In search of the Uists

Tim Tucker 2

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Jun 8, 2017
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Reproduced in full from my recent blog post.

Well, actually they’re relatively easy to find. Flung out on the far north west coast of Scotland on the edge of the Atlantic and in the path of the deep depressions swinging up to the Arctic Ocean, but also in the way of the North Atlantic Drift bringing warm water up from the Gulf Stream. Weather can be wild and there are no real trees on the west coast. But it is also changeable, while deep ominous clouds form over the hills the sun shines over the machair. And in May and June a gentle calm arrives, long fine days with a gentle swell over the beaches.

Derelict Shepherd’s Bothy, Loch Sgiopoirt

Unhealthy backhouses left to crumble alongside the equally unsuitable white-houses abandoned to the same fate. You can’t help noticing the drama, in the political as well as the natural. Absentee landlords chased the people off the fertile machair in search of the greater profits from sheep, forcing many to the unproductive wastes of the eastern side. A social legacy that’s led to the current Scottish “Right to Roam”, you can no longer banish the Scots from the wilds of their country.

Harris from Berneray

The light follows the changes in the weather, fading from the lazy, hazy and strong summer sun of a high pressure through the bright calm pastels as a trough moves through to the drama of heavy-laden clouds dark and ominous. It happens over an entire morning, the landscape changing with it.

Traigh Lar and the South Uist Hills

The beaches are stunning in the high summer sun. Stretching sometimes for miles and bordered by grassy dunes and the Machair. Free from roads, car parks and hotels they are natural, wild and as remote as the islands. They have not been separated from the land by development and so remain a part of the islands as much as the islands are part of them. Even in the high summer season you can find yourself alone, maybe meeting a person or two, as you stroll along miles of fine white sand.

Peat Cut, North Uist

Though back breaking work some islanders still keep the tradition of cutting the peat by hand alive. It’s almost an art form, such is the pride that can be displayed by the neatness of the cut and the precision of the stack. The peat itself is left in the wind to form a crust which then makes them impervious to the frequent rain. They are then re-stacked in a lattice pattern where they are fully dried by the wind and summer sun. The top layer of grass is removed and discarded, often when the depth of the roots allow they are removed as turf and re-laid neatly over last year’s taking. The valuable stuff is the lower blacker layers which are removed as slabs with a tairsgear and the stack is called a cruach.

Johnny’s House, Eriskay

This is a bit of a departure for me as it’s me attempting to recreate a photo I’ve already seen. There was a book I bought here last year “Peter May Hebrides” which was illustrated with photos by David Wilson. I meant to take it with me when I visited Lewis and Harris last because I really liked the style and content of the photos and was interested in visiting many of the places. As it was I had no such guide as I forgot to pack the book, leaving it at home. On returning and flicking through the book I was surprised to see just how many of the locations I recognised having noticed them thinking that there would be a worthwhile photo if the light was right. Some of the photos I took were also of locations to be found in the book.
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I love the Peat pic.
We see that very commonly with Adobe here in the SW.

Similar process but with mud and clay v. peat.

I love the coolness of the pictures and the Cold Northern Scotland feel to it.
Good photos of some simply lovely geography.

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