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Sunset at Mangaster Voe © Ingrid Williamson
Mavis Grind, gateway to Northmavine, as it is now - what will it be like in the future...? © Pat Christie
Sullom is the first area in Northmavine to be reached after crossing the boundary from Delting. The postal district of Sullom begins just north of the isthmus at Mavis Grind, where the North Sea almost meets the Atlantic Ocean, and continues north to include all areas as far as Olnesfirth, almost at the top of the Clave at Urafirth.
Examples of Neolithic houses at Mavis Grind and Mangaster show that man has made the Sullom area his home for over four thousand years. Will our houses of the 21st century still be evident to our ancestors in four thousand years time? Sullom is also home to a wide range of birdlife, taking advantage of the plantation of trees set by Peter O Clothister in the early 50s. In more recent years the Shetland Amenity Trust have added ‘wings’ to each side of the plantation.
Sullom plantation © Fiona Cope
Sullom © Maree Hay
The 1950s were an industrious time for Sullom. As the Sullom folk were planting the ground, the Canadians were extracting from it. 1954 saw the opening of the Sullom Mine by a Canadian company to extract magnetite (iron oxide) ore from a seam found at Clothister Hill 20 years previously. The operation used the ore to clean coal and lasted until 1957. Today the magnetite mine is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Rusty red water in some of the drains and ditches give a constant reminder of the iron content of Clothister Hill.
Thawing of the glacier after the last Ice Age has left many lochs in the area that have become an ideal nesting ground for a variety of birds. The red throated diver (Shetland name – raingoose), swan and grey heron (Shetland name – hegri) to name but a few, can be seen in several of the lochs in and around Sullom. On a boannie night da greater spotted fisherman can also be seen trying to catch the elusive troot! – Lunnister, Mangaster and Hamar are amongst popular areas for loch fishing.
Looking towards Sullom Voe Terminal
Sullom - the old and the new © Fiona Cope
Wild, unspoilt scenery is plentiful in the area. Coastal walks at Mavis Grind and Nibon guarantee stunning land and seascapes and prove popular with folk ‘oot for a Sunday run’. The hamlet of Sullom Voe is listed as a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) for the rich faunal community, including horse mussels and sea cucumbers, inhabiting the large shallow inlets and bays.
Decades before oil tankers entered Sullom Voe, the waters were ploughed by ‘flying boats’ such as Catalinas and Sunderlands using the voe as an aquatic airstrip during the World War II. Sullom saw the landing of the first bomb dropped in WWII, luckily the only casualty was a solitary rabbit. This event was said to have inspired the well-known Noel Gay song, ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’.
The popularisation of the car, and the increase of folk’s ability to travel, has meant the demise of the school, shop and post office in Sullom. Although these services have been a loss, community spirit continues to thrive. Revival of the ‘Sullom picnic’ draws folk fae aa da earts and the community hall plays host to various local events during the year.
Sullom wind turbine © Maree Hay
Sullom Hall has recently benefited from the addition of a 6 Kw wind turbine, providing energy for storage heaters to heat the building. The project is part of the Wind2Heat scheme run by Highlands & Islands Community Energy Company (HICEC).
Crofting is still important to the way of life. Crop growing has diversified with the reintroduction of bere alongside the modern crops of sileage. New houses are being built in the area and Santa has a busier job each year at the Christmas treat with the arrival of babies to increase the population. Sullom is a community with a future that still holds onto some of the values of its past.
Photos of Sullom Picnic © Gordon Stove