‘Breakfast has been served, the rooms serviced and the sun is shining bright’, said Dan. ‘…and given the date it’s probably one of the last chances this year to go boating’.
With that in mind we set off with Rob and Glenys (Jen’s parents) in their boat, Orchid. We stowed our packed lunch safely in the cuddy and headed out of St. Mary’s harbour. We had a quick discussion about where would be the most sheltered spot, and plumped for the uninhabited islands of Tean and St. Helen’s, located near Round Island (of Lighthouse fame) between St. Martin’s and Tresco.
Rob navigated us through the low waters, until we reached Tean. We had half a mind to stop there, but two boats had beaten us to the punch so in search of total seclusion we headed on to St. Helen’s and anchored in the Pool on the south side where there is a sandy beach.
The low water, combined with an easterly wind, made for some exciting waves to the north of Tresco, breaking on Golden Balls Reef (nothing to do with David Beckham!). The views and the noise were spectacular. In the far, the Atlantic swell could be seen.
Upon landing on St. Helen’s we wandered in a westerly direction, past the remains of the 18th Century quarantine station known as the ‘Pest House’.
We stopped and sat on the rocks at Golden Ball Brow to admire the great views north, including the impressive Men-a-vaur – three towering rocks sparkling in the sun. The sky was bright, the sea roaring and the gulls, oyster catchers and other seabirds were darting and swooping in the foreground.
As we walked round the back of St. Helens, the Round Island lighthouse came into sight. It is one of the four well-known lights in the Isles of Scilly (the others being on Bishop Rock, St. Agnes and Peninnis). Now automated, the island is home to much wildlife and is a breeding ground for seabirds.
From the highest point of St. Helens we took in magnificent panoramic views, with nearly all the Scilly archipelago in view.
Heading back down to the south side of the island we reached the remains of St. Elidius Hermitage, a medieval religious complex. Every year on the 8th August a pilgrimage is made from St. Mary’s to St. Helens to celebrate the feast of St. Elidius and a short ceremony takes place at the ruins of the church.
As we made it back to the sandy beach where we had started our walk, we were just in time for a picnic on the beach before the sky turned dark grey and loomed menacingly above us.
Quick – the rain’s on its way, let’s get back to St. Mary’s! We all piled aboard the little inflatable and clambered back into Orchid and ducked under the shelter of the cuddy.
As is so often the case on Scilly the heavy but squally rain passed quickly and the dark sky broke and lightened. As we headed back into St. Mary’s we passed a traditional Cornish boat, looking resplendent in full sail.
What a lovely late October Sunday afternoon. We can’t help but wonder if we will be the last people to explore St. Helens this year.