Lundy is a unique place for photographers. No matter your interests, or skill level, you'll always find something to fascinate your camera eye.
I was in a moon mood recently and so spent a bit of time trying to capture it. I did, literally - inside the Old Light. HA!
This is going to be one of the slightly odder tips I am going to write about Lundy but it really is something the visitor may miss and really should do. Allow me to explain.
I love eggs and I simply adore pickled eggs which have been a staple of pub snacks for as long as I can remember. Heaven knows, I have even been known to pickle my own now and again and very nice they were, if I may say so myself! For those of you who do not know the concept, and there may be many, pickled eggs are basically shelled hard boiled eggs pickled in vinegar and whatever spices you fancy, I normally use black pepper, a few chillis and a couple of cloves of garlic but you can suit yourself.
I like eggs so much I have even eaten Balut in the Philippines. Again, for the unitiated, Balut is a partially fertlised hen's egg whcih you crack the top off to revealy a semi-formed chicken foetus which you then liberally dose with chilli vinegar and eat. Sounds pretty awful I know but it tastes gorgeous and is a national delicacy.
Anyway, back to Lundy. In the bar of the excellent Marisco Tavern, I noticed a jar of pickled Lundy duck eggs. Well, that is an absolute "must do" for me. I had seen a few ducks wandering about, free range like just about everything on the island, I had spoken to the farmer who rears them and I love duck eggs on the odd occasions I can get them fresh. They are far tastier than chicken eggs in my opinion. I paid my 60 pence, applied a bit of white pepper (must always be white pepper for these things) and bit into it. I don't want to start gushing here but I have never tasted a pickled egg like it, it was superb. A beuatiful pickling mix, wonderfully tasty egg and the yolk was even ever so slightly soft, not dry and powdery as is so often the case with the commercial varieties.
I am not expert on many things but I do know a thing or two about pickled eggs and you really should try them. I didn't notice if they were available in the shop for you to take home or are merely for local consumption. Pickled egg heaven!
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my travel pages but I love pottering about in graveyeards, churchyards, cemeteries, call them what you will. I find them endlessly fascinating and great sources of social history. Like just about everything else on Lundy, the old cemetery is unusual and slightly mysterious and I loved it.
It is unusual insofar as there are appear to be two distinct periods of burials, early Christian and 19th / 20th century, at least as far as I could make out the stones. What happened to all the burials in the intervening period, were they all taken to the mainland? Even on an island as small as this, it really is pretty small to have had that period of use.
There are a number of early Christian stones standing here but with no graves, and it is believed they were moved here after being elsewhere, nobody really knows. They are all inscribed with Latin inscriptions (some time after the Romans had left Britain) and there are various theories about who they may have been.
Whilst researching this tip, I came upon another mystery. There was a grave here of a semi-hermit, originally of high birth, who went by the name of St. Nectan and is believed to have inhabited the island in the 5th century. I say there was a grave as the remains were eventually disinterred and moved to Hartland in Devon. However, I have read a contrary view that Nectan had lived in Hartland all the time and was murdered there and buried locally after the rather grisly scene of having walked a distance carrying his head which had been severed by a robber! Miracles were associated with his burial place there and there is no mention of Lundy at all. I am no archaeologist or historian so I won't offer an opinion and shall as always leave it to those better qualified and to the reader to make up their own minds.
The place, as you can see, is fairly unkempt but I know the wardens have plenty else to keep them busy and it is probably not a priority. Anyway, to me it only added to the appeal of the place. Apart from the ancient gravestones, there are many graves and memorials to members of the families that owned the island, and again I was struck by the fact I could find no marker for (ordinary) islanders. I am not actually sure how many of these stones are actual graves and how many merely memorial stones as I did read that the last interment here was 1978 and there are certainly memorials post-dating that.
Given it's position and solitude, it certainly exudes an air of spirituality of one sort or another. You certainly should have a look round here if you are walking round Lundy.
The not very imaginatively named "Old Light" on Lundy is, as you have probably guessed, a lighhouse and is not so much a thing to do as a thing you cannot avoid. It dominates the skyline to the West of the village and is well worth a visit. Old Light has a fairly interesting history most of which was related to me by the wonderful John Gayton, our resident Virtual Tourist expert on the island.
As I have mentioned many times elsewhere on these pages, Lundy is a most beautiful place but, frankly, it is a damned nuisance for shipping sitting where it does and has a most appalling record of shipwrecks, not all accidental! In the early 19th century, it was obvious that something needed to be done and so a group of Bristolian shipowners offered to construct a lighthouse if the landowners would provide some land. This was duly done and the light was finished in 1820 to the design of one Daniel Asher Alexander, the chap who also designed the fairly grim Dartmoor Prison. As well as the lighthouse itself, which is fairly impressive, he also provided quarters for the lighthouse keepers adjacent. These have been very sensitively restored and are now available as some of the excellent holiday lets which keep the island financially viable.
The only problem with the light was that it was effectively pretty useless! Basically, the fog that often engulfs the place rendered it none too visible and the lighthouse keepers had to resort to firing a cannon at regular intervals to warn shipping of their presence.
Like so many other things on Lundy, they don't lock the door so you can just wander in whenever you like. A word of warning, however, the stairs are pretty steep and if, like me, you are not great with heights then you might not like it at the top too much despite the stuinning views. If you are not worried by the vertiginous climb and fancy relaxing and enjoying the vista, they have even very helpfully left a couple of deckchairs up there on the platform that formerly housed the light. I am glad I saw it but I don't think I'll be going up there again!
As I mentioned, if you really like the place you can actually stay in the former lighthouse keeper's quarters which are administered by the excellent Landmark Trust who run the entire island. They would make a wonderful holiday destination.
Once again, apologies for the image quality due to camera problems.
For many years, the island of Lundy was owned, run and quarried by the Harman family as is evidenced by numerous headstones in the Old Chapel graveyard close by Old Light. In 1914, a son was born to the family and christened John Pennington. With his father a millionaire, he had a very priveleged upbringing and used to spend much time on Lundy where one of his favourite pastimes was to play or sit around the quarry up near Halfway Wall.
On the outbreak of World War Two, John enlisted in the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment. Undoubtedly with his connections he could have been commissioned but he opted to join instead as a private soldier. By 1944 he was a lance-corporal and serving in the Far East theatre in Burma and India fighting the Japanese.
During the Battle of Kohima, Harman fidst single-handedly knocked out a Japanese machine gun post and then later stormed another group of enemy soldiers shooting four and bayonetting one before himself being mortally wounded and dying shortly after regaining his own lines. Fot these acts of great heroism he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest gallantry award in the United Kingdom. His father constructed a memorial to his son in one of the granite quarries on the island and it is now known as VC quarry. As you can see, many people still leave small mementoes there.
It is easy to see why this place was so loved by the young Harman, it is very beautiful with wonderful sea views and is well worth a visit.
I have mentioned in various other places on my Lundy page about how the island is administered by the admirable Landmark Trust, who have wonderfully restored many of the old buildings as very attractive holiday premises. Sadly, however, they have not been able to do anything about the old quarry cottages on the East Coast which, as you can see, have fallen too far into disrepair. Apparently there was some talk of having a go at it but it was going to prove prohibitively expensive.
Lundy has been quarried for granite for many centuries but it really took off with the formation of the Lundy Granite Company in 1863. The Company was awarded a huge contract to supply granite for work in London but it was rejected as being of inferior quality which was a major blow from which it never fully recovered and it folded in 1868. Although further attempts were made to quarry here commercially it was never a great success and eventually ceased in 1899.
You can see the remains of these cottages which were built for the workers and managers which are interesting to potter about. The images here are of the managers quarters (technically the surgeon, engineer and foreman) which naturally had the best views which are indeed spectacular.
Lundy is a place of incredible natural beauty. There are many excllent images here on VT, although mine are somewhat marred by equipment failure. Why then would I choose to include an image of a slightly grubby Tupperware box scribbled on in felt tip pen? Allow me to explain.
I am not sure whether to refer to it as a game, challenge or whatever else. Perhaps it is all things to all people and it is known as Lundy letterboxing. Basically, you buy a clue book from the shop and it guides you to various locations where the boxes are. You use a little rubber stamp in the box to endorse your book and prove you have been there. As well as the static clues, there are one or more "roving" letterboxes, which are known as Lundy Bunnies.
As I was with a local resident for a lot of my walking, I didn't think it would be fair to do the letterboxing as he knows where everything is but for other visitors it seems like great fun.
I know that me next comment may seem totally redundant but I am going to make it anyway. You are on a small rock at the junction of the Atlantic and Bristol Channel and with a total of perhaps less than a dozen vehicles on it (of very limited use to the visitor, except for moving luggage from the quay to the various accommodations provided). I think there are two or three quad bikes, two tractors, the fire engine and a couple of Landrovers and that is about it. There is one unpaved "road" on the island which, frankly, a mountain goat might break it's leg on, and that is it. So my tip here is to go for a walk, counter-intuitive as that may sound! You really won't believe how stunningly beautiful the place is and this is what people come here for, both day trippers and longer term guests.
Even for an overly verbose man like myself it is difficult to express how stunningly beautiful Lundy really is as it is genuinely an otherworldly place, if that makes any sense. It is truly an astonishing part of the world and I recommend it unreservedly. I must add the caveat that, for the mobility impaired traveller it is pretty unsuitable, which is regrettable but I am afraid that is just the way the place is. I have met a good number of the permanent staff on the island, who are friendly beyond belief and I am sure would try to faciilitate the visitor with different needs but, even with their best efforts, I feel it might be difficult. I do like to include information for disabled visitors when I can.
For those of us fortunate enough to not be mobility impaired, Lundy offers virtually limitless places to explore. It is like some sort of desert island (without the sun!) that you read about as a child. You really do enter another world when you go there and I again unashamedly recommend my good friend John Gayton'spages on Lundy. John lives and works there and is an absolute expert on the place. I was lucky enough to be shown round the island by him and it was an absolute joy. We explored the Northern half on a days walk, John having been good enough to organise his weekly day off to do so (cheers, mate). It was one of the most wonderful travel experiences I have ever had and I didn't even need a passport to get there, I was still in my own country!
I have waxed lyrical here about Lundy and the reader may very justifiably ask, "Well, what is so special about that place?" The absolute truth is that I do not know, I have never been able to quantify it. I would urge you to look at other tips about Lundy on this site and the officiial site that I have provided. Just believe me, it is that special, and the only proper way to explore it is on foot. I would also urge the visitor to bring sturdy footwear, either training (running) shoes in summer when it is dry or something more substantial in winter. There is only one unpaved road on the island and most of the best places are not even on the "road" and really need to be explored on foot. That is why people spend a considerable amount of time and money to come here.
Should you wish to visit and go for a walk, I can frankly offer very little advice as to where to go and that is the whole joy of the place. You just wander about, find whatever it is you find, and wonder at the beauty of nature. It really is that special. When John had to return to work, I managed a most wonderful walk myself around the Southern part of the island and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the many great things about Lundy is that you cannot really get lost, it is not that big! I have included a few images here to give you an idea and, like all my other Lundy tips, I add the caveat and apology that I had camera problems and what should have been some wonderful images are not exactly as I would have wanted them.
If you go to Lundy, you will probably know this already but do bring your walking boots / shoes with you, you will not be disappointed. From Old Light up to the Northern end, back round the other side around the very touching VC quarry and back to the Marisco Inn, you will have a wonderful day's walk. Alternatively, if you decide to go the other way, there are equally impressive things to be seen on the Southern side. Try to get to Rat Island at low tide! It really is a phenomenal place and I will create a travelogue to catalogue it.
I should add that, if you go to Lundy, you will undoubtedly meet Gayton (as mentioned above) but beware the man! I can tell you that he can walk, and walk fast! He goes up precipitous tracks like some sort of indigenous animal, he really is a wonder.Seriously, though, and that was a serious comment as he really does walk that fast (I thought I was still slightly fit!), I know that he loves meeting VT members who come to the island. Get in contact with him and, even if he is not free to show you round, he will tell you where to go and what to see. As I have said so many times on VT, there is no substitute for local knowledge and he has it in abundance. Thanks again, John, you are a star.
If I have totally failed to convey the innate beauty of tis place I apologise, juyst take my word for it and go there.
When you approach the "village" on Lundy initially on leaving the boat, there are two buildings that dominate the skyline. Away to the left you can see the Old Light (see seperate tip) but the building that most catches the eye is the much closer St. Helena's Church, also known as St. Helens. As your stay on the island continues, you become increasingly aware of it, not least as it is a very handy landmark as you wander around, sometimes off the paths.
I am certainly no expert but I did not find it architecurally outstanding, built in 1896 to the design of Gothic architect John Norton out of stone apparently salvaged from demolished cottages. This in itself is something of a precursor of the current island mentality of recycling, which I have mentioned elsewhere on this page. What sets it apart from so many parish churches on the mainland is the stunning location it occupies. There can be few churches in the UK with a better situation. I hope the images give some idea and, again, an apology for the standard due to technical problems with my camera.
My dear friend and host on the island, VT member John Gayton, who is the adknowledged expert on all things Lundy, was working and I had decided to take a walk round the South end of the island. This included the Church. The first thing I noticed was that the Church was open, which is not the case in so many places on the mainland for reasons as regrettable as they are understandable. I suspect St. Helena's is never locked, Lundy is not like that.
Entering the Church, the first thing I noticed was a slightly musty smell as you get in a place that is not often used. This is hardly surprising as the it is what is called an extra-parochial building. That means, I believe, that it is a consecrated building but does not have an attendant cleric nor regular services. At time of writing (September 2013), the incumbent is the Reverend Shirley Henderson from Hartland on the mainland and the telphone number given is a contact number for her. As far as I am aware, there are only very occasional services held here.
I had the place entirely to myself and I plenty of time and quietude for a look round. I must confess to being slightly surprised at the interior decoration, whih I found slightly incongruous with the exterior and suroundings. It was very pleasant and with what I thought was a slightly odd style for an Anglican church as it seems to be geometric tiling. I wandered around and saw what looked like a very grand organ although I subsequently found out that it no longer functions due to the salt air having affected it. another feature affected by decay was the peal of eight bells which were installed the year after consecration but became unsafe in the 1920's. they were actually removed in the 1950's but a charity appeal managed to restore them in 1994. I must say, I would love to hear them peal out over the island.
I have often noted elsewhere on my VT pages that I am of no religous faith but I do find places of worship (of whatever persuasion) fascinating and St. Helenas was no exception. As for the slightly obscure heading to this tip, allow me to explain. From 1834 to 1918, the island was in the private ownership of the Heaven family and the chirch was the brainchild of the Reverend Hudson Grosset Heaven and financed with financial assistance by another member of the Heaven family. The island and church were therefore known locally as the "Kingdom of Heaven". You really should visit if you are on the island.
It might sound like a pretty obvious thing to suggest that you send a postcard or two to friends and relatives back home but on Lundy even this simple act takes on an added dimension. As I mentioned in the introduction to my Lundy page, there is only one of most things on the island and so you buy your postcard from THE shop and eventually post it in THE postbox (pictured). so what else is required? Well, a stamp obviously and here is where the interesting part comes.
The General Post Office, as it was, ceased operations on the island in 1927 due to lack of business but now Lundy stamps are one of the mainstays of the economy here. The Harman family started issuing stamps and these are accepted by the Royal Mail, as it is now called, for delivering your postcard or letter from Bideford to anywhere in the world in the same way as a normal UK stamp bearing the Queen's head. However, there is one important thing to remember. It is customary in the UK to affix your stamp to the top right hand corner of your postcard but that is reserved strictly for Her Majesty so you must stick your special Lundy stamp to the top left corner. I believe I am right in saying that if it is a letter rather than a postcard you affix it to the bottom left. The very nice chap in the shop will steer you in the right direction as to the ins and outs of the system.
Lundy stamps, especiaally the older ones, have become much sought after by philatelists and fetch good prices so it really might even be worth sending yourself a postcard or two as a commercial venture. Perhaps they'll be worth a bit in a year or two.
During the August Bank Holiday weekend my Island hosts the internationally-renowned Lundy 'Lympics.
This is an annual Island fun day (weather permitting) where guests and staff get an opportunity to pit their strengths and skills against each other, and themselves. Being Lundy this isn't 100% serious, although to look at some of faces pictured you might think it was a matter of life-or-death.
The day begins with a relatively competitive Clay Pigeon shoot in the morning and once that's out of the way it all descends into competitive lunacy. The individual lawn games and team events are ones that have evolved (or perhaps devolved would be a better term) from mainland favourites and at times the day is laugh-a-minute.
Lawn games include: the "Lundy Clothesline" - the idea of which is to remove as many wooden clothes pegs from the line using only one hand; Quoits with our own unique twist; "Lundy 'Lastic" - a sort of hippy version of crossbow archery; "Mooring the Oldenburg", using the actual fetching line used to do the real thing and much, much more.
The games are set-up for children of all ages and our diligent scorekeepers tote the points you earn. There are all sorts of fabulous prizes for the winners - bottles of wine for the kids, cuddly toys for the adults and for the really unlucky last place losers, a meal for two in The Tavern.
Team events are equally off-beat and equally competitive. The four-legged race starts things off with three people attached by the ankles with self-adhesive horse bandages - if you've ever done the three-legged version you'll realise that two of you attempting co-ordination ain't easy, but three...
This is followed by our "Egg and Spoon Race" - the eggs being beach balls and the spoons garden shovels. The brisk northerly wind this year created an extra touch of havoc!
Then sack-racing with a difference. Teams of three have to traverse the course in a "Dumpy Bag" - the things we get tons of animal feed delivered in. The usual start command is, "Three...two...one...START...OK! Get back up, get back in your bags. Three...two...one..."
To finish the competitive bits off we have the Adults versus Kids "Tug-o'-War" - a team of four kids takes on the strongest eight adults. Well, we have to let the adults win something and boy, do they take it seriously.
Finally we have the Staff versus Visitors "Tug-o'-War" - this should've been a shoo-in but the bookies were laughing into their carpet bags this year as the visitors won 2-0. I'd set up a BBQ and a Ram Roast for the evening for all the participants but we withdrew that to the staff compound and let the bloody visitors starve - that showed them!!
This is just the Intro, here's the Outro.
At least once a week one of our wardens will lead interested visitors on a guided walking tour. Each walk takes in different aspects of our Island, depending on weather, season and sometimes just the warden's mood.
Our wardens each have their own subjects of personal interest and also have the dedication to learning for themselves about those things that are unique to Lundy and quite often they learn as much as their accompanying visitors.
These are free of charge and open to all - details are usually posted on the noticeboards in the Tavern and at the shed at the Jetty.
As well as the warden-led walks there are also tours during the boat season by our visiting local expert, Simon Dell, who makes a small charge - http://www.simondell.co.uk/lundy_walks.htm
It was curious, as our personal experience visiting new places is to have a hectic, battered style of activities the proposal of Lundy seems as a strange, exotic new way to enjoy. What does it means? There is no disco bar, nor museums, neither sunny beaches offering drinks on the seaside. No sir. A silent piece of rocks inviting you to walk in silence breathing the pure air, an overwhelming atmosphere where the nature invades our soul, filling our eyes with a dramatic landscape and our ears with the sound of the sea. Take your camera, walk, and be ready for a new experience.
Letterboxing in a hobby which involves searching for a box containing a rubber stamp and a logbook hidden from casual observers but which can be found by following a set of clues. Boxes are normally hidden in rural locations but not always.
The hobby began in 1854 on Dartmoor, the moorland heart of the County of Devon. At that time a local guide, Fames Perrott, cached a glass bottle in a cairn at Cranmere Pool, in the Northern part of the moor, with the intention of encouraging hikers to venture further afield. Hikers were given directions and asked to leave a note in the bottle to prove that they'd found it.
As the hobby caught on participants started to cache weatherproof boxes containing a logbook and a stamp in out-of-the-way places and passing on clues to their whereabouts to each other usually by word-of-mouth. As well as adding entries to the logbook visitors would often leave a stamped, addressed (either to themselves or to friends), postcard with space left for the finder to add his or her own personal message - hence the name "letterboxing".
Until the 1970's letterboxing was relatively unknown outside of a small group of keen walkers and the boxes were located in challenging locations. For some reason the hobby gained momentum and there are now several thousand boxes in all sorts of locations around the moor. These are looked after by an informal society called the "100 Club" who publish an annual guide to the locations (updated during the year for subscribers). Membership of the 100 Club is open to anyone who has found 100, or more, boxes and has the visual evidence (ie the box stamps in their own logbook) to prove it.
Here on Lundy the hobby was introduced in 1987 by a couple of regular visitors who were members of the 100 Club. I think the first box was that at The Marisco Tavern which was intended as an off-moor box for the Dartmoor letterboxers. It was a bit slow to catch on - by 1992 there were still only seven boxes (Battery, Tavern, Rat island, Mouse Hole, South & North Lights and the Old Light) but once the Island staff began to get involved this number soon quadrupled.
At the time of writing (Nov 2012) there are 27 sites on the Island, one on the MS Oldenburg, plus a floating stamp called the Lundy Bunny whose location gets moved around the existing sites.
The Shop has a Letterboxing Pack (£4.95) which contains a map, a list of clues (both laminated), a personal logbook, a pen and a spare inkpad should the one in the box require replacing. The boxes are spread all over the Island from North Light to South, East Coast and West and even one which marks the geographical centre. Some are very easy to locate and access (especially the one in the Tavern - tho' note that that comes with a twist) whilst others require some orienteering skills, timing and maybe a bit of a scramble - for instance Rat Island can only be accessed at low tide and the box is on its summit.
For those that get a complete set of stamps in their personal log The Shop will issue a Certificate of Achievement and there's no limit to how long it takes you. But even if you are only here on a day-trip you can still have the satisfaction to be gleaned from finding a few and passing on a couple of postcards.
This is something that once you start with it it rapidly becomes addictive and in some cases almost obsessive - we had a woman last week complaining bitterly that she couldn't get the Oldenburg stamp - well that's because it was helicopter season.
The best place, and most accessible, to explore our rock pools is at Devil's Kitchen, the channel at the South End which at high tide makes Rat Island an island. When the tide's out the craggy seabed offers up all sorts of fascinating flora and fauna.
Fauna include fish species such as Shanny and Tompot Blenny who are too fast for the camera as they dart into the cover of whatever is available as soon as they are aware of your presence. Squat Lobsters, various Crabs and Starfish are often spotted but not, so far, by myself but then I have plenty of time this winter to get out more - so watch this page.
To make up for the lack of fauna sightings there are about 300 species of seaweed and those here in Devil's Kitchen are amongst the most fascinating as these are the hardiest - they have to be to be able to survive the tidal range (at up to 14 metres the Bristol Channel has the second highest in the World), the currents where the Atlantic meets the Channel and the frequent storms.
As well as just wandering and poking around, lifting a few rocks to see what's underneath, this is also a great place for playing with Macro photography - but I'll let the pics speak for themselves.
Website below is that of the Lundy Marine Conservation Zone and is well worth a visit. We were England's first such (as from 12th Jan 2010, although we have been a marine reserve for 20 years) and the whole East Side, above the Landing Bay is designated as a "No Take Zone" where fishing or collection of any kind is totally barred. The rest of the coast is designated as a "Refuge Zone" where only potting and angling are permitted.