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Autumn at Happy Valley

Orkney isn't famed for its woodland, so it can be hard to discover those 'New England' autumnal colours in the county.

But there is a tiny patch of trees to be found nestled away amongst the rolling hills of the West Mainland, a much-loved spot that has a special place in the hearts of generations of Orcadians.

Happy Valley, a mile or two away from the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, appears almost alien-like in the local landscape, a sudden explosion of woodland next to fields of grass and heather.

It’s a place of incredible character, from its drystone walls to the burn that flows gently through it. There are stone seats and bridges, small trails twisting and turning around the trees, and the beautiful old cottage of Bankburn at the heart of it all.

Happy Valley is the result of a lifetime of care, attention and no shortage of hard work by Edwin Harrold. He lived at Bankburn and transformed this small stretch of land into something quite stunning.

Edwin planted ash trees, oaks and sycamores. He looked after bluebells, bushes and flower beds. And he encouraged local folk to visit and spend time somewhere really rather unique for Orkney.

In the autumn months, Happy Valley is alive with colour. The burn, brown from the peat high in the surrounding hills, gurgles and gushes beneath the bridges. The leaves are yellow and orange and red, showcasing the last of their lives before winter advances.

Since Edwin’s death in 2006, Happy Valley has been cared for and maintained by volunteers. The Friends of Happy Valley have done him proud, looking after this special spot for many more autumns to come.

All images by Fionn McArthur.

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