South Mainland Notebook 31.07.09

Camping in Levenwick

“It wouldn’t be a holiday if we weren’t camping,” says Ken Chapman from Herefordshire as he puts up his tent. His wife is not so sure, given that for Ken the same statement also applies in the middle of winter! Visitors to Levenwick campsite are virtually unanimous, however, that in summer – especially when the sun is shining – this is a location that’s impossible to beat.

“It’s a great setting,” says Wayne Wiseman, who lives in Lerwick, but at every opportunity heads to Levenwick with his wife and three children, in order to enjoy the spectacular views, the beautiful community garden and the sandy beaches of South Mainland.

Gone are the days when camping meant soggy everything from socks to sausages. As well as showers and toilets there’s a laundry room, a kitchen and indoor, as well as outdoor, tables. Caravans have come on too. Bill and Sally-Ann Doherty, taking their first holiday in 30 years, end a day that begins with a swim in Spiggie Loch, with chilled wine and a movie, and if it gets cold they turn on the central heating.

The community campsite has been open for over 20 years and is run by volunteers. The funds it raises go into the upkeep of Levenwick hall. For the past four years visitor numbers have been consistently good, according to Pearl Sinclair, one of the wardens.

That’s a trend that looks set to continue. Although all those staying at the campsite said that its location was their primary consideration, most agreed that the financial advantages of camping are significant too. This appears to hold true for all of Scotland.

“People are holidaying at home in order to watch their pennies,” says Lindsey Mowat, a spokeswoman for Visit Scotland. “This summer Scottish caravan and campsites have seen a significant rise in occupancy compared with last year.”

But value for money aside, there is no doubting that the fun of camping is perennially popular with adults and children alike. “I would like to see more campsites like this one on Shetland, especially near to the coast,” says Wayne, as his bairns play in the open air and sit licking dripping ices on the steps of their caravan.

The campsite is open from the beginning of May until the end of September. Pick your own pitch on arrival. A warden will generally be in attendance between 7 and 8pm. Tents are charged £6 to £8 per night. Camper vans and caravans are charged £10 per night, plus an additional £2 per night for mains power.

The campsite is in need of volunteers to help maintain it. If you are interested call (01950) 422320.

Over 60s get-together

The new WRVS South Mainland Club for the over 60s will meet on Tuesday from 2-4pm at Levenwick hall for chat, refreshments and entertainment. For further information or if you need transport in order to attend call (01595) 743915 or email

Sumburgh’s war

World War II brought thousands of military personnel to Below da Hill – an influx that would change the area beyond recognition – yet Sumburgh Head’s importance during the war years is often overlooked.

Radar had been developed in 1930 by Robert Watson-Watt, and one of the first radar stations was the one at Sumburgh Head. It came into commission in 1939 and was used to detect the presence of enemy aircraft. Just before the outbreak of war a German spying mission noted the construction being erected, but probably because of its small size failed to realise that it housed a detector system.

As a result Sumburgh was able to avert disaster in 1940, when it gave advance warning of a massive air raid on Scapa Flow in Orkney, and saved the fleet which was moored there from destruction. To this day you can still see the control rooms for the radar receiver and transmitter, and the supports for the antennae, which retain some of the original timber.

On Saturday 8th August Chris Dyer, assistant archaeologist for Shetland Amenity Trust, will be telling the story of Sumburgh at war. The talks are free and take place at 12pm and 3pm at Sumburgh Head.

Light fantastic

A whole range of ages came to Cunningsburgh hall on Saturday to make their own contribution to the illuminations that will light up a site in South Mainland later this year, and thereafter Mareel, the new arts centre.

At the start of the session artists Nayan Kulkarni and Roxane Permar issued everyone with video cameras, and then it was just a question of letting your imagination run riot.

“You quickly learn the potential of what you film,” said participant Neil Georgeson, who experimented with shots of squares of coloured paper. “I like the idea of taking one thing and turning it into something else.”

Their videos completed, Roxane showed people how they could use computers to play with the brightness, contrast and colours. “We’re looking for the shades of Shetland,” said Nayan. “The sense of the Northern Lights, the Mirrie Dancers, which give their name to this project.” Everybody was free to interpret this in their own way and to approach the project at their own level. While some were eager to understand the technical aspects, others just plain old enjoyed making visual mud pies.

Once their creations were finished folk had the thrill of watching Nayan transform them into light. And with 16.5 million colours possible, it’s hardly surprising that the results included a massive spectrum of hues, from shocking pink to egg-yolk yellow, electric blue and emerald green.

“Each work is unique,” said Nayan. “You couldn’t possibly duplicate it. And when projected onto a building or landscape it will also be affected by their textures. We’re making a musical score of lights to shine through the Shetland winter.”

Successful gigs

Niall Cruickshank and Alan Jamieson’s recent South Mainland concerts, and the sales of their keepsake CD, have raised in the region of £700 for the Shetland charity Mind Your Head.

Cathy Feeny


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