Monday, 21 February 2011


After a slow start to the beginning of last week we had two rather hectic days. On Thursday we carried on checking rat bait stations, returning to the Eastern Isles and visiting The Arthurs (three separate islands linked by causeways at low tide). The weather was brilliant, blue skies, light winds and lots of warming sunshine. In the afternoon we took a trip to Bryher and after a fun ride on the back of a tractor down to Stinking Porth we helped to take down an old wire fence and replace it with electric fencing. So warm we were down to short sleeves!

On Friday the weather was not so good… We were helping to moo-ve some of the cows around to a few new grazing areas. It was quite a long day as there was a lot of work to do. First we set up the new areas of fencing, then the cows that were to be moved had to be gathered up into a corral and persuaded to climb the ramp into the trailer. As accessing the Garrison requires passing through a very narrow gatehouse the trailer being used had to be quite small, so the cows could only be moved two at a time. By the end of the day and after many journeys we were all quite tired and very wet, especially after the last hour or so spent in the driving wind with pin sharp rain lashing into us up near Deep Point!

Over the weekend we walked round St Mary’s a bit more, then on Sunday took a trip to St Agnes and Gugh. We also took advantage of the low tides to scramble out to Burnt Island and the rock beyond with its day mark.

Reading this blog you could probably be forgiven for thinking life here is all sunshine, fields of narcissi, birds, boat trips, table tennis and tranquillity (and if you have ever watched ‘An Island Parish’ you would probably expect tea with the vicar to be on that list). But really, just like when you get behind the scenes of any other small community on the mainland you quickly realise that there are hidden issues and disputes that seriously taint this charming image. In Scilly for example there are a vocal minority of people who occupy their time with opposing the Wildlife Trust. I find it amazing that there are people prepared to spend a great deal of time and effort fighting something as mundane (and ultimately beneficial to the local environment) as conservation grazing. A process which aims to reduce the amount of scrub land – bracken, brambles, European gorse – that smothers huge areas preventing anything more interesting from growing, ultimately aiming to restore the waved heath and open up new areas for people to explore, each patch cleared revealing new archaeology and interesting geography.

These people (and some of them really do need to cheer up a bit – you’re lucky enough to live in Paradise, at least try to enjoy it!) have a real vendetta against the Trust and whatever it tries to do, and some have even been known to growl at members of trust staff and their children in the street. Yes you did read that last sentence correctly.

It’s not as though there isn’t real battles that need to be fought in the Scilly’s. There is a criminal lack of recycling and in a place as confined as this there is no way of hiding that fact. The huge disgusting mound of rubbish piled up on the outskirts of Hugh Town is a permanent stinking eyesore of a reminder. There is a totally unfit for purpose incinerator that intermittently nibbles away at the ever expanding mound, but unbelievably on the infrequent occasions when it does operate it just burns, this resource isn’t even used to generate electricity (The Scilly’s rely on power brought across from the mainland via undersea cables).

As we walk around the coast, particularly on the uninhabited islands it’s the amount of plastic waste washed ashore from the Atlantic that really upsets me – great swathes of plastic bottles, netting and other detritus – rubbish from all over the world.

And stopping to think that this can only be a tiny fraction of what is out there floating around is a thoroughly depressing thought. Sometimes there is so much plastic buried under the long grass that it is almost impossible to take a step unaccompanied by the crunch of crushed plastic. This waste is not just unsightly but potentially devastating to the marine wildlife that depends on theses seas for life. Scilly is also regarded as one of the poorest areas in the UK. 85% of the islands income is dependant on tourism, it’s already expensive to get here so the increasing fuel costs we are all having to cope with have an acute impact not just on the food prices here but will also affect the number of people able to afford to come here to spend their cash. And on the subject of food I find it particularly impressive that through the power of internet shopping Tesco has managed to bankrupt the island’s independently owned (and only) wholesaler without even having a physical presence here. Wonderful! And of course the craze that’s sweeping the nation for bagging your dog poo and proudly hanging it from a tree is just as popular here as anywhere…

Would you not want to prioritise doing something about that lot before you decided to devote your life to fighting the very existence of cows? I wonder what’s next on their hit list? Cuddly toys? Terry Wogan? Human history contains a long, long list of individuals and groups being prepared to lay down their lives in the name of fighting oppression in its numerous guises; be it murderous dictators, religious intolerance, racial and sexual discrimination, political tyranny, etc, etc – and there can be no more timely reminder of all this than what is currently happening in various states in the Middle East right now. Living here for a even a short time you get the definite feeling that some people really don’t realise just how lucky they are.

Now, lets all skip outside together in the sunshine and pick some more daffodils shall we...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Wave Power

Mum and Dad’s helicopter flight was delayed by only a few hours due to fog on Friday and it wasn’t long before we were having a drink in the dungeon bar of Star Castle. Mum wasn’t overly keen on the bar describing it as a bit too “dungeony” but the Liverpudlian barman (or was he a ghost?) kept our spirits high.

For the first time since our arrival, a tourist boat was running so on Saturday we took up the opportunity and sailed to Tresco. There was a huge swell and the crossing, though fairly short, was pretty rocky. Once safely on the quay we walked clockwise around the island, first stopping at Cromwell’s Castle where we caught a glimpse of the huge waves crashing over the north of the island and Bryher. We walked on over the heathland and down to Piper’s Hole to watch the waves which were gigantic!

They’re what I would imagine the big Hawaii waves to look like but the idea of surfing on them was terrifying. Then they BOOMed as they hit the rocks in front of us, sending water vertically upwards into towering sprays. We spent quite some time just watching the water and gasping lots before we made our way down the East side of the island which very suddenly became sheltered and the sea gently lapped at the beautiful white sandy beaches.

On Sunday we decided to explore St Mary’s and walked much of the way round the island enjoying the varied views and terrains. There was more wave-crashing watching at Peninnis and some seal spotting at Pelistry.

In the evening we joined mum and dad again for their 5 course meal at Star Castle and ate delicious fish and scallops and we toasted marshmallows in the candle flame, before feeling mightily stuffed.

We haven’t done a whole lot of work yet this week, but we have power-washed the Woolpack.

The wind picked up yesterday and the waves at Peninnis were even bigger!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Seals rock

The wind picked up at the weekend and we had some dramatic walks around the coast, watching the crashing waves and getting blasted by spray.

Despite this, the daffodils and narcissi are all coming out and out of the wind you could mistake the season for mid spring.

Us in some rocks:

Work this week has involved raking up brash down on the squares with Jim, cutting out some gorse with loppers around rocks, picking up litter washed up from sea (in amongst the usual mountains of plastic waste we found some beer cans with the old ring pull, they must have been there quite some time), moving some more cows with Darren up on the garrison.

Today however was another rat baiting day and we went out on the Wildlife Trust boat with Dave, Darren and Patrick. It was a pretty hideous day, very foggy and damp, but exploring the uninhabited islands is so interesting you barely notice you’re soaked through! We started out on Northwethel, near Tresco – not too much evidence of rats, you’ll be pleased to know! Afterwards we went back out to the Eastern Isles, to Great Ganilly and Nornour. We crossed the former and someone spotted a seal on the beach. Then we suddenly realised that all those smooth spotted boulders on the beach were also seals, we counted about 90 of them! You’ll have to take my word for it I’m afraid because we didn’t take the camera. As soon as they spotted us they all flopped along the beach into the sea. All bar one huge male that is, who must’ve been having a lovely deep snooze and looked quite surprised when he finally roused himself about 5 minutes later to see none of his neighbours around him. A few of the rudely awakened seals then spent the next few hours following us around the coast (in the sea obviously!) watching what we were up to as we scrambled up rocks, along cliff edges and through brambles hunting for rat bait stations.

Mum and Dad are coming out tomorrow for a long weekend, just hope the fog lifts or they may get stuck in Penzance…tune in next week to see if they made it out!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Eastern Isles

The rain kept us on St Mary’s clearing brash on Wednesday, but by Thursday it was sunny again and the winds permitted us to get out to the Eastern Isles.

We visited Menawethan which involved a very exciting landing; David rowing us ashore then waiting for just the right wave to pitch us on to a suitable rock – all the while watched by an audience of Seals and Fulmars. The trip back was almost as exciting – involving a leap from a wave covered rock back into the waiting dingy!

View from the top towards St Martins with Great Innisvouls, Great Ganilly and the Wildlife Trust boat:

And towards the Arthur’s with (left to right) St Mary’s, Samson and Tresco in the background:

Laura being rowed back to the boat:

Next up Laura and I waited on the boat watching the seals as Darren and David visited Little Innisvouls.

Laura with Fulmars above and seal heads bobbing in the water:

We then went ashore on to Great Innisvouls, not such a dramatic landing this time.
View towards St Mary’s in the far distance:

The Eastern Isles are covered in really interesting rock formations, nobbly, lichen covered towers shaped by the sea and the weather. It’s easy to imagine all sorts of images appearing out of the rock faces.

Next up was Little Ganinick and Great Ganinick, linked by a long rocky causeway at low tide. We scrambled between the two and left as the causeway began to cover.
The Ganinicks as we made our getaway:

We stayed on the boat as Darren and David visited Ragged Island

and finally an attempt was made to land us all on Little Ganilly, but the weather was on the turn – the wind and the swell increasing and after a failed attempt to row us on to the rocks (Me taking a wave full of spray in the face in the process) David decided that with the changing conditions landing here could turn into a bad idea, so turned us round and rowed us back to the boat. A very bouncy and wet ride back to St Mary’s ended what had been a very exciting day!

Yesterday the wind increased further, and the waves are picking up - looking forward to seeing some dramatic seas over the weekend...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


This week so far we have been making FIRE! Helping to regenerate a few areas around St Mary’s where European gorse and bracken have taken a strong hold, hopefully allowing for a greater variety of grasses and wild flowers to flourish later in the year.

And we have also been helping to move some of the Devon Ruby Red cows to a new patch of grazing. The cows are also playing a vital part in the conservation of diversity, and opening up areas that were previously inaccessible for people to walk in and explore. At the same time they hark back to times when many areas around the islands would have been grazed and maintained (perhaps unintentionally!) by local farmers.

The weather continues to impress, another day today where we found it hard to believe it’s only just February as we bathed in the sun eating our lunch overlooking the ocean at Deep Point. Beautiful!

Tomorrow and Thursday (weather and winds permitting) we will be out and about rat baiting again on the uninhabited Eastern Isles.