Monday, 13 October 2014

Big Skies, Big Tides, Big Dreams on Scilly.

Anything is possible on Scilly.  You simply detach yourself from everything in life that is unjust, unkind, unfair or irritating and focus. Focus on the big glorious skies, soak up the beauty of the big tides and allow yourself to dream.  Dream big and bold.  Do this for yourself because no-one else can do it for you.

Have you ever walked on the ocean floor ? It's the most peculiar surreal feeling knowing that hours before and hours after you have made an imprint with your footsteps the waves will wash away any evidence of you.

St Martins is well known for it's unique flats, the vast stretches of sand that link the islands together at the Spring tides/big tides and expose the hundreds of rock formations. Sometimes it is possible to walk between St Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and the Eastern Isles. The sands take on a lunar like quality and its an eerie feeling, I felt quite 'displaced'. The lovely local boatman started to gently chide us for gazing too long at tempting shells, tantalising strands of seaweed, the obsession to take copious photographs.  I wasn't going to linger once I was told the tide was on the turn.

It was one of those magical days where pictures and words would never be adequate. You just looked about you and counted your blessings, felt glad to be alive, privileged to be there and slightly sad that time tumbles on quite so quickly.

And that after every hello comes the inevitable goodbye.  Just as after every sunrise comes a sunset.

Big skies, big tides, big dreams.

Sally on Scilly.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Bird Watching and Butterflies on St Martins

Lets get one thing straight.  I have never been on a Bird watching or Butterfly spotting walk in my life. There are large groups of earnest looking people walking about with all the 'kit'. Huge telescopes in waterproof covers, waterproof trousers, sun, wind, rain hats, all in subdued tones and all completely absorbed in this fascinating past time.

I am the lucky one.  Firstly the day is glorious, the sun shines on the righteous and so forth.... and secondly I have my very own highly informative and experienced bird watcher.  And for the ignorant, beginners amongst us there is a vast difference between a 'bird watcher' and a 'twitcher'.  I was with a bird watcher, that is someone who stands, looks and listens.  You can work out the twitcher for yourselves because you have to be very careful not to offend anyone.

Within five minutes my guide was beside himself with excitement, 'look at that Peacock with it's wings half closed he exclaims 'with a Small Copper sitting on it's back, I've never seen that in my whole life'. 'Did you get a picture' ? he looks ecstatic. 'No I bloody didn't' I say, 'I've got sodding binoculars strangling me, a rucksack, a warm waterproof wrapped round my waist, sunglasses on my head and the camera lens to fiddle with' 'Shame' he says, 'would've been hugely rare. Let's not forget I had a notepad and pen also clenched between my teeth. I didn't stand a chance so I got a half baked picture of a butterfly wing and withered blackberries. 

My guide is busy scanning every small field, looking over all gates and listening carefully. I thought I had walked over most of the island but how wrong I was, secret paths between the high ferns spotting those elusive butterflies sunning themselves on the granite rocks warmed in the sun. 'There's a Yellow Browed Warbler from Asia' look at it's distinctive markings'.  I finally 'got it', it could become addictive....

Because we have the Spring Tides at the moment which occur when the sun and moon are directly in line with the earth and their gravitational pulls reinforce each other when the tide goes out, the low sand banks and distinctive groups of rocks between the islands can be clearly seen.  This in turn gives the sea those stunning hues but I must not be diverted by the sheer natural beauty of the islands this morning.

I stop and say 'good morning' to this young chap, he's puckering up for a kiss in the sun but I'm having none of it. 

I realise that I am utterly thrilled by my morning and promise myself another outing very soon.  Each day Viv records what he sees, going on a tour with him is riveting, even to a complete ignoramus like myself.  For the record this is what we saw in a couple of hours

Butterflies:  Peacock, small copper, red admiral, specklewood, clouded yellow (from Spain)

Birds: Yellow browed warbler (from Asia) Artic Tern, Pie Fly Catcher, Siberian Chiff Chaff, Oyster Catcher. 

The world is right here at my feet.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Seaweed and storms on Scilly

It will be a day for seaweed and storms today.  From where I am sitting I have an uninterrupted view of the harbour on St Marys, it is a deep grey over Tresco, the Eastern Isles beyond lie low in the mist.  I can see the storm closing in on us.  One moment the sea had an eerie green glow, now it is cold, grey and harsh.

It's a day for securing a cosy corner in any of the islands pubs or restaurants and hunkering down with one of the locals perhaps.  It's very easy to lose track of time here once you get chatting. There are some rather luscious shops and galleries to browse, not forgetting the wonderful Museum in which to marvel at treasures of times gone by.

However some days it pays to be practical, remember there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. For a trip to Scilly it's 'de-riguer' to have a waterproof (such a better word than anorak), a rucksack and sensible shoes. Armed with these essentials you will be fully equipped to embrace everyday fully whatever the weather might try and throw at you.

Because I had been uncharacteristically sensible and packed rolled up waterproof trousers (yes you read that right) the sun bestowed us with glorious rays and the wind huffed and puffed this way and that and produced some rather 'choppy' looking waves which rolled relentlessly in. If you want full disclosure I had a flask of Cadbury's Hot Chocolate drink, Cornish Gingerbread Biscuits and an 'emergency' stash of home made fudge from St Martins.

On the way to my chosen walk  I made a slight detour to the Atlantic Hotel which boasts the best views of St Marys Harbour and got chatting to a Scillonian who is married to an Islander, it pays to know the difference...

I said that I would be walking to Peninnis Head and he told me the story of Vic who used to drive the island bus, circa 1960's/70's.  Legend has it that Vic would take his trumpet up to Peninnis Head and blow it when the weather was bad so that the skipper of the Scillonian would hear it and thus avoid the lethal rocks. 'It didn't work one time' he said. 

Once I had been blown and buffeted and my hair had acquired the 'Scilly style' I dropped in at the peaceful and civilised St Marys Hall Hotel and found myself a sunny little nook on one of their plush sofa's. Built by an Italian nobleman for his Scillonian bride in 1938 it's a fabulous refurbished townhouse exuding warmth and charm.

I met lot's of fascinating people, listened to heaps of wonderful 'tit-bits' and arranged a 'jolly' for later on.  Whilst I nibbled on the remains of my fudge I reflected that Scilly still retained its simple, irresistible and uncluttered charm.

Which is why I am still here peering into and looking out of all sorts of different windows. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Drifting with the clouds, sitting with the stones.... on Scilly

Difficult not to feel on top of the world here.  Surrounded on all sides by the sea and gigantic expansive skies which are ever changing. It has finally dawned on me that my life needs more sky, sea and stones, and where better to find it than Scilly ? Simple then.

A trip to St Agnes had us mesmerised by the stones. Some in groups, some standing staunchly alone and some looking decidedly wobbly. They reminded me of life and people because every creation would have had a story behind it and been constructed with loved ones in mind, people gone but not forgotten perhaps.  Well that's what I like to think anyway.

Once we had torn ourselves away from the stones we turned our attention to the waves, the sea sucking in its breath deeply and exhaling with force as we battled to hold our cameras steady. If I had put a five pound note into my bank account every time I had uttered 'this is heaven on earth' I would be a millionairess, oh I forgot, I am one.....

I'm ravenous by this time, all this excitement in the form of bracing air, weird rock formations and an excitable sea, so we whizz into the St Agnes post office.  I say 'whizz' but in reality the choice is so tempting in there and so the process takes longer than planned, Must not forget I am on 'Scilly time'...

We stagger with our edible goodies, the tide is just receding on the sandbar between St Agnes and Gugh, if you haven't been there and crossed a virgin sand unsullied by human feet then put it on your 'bucket list'. One word, exhilarating. Sea just happened to be like crystal cut glass glistening on the purest of linen.

Sea, sun and sand.  Oh, and a new passion of mine, seaweed. Totally hooked on seaweed now.

We'll do the seaweed another time though , too much of a good thing is bad for your health. Everything in moderation.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Slow Scilly

The nights are drawing in, tonight the sand shone like pure liquid gold, the daylight shimmer dimmed as Autumn creeps slowly upon us snatching the leaves greedily from the trees and putting the curling ferns to sleep.

Everyday is different, the light of the sunrise, the diminishing shadows cast by the sunset. This is an artists paradise, inspiration surrounds you,  the raw beauty of these islands will leave you in awe.

I head off towards the post office, it's ten minutes away but I allow an hour. The farmer is ploughing his field, his red tractor emitting a low rhythmic hum, the curved bay of Lawrence's stretching gently as the receding tide exposes thousands of tiny exquisite shells, the outline of Tresco's exotic trees in the hazy distance. On the top of the freshly turned gritty earth potatoes appear like nuggets of gold. We discuss the variety and the methods of fertilisation of the soil once the harvest is complete. Apparently the seaweed from Great Bay is the best for nourishing the ground.

I trail behind and thrust my hands into the warm sandy soil pulling out potatoes and listening to the family history. 'Do you ever want to leave the island'? I ask, he gives me an odd look so I ask them if they have the Internet. There is a low guffaw and so I guide the subject quickly back to migratory birds and the wide variety that will drop by the islands this month making it a haven for enthusiasts.  I quickly put myself forward for a bird tour realising how ignorant I am and before I know it I am late for the post office.

Once there I comment on the increasing swell and the large waves of the Atlantic pounding the island at one end although there is not a breath of air inland and it is very warm. 'That's a ground sea' the post lady says, seeing my puzzled look she explains 'a prelude to the storm coming in'.

As each day passes I become more enriched.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Stuck on Scilly, 1st October.

Someone has whispered that it's the 1st October but I could be excused for feeling confused and then I remember, I'm 'stuck on Scilly' in the middle of an Indian summer....

Not that it is all searing blue skies, dazzling clear waters that seduce in hues of blues and gentle greens, oh no, there are mists and rain too but they neither dampen my spirits or wash away the magic.

And the longer I stay here the worse it gets. The drug begins to get a grip but it seems everyone I talk to who is lucky enough to be visiting has the same affliction.  The only way you can feed the addiction is to come back as regularly as you can and peruse the Internet for images and talk to like minded people for a quick 'fix'. So it's at this point I would like to say 'thank you' to people who have written with kind words and who I know derive enjoyment from this blog....

Sally, you neatly sum up why we return year after year!

It's people and places that make the world a better place, not possessions. People's stories, sometimes uplifting, occasionally deeply sad as to why they are here, what brings them back and why they are bound by that invisible thread to the islands.

Last night I walked to the top of the garden.  A deep yellow custard coloured moon hung low in the sky, clusters of bright stars and the seemingly endless Milky Way watched over me.  The only thing I could hear were the waves of the high tide pounding the beaches but other than that the sound was deafening.

I'm usually an avid reader but I can't pick up a book and concentrate, there is too much to see, so much to do and some days it's impossible to absorb it all. Read into that what you will !!

Oh, and people to talk to....

'Stuck on Scilly' in so many ways.

Monday, 29 September 2014

St.Martins, Isles of Scilly, on a Sunday afternoon.

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface here, all I have done is cycled and walked over the island of St.Martins taken a few 'snaps' and exchanged pleasantries with people.

St Martin's (Cornish)  Brechiek, meaning "dappled island") is the northernmost populated island of the Isles of Scilly, England. It has an area of 237 hectares (0.92 sq mi). I love a few facts don't you ?

I decide it is time to investigate the distinctive Daymark on the eastern tip of the island. I have viewed it from afar through the early morning mists, gazed over at it in the deep golden glow of a stunning sunset and studied it through driving rain and glorious sunshine.

Red stripes were added to the Daymark in 1830 as a young West African (who has a memorial stone in the churchyard) had his boat, the Hope,  thrown against the lethal rocks and wrecked on St.Martins Head after mistaking it for the white daymark of St.Agnes lighthouse.

More impossibly soft sandy paths surrounded by bracken lead me to the summit. Pedigree Red Ruby Devon cows munch silently. Valentina, May, Poppy and Daisy apparently. I make a little light conversation with them and bade them farewell.

Before I reach the Daymark the clouds obscure the sun and I give an involuntary shudder and pop on my warm fleece even though it is not cold. It's a strange feeling being surrounded by the sea, one side is misty and mysterious and the other is clear and startling in its clarity. I take a seat down on the springy slightly prickly heather and watch as the waves pound a rock relentlessly sending up that totally hypnotic 'whooshing of spray'.  I observe entranced.

The Isles of Scilly is more than a group of breathtakingly beautiful islands, it is a place where people leave a fragment of their hearts and return time and time again. It is the spiritual home of so many, a private place they can escape and seek solice in an ever increasing violent and bewildering world. You can shelter here and rest awhile before you continue your journey.

It is a place where you can stand still and take stock.(or cycle)


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