Last weekend, we saw something on the island for the first time: ‘muirburn’, or burning heather. Great swathes of smoke and long lines of fire as the old, dry vegetation was lit in order to encourage fresh new growth. You could smell it in the air, acrid and throat-burning as we drove home.
The previous day we’d called in at the little garden centre in town for the first time. There wasn’t much on display so early in the year but alongside it we discovered the Viewfield Garden Collective.
It’s a community-run garden in the grounds of the beautiful old Viewfield House, overlooking the bay in Portree, and beautifully-tended with fruit trees and cages, a willow dome, seating areas, bee hives, vegetable beds and various little potting sheds, outhouses and a polytunnel (complete with comfortable old chairs).
In season, they have organic produce which people can take away in exchange for a donation.
Anyone is welcome to come along and help out – this year, there are plans for beds of flowers for cutting – but the main emphasis is on helping vulnerable adults and providing a safe and therapeutic environment in which they can enjoy gardening.
There is a small network of footpaths running around the perimeter of the garden which take you into town or the woods.
The next day (Sunday), Jay was working – he’s only asked to work one Sunday a year – so Joe and I returned for a better look around. It was gloomy and bitterly cold but we layered up and did some exploring. There was much re-enacting of The Three Billy Goats Gruff each time we had to cross a little bridge, and Joe was keen to be the expedition leader…
We did a matchbox treasure hunt. We’re never short of matchboxes with having the stove, so we took one with us and filled it with little finds: a feather, a tiny pine cone, lichen.
Jay and I have spoken to the people running the project and have plans to go along and help out. It’s a good way to get to know new people and pick up gardening tips, and we’d be more than happy to give donations for produce and plants.
We’d never have known about the place had we not decided to go and have a quick look up that steep, curving drive between the rhododendron bushes and pines. It’s always good to discover new gardens and meet like-minded others…
Once the cold got a bit too much we went to the Aros Centre, the island’s community theatre. They have a lovely bookshop and a café too so we found a table by the window and had apple juice and a big shortbread biscuit (Joe) and a pot of camomile tea (me). It was a relief to sit somewhere warm and the place was very busy. Perhaps when the tourism season hasn’t started yet and most cafes are still closed on a Sunday, everyone feels the need to see a bit of life. Read the papers, drink coffee, meet friends.
Once Joe started getting a bit wriggly and bored we ventured back outside. He played in the little wooden fort and had a few goes on the slide, then we took one of the steep paths which go up behind the theatre building.
We made our way through the knee-deep bracken, tripping over the odd bramble cable, and sat at the top of the hill on some cut tree stumps. The view across the water was wonderful. Behind us were piles of felled pines and below us, off to one side, a densely forested area.
Joe (still thinking about trolls) was keen to get into the woods so we descended the hill and followed a track which took us into the dark, mossy trees. It was silent, just the odd creak from above as the trunks moved slightly against one another.
We started up a steep path but Joe soon started complaining about the incline, so at that point we turned back and made our way down to the car. I made a mental note to come back when Jay has a day off in the week and we could climb right to the top of those woods…
The week so far has been an interesting one. Challenging, too – the internet has slowed right down to the point where I abandoned this blog post for a few days. It seems that a lot of people are experiencing the same problem and it’s par for the course up here. Apparently, the provider (I won't name them but they're not the most popular company around here) is working on the problem. There are some very frustrated individuals at the moment, especially those relying on a decent connection so they can work.
I did some printmaking on Monday as my online shop’s slowly emptying. More of my bluebell, snowdrop and fritillary prints. I used oil-based ink, something I rarely do, as it’s hard work to clean up and it takes such a long time to dry. But it gives a sharp, crisp finish so sometimes I use it just for a change. Of course, once the prints are fully dried I’ll photograph and list them.
Today started off sunny and still but the forecast predicted rain and already the sky has clouded over. But there’s been a little sparrow sitting in the bush outside the window and singing for the past hour and there are lots of daffodil shoots poking out form the ground. I’ve booked tickets to go and see the Peter Rabbit film at the end of the month with Joe. It’ll be his first time at the cinema (well, theatre where they show films in this case).
Spring is coming. If I tell myself that often enough I'll start to believe it...