April Morning

April snow at ArdivacahrThe world was very quiet and still; during the night the north wind had rested and its breath had spread across the grass leaving each fragile stem festooned with diadems. A series of whistles announced the arrival of the first visitors – attired with copes of gold, velvet black waistcoats and carnival masks they alighted and looked for the other guests. The resident pair of oystercatchers looked on with disdain at these exotic migrants while the pipits chattered with nervous excitement. Needing no encouragemnt to perform the skylarks rose in serenade while the lapwings tumbled and swooped to provide a cabaret of welcome.
The plovers are the latest group of travellers to seek a refuge from an icy April storm, but within the of the cottage garden only the hardiest will survive.primroses in the snowCowslipsTucked away in sheltered nooks and crannies, only the tough natives withstand the harshness of a cold spring. The warmth of the sunshine is cut by the sharp icy edges of a wind which tumbles off an arctic ice cap. As the skies darken squalls rush across the horizon and aim daggers of hail at the delicate petals of the spring flowers.
During quiet interludes the perfume of jonquils drifts across the garden to entice the bumblebees with the promise of nectar. There is no buzz of bees on these cold afternoons, they sleep on and dream of the arrival of May or even June when the warmth of the sun does not flatter to deceive.
Alas it is just a myth that Spring has arrived when you can put your foot on seven daisies.



Too wet, too wet, too wet….

Luskentyre, Harris

Luskentyre, Harris

By dodging the showers and intense activity when its been too windy we’ve managed to finish the rebuilding of the fruit cage and some of the more pressing maintenance work. The propagators and cold frames are full of seeds and seedlings, the benches in the polytunnel overflowing with young plants and the growing bed full of early spring vegetables leaving just room for the tomatoes and cucumbers, so now it is time to garden. Except it is

Too wet to plant onions, finish the muck spreading, hoe off the carpet of sprouting weeds, remove docks and dandelions from the “lawn”, plant the herbaceous plants that survived the winter deluge and………………

We have had some very fine days in late March, but also some very heavy showers and persistent rain, and after another very wet winter, even our very sandy soils remain saturated. It is very much a case of “start of play delayed by rain”. So rather than sit and watch the weeds grow, we’ve been exploring some of the magnificent beaches of the Outer Hebrides.

Charlie's Beach Eriskay

Charlie’s Beach Eriskay

Traigh Iar, North Uist

Traigh Iar, North Uist

Some of you have walked with us along our home beach and you might even have accompanied us to Eriskay and North Uist. This time we are going a little further north, taking the Sound of Harris ferry and driving up the west coast to Luskentyre. With a reputation as one of the best beaches in the islands we thought that we might check it’s claim to fame.
A long sandy beach backed by dunes and looking out towards the island of Taransay it is a true desert island beach, even if it lacks the palm trees. However, it was not deserted, there were people with children and dogs.
Harris is the “holiday” island of the Outer Hebrides, and very popular for family holidays. Fortunately, although it was the Easter holidays, it was still very quiet as negotiating the very narrow single track road down to Luskentyre is not for the faint hearted or those without professional reversing skills.
The main difference, apart from the bucket and spade brigade, between the beaches of Harris and those of the southern islands (the Uists, Benbecula, Eriskay and Barra) is the colour of the sand. Harris beaches are always described as golden, whilst further south the sand is white or silver. Do I have a preference? They are both beautiful, Bahamian without the tropical climate, but very different on character. As a restless soul who prefers to walk on beaches rather than sit on them, and an inveterate beachcomber, the great attraction of the southern beaches are the shells and seaweeds which get washed upon the shore by the strong Atlantic currents.

Tide wrack on Eriskay beach

Tidewrack on Eriskay beach