Copyright © Alice Starmore
Observations from the  moorland

My career for over thirty years has been that of a textile artist, author and photographer. In response to the proposed destruction of my island home by a number of massive wind factories, I determined to highlight the moor as a place of natural beauty and wonder, through my MAMBA exhibition and also through a book. In the preparation of these projects, I have spent intensive periods out on the moor over the past couple of years. As well as undertaking lengthy hikes, I focused on four areas that I know intimately, and which are quickly and conveniently reached. I wanted to observe and photograph these specific areas as they changed with the seasons.

The Locations

The first location I chose was the gearraidh (pasture) where I spent my childhood summers and where every hummock and hollow has significance to me. Located by a lochside roughly four miles south of the town of Stornoway, the gearraidh is a five minute walk from the road through a small network of bog pools. We always knew the loch as – meaning oar, which it resembles in shape. I knew of old where the damsels and dragonflies lived. Indeed, I vividly remember the moment I learned that cats can swim, when my white cat plunged headlong into the loch in hot pursuit of common blue and large red damsels as they hooped in mating pairs across the water. I hoped to be more subtle in my pursuit and perhaps have a chance to get up close and snap them in action.

The second location I chose was where I lived for ten years at a time when peat was a common domestic fuel and when peatcutting was an equally common island skill. A favourite area of mine is around my old peatbanks on the edge of Loch Achmore, and the bog pools just behind them. The views there are wonderful and there is always a chance of spotting red grouse, snipe, golden plover, and dunlin as they move through the grasses and heather in perfect camouflage – not to mention the possibility of dramatic overhead appearances by golden and sea eagles.

The third location is on the north-east coast of Lewis, close to the village of Gress where I now live. It is a with drier heath vegetation and allts (burns) which run in deep fissures in the Lewisian Gneiss to the sea. These higher, drier slopes are breeding grounds for great and arctic skuas, and the loch which is perched on the cliff top plays host to a breeding pair of red-throated divers.

The fourth location is even closer to home as it is my garden and . I live at the confluence of four distinct habitats: moorland, sandy beach, machair and sea. A burn – – runs through both garden and croft and I do not have to step far if I want to see odonata.



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