Friday 31 December 2010

D's three favourite islands of 2010

1. Harris
For the stunning journey from Berneray to
Tarbert that begins with the slaloming ferry to Leverburgh, followed by the winding coastal road along sandy beaches, before rising up and over the strange, blunted mountains.

2. Shiant Isles
What began as a compromise after missing out on St Kilda, became one of our best island trips. The sun shone, puffins bobbed and sea cliffs reared. As we returned to the boat for coffee and cake before departing, a white-tailed eagle glided above us.

3. St Mary's

We had our doubts (cost, scarcity of accommodation, smugness) but we were wrong. We found what everyone else finds: a beachy paradise of warm air and cold, clear water. Despite the chill, it was the perfect place for our first snorkelling experience.

Monday 25 October 2010

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 14 - St Mary's to Penzance

Scillonian III docked at Penzance
Scillonian III docked at Penzance

Clean and tidy the flat, ready for departure — leave bags for pick up by the gate — bus to Hugh Town — a dull day waiting — queue for boarding passes in the Harbour Master's Office — rocking Scillonian home — hood up, reading on deck as the sun sets — three porpoises round off the trip

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 13 - Bryher

Hell Bay, Bryher

Choppy sea, rocking boat, leaves T waving from the quay — solo mission to Bryher — rapid climb up Samson Hill — dramatic Rushy Bay with its string of rocky islets — round stones stacked on wooden posts along Great Popplestone — wave battered coast, turf peeled back like grazed skin — remote, blustery Shipman Head — Hangman Island — roadside produce store guarded by a cat — early trip back on the Sea King — join T scribbling notes at the museum — stuffed birds and ancient finds — visit the brilliant Rat Bags: makers of all things involving sail cloth — first time snorkelling at Pelistry Bay

Monday 13 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 12 - Eastern Isles

starting the inflatable boat to Nornour
dinghy to Nornour, Isles of Scilly

Hugh Town via Holy Vale nature trail — board the Blue Hunter for a trip to the Eastern Isles with historian Katherine — patched-up rubber dinghy landing on Nornour — diminishing prehistoric settlement — breaking of a hundred cobwebs to ascend Great Ganilly — dinghy to Little Arthur — crossing the stone strand to Great Arthur — cairns and Iron Age pottery

Sunday 12 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 11 - St Mary's

cream teas and swing bands on St Mary's

Slow start, missed bus — coffee at the quay from The Pilchard Pit — Heike, the famous vet, sells calenders from a stall — sunny, clear views over to The Western Rocks — amble around the walls once again — slow walk home — quick change and down to Pelistry Bay — T dons the wetsuit, I struggle in without — spurred on by a pensioner and her dog who make it look easy — kelp forests and fish — a revelation — shivery exit, warming walk home

Saturday 11 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 10 - St Martin's

floating in Great Bay, St Martin's

Early bus to the quay — return to St Martin's, docking at Higher Town — Little Arthur's is closed — pass the Dr Seuss Day Mark — over Burnt Hill to St Martin's Bay — wetsuit swim in the turquoise water — weary walk along St Martin's Flats — hedge defended campsite — shaven-headed skipper of the Guiding Star talks non-stop into his mobile phone — amusing fish and chip 'raffle' from the van at Hugh Town — another swim for T — ladies gig race — night walk home

Friday 10 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 9 - Tresco

Kettle Point Tresco
Kettle Point, Tresco

Gloomy day — meet our neighbour and her dog Kai as we wait for the rickety bus — miserable bus driver, even here — his cardboard sign reads: "I despise 1ps, 2ps, 10ps and 20ps with a passion bordering on obsession" — boat to Tresco — submerged field walls revealed at low tide — stroll the long dunes of Pentle Bay — an amateur sound recordist sits on a bench — water colour islets in a gauzy sky — the ruined Old Blockhouse overlooking Old Grimsby — take advantage of the extreme low tide and walk with shoes off to Bryher — just enough time for a sandwich before walking back as the tide surges in — the final participants of the inter island walk follow —  scale Plumb Island, covered in a hottentot fig hat — fancy pants Tresco Stores — explore Cromwell's Castle — round the rocky northern coast to Old Grimsby

Thursday 9 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 8 - St Marys

palm tree, blue sky, St Mary's

Packed up and expelled from paradise — bags left for pick-up — look round the excellent Phoenix Craft Workshops — great prints, stained glass, paintings and jewellery — trudge across the island to T & I's next stop: The Moos — a circuit around Toll's Island — cider and crab sandwiches at Juliet's Garden — more Troy Town ice cream — wave the family off — night walk to Porth Hellick — "Please do not ride horses over this scheduled ancient monument" — up into the early hours working on a feature for B+W Photography

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 7 - St Martin's

St Martins Bay
St Martin's Bay

En masse sailing to St Martin's on the Surprise — expert boat handling in the shallows — low tide dock at Lower Town — morning coffee at the hotel beneath a Polynesian thatched umbrella — stroll around Tinkler's Hill, gazing at the smaller islands — seals sunbathe on Great Merrick Ledge — stone and seaweed crossing to White Island — sea beet and camomile — a spine of micro mountains — probably the finest British beach yet: St Martin's Bay (see above) — a sea holly bouquet for sale at the roadside — freshly decanted brown lemonade from The Bakery — hot pilgrimage to Little Arthur cafe — cosy, trellised booths — superb wholewheat pasty and scone on blue patterned china — sandy track to English Island Point — Eastern Isles stud the blue water — Day Mark just out of reach — high tide pick up from Higher Town — farewell meal at The Boatshed — unmissable duo of chocolate mousses

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 6 - St Agnes

the view from Gugh to St Agnes

Arrive at the crammed quay too late for the overflowing 10:15, so catch the second boat to St Agnes — big swells in the sun — exquisite jetty position — tide out, cross the sandy bar to Gugh — ancient cairns among the heather and bracken — sweaty dash to meet the others back on St Agnes — ankle testing quest to Burnt Island — deserting tide observer — stunning spot for camping at Troy Town — banana, Bailey's & cinnamon: ice cream doesn't get better than this — ridiculous, oversized, film-set boulder formations — horizon gazing at Wingletang Bay — a quick scoot through Middle Town — new build houses! — two lads in wetsuits acrobatically entertain the waiting crowds at the jetty — L & J put on a serious BBQ

Monday 6 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 5 - Old Town, St Marys

stacked stones at Carn Leh Cove, Old Town, St Mary's

Cloudy start — walk to Old Town — ordered allotments slide down to the coastal edge, trimmed by tall hedges, silvery in the light — balanced stones on Carn Leh Cove — sandy stretch and concrete sea defence of Old Town — sweet Old Church with acres of graves — steamy windows in the cafe — on a rocky promontory, plane after plane flies in over our heads to land at the airport — feet in the water at deeply recessed Porth Hellick — Pelistry Bay hemmed in by ferns and lines of cedar — a tongue of sand pokes out to met Toll Island — a fishing net hammock laces a tree — circuit complete, cut back through the island — duck ponds and locally grown produce

Sunday 5 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 4 - Samson

ruin on South Hill Samson
ruin on South Hill, Samson

Morning swim for T (in wetsuit) at Porth Cressa — quiet before the 9:30 inter-island boats depart — delicious rolls from the butcher for breakfast — walk to the middle of the island — fascinating Carreg Dhu community garden sits in a disused quarry — a bag of tools available for anyone who fancies a go — super view from our outside table at the Heritage Centre cafe — a sign apologises for the temporary site of the Centre but it would be a shame to lose its dilapidated, half-arsed charm — head to the quay but nowhere seems to be open for sandwiches — we gather by the sign for Katherine's historical walk on Samson — pass a spoonbill on Green Island — "I'm trying to tell you what to do, it's up to you if you listen" says the deckhand as a large lady panics getting out of the dinghy, landing with a wet thud on her side — our group of 40 is taken around Samson's ruined dwellings — Katherine is clear in speech, well-practiced and knowledgeable — back to the dinghy and a bumpy ride home — L & J's scrumptious chilli as the sun sets over the isles

Saturday 4 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 3 - Tresco

Tresco orderliness

Awake to a sea mist — join queue for boat tickets — the first boat to Tresco appears to be full of refugees clad in rambling wear — our tiny boat circles the leviathan Europa — dock at New Grimsby, Tresco — the atmosphere of a very clean holiday/retirement complex — people pass by on golf carts — all sorts of spikes and giant leaves in the Abbey Garden — a pacing golden pheasant — ok pasty and great Cornish beer from the garden cafe — fine rain across the dunes — a servant waits beneath a brolly and fluttering Hapag-Lloyd flag to offer refreshments from an overladen table to cruise passengers — wet boat ride back — make the chippy with 2mins to spare — the garrulous owner explains he only opens 2hrs a day, seven months of the year — closing for the season soon: off to his second home in Cornwall, then a long driving holiday in Spain, and some skiing in Switzerland — X-Factor for L & J

Friday 3 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 2 - St Mary's

watching the gig racing

A young man prods crabs with a stick at Newford Island — his girlfriend collects shells to arrange into an Art Attack — a lady sings along to Fleetwood Mac over her loom at Portloo Studios — coffee at beautifully positioned Juliet's Garden — walking over bouncy, rounded heather — Devonshire Ruby cows munch the scrub, penned in by electricity — Iron Age village at Halangy Down looks like a well-kept rockery — a lozenge of wild meadow overbrims with small tortoiseshell — needle carpeted woods, blackberry bushes — a creatively arranged stack of round boulders at Innisidgen — cut back through pastoral fields, high hedges and swallows — watch the back-breaking gig race from the quay — not sure who wins until we check the results board in town — victory to Nornour!

Thursday 2 September 2010

Isles of Scilly - day 1

onboard the Scillonian III
cairn on Buzza Hill above St Mary's

Queasily plucked from bed at 2:15am — begin the family trek down to Penzance — the near edge of the car's headlight ripples over the hedgerows like a bar code scanner — the flavour of place names change as we move west through Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall — 4:30am pit stop at Exeter services — a lone manager sits and goes through paperwork — the sun rises above disused tin mines — the Penzance stevedores compete to look the most Cornish — the crane lifts a car onto the Scillonian III — onboard: a sheltered sunny bench and a snooze — land sneaks up without us realising — the vessel lodges into the harbour at Hugh Town — a horse box is lifted from the boat, and effectively dropped to the ground 5ft below — follow the throng into town — tourist info chalkboards tell you everything you need to know — arrive at Jus Limin with its amazing view over the harbour — welcomed at the butcher's by the resident parrot — trolleys at Co-Op filled with holiday maker's orders —plod up the steep hill to Star Castle — the garrison walls of St Mary's gleam white like battlements from Greece — one section is home to the helter-skelter shape of autumn lady's-tresses — free apples on a roadside table — PRIVATE daubed on a boulder stops us from reaching Newford Island — after dinner, a collective appreciation of the sunset — all asleep by 10

Friday 6 August 2010

OK, I know it's not island related, but we got married on Tuesday. After 13 years together, we are now looking forward to more adventures as Mr & Mrs Calder. Thank you to everyone who attended our wedding picnic, and to those who sent their best wishes. When gnome bowling becomes an Olympic sport in 2012, we know who to call.

Monday 5 July 2010

Thursday 1 July 2010

Island fact - no.2

Eilean Glas lighthouse, Scalpay
In 1821 Robert Louis Stevenson paid a visit to Eilean Glas on the island of Scalpay. During the trip his crew captured a great auk, which they took aboard intending to take it to a zoo. The auk escaped 'while being allowed to fly for exercise'. It was last seen off the Mull of Kintyre. 'This bird is thought to have been one of the last living great auks'.

This fact was sourced from the Eilean Glas Lighthouse Guide Book.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Flight attendant

More than 300 birdwatchers have requested further information about a job vacancy at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, 24 miles south of Shetland. With a healthy resident seabird population, and the possibility of rare migrants passing through, the island is a twitchers paradise. The closing date for applications is 5 July 2010.

This fact was sourced from The Sunday Telegraph.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Island fact - no.1

Anna Meredith from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Sudies in Midlothian is currently investigating a disease affecting palmate newts on the Isle of Rum in Scotland. Symptons include 'blister-like nodules or lumps' on the skin 'caused by a protozoal parasite'.

In a bid to discover how widespread this condition is, Anna is asking for people across the UK to report any sightings of newts with lumps and bumps to (Please do not handle or disturb the animals). 

This fact was sourced from the June issue of BBC Wildlife magazine.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Saturday 12 June 2010

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Lewis - day 4 - Westside tourist route

Callanish Stones

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village

inside Arnol Blackhouse

Friday 4 June 2010