We’ve had our first overseas visitors - in February!

At the time of writing it will be 5 months on Friday since Bendigo became our home and we absolutely love it here on Orkney. We are keen to share our new home with as many of our friends and family as possible.

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Nephew and niece Gordon and Sabrina from Germany have been our first residential and overseas visitors - in February! Although they landed in a bit of a blow the weather was then amazing for the rest of their stay. It was so good to show them around and to revisit many of the tourist sites: well, those that are open at this time of year! The photos we are sharing with you today are Sabrina’s and show Orkney through the eyes of a first time visitor. Photography is a new hobby for her and we thought some of Beeny’s shots were great. The photo above was taken from the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae looking out across the Bay of Skaill.

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The fact that Gordon and Sabrina were here for the first ever Orkney Gin Festival added a certain panache to one of our evenings together out on the town in Kirkwall, with Nick discovering a real love for cocktails! Just as much fun, though, were the evenings in at Bendigo, trying haggis (which they loved) and playing cards as we have always done when we are together. The picture above is us on the Broch of Birsay, an island accessible across a (very slippery) causeway at low tide, and below is Nick (and me too!) striding across Hobbister Moor, where Highland Park cut their peat and the RSPB have a reserve.


After our visitors left us we made another new friend, Duncan, who also has moved to Orkney from Tangmere! Although his route took years longer than ours his parents, who still live in Tangmere, had sent him a cutting from the parish mag about us moving north and he got in touch! There are so many people here from the crowded south, looking for space and a slower, greener way of life, as we are. The picture below is a very different shot of ‘our’ beach taken on the path from Bendigo down onto the sand.

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 Here we are again, at the Ring of Brodgar.

Here we are again, at the Ring of Brodgar.

The winter has seemed short to us. The days are noticeably longer now and sunset is pretty much at the the same time as in Sussex. The ground is still very wet - we are told that it has been an exceptionally soggy winter - and attempts to put up a whirly washing line without cementing in the base have been abandoned because of soft ground. We are collecting barrowfuls of seaweed for our new veg bed, an exercise which surely will start to get us fit! Our polytunnel looks like being delayed until June or July which is disappointing, but it will give us time to see how the sun travels around Bendigo in the Simmer Dim, the long days of summer.

We have joined the St Magnus Festival Chorus - first rehearsal last night - a community choir that performs in the Festival in June. We are working on Rossini’s Petit Messe Solonelle, one of my favourite choral works, so we are very much looking forward to seeing how we get on as this will be much more ‘grown up’ singing than we have done before. We continue to enjoy a very informal traditional music group on Friday nights in The Hope (St Margaret’s Hope) and I am working hard to make my trumpet fit in with the fiddles and accordians - Nick’s guitar is a much easier match but they are all very kind! We have also joined the gardening club and went to a very interesting talk by one of the members about gardens in Singapore. The speaker, a member, gave us some astonishing facts: Orkney (total land mass for all 70 islands) is slightly larger than Singapore but has a population density of 20 per sq. km. compared to over 7,797 per sq. km. for the island of Singapore! A fascinating comparison.

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Of course we don’t mind how many times we go round Highland Park - or Scapa, when it opens for the main tourist season - and two of the three gin distilleries here will have visitor centres or cafes before the summer is out. The Orkney Brewery also has an excellent cafe and tasting room so, if you are planning to come and see us, prepare for a very convivial time! Our best availability for the rest of this year is July and August - but there will, hopefully, be many years for us to welcome visitors to Bendigo if you cannot come in 2018. (If we are going to be photographed together I would rather you are not tall and slim!)

Only Storm Caroline has, to date, cut us off from Mainland Orkney with the closure of the Churchill Barriers. We must wait to see if the snow that many of you will be experiencing to the south of us will actually reach here. I am hoping to go into Kirkwall on Wednesday evening to see the Royal Opera House screening of Winter’s Tale - it will be ironic if snow scuppers that plan!