Thursday, 18 May 2017

The not so humble broad bean!

I still haven't got round to sorting through the rest of my Colonsay photos, so just to keep things alive here, I thought I would do a quick post about the broad bean, Vicia faba!  The inspiration came from a lovely walk the dogs and I took yesterday, across Becky's Strip, near North Berwick. Wafts of perfume came from a huge field of broad beans, and on taking a closer look at the plant, I was struck by how beautiful it is!  Most of the time we just don't look properly at ordinary things like broad bean plants, but remedy that now.
And now read more here because this plant has been cultivated for the last 8,000 years and has an amazing role in history.  Honestly, you just never know about these things until you start doing a bit digging!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Dandelion days

Apart from being the title of one of my favourite books, Dandelion Days by Henry Williamson, it occurs to me that the dandelion is a rather overlooked flower, despite its very sunny disposish.  Now that the sun has more or less gone in, and life is getting back to normal after a magical holiday on Colonsay, here is the lovely dandelion, which I think is doing its best to keep the sun shining in every corner of the UK, town and country alike.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

All good things come to an end!

We go home today.  For me, this has been the best holiday I have ever had.  Each day has been completely blissful.  The skies have been blue, the sun has shone from dawn till dusk.  There have been flowers at my feet, wherever I have walked, and I have walked in some very special places in excellent company and learnt so much about this extraordinary little island.  The Colonsay Book Festival, followed by the incomparable Spring Festival have both added a dimension to our visit that can really only be appreciated by being here.  I honestly could not have asked for more.  It has been just amazing.  So we will be back next year, for more!  

I have a multitude of photographs I would like to post on therunningwave.  They will have to wait until I can organise them a bit.  Until then, I think the photo below sums up the last fortnight on Colonsay quite nicely.

A final flower

This Inner Hebridean island of Colonsay appears to be simplicity itself.  Stripped back landscape, high rocky interior, one road that goes round in a loop with a couple of spurs off it, to Oronsay in the south, and Kiloran to the north.  But take a closer look and you will find treasure on every level, and in every remote corner of this remarkable place.  Ancient history, art, ornithology, botany, geology, marine life, horticulture, cultural festivals.  The list goes on and on.  

The last flower of this series is as modest as it is tiny.  You hardly notice it at all, as it only stands about an inch or two high.  The thyme-leaved speedwell, Veronica serpyllifolia.  But like this island, it is a little gem.  

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


I have found two different orchids over the past few days.  The early purple orchid, Orchis mascula, which was growing near Kiloran Beach, in the north of the island.  
I have also seen a healthy number of the paler pink heath spotted-orchids, Dactylorhiza maculate, growing happily in the heathlands above Uragaig, in the north of the island.  Happy days!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Sunny celandine

For the duration of our holiday, we have been blessed with days and days of brilliant sunshine.  Clear blue skies, a cooling wind, and the hot sun shining from early morning until early evening.  What better way to celebrate such fabulous weather than with the sunny celandine.  Shining golden petals, radiating out like sun beams.  On Colonsay, the celandine grows everywhere.  Luxuriously big blooms in shady areas, but also smaller, short stemmed flowers, scattered like golden stars across the close cropped grass of the craggy hillsides and machair.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Two firsts for me

I have been enjoying some blissful walks during this holiday  A couple of days ago my cousin and I wandered along the beaches at Plaide Mhor.  Apart from watching seals playing in the sea, and sunning themselves on the rocks a little way out from the shore, I found a few tiny shells I have never seen before.  They are as light as a feather, extremely delicate, and sport some amazing electric blue markings.  The blue-rayed limpet.
This morning the dogs and I had a walk and I came across this little chap.  A lesser redpoll. Never seen one before, and I emailed a friend who knows about these things, and he thinks it is a lesser redpoll, rather than a common redpoll.  A lovely little bird, with a big singing voice!


At last!  The May blossom has come out on Colonsay.  It is so exquisite that there is no need for any more chat.  Just enjoy.

Sea and sand

I thought this holiday couldn't get any better, but it just did.  As I have been putting together some photos of the seas around Colonsay (therunningwave couldn't possibly visit here without posting photos of waves) Radio 3 played Four Sea interludes from Peter Grimes (Dawn) Benjamin Britten.  The timing could not have been more perfect.  I love that piece of music.  It weaves a magic, and this island and its fabulous beaches and seas have certainly woven their magic over us.  

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Room with a view - and a half

Desirable property, in need of some renovation.
Think of all the simple meals cooked on this little range, a long time ago.  A very basic home, probably warm from the heat of the fire, but a howling gale outside.  Sounds cosy, but the inhabitants of this cottage would have had an incredibly hard life.  A lifestyle we can't even imagine these days.  One hell of a view though!
I could hear three cuckoos calling while I was standing on this spot.  

Candelabra primrose

Primula prolifera, candelabra primrose, must have been formally planted in the woodland garden, when it was first laid out in the 1930s.  Since then they have seeded themselves randomly throughout the wood.  Although the candelabra primrose comes in a wide range of colours - more than often a cheery yellow - here in the grounds of Colonsay House, the plants are a gorgeous magenta.  With the sun shining through the flowerheads, they are a startling beautiful sight.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Bugle call

Today's flower is bugle.  I think it is a very handsome little wildflower.  There is not a lot of it on the island but where it does grow, along a woodland path, I love the navy blue spears contrasting with the colour of the bluebells.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Pretty in pink

I saw pink purslane, Claytonia sibirica, for the first time on Colonsay.  A few years ago we came here for a week's holiday, which coincided with the island's Spring Festival, held every May.  I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in a foraging session.  We rummaged about amongst rocks and under seaweed for mussels, and in the woods close to Colonsay House, sought out wild garlic (to make wild garlic pesto), nettles (for soup), and pink purslane, using the pretty little flowers to strew across a salad, together with primroses and violets.  


This is our fourth visit to Colonsay and, finally, I have managed to cross to the neighbouring island of Oronsay.  It is joined to Colonsay at low water by the Strand, and so there is a narrow window of opportunity to walk across the mile of sand to reach Oronsay.  You really need wellies, or bare feet, as there is always a stretch of running water, so as I had stupidly failed to pack my boots, I borrowed a pair from the Colonsay Hotel and joined a group on a guided walk to the Priory on Oronsay.  
 Above, leaving Colonsay.
Above, on Oronsay, a rock formation looking much like an elephant.  Not very easily seen, but there is a big gap behind the elephant's trunk!  Below looking back to the southeastern corner of Colonsay.

Colonsay and Oronsay were occupied during the Mesolithic period, but 5,000 years ago the islands were abandoned and eventually reoccupied at the end of the Neolithic period.  Later Bronze Age farmers were here, and then Iron Age inhabitants.  Eventually Colonsay was an important Viking stronghold and in the 1100s the foundation of the Lordship of the Isles was established on these islands.  The history goes on and on.  
Our guide grew up on Colonsay and spent much of his childhood rocking around Oronsay.  What he doesn't know about the history of these two islands really isn't worth knowing.  On our outing, we were heading for the 14th century Priory.  St Columba was said to have landed here when he left his native Ireland.  However, he was not happy when he realised that, on a clear day, he could still see the hills of Donegal, so he didn't stay long on Oronsay and travelled on a little further north, to the tiny island of Iona, off the south west toe of Mull.  There is no conclusive evidence that this happened, but if St Columba really disliked Ireland that much, it seems to be a reasonable assumption! 

On Oronsay the beautiful stone walls stretching across the island were constructed in Napoleonic times.  They are real works of art, reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy's handiwork!  As we walked to the Priory, the views across to Jura and Islay were glorious.
In the Priory there are ancient carvings on 15th and 16th century tombstones and a magnificent Celtic cross in the grounds outside the ruined ecclesiastic buildings.  The history of this place is extensive and it is probably best to learn more about it here.  I can't even begin to scratch the surface!,_Inner_Hebrides
Most of the stone used to build the Priory was local but the golden stone in the window surround below came from the Isle of Arran.
Below, a detail from the cross.
Below, the cloisters within the Priory buildings.
The photo below shows our guide, Andrew, and I just snapped this hastily and later noticed that he appears to be striking a very similar pose to the monk on the grave slab.  I thought it was rather comical!
The knight depicted in the grave slab above was awarded the honour of angels tending his feet, seen in the photo below.  This indicated that he was a Crusader.
There is a fairly narrow window of opportunity for crossing the Strand to Oronsay.  A few    hours while the tide is out.  Andrew was such a mine of information, and filled our visit with so much that the time flew by, and very quickly we had to hightail back to Colonsay.  We had had a fascinating visit, and there is still so much more to discover and learn about.  It is a very special place indeed.