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This report is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

Letter from Shetland Mark Ryan Smith
The Artist and the Wilderness

The loch of Petta Water, halfway along the Lang Kames, is right in the centre of the Shetland landscape. The loch is surrounded by the dark browns and blacks of peat moor. The only human construction within sight of it is the north-south A970 road. This is a landscape (road aside) which looks much the same to somebody today as it did to Neolithic people thousands of years ago. When you stand at a place like Petta Water, you can imagine the immense sweep of time slowly revolving around you, like one of Yeats’s gyres, and, all of a sudden, you find you have become a tiny, fragile human body in an ancient and strange place. The land undulates away on every side. You are in one of the few places in Shetland where the ocean cannot be seen. Because of the lack of coastal border you forget you are on a small island and find yourself swallowed up by the land, by the moor which has come into being during the slow movement of many centuries. It is in this place that a company called Viking Energy plans to erect 150 wind turbines, each measuring 145 metres, in order to generate and export power hundreds of miles south to central Scotland.

Thousands of years ago Shetland was adorned with trees. Perhaps there were streams meandering and bubbling through glades and groves, with birds twittering and creatures making homes in the branches. ...


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