Last May, because of some confusion while moving email addresses, I ended up with three days to write a piece for the summer issue of 60 North, Promote Shetland’s quarterly magazine. For this article I needed a foodie hiking photo or two, so when, on Day 2, the sun shone brightly and warmly down on us after the school bell rang, the eldest and I headed up Scalla Field, Shetland’s 3rd largest hill (classified as a Marilyn as it is over 150 metres/492 feet). I was carrying our packed dinner of locally produced delicacies – salt beef on Voe bakery bannocks, Shetland cheese and Unst oceanic oatcakes made with seawater. I wanted to take a photo of the bannocks on top of the trig point.
From where we live the easiest way to climb Scalla Field is to park the car in the Burn of Lunklet car park and follow the burn up the hill until you reach the fence line and then cut across and up. Normally this walk will take about 45 minutes to get you to the top of the hill.
It took us a little bit longer. My eldest, bless him, is not a particularly outdoorsy teenager, preferring to sit in his bedroom playing games on his iPod. He complained while hiking up this hill, and he complained a lot. I’m pretty sure at one point he sat down and cried, begging and pleading that we eat our dinner at that spot and head home. It was too hard to walk all the way up the hill. He was going to die of exhaustion.
After an hour of encouragement I started to get a little…. frustrated. My pace was somewhat faster than his, so I ended up further ahead, taking photos of the wildflowers growing on the hill and waiting patiently for him to catch up while soaking in the warm rays. There were no signs of civilisation. From this point you can’t see any houses, roads or people. The hills stretch out in front of you until they meet the sea. It was quiet and beautiful.
After one particularly dramatic complaint out of my eldest I shouted back for him to hurry up, he was a healthy 14 year old boy and there was no reason why he couldn’t climb up the rest of the hill. We were nearly there!
Then suddenly behind him two heads popped up in the distance. We certainly weren’t expecting to meet anyone else up on this remote hill! It became a game – we had to reach the top before these two strange hikers got there. My son sped up and completed the rest of the climb without complaint.
Despite his struggles to get to the trig point at the top of the hill he was delighted he’d persevered. The views from up there are spectacular – you can see the island of Whalsay to the east, Foula to the west, the dramatic sea stacks north at Eshaness and the large hill south at Fitful Head.The Shetland Islands are only approximately 80 miles from tip to tip and 30 miles wide. From this vantage point you can see quite a bit of it. I tried to capture an image as a panoramic but it doesn’t convey how beautiful it is. You’ll just have to go there yourself and see.
The two strangers quickly caught up with us and I introduced them to Shetland cheese and Unst oatcakes. They shared their jelly sweeties with us, much to my son’s delight. They were tandem cycling through Shetland and on the way they were stopping to climb hills. This was hill number 1016 for the gentleman, if I recall correctly, since he started counting them years ago. They were a lovely friendly couple but they needed to get going as they had to be several miles up the road by that evening. We watched them head back down the hill, hand in hand.
After a short break my son and I headed back down the hill, a much more pleasant journey without one single bit of complaining to be heard. The route to the car park took us back along the burn and over a wooden stile. There, on the top of the stile were two jelly sweets left for us by our hiking friends. This gesture made me smile and I’ve been wanting to share the photo ever since.
So, for this week’s Alphabet Photo Challenge by PODcast, J is for Jelly Sweets.