Lundy Island Favorites

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Most Recent Favorites in Lundy Island

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    The Ugly

    by johngayton Updated Jul 28, 2014

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    Favorite thing: No-one knows exactly why this little hut has come to be called "The Ugly". Whilst it's not particularly pretty, it is practical and stunningly located overlooking both the Landing Bay and the vista of the East Coast's cliffs concertinaing all the way up to the North End.

    The Ugly was built sometime in the lateish 1800's as a shelter for one of the Heaven family's daughters (Cecelia??) who was convalescing after a serious bout of illness and is located a short walk up from the family home The manor house was called The Villa in those days (now known as Millcombe House) and some accounts have the daughter remarking how ugly it was - The Villa that is.

    The hut had fallen into disrepair by the time the Landmark Trust took over the management of Lundy but has now been fully restored and if you look closely you'll notice that the roof has added cables firmly attached to its beams and anchored to the stonework. The reason for these becomes obvious when the wind changes to an easterly.

    To get to The Ugly you can take the path northwards from about halfway down the stone steps, just after the gate, when heading towards Millcombe from the back of the Tavern. Or if coming up from the Landing Bay take the path on the right just before Millcombe.

    The Ugly View Over The Landing Bay View Up The East Coast Footpath Down To Millcombe
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    Lundy Lichens

    by johngayton Written Apr 15, 2014

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    Favorite thing: Despite their appearance lichens are actually quite complex little organisms, being a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae and/or cyanobacteria. The algae or cyanobacteria photosynthesise to provide the food source for the fungus, whilst the fungus provides the habitat for its partner.

    Lichens can be leafy, crusty or bushy and are often found in communities where several species are present. Here on Lundy we have about 350 species, including several very rare ones. These grow in a diverse range of habitats around the Island including our few trees, rocks (of which we have plenty) and even interspersed with our moorland heathers and mosses.

    The profusion and diversity of lichens here is due to the unpolluted atmosphere and the fact that no chemicals, such as fertilisers or pesticides, are used anywhere on the Island.

    Yet another thing that makes our Island so special!

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    A Neolithic Burial Chamber?

    by johngayton Written Mar 21, 2014

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    Favorite thing: This one is causing a bit of consternation. English Heritage list a "Chambered Tomb 165 metres north east of the Rocket Pole" (List Entry Number: 1015931); however, on their map they place it to the north of the path leading to the Rocket Pole, and close to the wall separating Tent Field and South West Field.

    Having checked that immediate vicinity the only thing there, apart from coarse grass and gorse is a nondescript chunk of granite which could be anything. I've also noticed from other reports that no one else seems to have found anything there.

    A little closer to the Rocket Pole, but on the other side of the path are the remains of something, as pictured in the main pic here. This corresponds much more with the various descriptions of the site.

    If it is indeed the listed "Chambered Tomb" then it is a very significant monument and probably the oldest structure on the Island. Such tombs date from the middle to late Neolithic period, circa BC 4,500 to 2,500, and a site of this sort of size would have been used to inter someone of importance. This is further evidenced by the apparent presence of two smaller cists close by, which could be from "satellite burials".

    It seems the tomb was found in 1852, topped with a stone slab estimated to weight 5 tons. The capstone was removed and the tomb excavated but no remains were found, only a piece of pottery which has since been lost. The capstone itself ended up being split in two and used as the gate pillars for Milcombe House (then the residence of the Heaven Family and known as The Villa). A later report has it that the site was then filled in 1887 after a bullock drowned in a pool that had formed in it.

    One of our historians, MYRTLE TERNSTROM, records her researches in the Lundy Field Society Annual Report Vol 50 - http://www.lundy.org.uk/download/ar50/LFS_Annual_Report_Vol_50_Part_17.pdf

    Yet another Lundy mystery!!

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    An Oddbod Of A Listed Building

    by johngayton Written Mar 20, 2014

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    Favorite thing: Here on Lundy we have several buildings which are "Listed" by English Heritage because of their architectural and/or historical importance. We have a 13th century Castle, a 19th century Church, a trio of lighthouses and a fine example of a Victorian granite quarry. A bit of an oddbod is this one.

    This is the magazine used for storing signal explosives at the South Lighthouse and was built by Trinity House in 1897, at the same time as the North and South Lighthouses. It was given listed status in 1991 since there are very few other examples of this type of construction still standing. The barrel-vaulted roof was purposefully built less robustly than the walls so that if there was an explosion the blast would have been directed upwards.

    It's good to see that Trinity House still maintain the building, even though it is no longer in use.

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    Lundy Standing Stones

    by johngayton Written Mar 12, 2014

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    Favorite thing: Although not perhaps as impressive as the stone circles of Avebury or Stonehenge Lundy has its own little collection of standing stones - well some are still standing.

    So far 10 stones have been identified, all within the southern quarter of the Island. The definitive survey, to-date, is that of a former lighthouse keeper, R W E Farrah, in the Lundy Field Society's Annual Report, Vol 42, published in 1992.

    Mr Farrah began his investigation using data compiled by the National Trust and English Heritage who had listed 6 of the stones. The lighthouse keeper, having a mathematical and astronomical interest, looked at the alignments and placing of the stones in order to ascertain their functions and found that at least 6 of the stones were very accurately aligned for viewing the winter and summer solstices and the equinoxes.

    His conclusion is that these stones represent a quite sophisticated solar calendar. By being able to observe precisely the sunsets and sunrises of the solstices and equinoxes the Islanders would have been able to chart the seasons as accurately as if they had a modern calendar.

    Although it is impossible to accurately date the stones, they are believed to have been erected in the late-Neolithic period - circa BC 2,500. Because the dating is uncertain Mr Farrah conjectures that it is possible that Lundy's stones pre-date those of Avebury and Stonehenge and that the Island was the origin of British megalithic science. But he acknowledges that this is unprovable.

    What is certainly true is that no matter what I learn about my Island it always manages to provoke further investigation...

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    St Helen's - Now The Parish Church

    by johngayton Updated Jan 22, 2014

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    Favorite thing: There has been a church of some sort on Lundy for at least 1,000 years. The earliest evidence indicates that there was a chapel, dedicated to St Elena, on Beacon Hill, next to the cemetery from the 12th century. However the Island is reputed to have been a religious centre since early-Christiandom.

    During the Heaven family's ownership (from 1834 to 1918) they initially built a small corrugated church close to their estate house and dedicated it to St Helen. In the 1890's the then head of family, the Reverend Hudson Heaven, was bequeathed the funds by a wealthy aunt to build the present-day edifice, the almost cathedral-like Church once again dedicated to St Helen.

    This was completed in 1896 and consecrated in June 1897 by the Bishop of Exeter. The church was designed to seat up to 600 people but both the fortunes of the Heaven family and the population of the Island were in decline and so the building was never used to capacity.

    Despite Lundy's isolation and relative independence it had never been accepted by the Anglican Church as a Parish in its own right, but rather part of that of Hartland. During the ownership by the Harman family the church was maintained, although the bells fell into disuse, and occasionally used for private ceremonies conducted by visiting clergy.

    After the Landmark Trust's leasing of the Island St Helen's has seen considerable conservation efforts, including the 1994 restoration of the bells and gained Grade 2 listing in 1990. With a total population of less than 30 souls the church was never going to have a resident vicar but it has been used for services by visiting groups and for weddings. It is though popular with visitors as part of the Lundy history and is also a favourite with bell-ringers from all over the world.

    In December 2013 the Church of England decided to give Lundy Parish-status and so now St Helen's, 117 years after its consecration, is finally a Parish Church. The Island population is still less than thirty and so Sunday services will continue only to be held by visiting clergy on an ad hoc basis but as its own Parish at least we now have the ecclesiastical status our relative independence deserves.

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    Lundy Rockface Patina and Life on Mars

    by johngayton Updated Nov 11, 2013

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    Favorite thing: If you take the lower East Side path northwards from Quarry Beach you'll notice that where the granite has been quarried from the cliff-face the remaining rock has developed black and dark-brown patina. This is due to wind-born micro-organisms, such as microcolonial fungi and bacteria, which have attached themselves to these relatively sheltered rock walls. The organisms capture traces of Manganese from the rain, fog and dew to produce Manganese-rich secretions which help them attach themselves to the surface which produces this "varnished" effect.

    You also get patches of more colourful patina on the West Coast, which are similarly caused but in this case the organisms use Iron rather than Manganese (last pic).

    Similar-looking patina have been observed on the Martian rocks by the probes, Viking and Pathfinder, but because the probes weren't equipped to take samples scientists are unable to determine whether these are organic or mineral varnishes, nor whether they originated on Lundy or vice-versa.

    BTW Mars is not, as yet, on the Oldenburg's sailing schedule - HA!

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    VC Quarry

    by johngayton Updated Oct 2, 2013

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    Favorite thing: If you descend to the lower East Coast path from Quarry Pool and head northwards you pass the sites where the granite was excavated during the brief existence of the Lundy Granite Company (1863-68). The broad footpath here was the tramway along which the hewn blocks were transported to be loaded onto ships at Quarry Beach.

    The first major excavation site is now known as VC Quarry and a memorial here marks the death in action of Martin Coles Harman's eldest son, John, for whom this was a favourite childhood spot.

    John Pennington Harman was born in Beckenham, Bromley on the 20th July 1914 and moved to Lundy with his father after the latter's purchase of the Island in 1924. Although privately educated John Harman wasn't an academic and as a young man spent several years travelling and doing labouring jobs, most notably in New Zealand as a lumberjack and Australia as a sheep shearer.

    With the Second World War underway he returned to Lundy in 1940 and joined the army soon afterwards. Given his background he probably could have joined as an officer but preferred to enlist, initially with the Fusiliers and then was transferred to the West Kents. A poignant anecdote illustrating young Harman's purposeful decision to enlist comes from his former commanding officer Major Donald Easten.

    It seems John had jokingly mentioned in one of his letters home that,

    "...he thought it funny that the British Army hadn't got a pair of boots to fit him...his father took it up directly with Churchill. So a signal came whistling back, "Why hasn't this chap got any boots?" That was the time I discovered that his father was this rich influential man. Harman was most upset about that. He apologised and said that he'd never write and tell his father anything like that again, he didn't want to get any of us into trouble."

    From "Forgotten Voices of the Victoria Cross", Robert Bailey.

    The action during which John Harman was killed, and for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross, was the Siege of Kohima (from 5th to 18th April 1944) on the India/Burma border. This battle is now considered as the turning point of the war against the Japanese in the Indian/Burmese theatre. It involved about a thousand men of the 161st Indian Brigade, which included the West Kents, holding out for 13 days against a full Division of Japanese infantry and artillery - estimated to have been over 12,000 troops in all.

    This made for a very interesting bit of research in that the accounts leading up to his posthumous award vary so much in detail. Trying to summarise, this is the events as I see them.

    In the first few days of the siege the British and Indian troops were forced to retreat on several occasions. On the 7th April Harman, who was now a lance-corporal, was in a forward position on a hill as a sniper. He saw a Japanese machine gun crew setting up in a position that would give them a potentially devastating field of fire. Disregarding his own safety he sprinted about 35 yards with a grenade in hand until he reached the trench they had occupied, after pulling the pin he counted down to the last second before tossing it into the position resulting in its annihilation and the capture of the gun.

    The following day, as the Japanese attempted another advance, he spotted five Japanese troops taking over a trench in front of him. He instructed his Bren gunner to give him covering fire and, once again single-handedly, stormed their position, this time with only his rifle and bayonet.

    In this too he was successful but as he retreated back to his own lines he was mortally wounded by a burst of enemy rifle fire. According to one account his last words were, "I’ve got to go. It was worth it – I got the lot."

    Having saved the hill from premature capture and for his inspirational effect on the rest of his company, his commanding officer, Major Easten, recommended him for the Victoria Cross. This was approved by King George VI on the 20th June 1944.

    The memorial was commissioned by his father and unveiled on 20th June 1949, on the fifth anniversary of the VC award.

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    Beacon Hill Cemetery

    by johngayton Updated Aug 12, 2013

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    Favorite thing: The small graveyard next door to the Old Light is thought to date back to the 5th century when supposition has it that Lundy was home to a minor monastic community. One of the archaeologists who has investigated the cemetery, Charles Thomas, believes that one of the earliest graves was that of St Nectan of Hartland whose remains were disinterred and transported back to the mainland to be relocated at Hartland whose church is dedicated to him.

    There are the remains of a chapel here, whose origins are undated, but it had been a ruin for many centuries until finally demolished by an Ordnance Survey team who used the stone to build a cairn in 1804.

    The existing graves are mostly those of the previous owners of Lundy, the 19th century Heaven family and the 20th century Harmans. The last person to be buried here was Felix Gade, a former Island agent, who died in 1978 after 52 years as an Islander - his book "My Life On Lundy" is a fascinating historical document charting the years with the Harmans and then the redevelopment by the Landmark Trust.

    As well as the graves there are also a set of four inscribed standing stones, three of whom have Latin text and the fourth Brittonic. No-one is quite sure whether these are grave markers or not as no graves are associated with them and so they may have been moved from elsewhere on the Island to their present position. An archaeologically-minded friend suggests that perhaps they were pre-Christian grave markers which were moved to the "right place" after the Christianisation of the Island.

    So Beacon Hill is a very typical Lundy thing - lots of maybe's!

    For a couple of interesting commentaries check out these websites:

    http://www.lundy.org.uk/tour/location.php?loc=1

    http://www.tamar-dowsers.co.uk/articles/lundy.htm

    http://www.lundypete.com/myth.htm

    View from Old Light
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    Beware Of The Lundy (North End) Sea Monster!

    by johngayton Updated Aug 5, 2013

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    Favorite thing: On my last trip out with Clive on the Jessica Hettie (leaving from the jetty) I noticed something apparently chasing the boat as we rounded the northwest point. It seemed to be chasing us at a rate of knots as we looped round but fell behind as our course straightened southwards.

    I managed to get a few pics, all of which were blurry to varying degrees - well, it is kinda difficult to get a good, clean photo of a moving object from a moving boat in choppy seas -the best pic was this one.

    I was sure it was of some sort of sea creature. It definitely had seemed to be chasing the boat and as the pic shows it was producing quite a sizeable bow wave.

    Having posted it on FB the consensus amongst my friends was that it was something turtle-ish ( -esque, -ey and several other suitably turtle-orientated adjectives).

    However when I sent the pic to our warden at the time, Derren, he got back to me to tell me that it's a buoy! (This was when I broke out the cigars LOL) A buoy probably attached to a lobster pot, a bit knobbly, seaweeded and barnacled, and the appearance of movement is due to the five knot rip current caused by the confluence of the Atlantic and the Bristol Channel.

    Ach well, maybe he's right, but me, I still think it IS a sea monster!! Buoys are boring (as opposed to guirls) ;-P

    The Monster The Jessica Hettie
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    Lundy Sunsets

    by johngayton Updated Jun 20, 2013

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    Favorite thing: Despite there being nothing to west of my Island except about 4,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean until landfall at Newfoundland and Labrador we do get the most amazing sunsets. Not only are views out to sea spectacular when there's interesting cloud formations but also inland when my Island's own features provide a foredrop.

    One of my favourite places to take sunset pics is from the light room on top of the Old Light and you can multiple reflections bouncing off the glass panes so that it seems the sun is setting all around you.

    The pics here were taken at the following locations: #1 - Ponsdbury, which is about halfway up, just before Halfway Wall. #2 - From the field in front of the Old Light. #3 - From the light room on top of the Old Light. #4 - From the track heading from the village up to the Old Light (which at the time was being repainted, hence the scaffold).

    And of course the sunset bathes the whole Island with its light, subtly altering the colours and turning the commonplace into yet another unique vista - as #5 shows.

    Fondest memory: For more sunsets visit my travelogues by clicking SUNSETS :-)

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    The Battery

    by johngayton Updated Jun 20, 2013

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    Favorite thing: Lundy has been the cause of many a shipwreck over the years and to that end a group of Bristol-based merchants proposed the building of a lighthouse in the early 1800's. This was completed in 1819 and its operation taken over by Trinity House, who are responsible for the navigational aids around the British coast, with the light being switched on early the following year.

    However the island is often fogbound which rendered the light invisible and so Trinity House had a gun battery built on the west side, just below what is now known as the Old Light. This was staffed by two keepers and their familes for whom a pair of back-to-back cottages were built. On foggy days the keepers fired a canon from the gun emplacement at ten minute intervals to warn passing shipping of the island's presence.

    As a minor digression: the keepers' families were supposed to be limited to their respective wives and a maximum of two children each. However there were a lot of non-foggy days and no TV or much of anything else to pass the time and so both families ended up with an estimated seven or eight children each. When the Trinity House overseers came to visit the excess kids would be sent off to hide around the island. The only problem the keepers had was trying to remember which pair of children they had presented the last time.

    This became redundant in 1897 when the South and North lights were built, both of which had foghorns as well as their beacons.

    Because of its difficult to reach location, down a steep path which can be treacherous when wet, the cottages too fell into disuse and are now ruins. However this is still a very popular spot for us locals and for visitors as the views are spectacular both to seaward and up and down the coast and when the wind is coming from the west or southwest is an amazingly sheltered spot which can be great for sunbathing on the odd day that we actually get some sun.

    Path Leading Down To The Battery Keepers Cottages Gun Emplacement Interior View South From Gun Emplacement
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    The Iconic Old Light

    by johngayton Updated May 24, 2013

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    Favorite thing: Definitely the most photographed object on my Island is the Old Light which stands atop the highest point of Beacon Hill, at an elevation of 469 feet above sea level.

    Lundy had always been a hazard to shipping and records going back to the 15th century indicate that our granite rock has caused the destruction of literally hundreds of vessels due to the unpredictable currents, storms and rip tides - check out this website - http://www.lerwill-life.org.uk/history/wrecksnd.htm. With the rise of the importance of trade for the Channel ports in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, especially that of Bristol itself, a group of Bristol merchants proposed building a lighthouse at their own expense.

    This was finally completed by the designer Joseph Nelson in 1819 with the building materials being quarried and shaped from the very granite that necessitated its existence. The light was commissioned on the 21st February 1820 but was soon identified as inadequate for the job. The problem was that because it had been built on the highest point, plus the 96 feet of the tower itself which made the lantern house over 500 feet above sea level, the light was often obscured by fog which settles above the plateau even when it is perfectly clear at sea level.

    Firstly the light was relocated to the building's base but this was still too high. Then in 1869 the fog signal battery was established, on the West coast, with two keepers responsible for firing a cannon at ten minute intervals when the mist descended (see tip above - http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/222a7c/ ).

    However even the sound of the cannon could be rendered inaudible by the violence of the frequent Atlantic storms which is of course one of the times when some sort of warning signal was necessary.

    Trinity House, who had taken over the light's operation, finally decided to close it down and built the North and South Lights at much lower elevations at each end of the island. These were completed in 1897 and the Beacon Hill Light became the Old Light.

    Fondest memory: After the takeover of Lundy by the National Trust and the subsequent leasing to the Landmark Trust the Old Light has been tidied up and the former keepers' cottages turned into letting accommodation. The tower is left permanently open for visitors who feel energetic enough to master the 147 (sometmes very steep) steps to the lantern chamber. Once there you get a 360 degree panorama of the whole island (provided it's not foggy!), and if you want a rest after the ascent there's a couple of deck chairs on the former light platform.

    There's also an observation deck which runs around the outside of the lantern room which is kept locked but a key is available from the Tavern reception provided you sign a disclaimer.

    Even if you don't climb up it is still eminently photographable from the outside and as I've discovered you can catch it in an infinite variety of poses - see pics:

    Lantern Room Catching The Morning Sun On A Misty Day! Silhouetted Against Stunning Sunset Deckchairs At The Top Vertigo-inducing Stairway
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    The 2nd Time I'm Gonna Use "AWESOME" And Mean It!

    by johngayton Updated May 24, 2013

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    Favorite thing: The word "awesome" is a word that I hate to hear being used frivolously. To my mind it should be reserved as the superlative of superlatives and not applied to mundane things like "Awesome body" or "Awesome football game" & etc.

    The first time I found a true use for the term was when I visited the Grand Canyon, the first sight of which literally took my breath away.

    Yesterday, travelling between my Island and Ilfracombe on the MS Oldenburg, I found myself using the word unsarcastically for the second time. I was on my way to Bergamo for Eurmeet and in a good mood anyway and sharing my boat trip with a colleague who was leaving us was kinda poignant but fun as we shared a few beers.

    Matt was just saying how he had often spotted dolphins during the crossing when suddenly a large pod of them surfaced and began frollicking alongside and around the boat. It was AWESOME - their sleekly-beautiful black bodies flashing in the early evening sunlight as the mirrored swell of the sea released them and re-engulfed them.

    There must have been dozens of them, maybe even hundreds, as they gave us an unforgettable spectacle. We enjoyed them immensely and strangely I got the feeling that they too were out to enjoy themselves and the mutual pleasure was almost tangible in the sea air.

    WOW - AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!!!

    AWESOME! TRIPLE AWESOME DOUBLE AWESOME AWESOME WITH BIRD AWESOMELY CLOSE BY
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    The Changing Faces Of Lundy

    by johngayton Updated Nov 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Even visitors who appreciate my Island often ask the questions - "But what do you guys do all the time? Surely there's only so much to discover? Once you've walked a certain path so many times, surely you've seen everything?"

    That's Lundy's mystery. Whilst it's an Island where to a large extent time stands still, it is also an Island where everything is in constant flux. The weather, the light, the wind...these are never the same from day-to-day, nor even from minute-to-minute.

    One afternoon, recently, I was down at The Battery. The sky was cloudless, piercingly blue, the air still and the Atlantic calmly lapping against the West Coast's cliffs bases. Then without warning the wind whipped up a hoolie, the sea boiled, and from far out a rolling bank of almost black mist rushed shorewards. Within minutes I could hardly see my hand in front of my face, the air had become chill and dank whilst the wind-driven water crashed deafeningly against the jagged rocks below.

    Then as fast as it had arrived it had gone, leaving only a patch of cotton-wool-like mist suspended in the ravine behind me.

    The set of pics here tries to capture the sequence - the total time elapsed is 18 minutes between pic #1 and #5 (3.11 to 3.29 pm)

    Clear and Calm - 3.11 pm Waters Beginning To Boil Then.... Two minutes later. 3.29 pm
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