Tag Archives: Isles of Scilly

Room with a view

 

During our recent holiday on Tresco, one of the Isles of Scilly, we were fortunate to have accommodation that looked out across the channel separating Tresco from Bryher.   The crossing of the channel at the times of the Spring tides was shown in an earlier post.  (See    https://lagill6.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/spring-tide-adventurers/)

The first photo shows the view from the lounge  The second and third were taken from the patio and show the views to the left and right.   In the second photo it is just possible to see the top of the steps leading from the patio to the beach/

 

 

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Early Autumn among the dunes of Tresco

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring tide adventurers

 

The Isles of Scilly include five, small inhabited islands, four of which once formed a single larger island (the exception was St Agnes).  But around 3000 years ago rising sea levels divided the land and created the present formation.

The channel between Tresco and Bryher is normally very busy with boats ferrying tourists and residents between islands as well as providing anchorage for visiting yachts.  But four or five times a year, for a short while on three or four consecutive days, the sea bed is exposed.  It is the time of the Spring tides  –  a time when it is possible to walk between Tresco and Bryher and, indeed, between Tresco and St Martin’s.  For those whose holiday happens to coincide with a Spring tide the walk is often high on their ‘things I must do’ list.

 

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Prima Donna and chorus line

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January 19, 2018 · 8:00 am

Natural tapestry

There seems to be a suggestion of tapestry design in this image of lichen photographed on a rock on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly.  The natural pattern is recorded as found.  The only licence taken has been the removal of the texture of the granite rock to reveal the pattern more clearly..

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Cascading waves

Using watercolour filter

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St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly

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On a Tresco stone wall

On Tresco (one of the Isles of Scilly) the air is so pure and the mild climate so conducive to growth that lichen and plants root themselves quite happily in the dry stone walls.

 

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Stormy weather in Tresco Chanel

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The lure of the Isles of Scilly

It is rare, on the Isles of Scilly, to meet someone who is visiting for the first time  –  and if you do, it is likely the ‘first timer’ will return again and again.  The islands are a Designated Area of Natural Beauty and in an age of hustle and bustle their tranquility provides a magical release, a ‘massaging of the soul’.  The picture below (together with several of my posts in recent weeks) explains something of the lure of the Isles.

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Tresco Abbey Gardens

Tresco Abbey Gardens enjoy an international reputation and are particularly noted for the collection of subtropical plants and trees.  There are 20000 plants and it is claimed that more than 300 will be in flower on any day in the year.  There are plants from South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and S E Asia.  Many of the plants could not survive in Cornwall, just 30 miles away.

The garden was initially created by Augustus Smith.  In 1834 Smith was granted a long term lease for the Isles of Scilly by the Duchy of Cornwall and became Lord Proprietor.  He  built his home amid the ruins of a priory  –  hence Tresco Abbey.

Smith was an enthusiastic gardener and recognised the possibilities offered by the mild climate of the Scilly Isles.  He maximised this potential by constructing walls and terraces and by planting trees to protect his plants from the excesses of any Atlantic gales.

Augustus was a bachelor and when he died his estate was inherited by his nephew, Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith.  Successive generations of Dorrien-Smiths have, to this day, each made a significant contribution to the development of the Gardens.

With so much to choose from, I hope the following selection will suffice as an appetizer!

See also The head in Tresco Abbey Gardens, Dreaming of Childhood and Shipwrecks and Valhalla

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Around the coast of Tresco

Tresco is the second largest island in the Isles of Scilly archipelago.  It measures approximately 2½ x 1 miles and has a resident population of 180.  This figure increases dramatically during the tourist season.  The island is primarily a holiday resort with many timeshare properties.  Cruise liners bring large numbers of visitors to visit the famous Gardens.  It is a car-free island.  Essential transport is provided by farm tractors and passenger trailers plus a few golf buggies for the disabled and elderly.

The attractions of Tresco are its natural beauty and its mild climate.  The southern half of the island is fringed by idyllic beaches of white sand.  The northern half comprises heathland and a rugged coast.

Isolated landmarks, such as Cromwell’s Castle (pictured below), Charles’ Castle and the Block House are reminders of the Island’s strategic importance in British history.

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The head in Tresco Abbey Gardens

The world famous gardens at Tresco Abbey on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, are bisected by a long straight path culminating in a flight of granite steps leading up to an imposing classical head.  The steps are known as Neptune’s Steps and seem to confirm a classical connection, but there is a double deception here.  Despite appearances, the head is not a stone sculpture but is made from wood, and the subject is not of classical origin but represents Father Thames.  It is, in fact, the salvaged figurehead of the SS Thames, a 500 ton paddle steamer that sank on the Western Rocks (just off the coast of St Agnes) in 1841.

The story of the loss of the Thames is tragic and is an example of the hardship and dangers experienced by seafaring communities in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The event was fully recorded by the minister of St Agnes at the time, the Rev George Woodley, and can be read on http://www.tresco.co.uk/what-to-do/abbey-garden/valhalla_thames.aspx

In a corner of the Abbey Gardens there is a museum of other figureheads from vessels wrecked in the waters around the Isles of Scilly.  It is known as Valhalla and I have written about it in a previous post (see https://lagill6.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/shipwrecks-and-valhalla/)

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Walking from Tresco to Bryher

The Isles of Scilly include five, small inhabited islands, four of which once formed a single larger island (the exception was St Agnes).  But around 3000 years ago rising sea levels divided the land and created the present formation.

The channel between Tresco and Bryher is normally very busy with boats ferrying tourists and residents between islands as well as providing anchorage for visiting yachts.  But four or five times a year, for a short while on three or four consecutive days, the sea bed is exposed.  It is the time of the Spring tides  –  a time when it is possible to walk between Tresco and Bryher and, indeed, between Tresco and St Martins.  For those whose holiday happens to coincide with a Spring tide the walk is often high on their ‘things I must do’ list.

Such an occasion occurred 10 days ago and the pictures below record the event, beginning with two or three ‘pioneers’ and developing into a steady stream.  (See also my post Isles of Scilly)

Click on each image to enlarge

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Old Man of Gugh

The substance of this post was originally published a year or so ago, but the lighting of the image has been modified a little to capture something of the mystery I associate with the Old Man.

Gugh is a small island in the Isles of Scilly off the south west tip of England.  It is one km long and 0.5km wide and is joined to the larger island of St Agnes by a sand bar.  As a consequence it is accessible only at low tide.  There are just two houses on Gugh.  The island has several entrance graves, cairns and burial mounds dating from the Bronze Age.  The Old Man of Gugh is a menhir (a standing stone) 2.7metres tall and belongs to that period.

I always see in this picture a tall old man with white beard, bracing himself against the strong Atlantic winds.  At the stroke of midnight he begins his steady walk of a watchman guarding his territory, returning to his post before the first cock crow.

There is more background information in my post The Isles of Scilly.

y

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More Scilly Rocks

Except for the Nag’s Head, included in yesterday’s selection, most of these rocks seem to lack any local name by way of identification.  Indeed, only two of the pictures  have appeared in any ‘gallery of images’ or literature about St Agnes that I have seen.  I find this very surprising.

In the absence of any acknowledged alternative, I have always referred to the first picture as the ‘Mysterious Feline’.  The second is a Troll-like fellow or, perhaps, a puppet.  In the third, I see a lizard (or similar creature) emerging in search of food or sensing danger.  The fourth is clearly a prehistoric tortoise!

Seren 12c

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Scilly Rocks

Several months ago, I wrote about the Isles of Scilly, located almost 30 miles off the south west tip of Cornwall:
‘In addition to their natural beauty and evidence of earlier cultures  –  such as the standing stone on Gugh and various cysts and burial chambers from the Bronze Age  –  the Isles have an air of mystery about them.  Especially St Agnes.  Granite outcrops suggest strange creatures from a fantasy or mythological world  –  giant lizards, serpents, turtles, birds of prey  ………   You are never alone on St Agnes!’

I am returning to the topic.  I have since remastered the original photos in an attempt to capture a little more of the magic and mystery of the rocks. I intend to post the results today and in my next post.  All of the pictures are from St Agnes.  The background context to the images can be found at The Isles of Scilly and The Two Faces of St Agnes.

The first image was not actually used previously. It is a natural outcrop, known locally as the Nag’s Head, and seems to have been used as a standing stone in the distant past. In my wife’s novel, Narwhal, it is the focal point for a pagan ritualistic dance.

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Dreaming of Childhood

The sculpture in this picture is David Wynne’s Children of Tresco and the work stands in the Tresco Gardens in the Isles of Scilly.  It is a wonderfully expressive sculpture, full of the fun and vitality of childhood.  For those of us who are older it evokes memories and smiles and encourages us to dream and fantasize about the days when we too could play with not a care in the world.

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The Two Faces of St Agnes

St Agnes is one of the smallest of the five inhabited islands in the Scilly archipelago.  At its widest point it measures less than one mile and has a population of 72.

It has just one, single track road that climbs up from the quay and loops round the lighthouse at the island’s highest point before dipping down to the sea and then rejoining itself, rather in the manner of a letter P.  There are very few motorized vehicles  –  almost all of which are tractors or electric buggies.  The pace of life is dictated by the tides and the boat timetable  –  boats being the only form of transport to other islands except in cases of emergency.  There is one pub and one shop.

The silence is golden  –  punctuated more often by bird calls than by people.  The air is pure  –  direct from the Atlantic  –  the nights are starry. The landscape is natural and unspoiled.  And so one could go on  …..

But there is another face to St Agnes.  This island paradise is surrounded by treacherous seas and rocks that have claimed thousands of lives over the centuries.  Just beyond the pool pictured above is the Island’s playing field beneath which are buried many of the men who died with Sir Cloudesley Shovell in the great naval disaster of 1707.  Frequently in past centuries men from the Island have selflessly rowed out in their six oared gig to ships in danger and have navigated a safe passage.  The churchyard bears testimony to the perils of the sea.

In the bottom photo Bishop Rock lighthouse can be seen on the horizon, just beyond the Western Rocks (the graveyard of many vessels).

Two faced Saint.

(St Agnes Isle).

A calm sea now, a gentle isle and fair.
Named Agnes, Lamb of God, saintly, pure.
Smooth are the sunlit backs of docile cows.
Heady, the tang of moorland ling and salt sea weed.

Beyond the cricket pitch, a preening gull
Presides over newly towered church and quiet bay,
Basking in virgin air, loving the light,
Lulled by an unctuous, silky sea.

One face holy, exhaling quiet;
The other secret, inhaling death where
Sedge gives way to slimy, salt-edged pools
Shadowed by wind tortured stones.

There lie bleached skulls, jetsam
Of a violent sea.
Close by the Western rocks glint greedily
Like dragons’ teeth ringing Bishop Rock.

Those steel needles will gnash, slash and maul
When the sun’s fire damps down;
Will rend bowsprit, shrouds, and men
Lured by that treacherous siren maid.

Margaret Gill

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Shipwrecks and Valhalla

The list of wrecks in Scilly waters numbers more than 530 and in the 18th and 19th centuries there was an urgent need for improved navigational aids.  In addition to those mentioned in the previous post, several lighthouses and lightships were added, especially in the expanse of water between the Islands and the tip of Cornwall.  On a clear night, from Peninnis on St Mary’s it is possible to see the beams from nine other lights.

Of the many shipping disasters recorded by far the greatest occurred in 1707 when Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and his fleet were returning to Plymouth following the failed siege of Toulon.  Having been driven off course  strong winds, navigational errors led to his ship, HMS Association, and three others crashing on to rocks just south west of where the Bishop Rock lighthouse now stands, with a loss of almost 2000 lives.  Ironically, this greatest of peacetime maritime disasters in British history happened before the advent of telecommunications or even newspapers as we now know them, and it was several days before the scale of the disaster was reported.

The Association also carried in its cargo silver and gold coins, together with cannons plundered from an earlier mission.  The site of the wreckage was eventually located in 1964 and some of the treasures were auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1969.

In recent times, in 1967, the Torrey Canyon ran aground on the Seven Stones reef, about eight miles north east of St Martin’s, loaded with 120,000 tonnes of crude oil.  The spillage of almost 31,000 gallons was washed up on the Cornish coast with devastating consequences for seabird and marine life.

Around 1840, Augustus Smith, the ‘Lord Proprietor’ of Tresco, began to assemble a collection of retrieved memorabilia, mostly figure heads from wrecked sailing ships and early steam ships.  He created  a gallery  –  appropriately called Valhalla  – in the Abbey Gardens on Tresco.  The pictures below are from the collection.

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