City life can be rewarding, but I’ve always felt the regular need to get away, explore and let simple living remind me of what’s truly important in life. The excess baggage in the way of technology, media, social pressures is stripped away and the soul replenished. The Outer Hebrides is a place primed to make this happen. And so it was after a beautiful, sunny ferry trip past the various inner isles of Scotland that we landed at the tiny and remote island of Barra, at the southern most tip of the Outer Hebrides.
Barra is minute, barely three miles wide. But is blessed with rich resources and incredible landscape, from the heather covered mountainous south that overlooks a small harbour teeming with rare sea birds, to the open stretches of pure white sand in the north, which encourage in cocklepickers and wild campers.
Life is simple. But the work ethic is strong, and fully utilises the natural gifts that the island offers. Crofting communities share the land, and work together to provide a collective living. Our campsite sat on grazing land, so it wasn’t uncommon to be joined by the odd sheep or two for breakfast. The vast, sandy bay to the north operates as a cockle strand as well as an airstrip, where the flight schedule is governed by the tides. And cut off threads of land have been recovered using lobster pots to trap sand and create makeshift causeways..
We were accompanied on the trip by some handy products from Hatchet and Bear, a handmade utensils company from Frome, near our hometown of Bristol. Hatchet and Bear make these handcrafted utensils by combining traditional methods, simple hand tools and locally foraged wood. They belonged there on Barra.
We love their ethos of ‘Start where you are, do what you can and use what you have…’ which could have been designed by the residents of Barra. Everything is natural, built to last, rich in craftsmanship and above all, beautiful to look at. Campervan issues, which we won’t dwell on…(see, technology!) rammed home our craving for simplicity and functionality. Their hand carved bowls were an ideal accompaniment as we sat on the West Barra beaches for a barbecue. The pared woodwork not unlike the salt beaten, rock strata we were (surprisingly comfortably) perched in.
Start where you are, do what you can and use what you have…
Hopping from beach to beach around the tight lanes of the island, we assumed that the wildly gesticulating, friendly waves we received from residents were prompted by good road etiquette. It wasn’t until mixing with them as the days went on that it dawned on us; that’s just the way they do things round here. Everyone is content, happy, the quality of life not in question.
If you’d like a bit of that feeling why not try it yourself…
What you will need:
- A piece of wood
- A saw
- An axe
- A wood block
- er….some axe wielding skills…
Or… we suggest you keep an eye out as Hatchet and Bear will be running a spoon carving and utensil making workshop for small group of 7 beginners in 2014. It will be set in the woods (of course) with a delicious lunch. At the end everyone will leave with several utensils. Details are TBC but you heard it here first…
Don’t forget as you go about your day this week. Explore Anywhere.