Steve Anderson

The Scillies tour (the Kelping process)

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May 2011

I was considering a trip away and could not quite face the drive or the weather in Scotland, so after some modest research I decided upon a camping trip to the Scillies, and St Agnes in particular for the first week of a two week holiday, my plan was to move my tent to St Martin’s after a week in order to become fully acquainted with at least two of the five main islands. This plan was in essence scuppered by the fun I was having on St Agnes, and the characters I met there, but more on that later.


The journey was pretty straight forward, I am lucky enough to have a friend who looked after me the night before boarding the ferry, and who kindly let me leave my car in her car park. The morning of the trip I made my way down to the quay at Penzance and had my back pack labelled with St Agnes labels and loaded into the Island appropriate mini container. The ferry journey was pretty uneventful as I am not susceptible to sea sickness, and no dolphins or whales were spotted by the onboard national wildlife chappy, I was able to doze and read intermittently on the three hour crossing to St Mary’s. The islands gently came into sight and we sailed through the channel between Tresco and St Mary affording us a great and quite close view of both islands. On arriving at the quay in St Mary the St Agnes luggage container was removed and placed on the quay, my baggage was then unloaded to a point next to the St Agnes ferry, and then loaded by the St Agnes ferryman onto the ‘Spirit of St Agnes’ an impressive catamaran type ferry which looked like it could take some weather. We left very soon afterwards, all two of us, and arrived at the quay on St Agnes about 15 minutes later, my bag was unloaded and then picked up by a chap from the campsite who had come to meet me with a buggy of the sort that are in frequent use on the island, and taken directly to the campsite, so no real lugging of luggage was required.

The campsite is a beautiful collection of small paddocks contained by dry stone walls made from the round sea beaten cobbles found on the sea shore which borders the camp site. Inland from the campsite is the farm that plays host to us all, a small dairy, and a farm shop where exquisite ice cream can be purchased along with the campsite basics like shower tokens, gas, milk and Island cured bacon. I pitched my tent after some inspection of the available areas in a small paddock all on its own with a flat pitch right next to the wall at the shore edge. Having organised myself I decided to explore, and went on a march round the island, which took all of an hour and a half and resulted in the discovery of the Turks head, the only pub on the island for some lunch and a tasting of the available ales. The view from the seats on the outside of the pub is spectacular with a view over Gugh on one side and Bryher and Samson on the other with the route the ferry takes to St Mary directly ahead, around an alarming rock called the cow, with at low tide an even more alarming rock called the calf becoming visible, apparently this submerging rock has proved a nuisance in the fog.

The first day of a holiday is always one of exited exploration of the new environment, and after organising myself I settled down to a reasonably early night in my tent.

My next day was spent with some unsuccessful fishing from the rocks, and topped off with a lovely meal cooked by a college group who were on a bio diversity field course. The conversation was informative and the food served up by one of the mature students who had been a chef in a number of Michelin restaurants, what could be better!

My days were spent discovering the island and its inhabitants at a closer level and before long I had met quite a few locals, and a colourful chap known as pirate John who was the skipper of a nice old gaffer called the ‘Fen guide’, which is listed in the historic ships register and pictures of which can be found on the St Agnes picture collection.

I have the simplest of tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.  (Oscar Wilde)