Views from the Scord 05.09.08

Filsket gymkhana

TRONDRA-BASED Filsket Riding Club had its annual gymkhana event over two days last weekend.

Nestled on the lush pastures of the lesser-seen east-facing coast of Trondra the club is a fast growing gem of equestrianism. Formed only three years ago in a park in Burra with only 16 bairns the club now boasts 46 members, availability of stables, ample pasture and qualified instruction on all aspects of horse and pony handling and management.

The gymkhana took place in two heats due to the number of competitors with the first heats on Friday evening and the second on Sunday afternoon. Despite somewhat unpleasant weather the hardy competitors, helpers and organisers persevered and the attendance and participation of nearly all the clubs members stands as testament to the devotion that this club has formed in all involved with it.

Comprising of a series of lightsome races, the competitors all receive medals in recognition of their efforts, meaning no-one goes home empty handed or forlorn. Races include a tattie and spoon, stepping stones and the quirky fish and flump in which contestants race down the course on horseback carrying a model fish, hook it to a post and have to eat a sizeable flump-type sweet before racing back to the finish line.

The heats utilise a variety of animals for the different age ranges of competitors and more than a little effort on behalf of the pony handlers too, in running up and down the course.

Hot dogs, hot teas and a variety of treats kept attendees warm and fed during the competitions and the ponies could be seen to enjoy the interaction and excitement perhaps as much as their riders.

The club is reliant on donated ponies for its very existence and organiser Marcia Scobie said: “We are always looking for more ponies. They love it. The grazing here is really good and they get plenty of exercise and grooming as well as mixing with other ponies.”

The club currently has a waiting list which could be cleared with more ponies. Instructor Susie Nicolson provides professional riding tuition for club members and on days of poorer weather the members are taught the finer points of grooming and tack.

Chairwoman Dorothy Sales said: “This is not just a riding club; it involves stable management too. The bairns learn all aspects of caring for horses as well as riding and they have a lot of fun. It’s hands-on equestrianism and they even learn to care for minor ailments. I’s surprising how bairns take to it, boys and girls.”

Club member Zoe Smith has taken it upon herself to train as a farrier, so it is hoped that with completion of her extensive and lengthy five-year training the club can even boast its own farrier.

Another recent addition is the purchase of the club’s first pony, soon to become part of the team. To raise funds for the club members have bag-packed at supermarkets and held a pet show earlier in the summer.

The club holds its official end-of-year prize giving next week. If you would like to get involved in the club, or lend your pony to them contact Dorothy on 859287 or Marcia on 880536.

Harbour activity

Scalloway Harbour was still relatively quiet this week, but a couple of visiting vessels provided plenty of interest for the maritime observer.

The anchor handling tug class vessel Maersk Advancer returned last Friday, depositing an awe-inspiring piece of subsea equipment on to Scalloway pier. The T-series Trencher looks like something out of a science fiction movie and is 21.5 tons of high tech sophistication, with a price tag that would pay for a decent blockbuster film.

With extra wide tracks for propulsion, the electrically-driven Trencher moves along the seabed cutting a channel for pipe or cable laying, cutting a trench over a metre deep with a rotating disc sporting tungsten cutting teeth. The cable or pipe is also laid as part of its operation.

Such is the value of this offshore tool, it comes with its own security fence and 24-hour security guard on watch. The Trencher is said to be currently being used to lay a fibre-optic communication cable between neighbouring oil fields to the west of Shetland.

The Eda Frandsen called into the harbour on Saturday. This striking, Danish-built, 60-year-old gaff cutter type sailing vessel started life as a fishing boat but now serves as a luxurious commercial charter vessel since a total refit completed in 1995.

Based in Mallaig, the operator offers trips to some of Scotland’s more remote locations, including St Kilda and Flannan as well as the Northern Isles. She left Scalloway bound for Papa Stour and intends to return to port before leaving the area. Her skipper helped with the re-rigging of the Swan three years ago.

Fishing activity was very low through the harbour in the week up to Friday, with a mere 539 boxes through the market from the Gunners Glory, Scotia, Fertile and Radiant Star.

Mackerel line-fishing activity produced around 165 boxes this week, but with a predicted decline in activity as prices have now dropped to one tenth of the original price for this year, now being less than five pounds a box.

Anderson Buildings opening completes major redevelopment

Hjaltland Housing Association held the official open day last Friday.

Attended by around 60 people for a buffet lunch and refreshments, the event heralds major change to the village infrastructure.

This outstanding project can be seen to be putting a living heart into the centre of the village with the expected influx of residents to the Main Street. Complementary to the now outdated focus on purely suburban peripheral development, these flats come as part of a movement to assure the future of conurbations of any size by placing residents in and around centrally located buildings with shops and businesses.

The scheme contains 11 flats of different sizes and layouts and a custom designed unit where an existing childcare business is to relocate. The flats are fitted, equipped and planned to the highest standards and utilise the location admirably.

The fruition of a pipe dream conceived in 2000 when a feasibility study was commissioned by Blair Bruce, on behalf of the Scalloway Waterfront Trust, from Redman & Sutherland Architects to identify uses for under-used buildings along the waterfront.

The concept proposed by Redman & Sutherland included extensive refurbishment and extension to Andersons Buildings in a manner now pretty much upheld by this project.

Architect Jim Sutherland is clear in his vision of this and any subsequent projects in the area.

He said: “Activity begets activity. This is a major step in the re-generation of Scalloway. We are passionate and enthusiastic about the future of the village.

“By allowing people to work and live in the centre of the village this project provides a keystone for the re-development of the area.”

The original plan incorporated more commercial units on the ground floor and a large communal central courtyard area open to the elements, though the development process has altered this to an enclosed space for the accommodation with camera-equipped secure door entry system.

Mr Sutherland said: “The design has developed and been honed in cooperation with Historic Scotland, the council planning office, building regulations and of course Hjaltland Housing Association.”

The existing distinctive double-doored “pend” or covered walkway, which is thought to have originally led to stables, now leads to a small courtyard area that will be used by the childcare facility, access to drying facilities, off-street waste disposal and the park.

Due to the restrictions placed by Historic Scotland, the character and structure of all the original buildings has been entirely retained within the design. While it may have been cheaper, easier and quicker to demolish the lot and replicate it the historical significance of the property, which has its origins around 1790, forbids this and so an innovative engineering project overseen by Andy Sandison of Arch Henderson and Partners facilitated the underpinning, bracing and stabilisation of the original building with modern reinforced concrete and steel.

The result speaks for itself internally where occupants will find an entirely modern spacious and airy building with only the thickness of original walls in the front part of the building revealing any previous structure.

The extension to the rear is entirely modern and the expansive central foyer areas, particularly upstairs, lend themselves to personalisation by occupants and communal play by resident children. A central light well and glass balustrades on the stair well accentuate the deliberate lightness of the interior.

The flats themselves are finished to a highly desirable standard, and it could be said that each flat holds its own unique merits in terms of positioning and layout. Heating and lighting are all very much energy efficient and economical.

The heating of flats and individual rooms is entirely controllable and programmable to suit individual needs and flats also feature a progressive positive-input ventilation system which minimises damp or condensation.

The radiators are heated electrically from an on-demand system to maximise efficiency and the flats are all linked to a communal satellite and TV aerial system for ease of installation.

Stylish open kitchen living areas are modern and spacious. Bedrooms have built-in wardrobes and bathrooms have bath and shower facilities throughout.

Each flat has ample storage provision built in. Of the eleven flats there are different sizes and layouts to house four persons, three persons, two and one unit designed for single occupancy. Those on the front boast sunlit picture windows and, for two flats, views over the harbour, while those at the back boast panoramic views of the Fraser Park and football pitch.

As several of these are all intended toward family occupancy it is envisaged that the park, especially with newly-equipped play area, will be considered as a safe and superb garden for the resident children, from which parents can easily supervise and summon bairns by a shout from a window. Access to the park is from the rear of the building, keeping children safely away from traffic.

The proximity to the park has inevitably raised concerns about stray balls finding windows. The effect of this has been minimised, while avoiding the erection of intrusive barriers, by the usage of toughened safety glass on all the north facing windows, false balcony balustrades upstairs and a simple rail along the rear retaining wall between the downstairs units and the park.

The only exposed window area, therefore, is on the upstairs bedrooms and upper parts of living area windows.

Hjaltland representative Paul Leask affirms the point that barriers between the park and the building should be minimised.

He said: “There is no health and safety issue with the windows as they are all toughened safety glass. We will monitor the situation and if issues arise from tenants about this then we will address the matter further.

“The football season in Shetland only really lasts four months, apart from bairns having a kick around. The likelihood of the windows being hit or it being a problem are small enough that it would be a shame to put up a huge fence like the one in the Gilbertson Park in the meantime. People using the pitch have easy access to the path at the end of the block to fetch balls if necessary.”

The other issue of some debate regarding this project has been that of parking. The building being a conservation area precludes the necessity for developers to provide parking for the occupants, but Hjaltland still factor requirements into their project.

Mr Leask said: “The car parking issue isn’t a huge problem. We perform surveys on other Hjaltland schemes and on average car ownership is less than 50 per cent in those in Lerwick.

“You might expect occupants here to exceed that but areas for parking at the Midshore and the Burn Beach should be available for parking when occupants are home from work. If it becomes an issue we will co-operate with the community council in finding solutions and informing tenants about where to park.”

The system used by Hjaltland to allocate housing to applicants ensures that these units are available to a broad spectrum of tenants, with the group system they employ meaning that while some may gain a tenancy for reasons of necessity, the varied sizes of flats in this scheme means that even working professional couples or similar have a positive chance of success in application. Hjaltland has a policy of trying to cater for the requirements of those registered as requiring property.

Prospective occupants who have applied are hoped to be able to view the properties this weekend with moving in within two or three weeks.

The Hame fae Hame childcare business will also move in to the waiting unit shortly and the improved services of the business will be reported at that time.

Mark Burgess


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.