The MV Oldenburg

The sea was “moderate,” which, on a ship like the Oldenburg, is another way of saying that people puked. There was sick everywhere but not, happily, spewing forth from the mouths of a party of school kids whose teachers had the good sense to sit them out in the fresh, de-nauseating wind. Ilfracombe to Lundy doesn’t look far on a map, but it takes longer than sailing to France. We arrived to rain and wind, so there wasn’t much to do other than sit in our quarters in Castle Keep North and, in dad’s case, listen to short-wave radio (there was no TV).

Listening to the radio in Castle Keep North

The weather was brilliant the next day and so dad and I set about exploring the southern end of the island. On Lundy, one walks.

I had vaguely heard of the “Lundy Letterboxes” before we arrived, which are a series of physical caches containing a logbook and a stamp. It’s somewhat akin to geocaching except you follow clues, not coordinates. After finding the first one outside of the Castle, I was hooked. Over the two days we were on the island, we found 14 out of the 27. All the more reason to return!



Walking around Lundy is a delight. The seascape is beautiful and there are loads of interesting things to see, from the lighthouses, church, and battery, to animals such as goats and sika deer (as well as birds, birds, birds).

Old Light
Down to the Battery
Landing beach, flag . . . and a goat!
Capra aegagrus hircus

Lundy is owned by the National Trust and is managed by the Landmark Trust who rent out the very comfortable properties on the island. Lundy is a wild place but one can quite easily drop back into civilisation. Dad and I stayed in the Castle Keep and ate in the Marisco Tavern (winner of Best Lundy Pub every year since 1925!). The one property truly away from it all is Tibbetts. Next time?

Castle Keep
Castle lawn
Marisco Tavern
Next stay: Tibbets?

I had been promising dad a trip to Lundy for years, so I’m glad we finally did it. If you like the idea of a break where bimbling around with binoculars by day and reading by night sounds like heaven, then Lundy is the place. I’m not sure the trip over would be to everyone’s taste (in the winter months, you can take the helicopter instead), but I suppose it’s Lundy’s price of admission and helps keep the place remote.






Radnor Forest

Walkers in the Radnor Forest will no doubt head to the highest point — the Great Rhos — although to be honest there are better hills here (e.g. Whimble). Still, it’s a historic county top, which means it needed to be bagged (15/63 now complete).


We parked near Water-break-its-neck waterfall near Old Radnor, a place right out of the enchanted forest in Princess Mononoke.The path went through Warren Plantation — we missed the main path, though, which led to the usual heather-and-bog bashing that my kids think always characterises dad’s walks.

To the east of the Great Rhos is an army artillery range at Harley Dingle. The valley looks gorgeous so it’s a shame it’s out of bounds. A red warning flag suggested firing was in progress but I highly doubt it. No squaddie is going to walk up and down from here just to manage the flag.

The summit is a flat plateau with trig point.

To the south-west is the amazing Mithil Brook. I have been here before and count it as one of my “secret places.” Total Middle Earth.

Bald head sunburn factor: 6/10. A bit chilly out of the sun but still lovely.

Tresco 2016

My parents have been visiting the Isles of Scilly for over a decade. Over half term we finally got to see what the fuss is about, spending a week with them on Tresco. The tl;dr is easy: Tresco is amazing. Even if you have seen pictures of the azure waters of the Scilly archipelago, the 28 mile flight on the Skybus from Land’s End still offers a great reveal. It may have been October but it was mild and often sunny; one can only imagine what it is like here in warmer weather.

St Martin’s

From the main island of St. Mary’s, a boat took us to Tresco, a private holiday island managed by the Dorrien-Smith family as a timeshare business. Our week was spent in the Sea Garden Complex in Old Grimsby.

Sea Garden
Sea Garden

I was entranced all week by the view to the east to the islets of Northwethel and Teän and other evocatively named rocks. The archipelago may have been formed as little as 1500 years ago due to post-glacial rebound in the north of Britain which would have pushed Scilly down (which was once known by the Tolkienesque name of Ennor). I also discovered that I am a pharologist — a fan of lighthouses — and gazed over at Round Island lighthouse as often as I could (as well as the remarkable Bishop Rock far in the distance).

Looking east
Looking east
Round Island lighthouse

Tresco island is divided into three: a wild north coast, all heather and wind; a woodland interior, home to the sub-tropical botanical marvel of Abbey Garden; and glorious white beaches on three of the four sides.

The King(s) in the North!
The King(s) in the North!
Pentle Bay

I travel quite a bit and see some wonderful things but was really taken by Scilly (and Tresco in particular). Next time I shall aim for warmer seas so I can get out in a kayak.

M leaves her mark

(Sound track to Scilly.)

Interim thoughts on Brexit

EU-flag-with-Union-JackI am still furious. Some would have the 48% shut up and go away now, as if democracy were a one-time event. That is not going to happen. The “will of the people,” especially if it is perfidiously won, does not necessarily hand down some moral absolute from the gods. There must be time now to allow the people to reflect on what they have chosen and for the government to hear their voice. Those of us who are deeply dismayed at the direction our beloved country finds itself stumbling in must shout loud and clear until the very moment A50 is triggered, if it is triggered. And even then, if we have truly lost, we must still fight for maximal relationships with our European neighbours while also never letting those who did this to us forget what they have done. We do not want some technical little trade contract alone. The EU was always about more than that: we were participants in the whole project and not just consumers of it.

I am annoyed with myself. I let mild Euroscepticism initially temper my enthusiasm for the vote. And then I was naive, not really believing the Leavers could win. Oh how I wish I had found my voice earlier. I think many of us are in this position. Let us learn our lesson.

I feel a white hot rage that we have fallen victim to the game of thrones in the Conservative Party, a party I have previously supported. I believed in the One Nation project but the scales have now fallen from my eyes. The ashen faces of Boris and Gove on our joyous Independence Day said it all: this was all about their careers, now horribly complicated by the fact they would have to be held to their vacuous promises.

I am terribly sorry for our young people, whose opportunities in Europe have now been diminished. They did not want this and no-one listened to them. Europe held more for them than just the opportunity to lie on an Ibizan beach, it was a place where they could study, and work, and travel without limits, as members and not just as visitors. Europe is now made truly foreign. What a shame (unless you are lucky enough to have an Irish grandparent and thus remain a EU citizen, yet one more divisive consequence of this mucky little game).

I am worried about the union. Constitutional problems in Northern Ireland and Scotland were brushed aside by a campaign that replaced reason and facts with populism and demagoguery. Freedland is right to note the bitter irony that those who believed in the dream of an unalloyed British sovereignty may well have duped the masses into destroying Britain. Fools.

I am worried about the economy. You should be too. We *are* in for a rough ride and it will effect all of us, the poor most of all.

I am amazed at the Double Speak and shameless use of the Memory Hole: campaign promises ditched within minutes and a belief that if you keep saying contradictory things long enough, people will believe them — “You can have all of the benefits of the single market and none of the costs! It’s magic!” I suppose this is a sad consequence of the tabloid media, a failure to educate people to think critically, and the attention deficient consumers of social media who believe everything that they read. We voted for a phantom with no clue and no plan.

And then, finally, is the scab of nationalism that has been ripped away with such abandon. We do live in a country where people have been left behind and who feel threatened by globalisation, but it was the crime, first of UKIP, and then the mainstream Brexiteers, to create an environment where foreigners would be blamed. A pox on all those in power who have opened this Pandora’s Box and allowed it to be used as a weapon against immigrants. Neither they nor the EU are to blame for deprivation in Britain.

What am I doing next? I am holding on to my Conservative membership long enough to vote for Mrs May, whose Brexoscepticism looks to be useful. I am encouraging my Labour friends to do what they can to sack the utterly useless Jeremy Corbyn. I shall be allying myself with the LibDems’ Europhilia. And I shall be writing, tweeting, demonstrating and campaigning. I urge the 48 (and rising) to do the same.