Jutland April 2017

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Denmark over the years - but generally haven’t had the chance to explore very much.  This Easter gave us the chance to see rather more of Jutland than we’d seen before.

I’d rather thought of Jutland as the west coast of ‘mainland’ Denmark, in fact it really is pretty much all of mainland Denmark.  We were based near Herning, not too far from the North Sea coast in western Jutland, and also got to spend a couple of lovely days in Aarhus which fronts onto Aarhus Bay on the eastern edge of Jutland.

North Sea Coast at Søndervig Strand - complete with souvenir fortifications from the Second World War

North Sea Coastline
Beach Fortifications

Downtown Herning - and the lovely Danish Photomuseum

Downtown Herning 
Photo Museum, Herning

Mønsted limestone mine - complete with bats and cheese (yes, really a cheese mine)

Mønsted Kalkgruber
Mønsted Kalkgruber
Mønsted Kalkgruber

Trolley Bikes on the old Skjern to Videbaek railway line - Denmark had their equivalent to Dr Beeching who closed down rural railways, although I don’t think trolley bikes put in an appearance in the UK.

On the Rails
Biking Vikings

Aarhus University - the second oldest university in Denmark

Århus University

Aarhus Waterfront - gradually transitioning from working harbour into upmarket residential

Århus Waterfront - traditional
Århus Waterfront - modern
Iceberg - Århus Waterfront

ARoS - Aarhus Kunstmuseum - lovely big/modern art gallery - with a seriously cool rainbow panorama on the roof

ARoS Rainbow Panorama
ARoS Rainbow Panorama

Aarhus Old Town Museum - buildings and streets from 1864, 1927 and 1974 - am struggling with 1974 being history, and there will soon be a 2014 street too!

Work Experience, 1864-version
Old Town (and New)

Shetland March 2017

Another spin on the Shetland weather lottery.

This didn’t (as you might have seen from the previous entry) start too well.  Four hours sitting in the gloom at Aberdeen airport wasn’t what I had planned, particularly with the background commentary letting me know just how rubbish the visibility was at Sumburgh Airport.

And given the pessimistic tone of the messages (and the lucky-dip nature of the seat allocations) I was, on reflection, pretty grateful to be wandering on West Voe Beach and on Scat Ness by middle of Friday afternoon without getting too wet.

Scat Ness in the Friday murk
West Voe of Sumburgh
From there on the weather just got better and better.  

It was a little bit murky at Sumburgh Head on Saturday morning.  There was a celebratory PARP of the fog horn to mark the start of the visitor centre season.  PARP doesn’t really do it justice but it’s the best description I can conjure up - although the low notes do made it feel like the whole Head was vibrating.  I’m sure that Flybe/Loganair could make use of the fog horn to guide planes in through the murk.  The mid-day fog horn (and the warm welcome from the visitor centre staff) heralded the clearing of the clouds and the arrival of a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the south end of Shetland.

Sumburgh Head Fog Horn
Waiting for the Fog Horn
Scat Ness in the Saturday Sunshine
And on Sunday the weather just kept getting better - my vague hope that my long weekend back on Shetland might be extended by the return of the dodgy weather didn’t pan out.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse
Shetland Daffodils still in Season
The only real disappointment of the visit, although there were plenty of daffodils, guillemot, shag and gannets around, was that I was just a few days too early for the return of the puffins or indeed of the orcas which periodically put in an appearance around Shetland. 

And just to show how clear the weather was, by Sunday the Fair Isle test ("Can I see Fair Isle from the bedroom window?") had been passed.

Fair Isle Test: Passed

The puffins are pretty reliable in their timekeeping for their return to the Shetland cliffs, unlike the orca where lots of the luck is required - they really are part of a whole new Shetland lottery!

12B or not 12B, that is the question

I spent an unexpectedly long time getting up to Shetland today. 

The View from Seat 11A

The day started so early that I did wonder if it really qualified as being late yesterday, but never the less I managed to catch my on-time flight from Heathrow to Aberdeen.  There I was met with the unwelcomed news that there were problems with the flights to Shetland, and that the flight I was booked on was certainly going to be late. 

Getting up to Shetland does have the potential to be disrupted.  If you go by boat you might get strong winds or wild seas delaying your travel. If you go by plane you might get messed around by snow or by fog, and its fair to say that other circumstances can intervene too.  I’ve had flights disrupted by planes going ‘technical’ (which I think is short-hand for breaking down) and I’ve been booked on to a flight that didn’t exist (ah, the joys of airline code-shares).

Today the problem was fog.  By the time I got to Aberdeen the first flight up the Shetland had already been cancelled and everyone from there rebooked onto the flight I was due to take.  This flight got gradually later and later and eventually the plug was pulled on that too.  So the passengers from both flights were encouraged to go back landside to talk to the ticketing agents about ‘alternative’ plans (options offered included giving up, getting a later flight or getting the overnight ferry).

I opted for the later flight option, and was pleased to be told that there was a seat on the next flight north (a couple of hours later), so I was rebooked onto that, then pointed to the check-in desk where I was asked if I was happy to have a back row seat on the flight.  I (with hindsight, foolishly) said that as long as it was inside the plane I was happy. So I wandered back through security clutching my boarding pass for seat 12B (the planes up to Shetland aren't very big).

I joined the group of 30-something passengers waiting at the gate to get onto the plane.  After a while I heard my name being called (“… make themselves known to the gate staff”) - occasionally on big flights I’ve had this when I’ve had to be re-seated or very occasionally upgraded (there is nowhere to be upgraded to on a Shetland flight). “I’m sorry sir, we’ve sold 34 seats on this flight and there are only 33 seats on the plane, and you were last… would you be prepared to go on the next flight”.  I supposed that I would be prepared, and as the person at the gate started to make this happen, the last remaining seat on the next flight disappeared too.  “I’m sorry sir, we’re going to have to rebook you onto the 5PM flight” (to put this into context, I’d been in Aberdeen in time to connect onto a 9:30 AM flight).  I indicated that I wasn’t very happy!

The best compromise was that I should hang around at the gate until all the other passengers got on and “we’ll see if there is a space”.  To everyone’s surprise “Mr White”, despite checking in several hours earlier, didn’t show up for the flight so suddenly they had 33 passengers and 33 seats.

So at the last minute, I was walked out to the plane and showed my boarding pass - “Hmm, there isn’t a 12B on these planes anymore, sit in 11A, it’s the only one left”.  Seems that when Loganair refurbished some of their little Saab 340s they swapped some of them from 34 seats to 33 seats - where once upon a time all the planes had 10 rows of 3 plus 4 seats at the back, now they have 11 rows of 3 - each row with an A, a C and a D seat.  The elusive seat 12B has become a rare commodity, so if ever you’re offered seat 12B on a flight to Shetland just ask if it really exists.

They might not be able to count seats, but I'd never criticise Loganair's in-flight catering.

Experimenting with Mapping March 2017

I've been experimenting with ways of representing the locations covered by my LandRanger-based project on a map - this version uses a Google Fusion Table as a way of turning a spreadsheet of latitudes, longitudes and URLs into an interactive map...

Shetland February 2017

It’s been a longer than usual gap since the last chunk of time in residence at the south end of Shetland - and there’s been some weather recently too which took it’s toll on the fences.  Fortunately one of the neighbours did manage to retrieve the bits that were scattered down the road so all I was presented with was a rather heavy jigsaw.

What, no fence?

Having lamented the recent weather (and sorted the fence) I was then able to enjoy several days of typical February temperatures but very untypical precipitation and wind.  And as you might expect this gave the perfect excuse for wandering the beaches and headlands both down at the south end and (for a change) up in Northmavine (the wild Shetland northwest frontier) and particularly around Eshaness.

Quendale Beach
Scat Ness
Lady's Holm at the mouth of Quendale Bay, and Fair Isle on the horizon
Eshaness Lighthouse
Stampede Shetland-style at Quendale
Oystercatchers on Quendale Beach

Over The Fence

One of the joys of being in the Shetland house is looking out of the window.

From the south side of the house we look out onto Quendale Bay - with Lady's Holm in the middle distance, and (on a good day) Fair Isle on the horizon.

The view is in some ways unchanging - and in other ways changes minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, tide-by-tide and day-by-day.

At some times of the year you can see porpoises feeding in the bay, at others gannets diving and seals basking on the rocks in front of the house - and very occasionally orca wander into the bay looking for the seals.

Sunday 11th February
Saturday 12th February
Monday 13th February
Tuesday 14th February
Wednesday 15th February
Thursday 16th February
Friday 17th February
Saturday 18th February