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Wick: the Venice of the north - surely not!
by Patrick Vickery
by Patrick Vickery

email: Aldieburnplants@aol.com

Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands and runs a small hardy perennial nursery (part-time). Patrick is also a part-time garden writer, and part-time special needs teacher.

Married to Liz, they have three children, two goats, two dogs, an assortment of small animals, and lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick gardens using a raised bed system and all, of course, chemically free - a chemical free zone!
Visit his blog
His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK:-
"In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)

Also visit his website at www.patrickvickery.com


September 10, 2012

THE last time we visited Wick was 20 years ago. We went to a rabbit show in the town hall. Perhaps you were there? The kids were small and the notion of a rabbit show in Wick was most exciting.

We returned to Wick recently for the Bfest at the Riverside. No kids with us this time and no rabbits hopping – just ourselves, a middle-aged and slightly rumpled/crumpled couple in a white van, although we witnessed much rabbit-like hopping to the sounds of the Imagineers, Kasabian and the Proclaimers over the weekend.

We might have sung: “we’re on our way, we’re on our way to Wick, ah ha, ah ha, ah ha...” as we drove north though in reality we were more interested in contemplating the scenery in solitude rather than singing tunes out of tune. There would be plenty of time for that sort of malarkey later. That’s what being middle-aged and rumpled/crumpled does for you.

The sun shone on Caithness (and possibly on Leith), the stage was set for a wonderful Wick experience and we were not to be disappointed.

We didn’t walk 500 miles to get there but instead drove leisurely from Tain with a scheduled stop at the Laidhay Croft Museum and Tearoom where my request for a mocha proved to be beyond the bounds of possibility. The soup, however, was excellent. Well done, chef. I would walk 500 miles for your leek and potato!

Wick was bathed in glorious sunshine when we arrived. We parked the van near the Norseman Hotel and set off on foot to explore the town.

To be honest, exploration was not the primary motivation behind this foray into the heart of Wick but more the notion that somebody might be selling vegetarian food. We anticipated that the provision for vegetarian foodies at the Bfest might not be a priority. And we were correct. Although to be fair, the RNLI were selling a few cheese rolls, so well done to them. They also dispensed jovial banter and warming smiles to all within earshot.

Our foray into town produced some memorable moments. We had a brief meander through Pulteneytown (steeped in herring and history), sought out Ebenezer Place (shortest street in the world), fended off an evangelical fanatic on the High Street (not easy) and then popped into DR Simpsons bookshop and cafe (a rare jewel in the crown of the town) for a mocha and a panini.

The festival venue lived up to expectations as a pleasant park beside the river. No infringement of the trades description act there. The festival was a small one and the audience spanned all ages. The music was high calibre and the atmosphere friendly.

Earlier this year, we spent a week in Venice where I was enchanted by the culture and peculiar ways of the city. And, to be honest, I felt much the same about Wick.

The home of the Bfest is a place of captivating and eccentric ways that undoubtedly demands further investigation.

Beyond the grey stone buildings lurks a vibrant, intriguing and intensely fascinating place. Could this be the Venice of the north, perhaps? It’s possible. We shall return for more of the same next year. Arrivederci.

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