Thursday 23rd May: Going North
Newlyn is as far as Idun took us last season, and we set off for adventures new by 11am, again having planned to make the best use of tides, both to add to the rather weak winds predicted and to get round Lands End. We tacked along the Lands End peninsula, trying to avoid upsetting the many fishing vessels that worked in the area. We went past Lamorna Cove which is as far as we got when we went on our lovely walk along the coastal path last year. We have very fond memories of that walk! Next along the coast came Tater Du lighthouse which is the newest lighthouse in Cornwall, constructed in 1965, after the loss of the Spanish vessel Juan Ferrer. By Porthcurno we saw the Minack Theatre. I would love to see a performance in this theatre carved out of the granite cliff. Something for another trip to Cornwall.
We went round Runnel Stone south cardinal by 13.15, and our journey North started in earnest. We wafted up, driven by the tide to Lands End, and it was really nice to re-visit what we saw from land only a few weeks back. We sailed with Longships Lighthouse to port and the cauldron of swirling water around rocks aptly named Kettle Bottom; Armed Knight on starboard and Lands End Hotel high up on the cliff. We only had 3 or 4 knots of wind but that was enough with the tide to drive us round at about 4 knots. Easy going for what can be a hellish place when the weather is not so settled! Advancing up the north coast of Cornwall to St Ives was a rather sedate affair, and we had to motor a few times as even Idun can’t make much progress with 2 knots of wind! We got to St Ives in good time, only to find that the sheltered part of the bay was taken up by an absurd amount of lobster-pot buoys. So our night was a bit of a rolling one!
Friday, 24th May – Lundy
We set off before 7am, as we had a lot of miles to cover and wanted to make good use of winds and tides. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat for a few days, and overnight it got really quite bad, so Dominic ordered rest and I spent most of the day on the sofa, while he single-handedly sailed us up the 66 miles to Lundy, at speeds of up to 10.5 knots in north-westerly winds. (Of course, this is not new to Dominic, though Idun is a bit bigger than Principia: Dom’s Round Britain Sail )
It was 10 hours of a dull, cloudy day, but significantly brightened by dolphins swimming along Idun on three occasions! We were so lucky; when we got to Lundy we anchored in a beautiful cove in the lee from Atlantic winds by Rat Island. The sun came through, and here we are, in a most gorgeous spot, and we just had a pair of puffins fly by and a seal poked its head out of the sea in front of us!!
Saturday 25th May: Exploring Lundy
Lundy is an amazing little island 3 miles long from north to south by a little over 0.6 miles, 11 miles off-shore on the borderline where the North Atlantic and the Bristol Channel meet, and has quite a mild climate. The name is old norse, meaning puffin island, and this is what it is most known for, puffins and other sea birds. The island is owned by National Trust but leased to The Landmark Trust who are conserving buildings on the island, as well as taking care of flora and fauna. Most of the island is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
There are 23 self-catering properties on Lundy, so you can choose to live in a 13th century castle or a late Georgian gentleman’s villa, a lighthouse, an isolated coastguard watchhouse, a fisherman’s chalet or you could use the campsite. There’s a pub (the Marisco Tavern which never shuts its door!), a church, two lighthouses and a general store. What more could you want! The MS Oldenburg is Lundy’s ferry and supply ship, which takes visitors to Lundy from Ilfracombe and Bideford from the end of March until the end of October. There is also a helicopter service to the island.
The Landmark Trust staff and their many volunteers are taking a pro-active approach, eradicating the invasive rhododendron, which allows native species such as the endemic Lundy Cabbage to thrive.
At the turn of the century, the island’s breeding seabird colonies were under threat from large black and brown rat populations who were predating on the nesting seabirds, their eggs and their offspring. Puffin numbers were recorded as approximately 5 in 2003 and a rat eradication programme started. In 2006 the island was declared ‘rat free’ and since then a steady increase in the number of puffins with a formal count of 80 in 2013. Lundy’s seabird colonies are one of the largest and most important in the South West region. The main seabird colonies are located on the island’s west coast, with the sheer cliffs and windblown slopes proving favourable nesting locations. The only native mammals found on the island include pygmy shrews and pipistrelle bats. Land based mammals which have been introduced include sika deer, soay sheep, goats, rabbits, ponies, highland cattle and domestic sheep, some of which are now feral.
We had a lovely morning visiting this amazing island. It’s a steep walk up from the island’s only landing place. We walked past the Georgian Millcombe House and its now overgrown gardens, visited St Helen’s Church which was built by one of the Heaven family, through the village past the Marisco Tavern and the general store. With our ice cream cones in hand, we continued through the farm and its sheep pens, out into the fields and down to the western sheer cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
We continued on to the Old Lighthouse which was built in 1819 at 567 feet above sea level, making it the tallest light in the UK. This was soon realised to be a bit of a mistake, as it was regularly enshrouded in the infamous Lundy fog. The views from the lighthouse on a clear day as ours, are amazing!
Next to the lighthouse lies the Beacon Hill cemetery where I had a very interesting time reading the gravestones and imagining the lives of the people whose final resting place this is. There are four granite memorial stones with short Latin inscriptions, which I understand date between 500 AD and 700 AD. Grave markers like these would have been made for people of some importance, so to have four of them here on Lundy indicates that the Early Christian community was a significant one.
It was time to go down to rescue the RIB from the lowering tide, but first a drink at the Marisco Tavern in the glorious sunshine! We had seen and enjoyed so much on Lundy: puffin, kittiwake, shag, herring gull, guillemot, seal, sheep, Sika deer, Lundy cabbage, bluebells, foxgloves, red campion, thrift, heather, vetch and lots of other plants and birds for which we don’t know the name.
Unfortunately my sore throat came back with a vengeance so I spent the afternoon resting. Dominic went round the bay on the RIB, enjoying a bit of speedboating! This meant we didn’t enjoy the habitat on the northern part of the island. Yet another place I would love to come back to! But as you can see, this island really caught my interest and I could go on for a very long time writing about its history, its owners and residents, shipwrecks, piracy, the tangled web of introducing foreign species of flora and fauna to an isolated island, the richness of Lundy’s underwater wildlife, the fact Lundy has its own stamps, the controversial Puffin coinage, pre-historic Lundy, island energy and water management, the positive and negative mental health issues of living in an isolated environment, sea cliff climbing opportunities on the Atlantic, the micro-granite ‘Lundyite’, granite quarries , the WW2 German Heinkel III Bomber …