Two and a half months into the season here and still the sun continues to shine on us. It’s even driven some of us to do daft things like go swimming in the sea – Baywatch comes to St. Kilda, I think you’ll all agree!
The lack of rain has resulted in a critical water shortage, with the spring that supplies all the water actually drying up completely. This has meant the Trust and the Base (run by Qinetiq) having to make some big decisions about how many personnel can be supported on the island. The Base staff is being reduced to a minimum and we have, unfortunately, had to cancel the third Work Party.
Water restrictions are in place: Normally cubic metres are used every day. We’ve now got it down to about 2, without having to impose a total shower ban. ‘Drink beer, not water’ is the cry.
Could part of the reason for the springs running dry be a lack of peat? This acts as a natural sponge, releasing water slowly from the catchment, rather than it running off the land quickly and been wasted. The islander’s use of peat as a fuel heavily impacted on the supply, especially after the ‘new’ houses were built in the early 1860’s. These had two open fires and chimneys so far more fuel was used than in the previous dwellings, the Blackhouses.
We’re currently hosting the second of the NTS Work Parties this season, and what a great asset to the island they are. All sorts of tasks are being tackled including essential maintenance work to the fabric of the buildings; sorting out the drainage problems round the Factor’s House and Kirk, and repairing some of the cleits and collapses in the drystone dykes. The third WP will be sorely missed.
On a lighter note, there was a flurry of excitement a few weeks ago when two types of slug were seen on the island in one day! I had read that there were no gastropods on St. Kilda so we wondered if some had slipped in, hidden in a lettuce!
Some delving into scientific papers revealed that seven species of slug have been found here (one being the ‘tree slug’!). No stone will be left unturned in our efforts to find more, but I’m wondering if I need Historic Scotland’s approval before launching into doing this?!
Here’s a picture of one of the beauties we found anyway-