My favourite place

Summer is officially here again, tempting people to get out and about. Here, councillor for Lerwick South Jonathan Wills describes a well-loved place that always makes him feel happy.

What is your favourite place in Shetland? Oh dear, what a question! Burrafirth, Unst? Anywhere in Yell? Hascosay? Da Hams o’ Roe? Fair Isle? Lingness, South Nesting? Noss? Da Sooth End o’ Lerook? All of the above but mainly, I suppose, my home island of Bressay and in particular the old croft of Gorie.

What about it appeals to you? It looks beautiful and it makes you feel happy just to be there. Gorie nestles in a little valley above an almost circular loch on the east side of Da Wart, with the deserted townships of Grimsetter and Wad­bister on either hand. The place name comes from Millagord, meaning the little farm between the two bigger ones. Gorie was the home of two of the best people I ever knew, the late Tammie and Jessie Laurenson, who befriended me when I was a student and gave me some of the ideas by which I’ve tried, with varying success, to live my life ever since. The main thing I learnt from them was being as self-sufficient as possible. And now my knees are almost as stiff as poor Jessie’s were, from the same cause – too much gardening!

How often do you go there? At least once a week to tend the garden and the tattie rig, to help my friend Tom keep down on the rabbits and plant his trees, and sometimes just for birdwatching, as the tree plantation and the garden are excellent places for migrant birds, particularly in voar and hairst. After 20 years, Tom’s Gorie trees are now so big we can see them on Google Earth, which pleases us no end.

How many times have you been over the years? I lost count long, long ago but I can still remember my early visits to Tammie and Jessie in the 1960s. It’s more than a quarter of a century since they died but I suspect their spirits are still there and keeping an eye on how we look after the old place. For me it’s full of very happy memories.

What time of day is best? Very early morning in June, with the mist lying on the loch, the Noup of Noss sunlit in the distance, the first green shoots coming through the soil and the golden plovers calling in the hill. Paradise!

What time of year is best? Summer, I suppose, but it also looks very dramatic in the snow and it’s a good spot for watching stars and da Mirrie Dancers because there’s no light pollution, despite being only two miles from Lerwick. The mile-long track from the main road is a bit spooky at night in winter, although when you get to the house it’s one of the most sheltered spots in Shetland.

Do you seek solitude or is it a place you take family and friends to? Both. When you’re there on your own it’s the most peaceful place imaginable – a grand spot to clear your head of the SIC capital programme estimates and the profligacy of our rulers, while you hoe a row, potter in the shed or fix holes in the roof. My son Andy uses the old house at Gorie as a holiday cabin and when my grandson Alfie’s home we have a lot of fun playing in the burn and giving him hurlbarrow rides and making beach bonfires at Grutwick. I love taking visitors to Gorie because they always share my delight in the place but I doubt if it’ll ever be crowded because it’s a fair hike over the hill and the track’s impassable really, unless you’ve got a tractor or my wonderful old Toyota pickup.


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