… and other monochromes, from a walk between Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness lighthouse. To get here, head for Inverness, cross the Kessock and Cromarty Bridges, follow the A9 north, by-passing Invergordon, until a turning right is signposted Fearn and beyond. We are here because of golf, a ‘research’ trip for Golf in the Wild – Going Home – golf doesn’t get much wilder than this.
It is also a fine place to stay regardless of the golf: Known in Gaelic as ‘Port MoCholmaig’ or St Colman’s Port, Portmahomack can trace its roots back to 800 AD. Today, this pretty fishing village is well-known locally for its picturesque setting. The only village on the east coast of Scotland that faces due west, Portmahomack can enjoy spectacular sunsets. And because it is situated in an area of the Highlands renowned for its low rainfall, the village doesn’t suffer with those pesky West Coast midges! – http://www.portmahomack.org/
A remarkably flat landscape for much of the road towards the tip of the peninsular, it was purpose-built for aerodromes. More than seventy years after the end of World War II, there is much evidence of the decaying infrastructure that supported RAF Tain. It is also prime farmland, more reminiscent of the Great Plains than a land steeped in ancient Pictish history. There are the inevitable too-yellow fields of oil seed rape but also, acres given over to potato crops, much of which ends up in crackly packets of Walkers Crisps.
Once you reach the coastal village Portmahomack, the landscape roughens up such that the golf course is anything but flat which makes for a thoroughly entertaining 10-hole layout at the top of the village. Golf was first played here in 1894 and the current club established in 1909.
Portmahomack even has its own Carnegie Hall which, by happy coincidence, was playing host to Lizabett Russo on the night we arrived.
These photos ignore the golf as I am honour-bound to occasionally entertain the Good Wife/part-time caddie with walks that don’t include greens and fairways:
When I want to go back, I head for the sea. For all our modern advances, our relationship with sand and water is unchanged in my lifetime. These images could have been taken any time in the last sixty years. There is a quality of light in the sky as you approach the sea which is apparent long before you arrive at the coast. It is this I remember from long ago summer holidays, summers when the sands were too hot to walk on barefoot. I am still drawn by that light:
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
Behind the dunes is the wonderful Alnmouth Village Golf Course, the oldest 9-hole course in England. On this day the fairways were brown and hard meaning the ball would run forever. By comparison, the greens were islands of lush green. I was frustrated not to be playing – in my head, sand sea and golf are inseparable.
Northumberland has been clinging to the wreckage of autumn these last few weeks but its all over now. Despite Black Friday, despite the ever sooner onset of Christmas and the tyranny of things, it has been a quiet few weeks in Beaufront Woodhead. It is also a time of inner conflicts. The desire to play golf set against too damp courses and uninviting weather – the solution – head for the coast. The impatient need to be out on two wheels set against slippery surfaces, biting winds and too much salt on the roads – the solution – sit tight and polish the hardware.
For now, the priority is the much delayed task of writing the follow-up to Golf in the Wild. My modest ambitions for the first version have been met – the production costs have been recovered and 800+ copies shipped. The sequel is progressing at a glacial pace – I am currently researching Loch Eriboll, just a few miles down the road from the return journey’s place of departure, Durness. Eriboll has some fascinating history, not least that in May 1945, this was the location for the surrender of thirty three U-boats, the pride of Germany’s Wolfpack. I could be stuck in these waters for weeks, but no matter, the days are short and the nights long.
In the meantime, this is Northumberland as autumn falls into winter:
I imagine this blackhouse belonging to Aunt Julia, she was buckets and water flouncing into them, she was winds pouring wetly round house-ends. I keep bumping into her, this time in the prologue to Robert MacFarlane’s LandMarks – The Poet Norman MacCaig commended the ‘seagull voice’ of his Aunt Julia, who lived her long life on the Isle of Harris, so embedded in her terrain that she came to think with and speak in its creatures and climate.
In truth, this blackhouse is on the western coast of North Uist, a place Aunt Julia conceivably never visited, so embedded was she on Harris. I would never leave either, not with a challenging 9 holes nearby. On the road south to the ferry at Leverburgh, the Isle of Harris Golf Course at Scarista clings to the edge of the world, the pins straining against strong westerlies, the flags always horizontal. My window of opportunity to play the course was blighted with hail storms and excessive winds – this image was taken the next day in a rush for the CalMac crossing to Berneray . I must therefore return, there is much outstanding research for Golf in the Wild – Coming Home.
This is a collection of images posted on www.polaroidblipfoto.com over the previous week. I first started submitting to Blip in late 2013, the central idea being that you take/publish a different image everyday (I ocassionally cheat a little 🙂 ). It has now become something of a compulsive obsession but its main benefit is that it makes you constantly think about opportunities for taking photographs and a camera is always close to hand – this is no bad thing. Over two years later I have now built up a photographic diary which, like many other ‘Blippers’, I would be very disappointed to lose. The future of Blip has been in doubt for some time so the opportunity to support its survival through crowd-funding came almost as a relief. It was therefore gratifying to see this posted from Blip Central on 2nd February:
We’ve got the money … We wanted to let you to know as soon as we could that the collection of money from pledges and donations via PayPal has just passed the target of £120,000. We offer a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed and helped. Give yourselves a collective pat on the back for we can now go ahead and complete the purchase from the current owners.
The images show: Our local drystone wall repairman – plenty of work in hand; the Tyne rising yet again; the Sandhoe water trough; the Pant (fountain) at Tanners Row, Hexham; Sue Dunne’s white dove; panels from Hexham Abbey (there are actually three); evidence that the sun can still shine on Allendale golf course.
I have been driving for an eternity. A two week car journey around Lapland was immediately followed by a 700 mile round trip to Traigh Golf Course near Arisaig. The greater the effort the greater the rewards and both adventures were very rewarding even if I left my golf game at home for the latter. I have limited this post to just two images – the first from our last full day at Abisko in Sweden and the second from a late evening drive between Traigh and Acharacle (the view to the small isles from Glenuig). Hopefully both explain why the effort was worth it: