Saturday 26th June: The Cove, St Agnes and Gugh
We both feel it’s time to move on, so set off in the morning and motored over to The Cove, between Gugh and St Agnes. We’re anchored just by a large gullery and you can see and hear them clearly. When you’re eating chips in a seaside resort they’re just a nuisance. But here, well it’s right. This is their place, and we’re the visitors. It’s simply lovely!
After a morning snack and checking that the anchor had set, we dingied in and put it high up on the sand bar on the St Agnes side. This bar gets covered on high tide, and it’s just past springs.
We started by walking on Gugh, binoculars at the ready. There are a couple of houses near the Bar, farmhouses built to a Dutch design, but they’re not lived in permanently now. It’s a sparse island, heathland with gorse and bracken but the views are out of this world. Again, the grey morning turned into mixed sunshine. We saw wren and thrush and a pair of kittiwakes cooing together on a rocky outcrop. It was a really lovely and quiet walk. We came past the ‘Old Man’ standing stone on Kittern Hill. There’s a ‘Burial Chamber’ marked on the map, but it is in a no-go zone, where masses of gulls are clearly breeding. A very enjoyable circumference of the island which we did in under 2 hours, despite constant stops just taking it all in. Back on the sand bar two ladies were sunbathing on the white sand. We saw some women swimming here later on as well. Brave, as it’s pretty cold!
St Agnes was our next goal. This is the most south-westerly inhabited island in the UK. Quite amazing that we are here! We took the concrete road (laid by the islanders) down towards the quay in Porth Conger. We stopped at the very inviting outside tables and ordered drinks and chips from the Turk’s Inn via their table app. All very easy and wonderfully Covid-19 compliant. We like it! We saw goods being off-loaded from a boat from St Mary’s and taken away up the island by two local blokes on tractors, both making several trips with large bales of goods marked for various places like the Post Office.
Our second walk of the day started again northwards via Porth Killier to Big Pool, a freshwater pool, now slightly brackish where in previous times eels could be caught. Periglis Cove has small vessels lying on buoys, and nearby is the Church. There have been several churches on the island on almost the same spot, one drowned as the sea encroached, others destroyed by storms. There are a couple of small islands off the coast here, both breeding grounds for seabirds.
We could also see Annet, and Bishop Rock lighthouse was visible. This is not an area where you would take your yacht. There are craggy outcrops everywhere, and these Western Rocks are notorious for wreckages for as long as people have taken their ships this way. Islanders were known for their incredible skills using their gigs both for pilotage and as a means of rescue; read more here:
The enterprising people at Troytown Farm sell ice cream from their own herd of cows and run a campsite with views over the sea towards America. On a sunny day like this, it’s an idyllic place to camp!
We came across the Troy Town Maze, on a site known to be particularly relaxing. It’s a seven ring unicursal pebble maze of a type common in Scandinavia, where these mazes were built on the sea shore to ensure fair winds for the sailors. This maze is rumoured to be built by a lighthouse keeper in 1795. Though when it was dismantled and moved in the 1980’s the remains of a much older maze was found. So maybe the original one had been built by Vikings, who are known to have visited Scilly during the 1100’s.
We had planned to go round St Warna’s Cove to visit the Well, but headed instead to Lower Town, where Dominic tried to buy groceries (they even had vegan ice cream!) but their card machine was broken. We must remember to bring cash. Not only is there a general store here, but you can order homemade pizza and pasties, to collect the next day. We walked back to the pub but all tables were taken, so instead we sent off some messages and Birgitta rang her Mum from a high spot where we had pretty good connection to the world. Then we spent quite a long time seeing the high water slowly engulf the sandbar and the waves crashing into each other from The Cove to the south, and Porth Conger to the north. There are big mooring buoys here for the working boats, and we have seen how they moor either side of the Bar, switching as necessary. There is a large Yacht Waste bin here, a little walk up from The Bar, just like they have on St Mary’s. Not only is that hugely convenient, but also makes you feel welcomed by the community.
We got back to Idun and found that she was swinging very near our neighbouring boat. We’re a broad, big bulb-keeled boat, and she is a long keel smaller boat. We swing very differently, and she was affected by tide in a different way to us. So it wasn’t comfortable to be so near. The owner came after a while and Dominic could ascertain where his anchor was, so we could safely re-anchor a bit further away. We knew tomorrow will be very rainy, but the wind forecast is much stronger now than before, so we moved to a place where we can lay out more chain, and we will be safe in these strong north and north-easterly winds.
On the positive side, the solar panels had produced a fantastic amount of amps for us to use!
Sunday 27th June: The Cove between St Agnes and Gugh – too much wind
It was a disturbed night, both of us keeping an eye on Navionics and where Idun was positioned every hour or so. It was pelting with rain almost continually until early evening. We don’t have much connection to the world here, especially at low tide, but can always get the forecast via NavTex. The wind forecast this morning was for F7-8 between 11am and 3pm but in reality, we probably had a bit less. And if yesterday was the solar panels’ day, today was a joy for the wind generators.
We both had a snooze in the morning, Dominic spent a lot of time looking through our windows to the world at the various boats swinging and swaying in the wind, a diving boat coming in but then going out again a few minutes later, the waves crashing into the rocks, the swell coming in from the very lively sea further out.
The rocky shore was full of gulls in the morning, and they also seemed to enjoy flying in flocks in the wind, gliding down, swooping up. A guillemot was fishing, dipping its head into the swells. We were thinking on how that idyllic campsite on the other side of St Agnes probably isn’t a very nice place to be today. A swinging, swaying and being pushed by great natural forces day.
Monday 28th June: The Cove – enjoying St Agnes
The night was considerably better and by 10am the rain stopped. A bit later we walked up to the village; it took both of us a little while to stop feeling like the ground is too still. It’s a weird feeling. We saw a lane going off to the south with no ‘Private’ sign on it so went along and ended up on the Wingletang Down heathland on the southern end, continuing west. A slightly grey morning and a bit soggy from all the rain but it was just lovely. Heather, thrift, a few cows and masses upon masses of granite outcrops of incredible size and shape, some seemingly resting on nothing but a single point. We looked through the sand in Beady Pool looking for beads from the 17th century shipwreck that deposited an enormous amount of beads here, and people still find the occasional one! We saw seabirds sitting far out on rocks; they’d found themselves a good spot away from inquisitive humans. We were looking out for St Warna’s Well, but managed not to find it. Ah well. We have now walked round the whole island!
We have seen black rat poison boxes all over both islands. St Agnes and Gugh are part of the Isles of Scilly seabird recovery project. The greatest threat on land to seabird colonies is from rat predation (rats take adults, chicks and eggs). The partnership is working together to safeguard the seabird colonies on the islands and reduce predator disturbance. And it works, as in September 2014 the First Manx shearwater chicks were recorded on the islands in living memory.
Up through the bracken we went past the rock called The Nag (which really does look like a horse’s head) and had a very tasty lunch at Coastguard Café, did a quick food shop at the general stores before heading back to the beach. We had a nice long chat with a friendly couple who’d paid £380 each for a return flight from Exeter!, and then sat in the sunshine on Idun while the watermaker made more water for us. We weighed anchor and set off just before 6pm to go a bit further north and a bit more remote.