Traditionally, the Orkney Field Club organise a nature walk during the New Year break and this year was no exception. Our Lass and I had returned to Orkney the previous evening, so were keen for a leg stretch after a day confined to driving north through Scotland.
Nine hardy folk gathered in the car park at the southern end of Churchill Barrier 2 for a circular walk around the edge of Glimps Holm, a small uninhabited island in the chain of ‘linked’ isles, which also includes Lamb Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay.
We set off in a clockwise direction, along the sandy beach bordering Weddell Sound. The low cliffs were affording us some protection from the south-westerly wind, but they themselves are subjected to erosion whenever an easterly sea crashes waves upon the shore.
Various members of the group were scanning the tide line for interesting specimens of marine life. Amongst all the seaweed cast upon the beach, a few stalks were home to sponges, a fact that absolutely amazed me. In the strand line nearest the sea, mixed in with all the broken bits of shell, a few fortunate folk were able to spot ‘groatie buckies’, the small conch shells which often become the focus of beachcombing and rock pooling in Orkney!
Crossing the main road at the northern end of Churchill Barrier 3, we continued around the westerly section of the peedie island, which is buffeted by the waters of Scapa Flow. Here the coastline is more rugged, with the beaches comprising of shingle or just bedrock.
An air/sea rescue helicopter flew by, searching the Orkney coastline for survivors or wreckage from a cargo ship that had sunk two days previously. Sadly, despite an extensive search by lifeboats, other shipping, helicopters and coastguard teams on the ground, no survivors were found. The eight crew of the Cemfjord are presumed to have been lost at sea, when their vessel was likely overcome by heavy seas in the Pentland Firth. The wreck has been located on the seabed and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch are attempting to identify the cause of the disaster.
Whilst I was photographing one piece of cliff face (first photo below), Our Lass pointed out, in true pantomime style, a section of landslip behind me, which looked to have been very recent (second photo below).
Along the northern coast of Glimps Holm, are recent archaeological remains from the First and Second World Wars. We explored an air raid shelter and various concrete structures, before turning our eyes to the sheltered waters by Churchill Barrier 2 to identify several species of waterfowl: Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Guillemot, Great Northern Diver and Shag. A mournful piping call overhead alerted the group to a passing flock of Golden Plover, which joined some previously-unseen birds on the low moorland at the centre of the island.