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Leisure Outdoors

Mainly Yellow Flowers, on Shetland in July

We normally try to visit Shetland in the summer. The islands extend about 70 miles from north to south and lie either side of latitude 60 degrees north. Days are very long in summer and on the whole the weather is kind, although summer fog and misty drizzle are common.

In the past we have visited in May and June and have seen sheets of bluebells, followed by fuchsia and montbretia which thrive. In gardens hostas are huge and completely free from slug and snail attack. So there is plenty to enthuse about for us Cambridgeshire gardeners, used to fairly dry conditions and hungry pests. This year we visited in July and discovered that it is a superb month for wildflowers.

The quantity and variety was huge and yellow flowers were particularly impressive.

The photo below is a typical roadside view. As we drove from place to place this is what we saw either side of us. On this occasion we were walking down the road (in an east-north-east direction) towards Levenwick Beach. You can see the cluster of houses in the distance that were once the homes of a fishing community. On the right is the typical profile of many of the cliffs on the east side of Shetland’s South Mainland.

Here we have buttercup and monkey flower.

And this next photo is of monkey flower, in its preferred watery habitat. The actual flowers are substantial and on many occasions the plants were growing profusely along small steams and ditches. It was possible to use the abundant yellow flowers to track the water courses.

We visited a lovely exhibition, ‘Bigton and Birds’, in Bigton Hall. It included poetry, paintings, music and film, all created locally and organised by Bigton Collective (https://bigtoncollective.org/). We were delighted to have the opportunity to visit and enjoyed it so much that we went two days running. The exhibition was brilliantly curated, including vases of wild flowers. Here are two photos of one of them – more yellow monkey flower in the centre of the vase and buttercups trailing in the second picture.

The next four photos show:

Silverweed

Yellow flag (yellow iris)

Meadow buttercup

Meadow vetchling

If possible we visit parts of Shetland that we have not been to before – and this time we went to Fetlar. This is one of the three north isles and relatively small compared with Yell and Unst. To get there we have to use ferries – which meant careful timetable checks and advance bookings, made online from Cambridge before we set off on our trip.

Fetlar is known for its red necked phalaropes and also for being relatively green (The Garden of Shetland). We set out to see as much as we could of the island and in about 4 hours we managed a wonderful range of activities (short moorland walk, museum visit, RSPB reserve + picnic lunch, church, beach and a restoration project). The photo below shows bog asphodel with tormentil in the foreground which we saw on moorland in the north east of the island.

We saw a lot of tormentil. The next photo shows slender St John’s wort with tormentil nearer the top of the picture.

And below, more tormentil.

There were many other flowers in addition to the profusion of yellow ones. Here is an eye-catching angelica.

And below is a sheet of flowers at Norwick Beach on Unst – tufted vetch and purple clover.

Throughout Shetland we came across a profuse and highly scented light mauve flower, which we identified as dame’s violet. Here it is in the foreground of this photo taken in the garden of the Old Haa, Burravoe, on Yell.

Collecting these photos together brings back the wonderful profusion of flowers that we saw. Next summer maybe the focus will be on blue and purple given the tasters in the last three photos here.

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