Field Studies Group – 20th April – Westing and Collaster, Unst

I thought it would be wonderfully instructive to go on some accompanied walks. I figured I would learn some new plant names and a lot more about the landscape if these walks were led by people who were more informed about the particular habitats and locations. However, I didn’t learn any flower names on this trip as this was predominantly a walk concentrating on old buildings, but it was however very interesting.

Leaving the mini-bus in Westing, there were plenty of old ruined croft houses to be seen, demonstrating the huge population decline of the late 1800’s. In 1861 the Westing population was 274 and Collaster 53, by 1918 – 1922 the Westing population was 180, with no-one left in Collaster. Now the population of Westing is about 17. We were making our way to the ‘homestead’ collection of houses at Collaster. This was a fascinating journey through time with many of the older Unst walkers and Bobby Hunter who was helping to fill in some historic details – ¬†reminiscing over the old crofting rituals that would have taken place as well as family connections to the individual crofts.

The house called Boul was the last to be occupied by the Johnson family in 1909 or 1911 (depending on which source is used). The houses are in a stunning landscape with the hill of Valla Field rearing up to the East and giving the homesteads below some protection from an Easterly wind. There is about a half mile corridor that extends to the cliffs and the sea, and we made our way along some of this cliff side on our return. We passed a burnt mound that perhaps indicates previous occupation by bronze or iron age people, and not so far away is the broch of Underhoull, so there is evidence of plenty of interest in the land of this strange outpost.

A lovely day with some fine folk.

© Copyright Diane Garrick