Saturday, 29 January 2011

He’s behind you

Matt’s been putting in his table tennis practise and as a result has started to beat me, which is a bit annoying! We’ve had a pretty tiring but excellent week of work. As well as Tean, we have also been rat baiting on the uninhabited islands of St Helen’s and Samson. It’s interesting how each island has a different “personality” and different archaeological history to accompany it.

Matt, Daren and I went to St Helen’s on Wednesday. On the island is a ruined building, known as the “Pest House” which was used to quarantine sick sailors in the eighteenth century. Skeletons have been found of the buried dead but we managed to avoid finding any of them!

It really was quite tiring walking around and over the island as there are few well-trodden paths so we were scrambling over bracken and brambles and have the scratches to prove it. We were treated to a beautiful rainbow over Round Island though.

On Thursday we went to Samson which Matt has visited before, some 15/20 years ago! Not much evidence of rats but we did get up close to a dolphin, unfortunately dead. Samson is the most recent island to become uninhabited and there are many ruins around the island, including an old deer fence. Apparently the deer jumped over it the first night they were put there and swam away.

Yesterday we were back clearing the squares which we started on Monday, which was a nice sheltered spot to be out of the freezing wind that is blowing over the islands. We’ve also been joining in island life and have been wine-tasting (luckily we weren’t the only ones to score 2 out of 10 in the wine quiz!) and last night went to the panto, “oh yes we did”.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Scilly sunshine

Our first week in Scilly has gone very quickly and we’ve certainly been spoilt by the weather – everyday until today has seen lots of sunshine and even felt warm and spring-like at times. A great antidote to all that freezing weather on the mainland in December! Today however has seen more in the way of grey skies, cool winds and slight drizzle, probably because we put our washing on the line to dry…

We are living in the ‘Woolpack Battery’, an interesting semi underground building built around 1900 on the Garrison to protect St Mary’s from a perceived threat of invasion by the French. It’s now been converted into the Wildlife Trust’s volunteer accommodation and as it’s currently only us staying here at the moment we’ve been enjoying having our own home again. We have great views from on top of the Woolpack across to St Agnes, the Western rocks and the Bishop Rock Lighthouse and have been treated to several stunning sunsets already. We’ve also been playing lots of table tennis, and I need lots of practice as Laura keeps beating me!

We were eased in with only one and a half days work last week before the weekend. This gave us the chance to make the most of the weather and gave us a few days to explore St Mary’s. We’ve been doing lots of walking and have already covered most of the footpaths and coastal walking on the island. I also managed to find the graves of my Great Great Great and Great Great Grandparents in the Churchyard at Old Town.

Despite the fact we didn’t know many people here when we first arrived we’ve soon got to know several people and it seems nearly impossible to head into Hugh Town without meeting someone we know on our way! We’ve soon settled into ‘island life’ and have been enjoying trying out the pubs and cafes and with the help of Jim (who volunteers full time for the Wildlife Trust) we even managed to come third in the weekly quiz at the Scillonian Club on Sunday night.

Yesterday we spent the day working with Jim on the ‘squares’ (old allotment sites) on the Garrison just down from the Woolpack. We were helping to clear back overgrown brash and trimming back the hedges where they were overgrowing the path.

Today we had a fantastic day as we had the opportunity to visit one of the uninhabited islands, ‘Tean’ with Darren (warden), Jim and Patrick (another local volunteer). We spent the whole day fighting our way through bracken and brambles, bouncing across tufts of thrift and also scrambling over rocks at low tide to ‘Old Man’ and ‘Pednbrose’ all in the name of checking on rat bait stations. The bait is left at various places on the island in an attempt to eradicate any rats as they have a damaging effect on the bird population.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Don't be Scilly!

Happy New Year to you all

After MUCH deliberation with what feels like hundreds of you, we have finally decided upon where to spend the next few months. And the answer is…drum roll…..the Isles of Scilly!

So it’s not quite as exotic a location as India, Argentina, Panama, Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cape Verde or Israel (just a few of the places that have been real contenders), neither will we probably pick up a suntan and the snorkelling that Matt was hoping to do might be put on hold, however it definitely feels like the right thing to do. As much as we feel like we’ve “done” the UK’s winter now, something felt a bit hypocritical about purposefully exploring and travelling around the UK to get to know it better, only to bugger off once the bad weather came. Besides the Isles of Scilly is one of the warmest parts of the UK and through the recent “Big Freeze”, reached highs of 10 degrees, woooo! I take back that statement about the suntan!

So, we will be volunteering for the Wildlife Trust on St Mary’s where we get free accommodation in a one hundred year old gun battery. We’ve been told that in bad weather the food supplies boat may not get through, but the booze never runs out. So I think we’ll be just fine.

We apologise profusely to those of you whom we discussed at great length potential locations, only to ignore all suggestions!