hugging the daymark


St Martin’s – The Isles of Scilly, was far away in the distance when I first worked out which island it actually was.

I was on the Scillonian leaving Scilly in 2016, heading towards Penzance. It was brilliantly warm. I could see white sub-tropical beaches and azure blue coastlines on the horizon. I thought to myself – I’m going to walk those beaches some day.

A year later, late October mind,  I sat waiting on one of the island ferry boats that take people to the ‘off-islands’, with couples, birders, families, dogs and owners.  We all smiled at each other,  waiting for our day trip to St Martin’s to begin.  This twenty-five minute short boat ride across the archipelago just whammed up the anticipation even more, and made it feel like a proper adventure.

Gry Maritha, St. Mary’s Quay

It was a dry day with no sun. The Gry Maritha was unloading its bulk freight cargo – lifeline to the Scillies. Forty or so passengers sat waiting for their adventure to begin. Our plan was to go for a long wild coastal walk, to find those sandy white beaches and to visit Fay Page.

Higher Town Quay

Everybody got off the boat at Higher Town Quay in St Martin’s in a determined flurry. The boatman said we would be met at the other Quay – Lower Town Quay at 2.30 or 4.30. We had to remember that. The other Quay.

Par Beach

On arrival,  we panicked a bit, should we go North, East or West? We didn’t have a map. People soon dispersed with their own agendas. We chose East so that we would get a good blustery walk, and a view of the Eastern Isles out to sea. We were almost tempted by the sign on the red boat to go straight to the Seven Stones Inn. Must remember that for later.

Sign to The Seven Stones Inn

We were on the South-East shore – Par Beach –  and quickly decided to go East, anti-clockwise. We walked down to the next stony beach – Perpitch. It was empty. Unexpectedly, we spotted a rather large-headed seal. Comical and cheeky looking. It was watching us – unashamedly.  We were all shouting and squealing. It really was quite close. I pondered on the life of a seal round here.

Sea-Bastian at Perpitch

Moments later there it was again, with another equally big playmate. Two! So exciting! Floating and staring. Head to one side. We named them Sea-bastion and Ce-lia. The children were skipping up to the shore with ready phones,  “Oh look, there’s another, and another!”

So we watched. The seals played hide and seek with us. It was exciting just guessing where they would pop up. I’m not at all seal-interested, but it was funny being checked out by these blubbery boys, or girls.

Friendly Scilly seal on the left

The best part of all was when four seals came up for a snoop at exactly the same time. It was like getting all four seals/cash/cherries on the one-armed bandit machines.

Eventually, they swam towards St Mary’s and we carried on with our walk. We missed them immediately.


The ocean and rocks were to our right,  and to our left, ankle-high brown bracken and sloping hills.  The footpath was neatly cut out, but only maybe the width of a standard ruler. You had to concentrate, otherwise you could stumble easily into the crunchy fauna.

It was a beautiful meandering walk. We still searched for our seal friends –  just in case they decided to follow.

We got out the rucksack supplies, crouched on large rocks, and ate sandwiches and crisps whilst hiding badly from the wind – which had got up a lot as we’d walked higher. We took a few pictures, drank warm coffee, and moved off again.

Walking the coast path to the Daymark

We saw the infamous Daymark perched up high before us. It was on the highest point of St Martin’s. A large striped crayon pushed deep into the ground. A whopping 4.8 metres in diameter and 11 metres high. Constructed out of solid circular granite in 1683 by Thomas Ekins – an aid to navigation.  The oldest surviving beacon in the British Isles.

It is in fact an Ancient Monument. Apparently it is visible from mainland Cornwall on a clear day!

We walked higher. The elements were raw. The wind whipped up and outerwear flapped at high speed. Mesmerised, we raced toward the Daymark. This strong  Scilly construction commanded to be reckoned with. I stretched my arms wide and hugged it with my face pressed against the chilly stippled white paint. It was quite an amazing feeling. Even better than hugging a tree. More majestic.

Then my daughter, who stood next to me, shouted out something or other – and joined me.

Hugging the Daymark

We often hug Cornish rocks  –  Well, only the really amazing ones.  It runs in our family.

Walking round the Daymark


The wind, like an open and broken tent flapping in a relentless storm, sent me a bit loopy for a while. I whooped loudly with great emotion.

I thought about its position, its elevation, its grandeur and its meaning; the past mariners and islanders, ships and shipwrecks. We chased and whooped a bit more round the Daymark.

So I stopped brainwashing my daughter about how brilliant it was and I walked backwards for a few hundred metres STILL looking at it. I was just so exhilarated in its presence.


Eventually, I unfixed my gaze from the Beacon and turned the right way round to continue my walk. I took a sharp intake of breath, as you might if you were to ever fall overboard from a boat into the freezing sea.

View South from the Daymark

Suddenly, sunlight shone, island upon island. I stood incredibly still, then turned, panoramically, 360 degrees very, very slowly. I had the most incredible crystal clear view of the sea all around.  And, in it, the island of St Mary’s, The Eastern Isles, the rugged island of St Martin’s upon which we were already on; I could see Bryher and Tresco, and beaches as far as the eye could see. Unforgettable.

You really did have to be there!
Looking back towards The Eastern Isles – The Vineyard is in the dip.

The terrain changed to grass and fields dotted with a few cows.  We could see the vineyard better from this angle too. We headed inland to Higher Town – a small hamlet with a village shop, The Island Bakery, a post office and an art gallery.  The bakery had some excellent looking cakes, everything homemade and really only the good stuff. I walked in and walked out.  Stupidly. I wasn’t hungry at the time and was more interested in looking at the art in the gallery. Next time I’m buying the cake.


The twittering sparrows flitted about our feet and ate the baker’s crumbs.  October sounded just like March. There was so much birdsong. It was confusing! The sun was out too!

Tame Scilly birds

Heading west, in the direction of the other Quay,  we followed the only road.

Heading West

We stumbled across The Seven Stones Inn. It was a steep walk up to it. I was so glad we bothered with the climb. Usual tables outside. Wow!!!!!!! What a bloody fantastic location for a pub!

October view

Why people sat their on their iPhones using the WiFi looking downwards for long periods of time I had no idea! I just drank in the scenery. The sparrows hunted for seeds up and down the old flower heads, and the dogs got patted by their owners. The shandy tasted spectacular!

View from The Seven Stones Inn looking towards St. Mary’s

Inside was cosy and fairy lights covered the ceiling.

Inside The Seven Stones Inn

I wouldn’t mind stumbling home from here after midnight, back to my own island home one day.

Reluctantly,  I left my (probably favourite) view, and we headed off to Fay Page’s Silver Workshop in Lower Town. I’ve followed her on Twitter for quite a while, and I’ve admired the quality of her work from afar. So, I was very excited about going, and was hoping to buy myself another silver charm. My last Bryher charm was sent in the post, so actually being able to choose my own up close was a real treat.

We almost walked past the very small unassuming stone workshop. It was adjoined to a stone house. Inside it had white-washed walls with display cabinets made from reclaimed teak: ornate typewriters, ships mirrors and displays with shells and flowers. There were maps, hanging pot-buoys and books about boats. More silver collections and fish- themed displays. Driftwood and oddments that had been washed upon the beach.

In the corner, behind the main shop desk, there was a great throne (chair), and desk workspace just in front of the window.  It was absolutely covered in metal and wooden tools and things that I didn’t know the names of and that I’d never seen before. Maybe two or three hundred of them – and pots, shiny gadgetry and magnifiers. It utterly intrigued me. I  wanted to photograph it so badly – but daren’t ask!

Raph was in charge. She was standing in for Fay ( Fay was in San Francisco),  and she happily talked about all the silver charms, adding in extra details about how or when it was first created. It was a fabulous studio which showcased a real passion for the sea, sea-life and all things related to Scilly – in silver.

The door creaked open and a young girl of about six came bursting through the door with a Halloween gift for Raph, and she was so excited to show her what she’d grown.

Grey pumpkin on window ledge

I thought it was amazing too – so I asked Raph if I could photograph it outside. Resting amongst the enormous heart rocks and stones – a blue-grey pumpkin!

I was going to choose myself a sea urchin charm. But, I spotted the silver Daymark. I felt the weight of it and Raph explained how well it was made with its oxidised stripes.  I knew it would remind me always of our windy island walk up to the top of St. Martin’s where we first were acquainted.

Fay and Rob’s Jewellry inspired by The Scilly Isles

I think maybe the Daymark chose me. My daughters took their time to chose other beautiful seashell and fossil charms. And of course the Scilly seal. Somebody had to chose the seal. The large one.

After the charms had been beautifully packaged we said goodbye to Raph and left the workshop. It was such a fun and memorable visit. It exceeded my expectations. We then headed towards the other Quay for 2.30.

It had turned cold again, but we had had a brilliant day. We sat on the beach and collected yellow shells, imagining how amazing this island would be on a glorious hot day.

There was so much more to be discovered,  and paths to walk,  but that would have to be another time. So I picked up some keepsakes to bring home.

Shells found on The Lower Flats ~ Round stone on Perpitch

The Guiding Star took us safely back to St Mary’s Quay and we walked slowly back to our cottage in Old Town. You do have to do a lot of walking on Scilly. Boating. Beach combing. . .








finding Scilly


Porthcressa Beach, Scilly, UK


Two and a half years ago I found Scilly.

With the greatest of ease; it got hold of me, it grabbed at my heart and it wrenched it.

We were holidaying in Pendeen, Cornwall. Cornwall was our happy place. We booked a long overdue ferry trip to St Mary’s, Scilly Isles for the day.  It was a three-hour, 28 mile journey,  south-west into the Atlantic Ocean.


We disembarked excitedly, knowing we had only four hours to explore and hike around the island. If we missed the boat back, we would be looking for a B and B for five, and wouldn’t be going back to Penzance until 4pm the next day. Ha! Wouldn’t have minded!

What exactly was on this island – surrounded by more sea, islands and boats? We had no idea of what to expect. We’d hand on heart, truthfully,  not even Googled it.

On that gloriously warm May afternoon, we walked on sandy, sea-shelled beaches, through a lush nature reserve and had a cafe stop in the idyllic Old Town Bay. I think I knew then that one day we’d come back.

Old Town, St Mary’s

Eventually, after a short walk past the most beautiful, peculiarly but perfectly placed cemetery, the Five Islands School,  and down past all the allotments overlooking the sea – we found ourselves on Porthcressa Beach right next to Hugh Town.

I sat on the sand, quietly, noticing tiny, tiny fragments of iridescent pearl shells in peach and silver, pondering  how could I feel so extremely sad and happy in equal amounts. I seriously didn’t want to leave.

It was hot. The girls were cartwheeling in the sea in their jeans and t-shirts. It reminded me of being by Lake Como in Italy. Just listening to that gentle ebb-flow sound. The sea-stones trickling in and out of the water.

Everything was perfect and everything was wrong.

Everybody else was doing everything right. Children were in their wetsuits in canoes, splashing or paddling purposefully. Relaxing families were clearly only half-way through their two-week stay. There was slowness and quietness.  I wanted to be a part of all of it. Within the hour this would be all gone.

Instantly, our Cornwall mainland holidays were superseded by these little, intriguing islands just out in the Atlantic. And I wanted to explore them all. So, naturally, we would just have to come back.

It was time to plan a proper holiday to Scilly out in the ocean, just like those other families.

Standing on a tiny island in the Atlantic



getting there: a pleasure and a bother

Scilly was fully booked for the summer months, so we planned our holiday for the October half-term as we had no real choice. It’s not always so easy booking holidays for five people. The islands do have some accommodation, but there are only five, small inhabited islands. These are named : Tresco, Bryher, St Mary’s, St Agnes and St Martin’s.

We nearly booked a week on St Martin’s. We were tempted by the totally dark skies at night. Because of Scilly’s remote location, it has dark sky discovery sites which are excellent for stargazing. We decided however, that the house we’d picked was really too small and we needed much more space. Luckily, we found one in Old Town (the place with the cafe that we’d been to two years before) –  a stone’s throw from the beach.

Five days before our holiday, and to our horror, Storm Brian was forecast. We had a worrying text from the ferry company saying the trip would probably be cancelled on our travel date because of 50mph winds – and the boat ride would be ‘uncomfortable’.

Storm Brian arrived the day after we arrived – 50mph winds on St Mary’s and all the off-islands

We decided that losing a day of our holiday was not particularly fair, so we phoned everybody (parking, hotel, cottage, ferry company) and miraculously arranged everything so that we could travel the day before it was predicted. We were taking a huge chance. Could we beat this storm?



On the day before the day we should’ve sailed, the wind was holding steady at around 20mph.  And, although our journey wasn’t without sickness, we did manage to get to The Mermaid Inn on St Mary’s by twelve noon. This time, we were really, really lucky. We watched the Scillonian lll sail back through the curtains of the pub and felt sorry for the passengers on it; the sea had begun its spring tide swell and they were all going back to the mainland on that full, swaying sea.

Scillonian lll heading back to Penzance

But, we were finally on Scilly – for nine days instead of seven.

Late October afternoon view from inside The Mermaid


I will continue to write about St Martins, Tresco, St Agnes and Gugh, Bryher and St Mary’s. Each island deserves a blog-post all of its own. Hopefully, this will give a good sense of each island, and the photographs (although mostly taken in October on an old IPhone ) might just make you wonder how you might get there someday.



in amongst the Southwold sand dunes

We have a loose plan to go back to Southwold beach on New Years Eve. This will be our third expedition.

Should we do it again? Is it worth all the effort? We could just ‘not’ go this year. And stay in.

It’s usually a bit quiet on New Year’s Eve day. We energy-conserve. We all know we want to go to Southwold. We all know we really will most probably go. But, then all goes quiet for a few hours. Communication dries up.

Then, comes the trickle of WhatsApp messages about 7.30pm- ‘I’ve got matches’, ‘I’ve got wood and paper’, and ‘Meet at the old lifeboat shed again’. The BBC weather App is checked and checked again. Rain is forecast at eleven and there’s winds of 20mph.

‘Looking good folks – Thunderbirds are go!’

We pack the blankets, chairs, as many woollens that we can lay our hands on and pack the hot drinks. This year I put a measure of Baileys in one of the kids bottles. In go the toffee chocs, crisps, cheese straws and biscuits. Snack cupboard leftovers. Hiking boots. Matches.

All wrapped up and ready for adventure. As I open the car door I glance up at the black-grey night. The moon is good and the clouds aren’t covering the sky too much. We might be able to see where we are going.


Southwold is empty of people and has a post- Christmas starkness. We drive up towards the harbour past all the shippy houses, and then it starts to rain.

With three cars parked side by side, we wind down the windows and have a quick chat. We then reverse the cars and agree to leave.

Of course we don’t! We just turn the cars to face away from the sea and rain. The white lighthouse sparks through the drizzle every now and again. ‘ Daddy, can we have the Toffee Chocs please?’

I have a few how dare it rain thoughts – and wait.

The wind gets up a bit and then the rain stops. The fourth car turns up, and yes – we are on!

There’s always a bit of a kerfuffle. We all trail down to the sea in the near-dark, carrying the bare-essential camping stuff. One friend awkwardly pulls her suitcase along the beach. Is she going on holiday?

Out at sea there is a static golden ship, like an overly illuminated lightship, and as solid as a cluedo weapon or monopoly piece. Was my friend embarking on a ghostly journey at midnight? Why didn’t anybody tell me? Comical and fabulous.  I suppose timber is blooming heavy in the sand, and even heavier against the wind and time of night.

I wonder if the crew have binoculars? I wonder what are they doing stuck out there on New Years Eve? I bet they are warm.

The fire is expertly lit and the Christmas tree branches sizzle. It is pretty cold.

We chat about Christmas, mention a few crazy things, like starting blogs, and I try and fend off the children who are in need of blankets and everything it seems. I just want a bit of peace. This part of the evening goes fast. Out come the crisps, falafels, cheeselets and we hand them round and around.

The stars are great. Not as good as other years, but I’d rather have stars than no stars. The moon is pre-old. The cruise ship quite magnificent. I think the wind stops.

I love to hear the waves. Over and over. I tune in and stay tuned. We’ll be going home soon. This is brilliant.

Five, four, three, two, one. Happy New Year! Happy New Year! We all hug and drink the cava. The kids come to life. They’ve been all wrapped up and quiet taking group cuddle-selfies.

Out at the pier end, the fireworks crack, snap and echo. They are different. More playful than conventional displays. They move more. Maybe it’s because they are just metres above the sea. Maybe the sea makes them better.

We are so far away. I have a full view of beach, sea and sky.

I love it.

We wait a long while for them to stop. They have to be appreciated, fully.

A few of us wander down to the shore. I write 2018 in the sand with my pointed hiking boot, and I chat to the teens. They are happy. And glad we came.

The rest is just making sure the fire is out and safe. We do have a real-life fire-fighter among us so we know we are in safe hands.

We double-check we’ve got all the kids. Then we all convoy home.



a wolf moon welcome

You have found greenheart.

This is my blog.

WordPress – I’m going to see if five years of going back to school, and countless English lessons, might make me a more interesting writer.

This is day one. It’s also a Wolf Moon, a Hunger Moon, a Cold Moon an Old Moon. I’ve just had a good stare at it outside. The huge moon is more grey inside than I’ve ever noted before – through binoculars.


So, the first day of the year, the first full moon in January of 2018, and it is a fresh start. A time to recharge, reflect and reassess where you are in life.

I have no obvious direction for greenheart as such, but I believe it will evolve if I make the time for it.

I love the sea, rocks, the mountains, the coast, and unspoilt natural beauty. And of course – being outdoors. So that’s where I’ll most probably start.

My greenheart blog means,  me, caring about all things ‘green’, and the ‘heart’ part of the word – well, it speaks for itself.

One other thing.

Do you know what greenheart is?

Greenheart timber, also known as Demerara Greenheart, is a very strong timber. It is a pale, olive-green wood used in marine environments; for boats, docks, harbours, bridges and groynes. It is able to withstand salt water and watery situations. It is enormously durable.

My dad first told me about greenheart. This is his story. And, I absolutely loved its name right from the first time I heard it.

In 1960, Kessingland beach in Suffolk, was in dire need of sea defences. My uncle was involved in the scheme to install the new  groynes. He manned the crane which thumped them hard into the sand. These groynes were necessary to hold back the sand and the stones for the future generations,  and to hinder coastal erosion around Kessingland Beach.

Each time a new groyne was thumped into the ground, the steel top part which was used to smash down on to the top of the groyne, totally splintered and mashed the top two foot of each timber. My uncle collected up these massively heavy, broken lumps of greenheart into a pile, which nobody else wanted.

My ten year old dad trundled an old Blue-Cross pram down to the beach. Only able to fit six end pieces in each time, he almost completely buckled both the wheels and his back under the weight. When home, each end piece was further split into four, and each of these would burn all night on their home fire. I’m not sure how many journeys my dad made –  but I should imagine quite a few!

I love this story. I think it’s a good one.

I also, almost, used to live pretty much on Kessingland Beach.

Here’s to greenheart.