Friday, April 05, 2013

Where I live: to the lighthouse!

We live in a very old house, first built 250-odd years ago on the overgrown shingle strand that connects the Ness of Hillswick to the Shetland Mainland. That makes us vulnerable. The front door is only about 30 feet from the normal high tide mark, and at the same level. In the 1970s, given a combination of tide, wind direction and wave action, the kitchen ended up a Rayburn stove's height in water. The sea for breakfast, as Lillian Beckwith once said.
'Bridge of Two-Headbanging-Buffalo'
Since then, heavy duty rock armouring has been installed along the entire length of Hillswick's Aest Ayre (East Beach) and we have built two-stage flood diversion walls as well, not to mention raising the ground floor power points five feet up the interior walls...

The nearest we've come to disaster in the decade we've lived here was a month or so ago, when the same combination of tide, swell and wind as on that infamous 1970s occasion demolished our peat stack and swept water and debris to within 10 feet of the main door. But we stayed dry.
Looks warm...but it wasn't!
Anyway. Today I decided to take a stroll onto the Ness of Hillswick (Hill-dis-vik: Bay of a man called Hilda, allegedly, not hill of a man called Vic) itself, which basically means hopping over the aforementioned armouring and heading south-east. There's public access and a marked footpath with gates and stiles that will take you right round the Ness coastline in about three hours. It's a slightly hazardous walk on occasions, but in my humble opinion, one of the most stunning coastal rambles in the UK. Living right on its doorstep is worth the risk of submergence. I think.
Only the frost-scoured grass indicates that this isn't the Costa Brava...

So this morning I decided to see how far I could get in half an hour (answer: the old lighthouse jetty, built in the 1890s and now demolished by the sea apart from some slivers of concrete and a set of steps). It being a lovely, if chilly day, I then wandered on to the 'Ikea kit' solar-powered lighthouse itself, which replaces the 1895 mini-Stevenson one I recall climbing 20 years ago. That took an hour. Then 45 minutes swift walking back home.
The ugliest lighthouse in the world. Possibly.

The conditions weren't quite as mediterranean as they appear in these pictures. However, it was a glorious walk, and one I intend to do at least a part of each day from now on.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Looks ace Tom. Shetland is on my list to visit on the motorbike. The ferry isn't cheap though!