my peats were. Well, taking advantage of having a willing friend to stay for two or three weeks, we decided to cut some peats for the Winter. The Grazings Clerk came over this week and took us on to the moor to show me where my banks are. I had the choice of two different banks associated with this house in the past and idly chose the one closest to the road. The Grazing Clerk told me that the bank further away is better quality peat, so I will probably cut that next year. This is my first attempt at cutting peats though and is a bit of a practice run for the future. I'm using two peat irons which were owned by the family I bought my house from and in spite of them having lain unused in the shed for goodness knows how long, they are both in excellent condition. On the advice of several local people, I soaked the peat irons in water to stop the handles breaking and they served us well yesterday. No peat cutting today because it's the Sabbath, but we'll be back at it tomorrow.
Most people do the peats in April/May and have finished now, but better late than never. With a warm Summer and a good drying wind, I'm hopeful that the peats will still be dry in time for using at Christmas.

The croft sheep were gathered and sheared this week and have been moved to better grazing at the front of the house. Two Blackface interlopers were found and they continue to graze happily at the back adjoining the loch. No one seems to know who they belong to and I expect they just hopped over the fence to join the permanent flock some weeks ago. I'll ask about to try and get then reunited with their owner, but in the meantime, they're coming to no harm. They do need shearing fairly soon though.

It's Summer Solstice today and people travel from all over the UK to celebrate at the Callanish Stones. A friend, who's into that sort of thing, phoned me earlier to ask if I had been up at daybreak to watch the sunrise. Regrettably, I was too welded to my bed to get up early, but have just popped down there to see what's going on. There are twenty or so tents and benders put up by visitors, many of whom were fast asleep on the grass or in vehicles, having been awake all night carousing. It's all good harmless fun, taken seriously by those involved and I don't dislike the smell of dope wafting gently on the breeze around the stones. In spite of the remoteness of Callanish from the rest of the nation, more and more people seem to arrive for Solstice here every year.

I read somewhere that the ex manager of a Woolworths store in England has reopened the shop as an independent enterprise, selling much the same products and calling itself Wellworths. A similar thing is about to happen here. Since Woolworths went bankrupt and the branch in Stornoway closed last December, a clothing chain store, with a small shop here, has aquired the premises and is about to move in. Two local business people, along with the last Woolworths manager, have announced that they are opening a Woolworths lookalike shop called WeeW in the vacated store of the clothing chain. It will open in the Summer and create 28 jobs, some of which will go to former staff of Woolworths.


Anonymous said...

The irony is that Callanish is a lunar circle with little connection to the summer solstice. Any clach in a storm though I guess.

Enjoy cutting the peats!

Cathy said...

I enjoyed your post. I stumbled onto your blog yeaterday and it's wonderful. I have a fondness for Lewis.
Closings of rural post offices is shameful. It's a part of many locals daily life. It's a sweet little post office and I hope it survives.