Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Burray and the Barriers

Hmm, that could be the name of a 50s skiffle group or an early rock 'n' roll band, but... no.

As I have mentioned a few times of late, we're currently living in a cottage on the island of Burray. This is one of 16 inhabited islands out of the 70 or so that make up the Orkney archipelago.  As one of the southern isles, Burray is joined to its neighbours by fixed road links across the Churchill Barriers that were built during the Second World War to protect the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow. 

Barriers Number 1, 2 and 3 take the road from Mainland to Lamb's Holm, then Glimps Holm and on to Burray. Barrier Number 4 connects Burray with South Ronaldsay.

These links enable folk who live on South Ronaldsay and Burray to quickly and easily commute to Mainland (the largest island in the archipelago), providing that the tide, sea swell and wind are not causing 'overtopping' the barriers. 'Overtopping' is a quaint euphemism for what happens when waves come crashing over the sea defences, which can produce a range of emotions from mildly irritating to wildly intimidating, depending upon the extent of the damage to your vehicle. Occasionally, at high tides during stormy weather, an enforced closure of the barriers is put in place to prevent loss of life. However, in the main (no pun intended), the barriers are normally open and perfectly safe.

On the northern coast of Burray are the remains of two brochs (Iron Age drystone towers, thought to be for defence) which on approach from Mainland, were likely to be the first things that invading Vikings encountered. The name 'Burray' is thought to be a contraction of the Norse 'Borgarey', meaning island of the broch. 

Today, I walked up to Muckle Wart on west Burray, the highest point on the island at 80m, to take in the view and to see if it was a vantage point from where to photograph the barriers. As I crested the rise from the northern slope, the full force of a strong south westerly breeze welcomed me to the final approach to the trig point at the top of the hill. For those wind junkies amongst you, it was 28kts, with gusts of 37kts. To be honest, it doesn't take very long living on Orkney to become such an aficionado.

I had elected to bring along Very Wrong Len, assuming that the distance to the barriers would be great enough to require a 300mm prime lens. However, as I soon discovered, a 200mm zoom would've been the better option, but sadly that is in storage. This means that I can show you bits of Barriers 1-3, but not all of them in one shot as I had intended.

In the above photo, Barrier Number 3 is nearest the camera, Number 2 travels from the centre of the shot to the right and Number 1 is in the distance on the left.

I retraced my steps down the ridge and then headed south towards Burray Village, as we needed a few comestibles from the local shop. On the way, I managed an image of Barrier Number 4 with my phone, just to complete the day's set. This barrier has a dune system behind it on the North Sea side, which has developed over the intervening 60 years since the end of the Second World War. We have had several pleasant ambles here already and it's where Our Lass found the as-yet-unphotographed Snow Buntings. 

My main problem with the barriers, and I don't know if this afflicts anyone else, but if you're a regular customer of a post office or a bank (or any other business where there is a queueing system for a limited number of cashiers/assistants), you will be familiar with it.

Every time we approach a barrier, for example the one pictured above, I can't resist exclaiming "Barrier Number 4, please!"


Tales of a Bank Vole said...

Watch those barriers - they were mainly built by Italian POWs and may be pasta their best.

Ha ! Another reference to Romans on Orkney.

Imperfect and Tense said...

... citizens of other Italian conurbations and other countries were available.

A friend in Northampton recently met a descendant of a German soldier who 'worked' on the project. That is, after the sinking of the Royal Oak, rather than during.