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.
This image was derived from the natural pattern in the sand created by the ebbing rude.
Beach in October
Where land and level acres of sea merge
seamlessly, waves hypnotically lapping,
endlessly oozing over ridged flats
scattered with brittle quills,bleached shard,
skeleton shells, oceanic detritus.
Drifting awareness of keening gulls,salt on the tongue.
As life blurs into the vast movement
of an ever widening scene, this brief,
vital moment in time imprints
deeply into the palimpsest of the mind.
An unmissable feature, visible on Brancaster beach at low tide, is the wreck of the SS Vina.
Built in 1894, the Vina carried crago from England’s east coast to the Baltic States.
In 1940 the ship was requisitioned by the navy, filled with concrete and wired with explosives. It was then towed into position to protect Great Yarmouth harbour. In the event of an invasion the ship would be detonated and the harbour blocked.
It was not needed for that purpose but in 1943 it was towed to Brancaster and anchored off-shore. It was used by the RAF for target practice during the period leading up to the Normandy landing.
A strong north-west gale caused the vessel to drag anchor and, riddled with holes from the gunfire, it drifted on to a sandbank and became stranded.
In the years since World War II various salvage attempts have been made, including carving the ship into three parts. But efforts have been unsuccessful. The wreck continues to present a serious hazard to shipping and also to adventurous visitors tempted to take a closer look.