Dylan Winter reports:
Shetland - an archipelago of 100 islands so far North of Scotland that on most maps of the British Isles it has been boxed off and dragged 100 miles closer to the mainland.
Until I went there for Open Country I regarded it as a land of sheep, wind, deep sea fishing boats, a giant oil terminal and no trees. I now know that there is a lot more to it than that.
I had always wanted to go to Shetland but given the choice I might have picked a month other than December when the winter storms sweep the North Atlantic and the daily ration of daylight falls to around five hours.
The reason for going was that the two main sources of income for the inhabitants of Britain's most northerly outpost - fishing and oil - are both in trouble. I wanted to find out how the islands and their inhabitants were weathering the financial storm.
In the event our timing was spot on - while we were there the oil terminal at Sullum Voe announced that it was to cut its work force in half - down from 1000 to around 500 - a devastating blow for community with a mere 23,000 souls. The same week the European Commission announced yet another round of cuts in fishing quotas.
I expected to have a rather depressing time - but Shetland is such a beautiful place, the weather was bracing but much nicer than I had any right to expect and the people were utterly charming.
Back in the late 70s the local council managed to get an extremely good deal out of the oil companies for granting permission to build Britain's largest oil terminal on the main Island. The money has been well spent. The schools are some of the best in the country, the roads are perfect and almost every village has a recreation and sports centre.
But as I learned, talking to native Shetlanders like crofters, Mary and Tommy Isbister and incomers like children's author Gillian Fox, there are growing concerns about how the island, particularly the younger generation, will cope when the oil money runs out.
But the Shetlanders are resourceful people - they now have a burgeoning software industry and instead of hunting fish on the open seas they have started farming them in the hundreds of miles of inlets (or voes in the local parlance). Salmon, halibut and mussels have all been brought into aquaculture and more species will follow soon.
View more of Dylan Winter's pictures>>
View pictures of Dylan Winter's trawler trip>>
Shetland: Part Two>>
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