Day 288 Day Trip to Lundy Island

Tuesday 17 May 2016

A circular walk around Lundy

7 miles

Harcourt hotel, Ilfracombe

“Verity” in all her glory on the Ilfracombe Quay
I caught the Ms Oldenberg from Ilfracombe Quay, along with 207 other passengers; it was a busy crossing today. It started raining as we were boarding the boat and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to get shelter. I managed to find a spot to stand for 2 hours. Fortunately the sea was calm. 

the MS Oldenberg with Hillsborough across the bay
I had about 4 hours on Lundy and resolved to walk a circuit, just not quite all the way to the North tip. There was plenty of wild life to see, although I didn’t have binoculars. It was just nice to walk around this fairly remote, barren island and admire its beauty. 

Lundy’s east coast
I had taken a picnic and I sat on the granite cliffs above Gannet Bay to eat it, while watching a seal playing below me. A great spot, but no gannets as they left their rock when the Northern lighthouse was built (it was noisy) and never returned. 

Gannet Bay and Gannet Rock – a nice spot for a picnic
The West coast was the most dramatic and it was here that there were puffins to be seen, along with other Auks. Lund-ey is Norse for Puffin Island.

Lundy’s west coast
another wonderful granite rock formation
I did climb up the old lighthouse, the first of 3 on the island. This one was decommissioned because it was too tall and so the light was often above the cloud. Today I could see the whole island from the top, although it was too cloudy to see Devon or South Wales. 

Beacon Hill Lighthouse (too tall)
looking all the way to the north of Lundy from Beacon Hill not far from the South West Point
At the SW tip was an Anthony Gormley sculpture, Daze IV, which has been there for a year and will soon be removed. It was located here to symbolise the point where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Daze IV by Anthony Gormley
I finished my trip with a half pint of Lundy Landmark in the Marisco Tavern. This great little pub is the heart of the small village. There are plenty of holiday properties to rent on Lundy and I half wished I was staying. 

inside the Marisco Tavern
The Village
Another 2 hour boat ride back to Ilfracombe and I was exhausted. The bosun invited me back to the ship later for a drink (probably because I was at least 20 years younger than all the other passengers) but I thought it probably unwise. Besides, I was too tired to socialise. 

the MS Oldenberg at The Landing Beach in the South East
List of wildlife seen: gulls, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, fulmars, wheatears, skylarks, pigeons, swallows, kestrel, seals, feral goats, highland cows(?), sheep, Lundy ponies, sika deer.

lots of feral goats on Lundy

Day 255 Caldey Island

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Day trip to Caldey Island

3 miles

Meadow Farm Campsite

I wasn’t too cold last night but the tent was soaked with condensation when I woke up early. I snuggled down and went back to sleep, waking 2nd time around to some sunshine. 

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to move on today or not – I was flexible – so I left my tent up to dry, packed light, and headed down to the harbour. After a quick coffee (and blog) stop on the way I arrived in time for the first boat to Caldey Island. It was packed with elderly people on a coach holiday and it took ages to get them all on board.  

Castle Hill from the boat
passing St Catherine’s Island
 The sun was shining and the sky mostly blue. I had a good opportunity to see where I walked yesterday and admire the views I had been missing. Tenby is really well situated with golden beaches and lovely views; no wonder it is such a popular holiday destination.  

it’s only a hop and a skip from Caldey Island to St Margaret’s Island to Giltar Point
 Caldey Island had a lovely, tranquil feel to it, which I think was down to the lack of children. Aside from the monks there is a permanent community of about 20 adult residents, and then there is an almost daily invasion of tourists.  

Caldey Abbey
 The first monastery on Caldey Island was founded in the 6th Century by monks from Illtud’s monastery in Llantwit Major, Glamorgan. From the 12th Century  until The dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, the Island was home to a Benedictine Priory, an off-shoot of St Dogmaels Abbey in Cardigan. Monks did not return to Caldey until the start of the 20th Century. In 1928 the Abbey was handed over to the Cistercian Order of monks and they still live there and contribute to island life. I had a quick chat with one of the brothers in the Post office/museum, where I bought a bar of chocolate made by the monks for my breakfast (they also make perfume but I didn’t try any).  

breakfast, and very nice it was too!
 The tiny village sits in a sheltered, wooded valley and is dominated by the huge Abbey. It is like a pretend village catering for tourists with a post office, museum, gift shop, tea room and perfume shop. I don’t think much has changed for a century.  

Sandtop Bay and St Margaret’s Island
 I walked around the Island, enjoying the views. I saw plenty of gulls, skylarks and a raft of razorbills. Chapel Point Lighthouse is on the highest point of Caldey and has great views all the way from Worm’s Head, the Gower, to St Govan’s Head.  

Chapel Point Lighthouse (especially for Rohan)
 I popped into the ancient ruin of St Illtud’s Church to see The Caldey Stone and also into St David’s parish church to admire the stained glass windows.  

St Illtud’s church with its strange tower
The Caldey Stone, complete with Ogham inscription around the side (dating it to the 6th Century)
 On my way back to the boat I nipped up the hill to the Calvey that can be seen from Tenby.  

The Calvey (Tenby in the distance)
 Arriving back in Tenby after 2 pm I went for a late lunch and languished in a cafe reading a newspaper. I decided it wasn’t worth moving on today so I chilled out instead. I walked back up to my favourite spot on Castle Hill and sat listening to the waves and the gulls.   
the tide didn’t leave that design behind!
 Eventually I headed back to the campsite for a shower and back into town for some dinner. Someone had been hard at work creating a design in the sand. 

The tree of life (St David’s church)
The fish (St David’s church)

Day 250 Skomer Island

Friday 8 April 2016

Skomer Island

5 miles

The Farm, Skomer Island

The weather had calmed a lot overnight and it was good news this morning when Joan phoned the boatman. I packed my stuff, including 2 fresh eggs that Joan gave me from her hens (for breakfast tomorrow) and then my lovely host gave me a lift to Martin’s Haven.  

The Dale Princess approaching Martin’s Haven
 There were 5 of us going to Skomer for a one-night stay so I was lucky to get a room to myself. The ferry only took 10 minutes but there was lots of kit to offload as volunteers going for a week have to take all their food as well as clothes, and then there’s the specialist binocular and camera equipment. Fortunately there’s a tractor at the other end to carry everyone’s kit to The Farm in the middle of the island.  

approaching Skomer
 With my lack of stuff and lack of food it didn’t take me long to settle in so I hired a pair of binoculars and set off on a trip around the island. After about half an hour I met Olof and Carole and stuck with them for the rest of the day (I don’t think they minded me gatecrashing their trip) as it was nice to have the company.  

The Warden’s House overlooking North Haven
 We spent a good 7 hours outside looking at birds, seals and porpoises. The weather was fine in the morning but closed in later and the day ended very wet. The wildlife-watching was excellent. The absence of land predators means that the birds are everywhere, often just sat on the ground, and they’re very noisy.  

looking at The Neck and the mainland beyond
 The highlight for me was watching a peregrine in an aerial chase of a small bird – fantastic aerobatic display. I didn’t see who won as they disappeared below the cliff top.  

looking across St Bride’s Bay to Ramsey Island and St David’s
 Other highlights included hundreds of puffins returning to Skomer in the afternoon after disappearing from the terrible winds for a couple of days, seeing 4 porpoises swimming line abreast, and the amazing Manx shearwaters that invade the island overnight (two flew into me and you have to be careful not to read on them as there are so many on the paths).  

puffin watching in the rain at North Haven
 Carole and Ollie offered me the leftovers of their pasta dinner (which was much nicer than my ration pack) and shared their tea and milk with me. I provided the bara brith. Dinner in front of the fire was cosy.  

huddled around the fire in the guest accommodation
 At 8.30pm the warden holds ‘bird log’ and we went along. The workers and volunteers make a daily log of sightings, including numbers, locations and behaviours. Carole, Ollie and I were able to add to this so I feel like I’ve helped a little to the study of wildlife on Skomer.  

a few more puffins
 It was freezing in our stone cottage but I was quite snuggly in my sleeping bag covered in a couple of blankets. It had been an excellent day.  

seals on the beach
 A full list of my Skomer sightings as follows:

Harbour porpoises, grey seals, peregrine falcon, buzzard, Manx shearwaters, gannets, puffins, razorbills, cormorants, Choughs, Ravens (+ 2 nests), jackdaws, crows, herring gulls, great and lesser black backed gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars, oystercatchers, curlew, Pheasants, Canada geese, Moorhen, Shelduck, Swallows, Meadow pipits, Wheatears, Wren, Willow Warbler, Pied wagtail. 

a manx shearwater