Monthly Report, January 2024

It's always good to be able to start the year with a long stay on Shetland, but a winter month on Shetland is very often a reminder out how much the weather can dominate daily life on an island where nothing is more than three miles from the sea.

But first some numbers.

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Mostly Shetland

Distance Walked: 240 km

Distance Driven: 2080 km 

Photographs Taken: Thousands (mostly beaches, waves and snowdrifts)

The Calm Days

When the weather is calm and dry, it's good to be able to spend the short winter days on the headlands and beaches - and sometimes the guillemots (always the first auk to reappear on the cliffs) will hang out on the stacks.

Calm days on Scat Ness

Guillemots at Sumburgh Head

Early Afternoon Sunset on Quendale Beach

The Snow Days

Every winter brings a few snow days to Shetland - and the normal pattern is for the snow to fall and then melt within a few hours.  Not this year, a spell of bitterly cold weather meant that for almost a week the snow fell on a regular basis and just didn't melt, and when the wild picked up, developed into some very spectacular but inconvenient snow drifts!

Snow on Garths Ness and Fitful Head

Snow on Quendale Beach 

White Out


The Wild Days

And eventually the snow did melt, but the winds built up and stayed.  The ferries didn't run and leaving the house was often classified as a high risk sport. 

High Water on Quendale Beach

Big Waves on Scat Ness

Big Waves and Big Seas on Scat Ness

Next Month - Mostly Oxford but with an Italian theme.

Monthly Report, December 2023

I guess I should round out the 2023 to-do list by writing the 12th monthly report.

And the two word summary would be "Mostly Oxford".  But first the numbers. 

By the Numbers

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Mostly Oxford

Distance Walked: 241 km

Distance Driven: 1213 km

Photographs Taken: Hundreds (mostly trees)

Photographs of the Day: 31

And while we're on the numbers, the walking tally for 2023 came out at a slightly frustrating 3622.5 km, which works out as a daily average of 9.92 km.  

I'm not going to set very many New Year resolutions this year, but on the numbers I'll be aiming at a daily walking average of 10 km, and to add another 366 photos-of-the-day to be catalog.


A fine few days at the start of December

Quendale Beach Sunset, Shetland

West Voe of Sumburgh, Shetland

Scat Ness, Shetland

Oxford (mostly)

Suddenly the photographs are filled with trees (with just the occasional day out at the seaside)

Bury Knowle Park, Oxford

Oxford Canal

Parsons Pleasure, Mesopotamia

The Pier at Clevedon

Spring Lane, Oxford

Shotover Country Park, Oxford


Having said that I'm not setting many New Year resolutions, I do already have quite a lot of travel plans already pencilled (and in some cases inked) into the 2024 diary, so over the next few months you can expect to see pictures from Oxford, Shetland, Alderney, Italy and Norway.

2023 - Twelve Pictures of the Month


In short. 

Oxford, Shetland, Wales, Lombardy, Lombardy, Shetland, Shetland, Shetland, Shetland, Lombardy, Shetland, Shetland.

In pictures.

January - Sunrise, Bury Knowle Park, Oxford

February - Waves, Scat Ness, Shetland

March - Worms Head, Rhossili

April - Clusane, Lake Iseo, Lombardy

May - River Oglio, Boario Terme, Lombardy

June - Puffin in the Pinks, Sumburgh Head, Shetland

July - Puffin & Puffling, Sumburgh Head, Shetland

August - Sandsayre Piers Shetland

September - Scat Ness, Shetland

October - River Oglio, Boario Terme, Lombardy

November - Aurora Borealis, Quendale, Shetland

December - Sunset, Quendale Beach, Shetland

Monthly Report, November 2023

Entirely Shetland.

And weather. There's been a lot of weather about at 60N.

By the Numbers

Reporting Days: 30

Location: Shetland 

Distance Walked: 260 km

Distance Driven: 499 km

Photographs Taken: Thousands


When I roll through the pictures for the month (particularly a month spent on Shetland), I inevitably see lots of pictures of blue skies, gentle waves and golden sands. Perhaps with the occasional calming view across a flat sea.  And perhaps the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Quendale Bay - warm and calm

Quendale Bay

Pool of Virkie - tide in & flat calm

Ladys Holm & Fair Isle

Northern Lights

This does perhaps give a misleading view of island life in the late autumn but it does reflect the fact that these are the conditions when it's most pleasant to be out and and about with a camera.

But if you wrap up well (and keep the camera kit out of harms way), there are also big waves, big winds, gloomy weather and rain showers to photograph too.

Big Waves on Scat Ness

Wind Rip on Quendale Bay

Quendale Bay - not always sunny

West Voe beach - storm damage

Showers means Rainbows, Jarlshof

Next time - back south for a bit.


Monthly Report, October 2023

Mostly Italy.

I signed off the last report in Zurich.  From there it's relatively short rail trip through the Alps into Northern Italy - and time exploring Val Camonica (north of Brescia) and Val Senales (a bit further east and almost into Austria).  But first the Numbers.

By the Numbers 

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Mostly Italy

Distance Walked: 297 km

Distance Driven:  998 km

Photographs Taken: Hundreds


The jaunt around Italy in April and May was (COVID not withstanding) a delight, so when the opportunity to do it again in October was presented we didn't take much convincing.  

In April and May we did all the travelling by train, so the obvious thing to do was to use the train again.  However, tunnels.  

There are a few rail tunnels through the Alps, and since the April trip two of the tunnels have suffered major incidents.  The main route between Paris and Turin (Frejus rail tunnel) has been closed by a landslide (and still is) and the Gotthard base tunnel (the new quick route between Zurich and Milan) closed by a major derailment.  This meant that the plan to go to and from Italy via Paris and Turin was derailed. Plan B was to go out via Zurich (and to allow enough time for the slower old route down to Milan) and to come back via Nice on the French Riviera. The conclusion from this is that rail travel is still better then flying (the scenery is much better), but the stress level is lower if you don't try and spend all day travelling and allow a wee bit of leisure time and some nice overnight stops too!

Stop One this time was back in Boario - for another couple of weeks of neurotherapy, spa time, fine dining and very good coffee - and the occasional gelato.

Boario & River Olgio

Old Bridge, Boario

Madonna of the Alps, Boario

Lovere, Lake Iseo

Stop Two was in Certosa, high in the mountains north of Bolzano and Merano (in SudTirol) - where we finally got to spend time walking in the Senales Valley - a trip originally planned for Summer 2020.

Madonna di Senales

Lago di Vernago

And in the spirit of slow travel, the return journey involved overnight stops in Verona, Turin and Nice.



Back in UK

In April I commented that its felt like we'd fast forwarded from Spring to Summer - the converse this time was the shock of going from walking in shirt sleeves in the Italian Mountains or promenading along the Boulevard des Anglais in Nice to late Autumn in Oxfordshire.

C S Lewis Reserve, Oxford

Bury Knowle Park, Oxford

Heading North

Oxfordshire autumn not really being to my taste - I ended the month by promenading along the Esplanade in Aberdeen, before hunkering down for a bumpy overnight trip back up to Shetland. 

The Esplanade, Aberdeen

Next Month  

That'll be Shetland.

The Mirrie Dancers