The Great St Ninian's Debate



The Editor
Shetland Times
Lerwick ZE1 0PX

7 June 2011

Dear Sir

Shetland Jazz Club brings a lot of top jazz musicians to the islands and many of them stay with me in Sandwick. One of the highlights of their stay here is a visit to St Ninian’s Isle with its beautiful sands and perfect picture-postcard views. Jim Mullen, in particular, was so struck by St Ninian’s that when he went back to London, to a gig at the Ronnie Scott Club, he spent all the night showing the other jazz players his pictures of the Isle, and sharing his delight of the place.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I took those nice chaps from the Nova Scotia Jazz Band to St Ninian’s for a Sunday afternoon treat, to find that the causeway had been taken over by large numbers of people on quad machines charging up and down the beautiful beach without a care for other visitors. The band was horrified, so we did not linger too long. It was impossible to admire the beauty of the place with the sound of whining high-pitched engines, the acrid smell of distasteful burnt fuel that lodges in the throat, the churning up of the wonderful beaches and the sight of these unseemly machines literally taking over one of Shetland’s natural beauty spots. As we left, more of these gross machines were arriving in twos and threes on trailers.

I was interested to read Janice Armstrong’s letter on the same subject in the Shetland Times of 27 May. She hit the nail right on the head. St Ninian’s is one of Shetland’s tourist attractions, one of the things people take away from their visit and tell others about. This is not the place to be taken over and destroyed by this kind of activity, which may have a place elsewhere but not in this natural beauty spot. Heaven knows how it is affecting the wildlife. Someone in the council, the tourist or the law enforcement agencies must have the authority to nip this in the bud, and should do so before one of the summer tourist attractions is wrecked. I have spoken to others who have been disturbed by this and it seems to happen most Sundays, the one day when the peace and tranquillity that St Ninian’s used to offer was most appreciated and is now most missed.

Sincerely,

Jeff Merrifield

 

 

The Editor
Shetland Times
Lerwick ZE1 0PX

It was a glorious day on Sunday 5th June and as I sat in my newly erected polytunnel, enclosed in the warmth and tended to my seedlings, enjoying the peace and quiet that only Shetland can really offer on a sunny day I was suddenly aware that all I really could hear was what sounded like giant mosquitos coming from St Ninians isle. The noise which was of a sufficiently high pitch where you could not blank it out and it went on all afternoon. It really was quite unpleasant and intrusive. This is about the third weekend it has happened and just makes you give up on even thinking about going down to the beach.

 Apart from the noise it makes me wonder what the owner of the land, which these killjoys are ripping up with their pointless polluting toys, really thinks how permitting this activity to take place on his property is going to benefit everyone, both locals and visitors? Apart from damaging the fragility of the dunes and pumping out completely unneccessary carbon emissions it is going make tourists, who come from far away, to see our lovely tombolo go away with a bitter taste in their mouth. Why bother coming all the way to see lovely and relatively unspoilt Shetland when it is quite obvious some of the inhabitants don't seem to care two hoots about their environment?

I am not being a complete nimby and realise that as there is no law of trespass here that these people can do as they well please. Fine if someone is using a quad bike for legitimate purposes but if these individuals feel they have to indulge in such an activity then could they please go and do it somewhere where it isn't going to cause grief? It is ruining a beautiful beach and poses a danger not only to the wild life and fragile ecology but also to people who want to go for a walk on the day of rest and relax. You can't do that if the area you are in resembles and sounds like Brands Hatch. I sincerely hope by the way that those individuals, and the property owner, have adequate insurance to cover themselves in the possibility of an 'event' occuring.....It makes me wonder if it is one rule for wind turbines and another for trail bikes?

Matthew Lawrence


The Editor
Shetland Times
Lerwick ZE1 0PX

I fully agree with Jeff Merrifield’s horror (Letters to the Editor, 7th June) when surrounded and affronted by noisy quad machines charging up and down St. Ninians Isle beach Tombolo.

The St Ninian’s tombolo is the largest geomorphologically active sand tombolo in Britain. The size (c. 500 m long) and almost perfect symmetry of the tombolo is unique. The tombolo, composed of a shelly sand overlying a shingle base, is part of a dynamic and complex nearshore sediment circulation system. Although tombolos are relatively common along submerged coasts such as the Shetland Isles, it is the exceptional scale, composition and dynamism of St Ninian’s tombolo that are of particular scientific interest. This interest is enhanced by the flanking windblown deposits of dunes and dune grassland. Conservation of this key site for coastal geomorphology is of the utmost importance; any disturbance of the sediment dynamics of the system may be critical to the tombolo’s long-term existence.

In 2007 the St Ninian’s Isle Tombolo won ‘Keep Scotland Beautiful Seaside Award’. Allowing vehicles onto this beautiful and unique beach is a travesty and makes a complete mockery of both this award and in maintaining our Tombolo as a place of great scientific interest. In addition, visitors to this major tourist attraction will be put off coming if these vehicles are allowed to continue their rampage.

Apart from passing a local by-law making it illegal for such vehicles access to the tombolo and by posting signs, in order to reinforce this by-law, it would be a simple task to install a large lockable gate and associated fencing that would only allow the local crofter and other authorised accesses to the beach. A smaller ‘kissing’ gate could also be installed to allow person access – but not large enough to allow quads or other unauthorised vehicle access.

I encourage folk to lobby their local councillor and the SIC to immediately instigate such measures so as to finally stop this intrusion on one of the most unique beauty spots in the UK.

Sincerely

Paul Meyer