After two weeks of mighty storms and bone numbing temperatures, we have a mild, calm day on the island with amazing atmospheric light. We’ve had high winds, roaring seas and storm surges for days – and there has been some serious erosion to the coastline all around the island. This is evident even on the small beach below the cottage – the dunes have been cut back and there has been a huge amount of sand lost and swept out to sea.
The storms which bring the greatest damage are usually the ones that are prolonged – lasting days – and the erosion becomes incrementally more severe. If we have a spring of gentle and benign tides the sand will be returned over a number of weeks and the marram grass will have time to reestablish itself.
We’ll also feel less battered and bruised!
We don’t often get very cold weather on the island. The moderating effect of the Gulf Stream ensures that temperatures here in winter are almost always above freezing. Having said that – the last two months have been unusually cold on Tiree – probably the most sustained period of cold weather I can remember since moving here in 2001.
Since the middle of December we’ve had four spells of temperatures below freezing with each one lasting a few days. This week we’ve had temperatures of -4˚ – which probably explains the phenomenon of ice being formed along the edge of the sea. This amazing photograph, taken on Wednesday morning by Adrian Pope, shows sea ice on Gott Bay.
We often find these rock-cut basins along the beach. They are formed by the action of sea water currents causing small boulders to move in a circular motion or vortex. The friction created by this circular motion erodes the rock to create concavities that increase in depth and circumference over the years.
Of course – there are several beliefs associated with these natural basins. Some people believe them to be prehistoric, related to the cup marks found in different locations across the island whilst others think that they are bait holes, used for grinding shellfish such as limpets in order to attract fish. Another theory is that they were used for offerings in order to help the safe return of people out at sea.
Whether you think of them as natural or mythical in this low winter light they create beautiful shadows and textures.
Christmas and Boxing Day have come and gone – and we’ve gone from very quiet to very, very quiet in the space of a couple of days. In short order we’ve weathered the announcement of the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, a monastically quiet Christmas, the descent into Tier 4 and Storm Bella. Amazingly, we’re still standing! Walks along the beach have helped. We’re surrounded by amazing beauty and privileged to know, and appreciate, the peace and quiet of island life during the winter. Not sure what new challenges we’ll all be facing in the coming months. Looking forward to welcoming visitors to the island during the summer. This is an amazing place to heal wounds, restore the soul and reflect on the beauty of nature.
The grey has gone – for now. The air is crystal clear and the clouds are plump and soft edged. The vivid colours have returned and unashamedly catch the eye. The beach has been pounded and scoured clean by the recent storms. For now there is peace to be enjoyed and hope to be lived.
We’re going through a protracted spell of very unsettled weather. Lots of storms have passed through – none have had names but they’ve all had lots of personality! It’s a very early start to the winter. This weather is something we don’t normally experience until after the start of the new year. Very occasionally the monochrome veil is brushed aside, and for a few moments we see the familiar colours of summer!
Today has been spectacular. After days of heavy rain – accompanied by high winds – this morning has been a glistening, sparkling day with crystal clear light falling on a rolling sea. A day of promise and hope. Of course another storm will come, another deluge before the winter passes. As we weather storms these words of Jackson Browne come back to me…
“Some of them were dreamers,
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature
While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other’s hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge.”
It seems that we had the highest rainfall of anywhere in the UK yesterday – 72.8mm – in 24 hours. Kew Gardens, apparently, had the highest maximum temperature of 16.3 degrees centigrade. Now that’s the sort of record we would like to have here! The island has dried out a bit now although there is still a lot of standing water in the fields creating interesting tableaux vivants of cows and sheep teetering on small, isolated islands. Thanks to Angus John and Becky for these photographs of the deluge.
As we move further into autumn – with increasingly many more days looking wintery – we’re experiencing some wildly fluctuating weather. Within the space of a few minutes the light can turn from bright and glowing to dark and threatening. We’re all having to make choices about when to go out, where to go and what to wear. I’ve missed lots of lovely shots with the camera because my legs haven’t carried me fast enough to an ideal location. This rapidly changing weather is magnificently frustrating!
Following the very different summer we’ve just had on the island – I’ve been looking through some old archive photos of The Terrace – here in Balemartine – and how Blue Beyond Cottage used to look in the early part of the last century. These photographs were taken sometime around 1910.
Something of a reflection of our current situation. The photographs show a much quieter time with a slower place of life. Livestock seems to feature large – we even had a pet pig in Balemartine!