Environmental campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland, Vic Thomas is recyling manager at Shetland Scrapstore, part of the COPE social enterprise. He has recently moved from Sandwick to Clousta on the West Side, which has been a revelation.
What is your favourite place in Shetland? There are lots of neuks and crannies, hills, lochs and beaches in Shetland that have quite special and unique charm. There are also odd little ruins all over the place, some ancient and some more recent that cast a spell over me as I try to guess who lived there and what it must have been like living in those days. However I am totally in love with the area around Clousta where I now live after almost 30 years in Sandwick.
What about it that appeals to you? I suppose it’s that it’s so unspoilt, or should I say less altered by modern life, and it has a bit more of the community feel I first experienced when I came to Shetland in the 1970s. I have a real soft spot for Sandwick and was actively involved in the community over the years but despite having many friends there, it was developing at such a pace I was starting to feel a stranger. The boom in housing, proliferation of street lights and lots of folk who kept to themselves, taking little part in the community, made me suspect that the planners were trying to join Sandwick up to Sandveien and filling up all the gaps in between. Clousta on the other hand has magnificent clear starry nights, the smell of the land and sea and so free of traffic, not unlike the Shetland I discovered 30 odd years ago.
How often do you go there? What a simple question for me! Now that I live there I don’t want to leave it. I have wandered all over the place making discoveries every walk and I marvel at odd places that genuinely look and feel like no person has been there for hundreds of years, as there are almost no signs of man – or at least the activities that leave a detracting footprint in the environment. The walk around the loch of Clousta to the end of the Vementry road is fantastic as is over the hill to Aith. A must walk this summer will be starting from the foreshore below the old school house in Clousta right round the back of the hill to Vementry then on to Aith along the banks and not the road.
How many times have you been over the years? Prior to moving here last year I think I was here only three or four times in the last 30 years, which I now regret. Shetland’s rural areas are so rich in the things we need in life to help us relax and calm down from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
What time of day is best? Anytime is best as I am one of life’s lucky people that live in my favourite place. Outside of work hours I can hop over the fence and take in a sunset over the loch, watch grouse fly low over the heather or sneak up with my camera to photo a hare in full winter coat and sledge down the hill when the snow is here as I’m a big bairn and we are the last place in Shetland that gets the plough! I am really looking forward to the approaching summer and intend to be outdoors all the time, but I also look forward to the dark skies again as I have not seen the Milky Way like you can see it here for many years. Light pollution really does take away one of the most spectacular experiences – the night sky. Why do we need all these lights in a place like Shetland?
Do you seek solitude or is it a place you take family and friends to? I share this wonderful environment with anyone who visits and it’s quite amazing how a visitor that has never been to Clousta before reacts. The place seems to ooze an aura of positive energy and a good feeling – though [my partner] Mandy says that’s just my airy fairy hippy nonsense, even though she says it feels good biding here. It is also a superb place for solitude, peace and reflection mainly because it hasn’t been scarred by man’s constant efforts to destroy what is natural and beautiful. As it hasn’t changed all that much I can wander the hills and foreshore around here and cast myself back 1,000 years, to a time when people used the land with so much respect and sustainability. Anyway it sure beats walking round Clickimin or the back of the Staney Hill.