A holiday tragedy can happen even in a paradise like this

Below is a brief video clip I did of Great Bay beach, St Martins, Isles of Scilly at noon on August 26th. As I commented on a post at the time, this is considered one of the top ten beaches in the world. Note the small ripple against the shore. Yesterday the weather was similar – the sea was like a mill pond. And yet, tragically, a woman drowned here. I’d like to express my sincere condolences to the lady’s family and friends. I will not pontificate on such a recent tragedy, except to say that such a searingly sad event can happen in the most tranquil, idyllic settings.

The end of Britain

Today we visited the end of Britain. The South-western end, that is. We went to St Agnes, Scilly. Technically that isn’t the last bit of dry land before America. That’s Bishop’s Rock with its famous lighthouse, which I circumnavigated by boat some twenty years ago. There’s also Western rocks. But St Agnes is the last inhabited land.

I took this lovely photo (above) of the huge boulders at the tip of St Agnes, called Horse Point, with the Western Rocks and Bishop’s Rock in the background. It was quite thought-provoking to stand there and think “This is it”.

We also visited the most south westerly pub, the excellent Turk’s Head. On a large rock just off St Agnes there is a skull and crossbones flag flying. At the Turk’s Head, we were served by a young fellow who looks like a pirate. I kid you not. It transpired that he was the person who had swum out to put the pirate flag up on the rock.

It all seemed consistent with being at the extreme end of the country. But before we got too carried away with this feeling of rebellion, HM Customs arrived on the scene in their grey ship to remind us who’s in charge.

The Sir Cloudsley Shovell Summer Tour

This is rapidly becoming “The Sir Cloudsley Shovell Summer tour”. On August 5th we visited Greenwich Observatory and learned about the said Admiral of the Fleet who presided over one of our greatest national maritime disasters, when much of the navy was foundered on the Western Rocks of Scilly in 1707.
Now we are at the superb New Inn on Tresco, a few hundred yards from the site of the disaster. We learn that Sir Cloudsley came to grief because he ignored the pleadings of a single Scillonian sailor who told him his fleet was just south of Scilly, in the face of advice from his officers who told him he was well off Scilly. The Scillonian was right. The subsequent disaster led to the establishment of the Greenwich Meridian Line, to sort out the “Longtitude problem”, which, it is thought, was Sir Cloudsley’s Nemesis. Sir Cloudsley ended up pickled in brandy (a final state many of us would envy) and buried in Westminster Abbey.

Glass bottomed boat

We had a wonderful trip today on a glass-bottomed boat. The captain was a real star, wonderfully explaining the geography, history and ecology of Scilly. What I found astonishing is how shallow the water is within the ring of islands. It is mostly around 30 feet deep, our guide said, but reaches up to 60 feet in places. Throughout most of our trip you could easily see the sea bed. It was no deeper than Fowey harbour, to use a comparison of which I have a smidgeon of knowledge. At low spring tide you can, famously, walk between the islands. “but you have to be quick” said our man. You being to wonder – why bother with boats between the islands when you could do it all on stilts?

Hard boiled Eggheads

Is it not time to quietly dispatch BBC2’s Eggheads to the great TV composting bin? Yesterday’s celebrity episode was three years old. There’s only so many shots of someone looking smug that a man can take.
Dermot Monaghan endlessly repeats the line “You may recognise these faces from Britain’s famous quiz shows”. No. They were last on telly years ago, if you exclude Eggheads..

St Martins, Isles of Scilly

Yesterday, we explored St Martins. It’s north coast has to rate as one of the most beautiful, interesting and semi-remote parts of the British Isles. The beaches of Great Bay and Little Bay are simply stunning, with white, sparkly sand and the sort of clean, natural tideline I haven’t seen for decades. Apparently, Great Bay features in the World’s Top Ten beaches – deservedly so. Twitpics to follow via Twitter.