Cottages and Wildflowers

Years ago you could find old ruins of cottages everywhere in Orkney. Now the best place to find them are in the smaller islands. Of course this is because lots of people have renovated them which is a good thing. They have always provided endless subject matter for me along with the wild flowers which often surround them. Many of the stone buildings and ruin's are now gone so this collection of pictures are a reminder of what was once there.

Cottages on Orkney come in all forms. Some are made of just beach stones and heather for a roof such as 'Old kettle and cottage, Rackwick', others are just complete ruins surrounded by wildflowers as in 'Cottage ruin with red tin roof' and 'Winter thistles with bothy'. All of them make for brilliant subject matter and one of my favourite compositions is to get low in the landscape and look through the wildflowers to see the cottage and hills behind as in the picture 'Wild cotton in the wind'. Two or three times a year I visit Happy valley in Stenness. The cottage there has a traditional flagstone roof and is surrounded by a garden and woodland created by Edwin Harold, sadly Edwin has passed away but Happy Valley is still kept preserved by its 'trust'. Many visitors to Happy valley brought Edwin presents of plants from all over the world so the garden is unique. The picture 'Happy valley, Orkney' is of Edwin's cottage and 'Bluebells at Happy valley, Stenness' shows the garden in front of the house with bluebells in the springtime.

I cannot talk about abandoned houses without mentioning my once in a lifetime visit to the remote island of Swona. The last people to leave the island for health reasons, thinking they were going to come back, left in 1974. You can go inside the houses and see the remnants of what was left behind, tins of food, letters and furniture all standing still in time. Most houses are in a ruinous state and wildflowers abound along the shoreline and around the cottages as in the picture, ' The forgotten island of Swona'. There are however a group of wild cattle on the island which have survived over the years on their own but you don't want to go near them!

Wildflowers are everywhere here in Orkney, recently the council has stopped cutting all the road verges which is a good thing, so we can apreciate even more all the flowers and wild grasses. Along the cliffside there are seapinks, see the picture 'Glittering seapinks' and on the shore, oxe-eye daisies as in 'Wild daisies on the shoreline'. These flowers seem to do well in the salt air. Cow parsley is another favourite subject of mine, I love the shape of the large seedhead as in 'Cow parsley sunset' and 'Cow parsley on the shoreline'. Both pictures are painted in watercolours, a medium I use a lot.

I can't wait until next summer when I can go and visit all my old houses again and share more pictures of them with you!



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