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Orkney Islands Trip and Sowing for Winter

I have just returned from my 5 nights in St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney Islands. I can report it was a really interesting trip to see a thriving community on what are considered the main islands, linked together via the Churchill Barriers built after World War2. I was lucky in that they were enjoying the best summer weather they have had for 20 years. The wildlife was much in evidence and I was lucky enough to see seals, puffins, the Orkney vole, and what is commonly known as the wooly pig – the mangalica originally from Hungary and look more like sheep (at one point there were only 17 of them in the UK). There were a host of beautiful birds including sterns, plovers and lots of the colourful oyster catchers. As with any wildlife system, they have their own problems, one being the stoat population. Despite their cute appearance, they have had a negative effect on the ecosystem since 2010 when they first appeared on the island. They feed on small birds, eggs and small mammals and therefore pose a threat to poultry, the Orkney vole and many birds which are part of the Islands’ wildlife tourism industry. It was also of note there are no foxes on any of the islands.

There is a huge amount of archaeology, history and heritage within the islands and I visited a couple of the Neolithic sites that were currently undergoing excavation, including the world-renowned Ness of Brogdar. There are flourishing local producers and I visited Westray, one of the Northern islands, to meet with a talented cheese maker producing the much sought-after Westray Wife cheese. Jason, the founder and cheese maker, has a herd of Peedie Ayrshire cattle which are the source of the milk and are raised organically. We learned of a familiar tale in that he can’t afford the Soil Association certification so it can’t be sold as such. He sells everything he makes and has been asked to increase his production, but again with lack of new funding, he can’t upscale accordingly.

Today, I ran my Winter GYO veg workshop and it has given me the opportunity to make a check list of all that we need to be seeding, ready for the next season, despite all this exceptionally hot weather. August and September are critical sowing months for the Autumn and winter produce. The extreme heat has caused a number of problems with the plants and we have several infestations of insects on the brassicas that have occurred due to plants being under stress. Watering took me 3 hours tonight as most plants need a jolly good soaking to survive these hot conditions, particularly the newly planted.

On Friday, we will be welcoming The HandleBards back to Tuppenny once again, this year for their production of Romeo and Juliet. We have sold out of tickets which is a testament to their popularity.

Just a quick reminder to spread the word on the kids summer workshops on Tuesdays that Abi is running, less the music workshop by Bubsie. Also, we have lots of lovely cut flowers growing so if anyone wants to order one for a present or for yourself, please do get in touch.