Wildlife watching on the water and moving on

Friday dawned with a swirling mist over the loch. I particularly like this bunny shot too. I was up early so I could be in Stornoway for 9am for the Hebridean adventures day trip to the Shiant isles. I was excited at the prospect of the scenery, and wildlife watching opportunities, and also apprehensive (due to my lack of sailing prowess). Any way all present and correct at 9am and by 9:20am had been briefed on safety and wildlife, and suitably attired in lifejackets etc. All 12 on the trip were in the capable hands of Colin the skipper, John the wildlife guide, and Anna the crew!

I began up top in one of the seats, as we left the harbour. Immediately we were seeing birds, seals and porpoises. The array of birds rose as we travelled and included gannets, puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots, razor bills, terns and so on. With out an all singing and dancing camera, I struggled a bit with the small birds (the puffins in particular). We lingered a couple of times on the way to the shiant isles, one to see a minky whale (I didn’t see it) and to find a couple of lots of dolphins – by the end we had dolphin encounters four times – all fabulous!

The water was pretty calm, with patches of deep blue, the wispy clouds lifted and we hugged the coast mostly so it wasn’t too bad for those of us a bit prone to ‘mal de mere’. Sitting was better than standing. Various jelly fish also passed by – some quite large! Anyway by lunch time we arrived at the Shiant isles, I cannot really do justice to the sheer numbers of the birds all around us, and the magnificence of the scenery and rock formations. We moored for a while surrounded by birds to eat lunch – I seem to be better at pictures of razor bills than puffins, and then we did a complete circuit of the island complex.

Post lunch I was not feeling so good, and mostly sat in the calmest place on the boat – a bench on the bottom deck at the back. After our cruise round the islands, we set out in the direction back but much more out to sea. By this stage it was windier, and I was struggling abit. The lovely Anna the crew, gave me a cup of lemon and ginger tea, which settled things. I was best off sitting down at the various levels in the boat and as central as possible. By this stage I was a bit more wrapped up against the sun and wind (bit of a gangster look with my bandanas but glad I did – as my cheeks are still pink today (I think wind rather than sunburn!). I missed the second sighting of the minky whale too  sadly before the restorative powers of the ginger tea took hold but only 3 people saw it!

Irrespective of my difficulties, I cannot understate what an amazing experience this was, and we finished off with looking at 2 sea eagles nests (and young through binoculars) and lovely sightings of the adult birds (on a fence post at the top of the cliff in the middle!).


Another aspect of all this was being able to look across to Skye for much of the trip – it was lightly illuminated and hazy so hard to really get a picture of the effect. It took me back to Jane and my trip, and our thoughts from Skye looking across at Harris and Lewis in 2011. There was something quite magical about it and helpful that is hard to explain.


We finally got back at 5:40 and I was very relieved to be back on terra firma. There was quite a lot to do at base, as it was a very early start and everything bar the bear essentials needed to be packed, and the car loaded. I set alarms, wrote myself a list of what I must do before leaving and eventually got to bed to find, when I put my head on the pillow, I still felt like I was on the boat!

Wildlife of the day LOTS!!!

Saturday morning dawned early, I awoke as you do 10 minutes before the alarm at 4:40. I was on the road shortly after 5:15. I had my first coffee of the day in the queue on the harbourside, and breakfast while the boat was being loaded. I had a much easier crossing (tactically I sat in the middle at the back of the boat in a recliner – mistakenly I had thought it was the front) but it was good to see Lewis disappear from sight. The boat was busy including a couple of sports teams, and the lewis pipe band in suitable kilts, as well as a lot of people with dogs. I had a coffee from the café after the queue had subsided, and I avoided the area serving bacon sandwiches with black pudding!

I was disembarked by 9:45 and I started the long drive south. The scenery was stunning with a cloudy cover this time, and much warmer. It was a bit bizarre to be driving through the cairngorms when it was humid and 24 degrees Centigrade. I stopped at Kinguissie to avail myself of the facilities. The car park was free but the facilities cost 50p! (they were very nice). I had my second thermos coffee, and then carried on. I drove on and the heavy showers began. It was dramatic, but I was intrigued how low some of the rivers and lochs were (though in parts of Scotland there has been flash flooding).

I pulled of the A9 towards Denning to find a lunch spot, and ended up at a farmshop/café (it was much more café than farm shop). I think it was very clear to me from there that I was no longer on Lewis. There were lots of people, it was hot, there was a field of wheat, and trees. I watched the swallows, as I ate a rather tasty lunch with very naughty double fried chips (!!!)

The final 100 or so miles had more rain and more low cloud, so the last rather scenic bit in Dumfries and Galloway was rather obscured. I was definitely getting tired, and glad to pull in to junction 16 of the M74, to spend the night at the days inn at annadale water. Door to door was about 12 hours! I stayed here with Jane and Ginnie the dog on the way back from Skye in 2011. In fact, we stopped here more than once as it was good for the dog with a lake to walk around.  I have thought about them both quite a lot as I have enjoyed Lewis/Harris. They both would have loved it. For old times sake I did a circuit of the lake between the showers. This may have been a mistake as it was very ‘midgy’ as the wind had dropped and it was damp from the rain. Good to see a red beak on the lake (oyster catcher) and for old times sake a marsh orchid, which I have added to wildlife of the day with the swallows mentioned earlier and some lovely foxgloves.

Huisinish and an otter

The day was set fairer and warmer. There was low cloud that lifted as I drove done to Harris. I decided to attempt Hushinish. Once I got to within a couple of miles of Tarbet this meant turning off down the road that had previously also led to the eagle observatory track. This was an ‘old harris road’ – windy, lots of blind summits and bends. Initially I was following a cement mixer (rather him than me!) as he was as wide as the road. Thankfully after the first few miles it got less near a precipitous edge but no easier to drive, and then after about 6 miles it got worse, as the surface deteriorated and the helpful white lines to show where the edge was disappeared. There was a stunning stretch through an estate down by a waterfall and eventually we arrived at Hushinish. I didn’t really remember it at all, and clearly things had been added, not least toilets and facilities for motor homes! (though I would not have wanted to drive one of those down that road!). I had a coffee to calm down, and then attempted the track, after a delightful section across the machair…. which was a sea of colour with the biggest buttercups I have ever seen and awash with marsh orchids.

There were two ways to the deserted beach I had gone to with my university buddies 24 years ago. I remember it being  quite a hard walk but I wonder if we approached it from the other way. I had doubts about the track I tried from the start, and in the end decided against it – lots of jumping from rock to rock right near a precipitous edge is really not me!!! It was a bit disappointing but sense prevailed, and there were lots of compensations. For starters the view across to the island and the beaches beyond was absolutely stunning…. I went around the easier headland and had my second coffee whilst the gannets put on a spectacular display against the panoramic view. It was like watching a firework display – unbelievably beautiful… My heart soared!

On the other side of the headland I found an idyllic beach and finally ate lunch on the hoof for only the third time on this trip (it’s generally been too cool and one of those three I got very wet!!). It was a relatively balmy 19 degrees in the sun today! I walked the length of the beach and back again to the car. What a fantastic place!

I gently drove back on the windy road, the views even more spectacular going back with the backdrop of Harris and the sea lochs all around, and all but a few misty clouds on the very high bits had lifted. I stopped a couple of times to take pictures, and also stopped at the refreshment stop just after the mountain road to get the view down loch seaforth.

I went back to the visitors centre on Loch Erisort, and finally saw my first ever ‘wild’ otter. It came up twice, second time diving down showing its ‘whippy’ tail! I was beyond pleased…… I stayed there for quite a while, hoping for more sightings but sadly not!

Wildlife of the day OTTER!!!! (sadly no pics), amazing firework gannets, and the machair, buttercups and orchids. The toe of my boots shows you the size of the buttercups!


More walks, views, eagles and a harris tweed bag, but no otters

Tuesday dawned cloudy and cooler, so I decided to visit the blackhouse museum at Garenin and explore the coastal walking route options from there. By the time I got there the sun was out and the cloud had dispersed – (it did return later). I decided to start with the walk and the path was rocky and rapidly ascending, this time following green and yellow guidance markers. I got to the summit of Aird Mheadhonach, and looked beyond unable to find the next waymarker pole. The views were stunning but I wasn’t happy to stray from the route so decided to turned back. Green posts in the prevailing scenery seemed counter intuitive to put it mildly – and they were in a poor state of repair.   I had a coffee at the summit cairn and just drank in the fantastic view too.

After my descent, I also had a coffee in the cafe and a look around the black house museum and the beach on my return. It is hard to imagine how tough it  must have been to live in this way in close knit communities, and that they had only been vacated finally in the 1970s. It was good to see the enterprising use of a couple of the blackhouses to provide accommodation (both a hostel and a holiday let!) too. I was also very taken with a deep pink harris tweed handbag in the inevitable gift shop, which set me thinking, but it wasn’t the sort of style I would really use.

I went a bit further down the coast, to try the coast path again, this time in an area where otters were very likely. I tried the coast path again (this time the posts were faded red and yellow). It started off ok, and after an easy grassy path to start and a difficult style, I made it to the top of the  low cliff to find yet again the next posts were invisible. Frustrating!!! I walked back and went round the sandy bay to the other side, keeping a weather eye out for the elusive otters. I had a comfort break and a coffee out of the cool wind on the far side of the beach on otter watch. Only to find a camper van had pulled in behind me and were watching my every move! Not ideal….

Wildlife of the day – nothing I hadn’t seen before attempts at machair shots with marsh orchids and also the lovely yellow irises that abound

Wednesday was overcast virtually all day, cool again and with a cold wind. I had found  a couple of places to walk on the road down to Harris, one just in Lewis and the other in Harris. I started at the Aline Community forest, it was nice to walk amongst the trees, but the trails had clearly seen better days, and I had to guess which way to go. The toilets were also a no go zone! Finally got down to the Lochside (Loch seaforth) and had a coffee – seeing an impressive Heron.

I moved on to the other end of the track at Bagh Bhiogadall that leads eventually to the Eagle observatory I was at previously. This was a typical Scottish walk – the outward leg walking up from the loch into the cool wind and the return back down to the loch with the wind at your back. It was a rough and rocky track – at least there was no potential for getting lost!  It was overcast and at times a fine drizzle. I met 2 other groups of people on the trail, one of whom suggested I try the visitor’s centre at Loch Eireasort. (It was eagle territory but not eagle weather).

It was too cool to do anything other than eat lunch in the car, and I went on to the suggested visitor’s centre. I saw an eagle virtually immediately and when I was leaving. After a warming coffee stop in the café, I spent about ½ an hour on the otter viewing terrace (before the cold got the better of me). No otters seen sadly yet again! The information in the café suggested that there are about 10 breeding pairs of eagles on that particular peninsula, and as the eagle flies that is actually not very far from where I am staying. So it is not implausible that the large raptor I saw on the first day I was here was one of them!


On a quest to follow up on the harris tweed bag possibilities, I went into Stornoway, and soon found one of a more suitable design, and more purple than girly pink!. As the weather forecast for Friday is better, I also booked a boat trip to the Sliant Isles to see puffins and other sea creatures. Let’s hope it stays calm as I am not a great sailor. Note: when I say the weather is better be clear, not the Saharan heat here but a comparatively balmy 18 degrees centigrade!! (It was 13 today with a chilly north eastly wind!)


Wildlife of the day – heard a cuckoo a number of times on my second walk, and eagle sightings at Eireasort Visitor centre, plus an impressive mushroom. Sorry my eagle picture is very unconvincing!!


Collected Athene from the airport on Friday evening, and caught up over supper and with a good bottle of wine provided in the holiday let. The next morning we set of to Harris – initially we went to the parking place for the North Harris Eagle observatory at Miabhaig. The last few miles of the drive were on a very windy single track road with passing places, which left a lot to be desired. After a restorative coffee, we set off up the track. The obligatory orchids were evident. The 2km walk turned out to be closer to 3km, and eventually we rounded a corner to find the very smart eagle observatory. The valley got more and more wild and isolated as we walked up it, but relative to other paths it was a good solid track and relatively easy going! In the 90 minutes we were there, we were joined by a selection of other tourists. About 10 minutes before we had planned to leave, by chance I saw a large bird take off from the mountain side, and rapidly rise on the thermals. As we were watching this golden eagle, we saw it was joining another one who was higher up soaring. Within 5 minutes they were so high we couldn’t see them. In the pictures below the black spec is the rising eagle I saw first (I know it is completely unconvincing – phone cameras are not designed for rapidly rising eagles!). It was a breathtaking sight. Athene filled in the visitors book, and morale was high as we strode back down the track.

We went on to Tarbert, and stopped at Hebscape for some late lunch.  This café/gallery was full of fantastic pictures and other items. We had some extremely tasty cheese scones.

We drove on to Luskentyre, and were once again blown away by this fantastic beach – with golden sand, turquoise sea and some interesting wildlife (including a very nosy seal who came quite close into the shore (and then vanished as soon as phones were brandished)), a jellyfish and a field awash with orchids. We walked and talked on the beach for about an hour before heading back (via the Harris tweed/knit shop).

It was a very satisfying day and eagles clearly get star billing as wildlife of the day!

Sunday we went across the bridge to Bernera, in order to do a walk in my Lewis/Harris walk book and on a leaflet we found in the holiday let – there was some discrepancy over the length of the walk – the book said 6.5 miles and the leaflet 7.5. This was easily the best day weatherwise I have had – and was a positively tropical 21 when we eventually finished the walk! Any way back at the beginning – just before we set off, Athene spotted another eagle, this time we think as it had a white tail, it was a white-tailed eagle! This was a good starter for an excellent day.

The initial leg of the walk after a short road section, was very picturesque but quite hard going. Lots of ups and down, rocky and boggy bits. We were following a trail of waymarker posts (without these I am sure we would have got very lost). We stopped after about an hour for a coffee, and tried to work out where we had got to. It was hard to believe we hadn’t yet got to Tobson (and we had certainly covered the distance Tobson was supposed to be). Much to our surprise we in fact didn’t get there for another 90 minutes. I had a bit of a wobble at this point, but after an ascent and lunch overlooking a lochan and the sea, I was glad we had carried on (the rewards of a splendid walk even if a long one are many). We eventually got to a beautiful looking beach and reconstruction of an iron age house (with toilets and highland cows), knowing we had to do 4.8km on the road to get back to where we had started. We had one more break, again looking over a loch and the sea. We had another eagle encounter overhead as we were on the road, I spotted this one, purely as I was trying to work out what was upsetting a very noisy oyster catcher (red beak) – It was soon apparent what was upsetting it as the eagle circled overhead!!.

We got back to the car close to 5pm, and my pedometer said we had in fact done 9.5 miles!! This mean the walk book itself was nearly a third out! I was very glad it was a shorter drive back (only about ½ an hour) – though more than enough time for me to get rather stiff! We were also pleased to find the tennis was still going strong, so saw the end of the Men’s doubles final at Queen’s.

Wildlife of the day: …. Eagles (and yet more orchids!), and some gannets too

On Monday, I took Athene to Lews castle grounds, for a leg stretch before taking her back to the airport. It has been good to catch up with her and share the joys of Harris/Lewis. How much life has changed for both of us (and our lifestyles) since our first visit in 1995!

I went on to the An Rubha peninsula as the sunny morning turned cooler and rapidly to persistent rain. At Tiumpan head, as it threw it down, I contemplated the signs saying this was the best place on Lewis to see minky whales (and other sea creatures) – it was not the weather for lingering!! I also went to the new memorial for those who perished on the HMY Iolaire on 1st Jan 1919. This is a chilling story of how so many returning Hebridean service men lost their lives so close to home (a couple of miles from the safety of Stornoway harbour).

I ate lunch in the car, and then returned to base to wait the rain out, and make a few plans for my next 4 days here (and then the long and winding road back)!

Wildlife of the day : more orchids and the sea creatures I didn’t actually see!!!

Elusive red squirrels and interesting birds

So after a lot of driving on Wednesday, I drove only a few miles on Thursday. Initially I went to Marybank picnic area, so I could enjoy walking in the castle grounds of Lews castle. This turned out to be very scenic, initially alongside the river Creed, until reaching the coast. It was tamer and ideal territory for red squirrels but none were seen sadly. As I saw no other squirrels, I am convinced there must be reds as they are much shyer than their grey counterparts (especially the South Nutfield ones!). I encountered and used my first woowoo (which is a waterless toilet). The signs kept saying that the woodland café was 2km away (I had in fact covered over 5km when I finally found it), complete with a King and Queen Lewis chessmen – which had seen better days!


After a necessary coffee stop, I used the ordnance survey app on my phone to help me get back to the Marybank picnic area. Throughout the weather was very changeable, with frequent short showers, which as the day progressed became rather longer spells of rain. After a trip to the co-op in Stornoway and as the weather was deteriorating I returned to base and enjoyed some embroidery accompanied by tennis on the telly! Good to see Andy Murray in action (with significant glimmers of his old self), but do worry about him falling over now as well as everything else!

changeable weather !!

Various wildlife of the day contenders. I know I am not supposed to like them but the ‘wild’ rhodis are spectacular here currently. I also like these young fir cones, and yet another orchid. Red squirrels were elusive as previously mentioned but I did finish my embroidery one too!


Friday dawned brighter with a drier forecast (in fact when I was out and about it only rained on me once and for all of 5 minutes). However I was still fully clad in my waterproofs as the wind remains cool to put it mildly! I drove up to Eoropaidh and followed a walk from the ‘Western Isles walks book’. There was a frustrating encounter just before I set off with a locked toilet (and I don’t mean because someone was in it).

This turned out to be a glorious and achievable walk taking in the ‘butt’ of Lewis complete with Lighthouse. Initially I met a very interesting cyclist (who had cycled up from Bradford), which was impressive to say the least. Then occasional walkers, a number of whom had chosen to do the walk in the opposite direction to me. This was a much wiser choice than the one I had made as it meant not so much walking straight into the biting cold wind. I had a coffee stop part way round, but this had to be carefully chosen so I was out of the wind too!


I drove into Port Ness to eat my lunch and find a toilet that was open! I was rewarded with a beautiful view over the harbour to the bay. I ate my lunch watching some diving sea birds, because of the spectacular plunging they were indulging in, I think they were gannets, but I was too far away to be certain! I spotted the ‘wobbly dog’ café, and in honour of all my canine buddies felt obliged to have a coffee there (which was very good!). The proprietor like my earlier cyclist turned out to be from Yorkshire (Sheffield this time!).


In terms of wildlife of the day – I saw an interesting bird whilst on the headland, not sure what it was, have consulted the bird book with no success – large brown with a white diagonal stripe on the wings, definitely a ‘raptor’ but know no more than that. It is a bit small in the picture I’m afraid! There were also some fantastic flowers, again I don’t know what they are.



Will be going out again later to collect one of my university buddies from the airport. She also came with me on the 1995 trip, so I am sure there will be some reminiscing!

Alpacaccinos and more…

Tuesday began with a short drive north to Callanish – an easy walk followed from the “Walks in the western isles book” – I bought with Jane on skye in 2011 when we were considering going to Harris and Lewis. This book has sat on a book shelf for the intervening years! This walk went better than my previous effort from the book on Monday,  and took in the three stone circles. The last and largest one near the Callanish stones visitor centre was awash with tourists as I arrived just as a coach was unloading. I had been to the visitor centre once before (in fact on the day it was opened by Donnie from Runrig!) and the sign inside showed me that my previous visit to Harris and Lewis was in 1995 so 24 years ago!

I moved on to have a coffee at Alpacaccino’s the café a little further on in Callanish. As well as alpacas, exotic sheep, goats, chickens, peacocks and Indian runner ducks, I really admired the cappuccino marketing. I had my first alpacaccino – such a simple idea but very effective. Special mention should also be made of the chocolate brownie I had with it, with genuine and extremely indulgent hot Peruvian chocolate sauce, whilst being able to admire the friendly alpacas. Should you ever be on Lewis – http://www.callanishalpacas.co.uk/. Hot chocolate sauce was very welcome as it was rather cool as well as wet!

Then on abit further north to exploring the beaches at Dailbeag and Dailmor whilst dodging the heavy showers.  I could also see there was a potentially passable coastal path that I might try on another day. It was on the road to Dailmor that from the car I also saw a much larger bird of prey, which I think was a juvenile golden eagle, but hoping to have some more definitive sightings in the days ahead. As is often the case there was a graveyard right by the beach at Dailmor, again with war graves and the lewis and harris men who had died in the HMS Iolaire disaster on 1st January 1919. So near to home and yet……

Contenders for wildlife of the day as well as the alpacas et al and the possible golden eagle (not photographed as I was driving!), was some really impressive lichen on one of the Callanish stones! This shot shows also some pale blue sky appeared at least at one point during the day


Wednesday, I decided to bite the bullet and drive to Leverburgh at the far end of Harris – so I could see the lay of the land and work out what else I might do travelling south from my base. The scenery, particularly the section leading to Tarbert was amazing, and the road had definitely been improved. The weather was kinder (well at least in the middle of the day!). Leverburgh turned out not to be very exciting, so I retraced back to a rustic café in Northton for a coffee, before exploring the beach and headland at Horgabost. At the café was a splendid young cat, who did briefly let me stroke him. I loved how well camouflaged he was for the local surroundings, his impressive tail and very tufty ears.

There is a wide selection of glorious sandy beaches, and turquoise seas in this part of Harris, and I am sure I will also go to Luskentyre and Hushinis at some point too. I had lunch overlooking the beach at Seilebost, in a parking space where camping overnight was allowed. The island you can see in the distance over my colourful lunch box and in the final picture below is Taransay (home of the year 2000 castaways on the BBC!).

The weather deteriorated to heavy rain, so I gently drove back and by the time it had cleared had a walk along the shore near the holiday let. Though I saw a scottie dog yesterday, sadly I haven’t seen any westies yet. I dont think this stuffed one I saw in a car counts (especially as it is wearing a tartan tam O shanter!)

Wildlife of the day: Lunch also included watching an industrious oyster catcher and more orchids were found on the headland at Horgabost, plus a magnificent mushroom!!

Adventuring on Lewis!

So here I am on Lewis. This trip has been a long time in the planning stage! In 2011 Jane and I went to Skye – and had a fantastic time – this was our third Scottish summer holiday in as many years, the previous 2 being to Seil Island and Mull. We were staying to the North of Skye and on clear days the mountains of Harris and Lewis were visible on the horizon. I can remember on our journey back calculating how we could get to Harris (via the Ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye (would you believe including a return trip to our favourite Skye coffee shop)). Initially we had planned to do it in 2012 – but for various reasons we didn’t. In fact, we didn’t return to Scotland again together before Jane died early in 2014.

Over the years since, I have been promising myself I would return to Lewis and Harris – I had been once before in the early 90s to visit a university friend who was living here! I remember various aspects of that trip, not least that I had to find an emergency dentist due to tooth ache and also there was a very uncharacteristic heatwave! Somehow the time to do this return and long planned trip never seemed to be right. I booked this holiday let on Lewis, when I was in an upbeat mood. Yet I felt apprehensive about it pretty soon afterwards!!!. It’s a long way for starters (it transpires I now know it is a 675 miles drive door to door excluding the ferry miles!). Over the months since booking to come, I have gently worked on making it possible, the journey had to be attempted in bite sized chunks, and I know what is planned going back is also possible (though it would be better if the traffic behaves a little better on the final leg).

I have a very comfortable base camp at Crosbost (about 10 miles from Stornoway), and intend to enjoy exploring the island more fully than was possible last time I visited. I shall post a few bits and pieces over the next 2 weeks, which I hope you will enjoy! On Sunday afternoon I enjoyed a local walk in my neighbourhood….

The prevailing scenery is dramatic and very imposing! This time of year it is light most of the time, which is a bit confusing for the system. So far the weather has been cool with a lot of rain! Today I got soaked – I had just settled down to lunch with a view of Garry beach – when it threw it down!

On Sunday morning, I went to Uig beach for a walk. The drive was through spectacular scenery, and I was pleased to find a lot of the roads had been significantly improved (only a few miles of single track with passing places). I had been to Uig before on my previous visit to Lewis and swam in the sea. Needless to say it had been a very hot day, the sea had come in over the hot sand and was very warm. It was memorable for other more colourful reasons too, which is a story of another day! My 2019 visit was not one for swimming! The beach is a vast expanse of sand where they found the famous Lewis Viking chess pieces in the sand dunes. So it was nice to see three different larger than life chess pieces near the beach.

Today (Monday) I went to Garry beach – and crossed the bridge to nowhere and enjoyed the coastal track (until it got too boggy to continue!). The beauty of the coast on one side, and the all encompassing moor on the other, with the telltale scars of peat cutting. Dodging the rain showers I also went down on the beach – before recoursing to Stornoway to buy a few essential items and sample the delights of the An Lanntair café bar! For the wildlife today I saw a lovely butterfly and some orchids.


December 2018

I have been back at work since November 30th – and it has been busy – which is hardly a surprise at this time of year!

Work has presented the usual challenges, but it has been hugely encouraging to find everything ticking along very well (the Christ Church South Nutfield team are fabulous!). It has been good to remain well and in good spirits throughout December. Just recently, I have had an all clear check at the skin clinic on 28th December – which has also been a source of much rejoicing!

Spiritually, there is much about Advent to love, and I find the themes and the sense of anticipation of the Emmanuel, God with us, both uplifting and helpful.    I have been really enjoying a daily picture and reflection from Jane Williams in ‘The art of advent’.  If you have not tried that this year – I would commend it for Advent 2019.

Christmas at Christ Church had many highlights (too many to detail here). My favourite – which I particularly loved was the Guiding light puppets on Christmas eve – reminding us it was not just all about presents and what the real meaning of Christmas is. (Videos are available of the puppets on Christ Church South Nutfield’s facebook page).

Today Hilary led a thoughtful meditative service looking forward into 2019 – with time and prayer stations to connect more deeply with God. There was a particularly strong reflective reading of the familiar words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Here is a sample

A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away

Help me to know when to strive and when to accept. Help me to know when to hold on and when to let go.

I have managed to take my renewed creative bent into preparations for Christmas, and made presents for a lot of my friends and family, as I have had more time than usual in the last few months. This has included beaded earrings, hats, coasters (made out of Japanese braiding) and one unique Fluffy the cat calendar!

In between all the work it has been good to participate in 2 family gatherings during this month. One of which was the usual post-Christmas gathering with my siblings, their children and their children’s children!

The second one was a much more unusual affair – a 100th birthday celebration for my late Auntie Peggy (my dad’s sister) – so a gathering of the Ways and Critchleys. Great to catch up, see them and reminisce about Peggy’s character and “joie de vivre”. My cousin Michael had collated lots of lovely pictures of Peggy’s life (and made souvenir photo books for us all). This included the one below I don’t remember ever seeing before of her with my dad on the beach! I also discovered that one of my cousin’s sons and his family live in Outwood (the next village south of here!) – so hoping to catch up with them in the new year.

Overall it is good to be heading out of 2018 in so much better health than I started it.  I am looking forward to the joys and the challenges 2019 is bound to bring…   May I take this opportunity to wish you a flourishing Spirit-led new year, with more adventures, more laughter and time to rest in the presence of God who loves us.

Endings and new beginnings

21st -29th November

I’ve been at home, enjoying my final sabbatical days, whilst getting ready for tomorrow when normal life and working patterns resume.  It has been good to regroup and refocus, and settle back into my home. It has been a bit more eventful than I wanted with leaking radiators (and water dripping through the living room ceiling!), a flat tyre and the lounge TV giving up on me!  On a much more positive note, the highlight of this time was definitely the 130th  celebrations for Christ Church – which was a great and joyful occasion – and fabulous to see so many giving thanks for our caring community in South Nutfield.

This is Jimmy fascinated by the dripping water through the living room ceiling!

So today I am saying goodbye and farewell to this time of refreshment, reading, renewal, reflection and recreation.

  • Refreshment – through worship and prayer – particularly being able to concentrate on the presence of God in worship
  • Reading – through studying particularly material looking at ‘leading with emotional intelligence’
  • Renewal – through walking and crafting, and concentrating on being in the moment
  • Reflection – through thinking through theologically and working through life lessons, plus developing training materials on ‘leading with emotional intelligence’
  • Recreation – through many ways – particularly through enjoying the natural world on foot, friendships, laughter and crafting

Tomorrow I am saying hello again to my dual role ministry as we draw into the time of advent, and the busyness Christmas brings. I am hoping to bring some of life lessons from my sabbatical “Rs” into the days ahead.  My abiding feeling today is thankfulness for this time I have had to be, for all that has been and all that will be, and for the capable team at Christ Church. It has been a time of great blessing, which I am sure will energise the days ahead.

Thank you for travelling with me as I have written this blog. I will continue to add updates to the ‘adventures of Alison Way’ from time to time, but clearly after today I will have to change the study leave 2018 strap line!

On my final day – I had a brief and very windy walk on the sea front at Brighton – and my mind returned to the coast path of Wales… I’ll be back!

Glasshampton and the Archbishop of Canterbury

13th Nov – 20th Nov


As I write I have returned from six days of retreat at Glasshampton monastery (which is in rural Worcestershire). This is another house run by Anglican Franciscan friars, and it has been a house of prayer for 100 years. It is another very thin place and it was great to immerse myself in the silence and simplicity of their lifestyle for this time. These two video clips give you a taste of what the place is like, and my photos show the splendour of Glasshampton with autumnal colour – from my afternoon walks (and that this time Siena, the monastery cat, let me stroke her!).



It was particularly helpful as this time of study leave is coming to an end, to enjoy this beautiful peace-filled place and take more time to pray and reflect. In recent years Glasshampton has been my usual place of retreat – and I would really commend it to you. The enveloping silence is particularly liberating! Thanks to Moyra, who lent me her copy – I reacquainted myself with Henry Vanstone’s classic – the Stature of Waiting – it is a challenging read but a really inspiring one too.

In the richness of worship we were reflecting on how the kingdom of God has begun in us, and works through us, and how our hope is founded in God’s eternal love for us worked through Jesus Christ. Brother Amos, who preached in their Sunday morning Eucharist, included this verse from Daniel 12. – Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. This is a big challenge, but we are called to share God’s love with all we encounter like bright shiny stars.

I returned home on Sunday, and have with some relief finally put the suitcases away. I worked out I have slept in 19 different beds during this sabbatical time and have packed and unpacked the bags and the car on countless occasions! (I am no better at travelling light!) I am back fully in role on 30th November, but in the mean time I am looking forward to sharing in the 130th celebrations of Christ Church on Sunday – I popped in to Church yesterday, to collect my cassock alb to give it a wash – to find the singers rehearsing and a splendid display of photos giving thanks for the life of Christ Church.

On Monday, I popped into London for an “encounter” evening at St Martin-in-the-fields, which featured the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was a fantastic insight into his approach to his faith and experiences of God. It was great to hear him speak so openly about God’s love for him (and his love for God) – One of the things he said was that “God gives us space to be who we are and grow up into who we are called to be”.


Found a link to more of what Archbishop Justin said…


On the way out of St Martin’s, I suddenly found myself amongst South Nutfield friends. It was great to be able to travel back with them, and to be able to share our reflections on the train home!!

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011