Sorry for the blogging hiatus, I’ll try to explain what’s been going on in a subsequent post but I’d really like to crack on with our Hebrides trip!

arriving Eriskay

From Barra we took the ferry to Eriskay, which is a tiny island connected to South Uist by a causeway. It’s famous for it’s grey ponies, the breed almost became extinct in the 1970s – it was saved by a 100% Eriskay stallion called Eric – but I only managed to spot one pony as we made our way over the island.

Once on South Uist we made our way up the only main road which runs north-south. On the west were flat areas of lochs and machair and huge white beaches whilst on the east were hills, mountains and a rocky coast. We stopped off at one of the beaches to give the dogs a run.

South Uist 1

Unfortunately the weather started to take a turn for the worse and the blue skies were replaced by cloud. There was also a biting northerly wind which blew sand into your face.

South Uist 2

At one end of the beach we found rocks and had fun exploring the pools. Mr Stoatie found a baby plaice lying on the sand at the bottom of this one but it buried itself before we could take a close up!


There were only a couple of campsite listed on South Uist, we made an attempt to find the one at Lochboisdale but ended up the wrong side of the loch! Rather than drive back to the main road and then drive back along the the other side we  decided to head back to a site we passed just after the causeway from Eriskay.


It was a good flat site, a bit exposed but there were wonderful facilites. One of the other campers spotted an otter whilst stretching his legs so we headed out to the tiny beach after tea. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything!

Kilbride 2

Attached to the site was a marvellous cafe and in the morning we treated ourselves to black pudding barmcakes for breakfast, absolutely delicious! 

Kilbride Cafe

We then headed back up the main road. On an island where most of the buildings are small crofts it was rather incongruous to find this ugly church sat by the main road.

South Uist 4

Church South Uist

On thing you notice is that the islanders are very accepting of modern buildings, although most of them are a lot more picturesque than this.

Machair harvest


We stopped off at the Cladh Hallan roundhouses, which date from the late Bronze Age. There are three visible, there are thought to be another three or four buried under the neighbouring sand dune. It was a pretty atmospheric place.

Hut Circle

Hut Circles

And about two hundred metres from the round houses was this beach.

Beach 2

We were enjoying a walk when Mr Stoatie pointed out that we were being watched – there were three seals in the sea.


It was a bit like the seal encounter we had on Skye, they just seemed happy to stay at a distance and watch us. Mr Stoatie spent some time trying to get a decent shot but they seemed to know just how far his zoom would work and stayed just out of range.

seal 2

seal snaps 2

The dogs and I retired to the edge of the dunes to get out of the wind and watch the action. It was starting to drizzle.

beach dunes

Charlie started to entertain himself sliding, he would work his way down and then run back up and do it all over again.

charlie sliding


Machair 2

We’d left the ScoobyVan parked by a graveyard. These are almost always on a hill overlooking the sea and not by a church. Stunning locations and oddly comforting.


Peat stacks would become a common sight as we worked our way along the Islands.



It only took us about ten minutes to reach our campsite which was on the east of the Island. The light was fading pretty quickly and we were anxious to get the tent up by the van and chuck some of the additional stuff in it. Mr Stoatie had brought his bike with us and as he hadn’t yet invested in a bike rack, once again it took up too much space in the van. Turning Charlie stripy with oil stains and generally getting in the way. This is where when we realised our first forgotten item – the bike stand! Cue two weeks of constantly having to prop the flippin’ thing upright on various heaps of bags and boxes and picking it up when it fell over.

When we got out of the van we were treated to our first ever experience of the Scottish Midge, it’s making me itchy just thinking about it! I had bought a bottle of Skin So Soft which seemed to do the trick nicely as I didn’t get any bites at all while Mr Stoatie who couldn’t be bothered to apply it, had lots of little red lumps by the end of the evening. We were both rather glum at the thought of having to endure two weeks of the things.

Castlebay 2

The next day we woke up to grey skies and headed back into Castlebay for a look round. It’s the main town on the Island but is about the size of a small village, with a small local shop and a well stocked Co-op. It was very quiet, we recognised a few people from the ferry – including the labrador people!. bumping into people we shared ferries or campsites with became a bit of a thing on this trip, which isn’t surprising I suppose when most people are working their way up the island chain. In the past Castlebay had been the home of a huge herring fleet. At the height of the season it was said you could walk across the harbour on the fishing boats. Over six hundred would anchor in the bay, and the fish would be carried off to various stations around the harbour where the women would gut them and pack them into barrels with salt.

There was a short trail around a park by the harbour which showed the history of the trade, and which began with the mosaic at the top of the page.



From there we drove on to Vatersay, which is a small island to the south of Barra which is connected by a slim causeway. We found the first of many wonderful white beaches, and not another soul on it!


The dogs were excited by the beach and shot off to the sea as soon as they were let off their leads!


It was absolutely fantastic despite the overcast skies.




Vatersay has two wonderful beaches which are either side of a strip of sand dunes and grassland – the famous machair. We went to visit the other beach which is on the Atlantic side of the Island too. This was much larger, we were still the only souls there!


When the clouds broke everything looked even better.


It rained a little the second night, and that and the strong winds seemed to keep the midges at bay thank goodness. It was a little brighter when we got up and we headed off to the Airport – this is what happens when you’re married to an Aircraft Engineer!

Luckily Barra airport is one of the few airports in the world where the runway is on a beach. So we had a lovely walk and a snack at the airport cafe while we waited for the tide to go out and the plane to arrive.

Barra Airport

The airport is at the end of a long, wide bay, Traig Mhor. It’s a tiny little place, security was a rope across a doorway and the baggage collection area was a lean to against the terminal building, a bit like a bike shed. The cafe was fabulous and very popular.

Airport from a distance

The beach is composed of compacted cockle shells, which makes it firm enough to take the weight of the aircraft. There were one or two people cockling in the centre of the bay while we were there.

sand Barra


The plane arrived on time, there were quite a few spectators.





The Western Isles have their own species of bumblebee, the Hebridean Bumblebee.


Hebridean bee2

On the way back we visited Helaman Bay which is feted as the best beach on Barra. With the blue skies turning the water turquoise, and all the white sand, it was hard to disagree!

Barra Beach

We were the only people on the beach again!

Barra Beach2Barra Beach3

The access to the Bay was across a couple of fields. One of those houses was for sale, what a beautiful location!


Our campsite looked across to the mainland, although it was way off on the horizon. It was entertaining watching all the boats, mostly ferries and one huge cruise liner. Mr Stoatie managed to get one run out on the bike while we were there.


Most of our cooking is done on the trusty barbeque bucket. We decided when we first got the Scooby Van that we wouldn’t cook anything smelly or fatty on the stove! We mainly just use it to boil the kettle or cook vegetables and snacks.


All the exercise was a bit much for some folk.


On the third day we were off to the next Island group. We took the ferry over to Eriskay. This is the smallest ferry we’d been on, Tilly spent the journey under the bench seats but at least there was a window that I could look out of this time.


Ferry 2


Seafood Shack

Hurrah! At the end of August we set off in he Scooby Van for our holidays. This year saw the fulfilment of a life long ambition as we travelled up to the Western Isles.

The first day we hightailed it up to Oban which is a six hour drive with a good run, and stayed overnight at the campsite we used on our Skye trip a couple of years ago. It’s set in a huge old walled garden by a forest. Unfortunately when we arrived it became obvious that the weather had been atrocious, the grass was soaking and the edge of the pitch was muddy and wet. This meant that the dogs almost immediately set about covering the van floor and anything or anyone else they could find in pawmarks. Being tired, hungry and irritable anyway, this cast a real gloom on the proceedings which was added to by a fuse blowing in the van.

camper oban 2

It was lovely to revisit Sutherland’s Grove though and we were visited by a pair of hooded crows.

Hooded Crow

The following morning we went down into Oban as we were taking the ferry over to Barra in the afternoon. We parked up and immediately headed to the harbour to revisit the Seafood Shack. Unfortunately it began to rain quite heavily and so we sought shelter at Wetherspoons for a while where we could sit outside under the awning with the dogs. When it eased off a bit we made dash for the stall. Mr Stoatie tried the scallops which were cooked to order and he said were the best he’d ever tasted. We also had a small seafood platter, served in a scallop shell, and bought crab sandwiches to eat the ferry trip. They were doing a roaring trade and at one point had an entire coach party queuing.

Seafood shack 2

We then killed some time by walking around the town. This is looking across to the ferry terminal. We found a fish and chip shop along here and had a portion between us, along with a side of deep fried haggis.

Ferry Terminal

Looking back across to the town from the terminal. The weather was starting to pick up a bit.

Oban Harbour

A picture taken whilst waiting in the queue to load onto the ferry

Waiting for ferry

Leaving Oban.

Ferry to Barra

I was a bit worried about the number of ferry journeys we were planning to do on this trip. Tilly had really hated the crossing to Skye last time which was only a 25min trip. The Oban to Barra route takes four and a half hours. In the end we sat on the open deck for an hour which she tolerated but then the biting wind got too cold. The ferry has two special dog areas inside which was good but there were far too many dogs to accommodate everybody. We squeezed in next to two huge Labradors, the yellow one had a lovely disposition but the black one was a bit aggressive. If he and Charlie started staring at each other they would start to growl,  and as this usually ends up with the dogs getting louder and louder until you have a full blown fight,  we had to work hard to keep them facing in different directions, or to block their view with rucksacks and bags. Quite stressful really! There were no windows either which was a shame.

Dogs Ferry Oban - Barra

An interesting lighthouse between Oban and Barra.

Light House - Oban-Barra

We arrived at Castlebay, the main town in Barra as it was starting to go dark. Fortunately we’d booked a campsite previously and just had a short drive to get there.

Castlebay 1

Coming in to the ferry terminal.

Castlebay 2



On Saturday night we held our Beacons in the Dark ritual up near Anglezarke Reservoir with our friends form Way of the Buzzard. Actually we had two rituals, there was a Heathen Ritual held at The Pikestones which was followed by a journey to the Ancestors/Spirits of Place and then the Beacon lighting and Druidic Ceremony down in the valley.

The Pikestones are the remains of a huge long barrow (150ft long and 60ft wide) which was aligned almost North to South on a high ridge on the slopes of the Pennines. There was a fantastic view across to the west, and you could make out both the Welsh hills and the Lake District mountains as you looked along the coast. The Pikestones are the only example of a Cotswolds/Severn type barrow in the north. All that remains are the huge slabs which formed the burial chamber at the Northern end of the barrow and a few random stones scattered around. Apparently you can make out the remains of a walled enclosure which would have formed a forecourt similar to Belas Knap at this end too. We didn’t really have too much time to explore and I would dearly love to go back and have another look.

The Heathen Ritual led by Linda was the first I’d ever attended and I really loved it. She had prepared pebbles gathered from the surrounding moors by painting the rune Othala on them. This is the rune which represents connection and had been chosen specifically to help us with our journeying, which was led by Jason from Way of the Buzzard. We all returned from the Otherworld with messages that were surprisingly similar, although the symbols and images given to each of us were very different. I think that they could be summed up by saying that instead of letting ourselves be overwhelmed in the  face of what seems a really insurmountable threat we should raise our voices with those of others and join together in the spirit of Unity. This standing up for ourselves – denigrated into ‘making a fuss’ – is something that I feel has been almost bred out of the UK psyche over the years. How often do we put up with bad behaviour because we shouldn’t interfere, and how often do we go along with authority figures because we’re told that they know better than us? It’s time all the small voices joined together and made a huge roar. I think we all agreed that the silent majority needed to be woken up and given the means to express themselves.

As we worked the fiery red sun slipped into the sea and the almost full silver moon rose behind the woods . You could sense the threshold between worlds, and the many spirits gathering to join us.

Sigil stickThe second part of the evening was our Druidic Ritual which was held down by the Reservoir. We worked to call in the Fire elements to bless the Beacon and then addressed the Warrior to bring in his powers of strength, endurance, determination, drive and action to help us in our work against fracking and to protect the land. As part of this ceremony we cast sigil sticks into the fire, these were sticks or branches that we’d worked anti fracking energy into and which we burned to release their protective powers. I used a length of beech from our grove on The Edge which I’d sanded and painted with various symbols (including of course the Warrior’s Call sigil) before waxing with beeswax and decorating with ribbons.

After we’d finished the ritual it was time to sit around the fire feasting and sharing stories in the moonlight. It was a really intense few hours but I think everyone felt a lot more positive and energised about the situation and we all left  forming plans as to how we could manifest our ideas into action.

The poem I added to the Ritual Booklet was this one:


Teach your children

what we have taught our children –

that the earth is our mother

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

If men spit upon the ground,

they spit upon themselves.


This we know

The earth does not belong to us,

we belong to the earth

This we know

All things are connected

like the blood which unites one family

All things are connected.


Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

We did not weave the web of life,

We are merely a strand in it

Whatever we do to the web,

we do to ourselves.


Chief Seattle

Going Slowly


A colleague saw this little chap making his way across our doorway and I took a snap, before picking him up and putting him in the flower bed. We were worried about him getting squashed! I’ve done a little Googling and discovered it’s a Grove or Brown Lipped Snail which are apparently quite common but hot something that I’ve remembered seeing before. (Is it an albino or just very light coloured I wonder?). We usually just have huge amounts of the usual Brown Garden snails.

Things have been going very slowly on the blogging front I’m afraid to say because just about everything else in my life has been going lickity split. It’s always the blog that suffers when I’ve too much else going on!

Anyway I shall endeavour to do a bit of catching up. At the beginning of August we went down to London as Mr Stoatie was taking part in the Prudential 100 once again. This year the weather was perfect, he managed to improve on last year’s time and got to cycle up the two famous hills on the route which were closed last year on health and safety grounds due to the torrential rain.

I spent the afternoon sat in the park in the sunshine waiting for him to finish. I got updates on his position from my eldest daughter via text and was stood waiting for him just after the finishing line when he was due. How I them managed to miss him I don’t know, but I might have been stood there a couple more hours if the bloke next to me hadn’t looked up his number on the race app for me.

This year’s medal had a different design.

Prudential medal 2015

Mr Stoatie announced that he was giving the Prudential a miss next year, then a couple of weeks later his brother suggested they do it together in 2016, so we may have to go down again next August. If it didn’t involve months of training and wearing lycra I think it would be quite good fun to have a go myself!

Altar 1

We weren’t actually planning to have an Alban Elfed Ritual as such this year. As the Warrior’s Call are organising their Beacons in the Dark event next week we thought we’d do that instead, to follow on from the Earth Web rite we performed with them last year. We were all set up for a ritual on the Edge when The Way of the Buzzard invited us to join them at their event and as their land is currently under direct threat – licences to test drill have been granted – we thought it would be good to support them, so instead we’ll be travelling over to Lancashire and holding our ritual there!

However, some of our folk are unable to travel so far and after a short think we decided to hold an Alban Elfed after all. It turned out to be a good decision because after frantic discussions on when and where to meet, we had our largest turn out so far!

Awen Honey Bread

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day which was really welcome. We decided to visit our Grove on The Edge and were delighted to find our Guardian still in her bower in the beech tree.

Sarah made a wonderful honey loaf, complete with Awen symbol and we were spoilt rotten by having honey cake and gingerbread too (thanks Dawn and Claire!).

This ritual is the harvest rite, a time when we reflect on what we have brought to fruition from the seeds we sowed at Alban Eiler, the Spring Equinox. It is a time of brief balance, but also the time that the dark begins to gain strength and Nature begins to wind down for the winter months. Plants die down and return to the earth, seeds sleep in the soil, the womb of the Earth Mother, and we too are held and nourished in her arms during the darkness. To dream and heal, rest and revitalise.

The main symbol in the rite is that of the grain of wheat held out by Ceridwen, ‘the seed of wisdom’ and I was happy when I found this poem by Starhawk which combines the themes of seeds, darkness and balance beautifully – I always try to print something appropriate on the spare page at the end of the script!


Earth Mother, Star Mother

You who are called by

a thousand names

May all remember

We are cells in your body

And dance together.

You are the grain

And the loaf

That sustains us each day.

And as you are patient

With our struggles to learn.

So shall we be patient

With ourselves and each other.

We are radiant light

And sacred dark

– the balance –

You are the embrace that heartens

And the freedom beyond fear

Within you we are born

We grow, live, and die –

You bring around the circle

to rebirth

Within us you dance





Bride Guardian


It’s hard to believe, but the Wildwood is now a year old!

We decided to hold our Lughnasadh ceremony on Lindow Moss, as our first ritual together was held there last August, to honour Lindow Man on the 30th anniversary of his discovery.

The vegetation around the Moss has thrived this year – we had difficulty finding the usual gap onto the workings – but unfortunately the peat extraction and drainage continues. There were great heaps of peat waiting to be taken away.

We had our ritual in the evening, under the almost full blue moon. I’d worked it completely around Lugh, since it was his feast day. I felt the need to emphasis the masculine, this ritual being a counterpoint to Imbolc, which is all about the Lady, so I felt justified in honouring the Lord of Light. An apple figured heavily in the rite – hence those on the altar. I got out my blingiest plates and the red cloth to emphasis the sun. The evening was so still and calm I had the luxury of striking a match and lighting the candles first time which felt rather weird. Normally you have the traditional huddle round the flame to keep it alight!

Claire had brought some linen squares with her which we placed on the altar.

Healing squares

“ Textile energy healing spirals. Hand stitched and dyed in natural plant dues, by Textile Artist and friend Kate, she has donated them for use during/after our ritual, the idea being to tuck a few away in discreet places on the Moss and as they slowly decompose, the healing energy lovingly hand stitched into them transmits into the Earth”

These were so beautiful and smelt slightly of patchouli, it was bit of a wrench squirrelling them away as we left!

Claire also brought one of her dolls to grace the altar:

lughnasadh doll

The body is a corn husk, with a poppy seed head and lavender arms. Coincidentally she is dressed in red and gold, although Claire explained that this represented the root chakra and was also to accentuate the feminine. It seems the Goddess infiltrated the ceremony after all!

We were joined by a special guest, the Setantii Bard himself, Badger! Who very kindly gave us a spontaneous recitation of Song of Wandering Aengus by Yeats whilst we were drinking bubbly and eating birthday cake to celebrate our anniversary after the rite.


The Song of Wandering Aengus


I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

William Butler Yeats


Afterwards we had a wonderfully atmospheric walk back to the cars in the dark, under the guiding light of the Bright Mother. What a wonderful evening!

Lughnasdh Moon

All photos except the altar are used with the kind permission of Claire Gerrard!


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