Published: 24 July 2013
The sign which welcomes visitors to Michaelswood Michaelswood in Aith is one of my favourite places to take a walk. The transition from working croft to woodland has taken over 15 years, and a great deal of hard work by my neighbours, Ray, Betty and Alan Ferrie. This woodland is dedicated to their son/brother, Michael. Covering about 12 acres, there are about 8000 trees as well as numerous benches, rubbish bins and play areas. It's enjoyed by many visitors of all ages each year, with lots of us making frequent visits.
the arched entrance to Michaelswood These photos were taken in the late afternoon when we enjoyed blue skies and sunshine and the temperature reached 22 degrees - a really hot day for Shetland. I had noticed many cars parked there throughout the afternoon so took my walk after all the visitors had left for the day.
There are different paths to follow; usually I go under the arch in the photo and along the philosopher's trail but this time I chose a different route and headed towards the pond. Here I saw lots of tadpoles swimming around, and looked for baby frogs. I found many but only this one sat still long enough to be photographed. A tiny frog resting at the side of the pond
I Pirate ship and peerie hoose walked past the play area - the very popular pirate ship and the 'peerie hoose' in which children love to play. The flags can be lowered and raised and the wheel turns, and there is a hiding space too. In the peerie hoose there are some toys, crayons and paper. It's a great place to escape adults who are disinclined to squeeze through the little door, and the adults can happily sit at the picnic bench while they wait for children to move on to the next attraction.
Next stop was the bird hide. This is where the visitors book can be found - it's always interesting to see where visitors have come from; though I suspect only a tiny percentage actually sign the book. There are binoculars, bird books and information about the wood.
As I meandered slowly up the hill I realised that the noise of the windmill on the neighbour's land was a bit intrusive. Removing my hearing aids helped a lot - but I couldn't hear the camera click and thought for a moment that something had gone wrong. I couldn't hear the birds either so the aids were soon back in and the risk of losing them diminished. The windmill noise is less obvious in other parts of the wood, and varies according to the direction and strength of the wind.
When you reach the top of the hill you get good views of Aith and East Burrafirth. The centre of Aith
This photo shows the centre of Aith. Almost in a straight line from left to right you can see Britain's most northerly Lifeboat and the roofs of Lifeboat station, West Mainland Leisure Centre, Aith Public Hall, Auld Skule Recycling Centre, Aith Junior High School, Eid Community Co-Op and Aith Garage. Quite a lot in a very small area. There are public toilets too but that roof is out of sight! Lots of fences
As I walked over the top of the hill I came upon several clumps of lousewort - I call them 'sooky flooers'. I always walked to and from school and one of the pleasures, in the summer, on the way home was sucking these tiny flowers; I had forgotten how sweet they are. As you walk towards the boundary fence you get good views towards Clousta. Looking towards Clousta
Normally there is just one fence separating crofts but in the past there were disagreements and this plethora of fences and gates is the result.
On my way back I stopped to look at the thistles in the neighbouring park (field). Thistles on the neighbouring croft I fear these will soon seed themselves in Michaelswood.
Just a few of the hundreds of docks
The croft land on the other side of Michaelswood is full of docks which will seed themselves just as easily as the thistles, giving the Ferrie family more work as they try to keep their land weed free.
Going down the hill I followed the philosopher's trail. It seems there is always at least one of the quotes which 'speaks' to you, depending on how you are feeling on the day. On this walk these are the ones which spoke to me:
- To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time ........ but we must keep on stepping - a Chinese proverb
- You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth - H L Mencken, writer, editor and critic (1880-1956)
This trail took me past the secluded "Teddy Bears Picnic" area, where there is a picnic bench and a box of plastic crockery, cutlery, pots and pans which children enjoy. Play area Further down there is a good place for youngsters to play with toy vehicles, with a seat for the adults.
The trail took me back to the car park, where there is yet another bench and, to help with the upkeep of the wood, a box for donations. For those who are not too mobile, there's never a long walk to get to the next seat to have a rest or just to sit and enjoy the peace and tranquility.
I always enjoy visiting the wood, whether it's for a power walk, a gentle stroll, or a place I know my grandchildren will always have fun.
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Shetland is the most northerly group of Scottish islands. Apart from mainland Scotland, the other near neighbours are Norway to the east and the Faroe Islands to the north west.