One of the delights of the ferry trip to the Scillies is the chance to see dolphins. I’ve been lucky on both outbound journeys, seeing a large number of them – and even managed to snap a few this time. I used to think that to see cetaceans you had to go to more tropical areas, but the reality is that you can see many species in British coastal waters, if you go to the right places.
Life on the Scillies is critically dependant upon the sea in many ways. They were originally joined to Cornwall, being separated by the rise in sea levels since the Ice Ages – but even in Roman times most of the current archilpelago was part of a single large island (known as En Noer). The main port was in what is now St Martin’s. Today, the island of Gugh is cut off from St Agnes at high tide, while Bryher and Tresco are separated completely, except for a few days when the low spring tides enable people to walk from one to the other. The rising sea levels caused by global warming are not a new phenomenon, but the acceleration of an old one.
Every island has its own unique character: my favourite one is St Agnes. It’s wilder than the larger St Marys (which is like a small rural town), and is Britain’s most south-westerly inhabited island. It is also closest to the most treacherous stretch of water in the world. There have been more shipwrecks off the western rocks (a few miles west of the St Agnes) than anywhere else in the world. The other attraction of the island, like the others, is that it is a genuine working community. By contrast, Lundy at the mouth of the Bristol Channel has a slightly artificial feel, being entirely managed by a heritage group.
Much as I would have liked to have seen more rare birds, it is no hardship to have time to explore the Scillies!