The strategic importance of the channel between Tresco and Bryher in theIsles of Scilly in the defence of the British Isles has been recognised across the centuries. In 1550, during the reign of Edward VI a small artillery fortress was built on the high ground of Tresco. Its purpose was to defend the harbour of New Grimsby. At the beginning of the Civil War it was garrisoned by Royalist troops. It later became known as King Charles’s Castle.
However, the site of the fortress was considered unsuitable and when the Parliamentarians gained power a new artillery tower was built on the rocky shore in 1651. Its purpose was to defend against all threats – notably, at that time, from the Dutch.
(See also: https://lagill6.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/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/
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.
Click the image to enlarge
Click the image to enlarge
No comment needed!
The glorious white sand beach of Pentle Bay on Tresco is fringed on the landward side by gentle dunes.
Among the marram grasses are unexpected patches of wild flowers and ferns.
Above the dunes is a coastal path
bordered by more wild flowers and grasses.
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.
A walk along the main path in Tresco Abbey gardens takes us through an archway between trees and eventually up gentle steps, past the fountain, to a small garden house on the upper terrace. This is the Shell House. It takes its name from the interior murals which comprise imaginative pictures and patterns constructed with care and skill using shells found on the Isles of Scilly. (See also my previous post, 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/)
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.
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.