School’s out for summer
Geographer and GetOutside Champion, Alan Parkinson gives our teachers some outdoor inspiration for the school holiday period.
Discover soft white sand, turquoise sea, great food and beautiful scenery – all off the coast of Cornwall in the Isles of Scilly.
Where in the UK can you find tiny islands that have the softest white sand and sea that is a clear turquoise? The temperature on these islands is slightly higher than the mainland and the sub-tropical gardens host hundreds of exotic plants more common across the other side of the world. The food ranges from good old-fashioned Cornish pasties with a pint of ale to tapas served with Moroccan mint tea or Vietnamese coffee. Island produce includes chocolate, salt, flowers, fish, fudge, art in abundance and much more. On these islands you can swim with seals, relax, walk between the islands at low tide, visit the museum, amongst lots of other things.
The Isles of Scilly have much to offer. Here are some of my favourite places:
Of all of the uninhabited islands Samson is my favourite. I haven't visited them all by a long way but there are many things that make Samson my favourite. It's the best place to swim because of the shallow waters that gently lap the white sand. The water here is well known for being colder than your average sea water but that doesn't stop me. The beaches here are loaded with shells. Collecting them is good fun as you can never be sure what you will find. Cowries are my favourite find.
The history of this island is so interesting. It used to be inhabited by people, then deer, then nothing except the natural wildlife. There are plenty of ruins to explore. Even getting to this island is fun: you have to transfer mid sea from the tripper boat to a rib. The rib will take you as far as it can to the beach and then you have to hop out and wade the rest.
My favourite inhabited island is Bryher. I probably like this island because it's the most similar to Dartmoor! There are areas of open moorland with cairns and other antiquities. When I visit Bryher I make sure I walk right up to the North of the island to visit Hell Bay. On a day when the seas are rough it's very plain to see where the name comes from.
The Atlantic Ocean pounds the rocks with immense force. A visit to Hell Bay Hotel returns you straight back to civilisation. After reading ‘Why the Whales Came’ by Michael Morpurgo, which is set on Bryher, I couldn't wait to visit all the places named in the book. A trip to the Isles of Scilly is not complete without a trip to Bryher.
St Mary's is the most populated of all of the 150 islands on the Isles of Scilly. It houses approximately 80% of the islands’ population of 2,000 people. There are numerous places to eat including the very special Juliet's Garden with, I believe, unrivalled views across the water. Again there is a wealth of history and architecture to explore. St Mary's contains hundreds of ancient burial sites as you can see from the map.
It also has a fascinating military history, with the remains of the Garrison on the West of the island. The town itself has a few shops, which include gift shops, newsagents, butchers, grocery store, chemist, post office and more. You can get most of the things you need in town. When the Blonde One family stay on the islands our flat looks out onto town beach. I love to sit watching the boats bobbing, the seabirds pecking and the fishermen going about their daily business, while I listen to Radio Scilly updating me on tide times, boat times and events for the day.
St Mary's has many beaches. They range from the family oriented Porth Cressa beach where most people seem to go for their family day out, to the deserted Bar Point where you will share the soft sand with no one. I always make a beeline for Pelistry beach. This one is not usually busy as it's a little bit of a walk down a rocky lane. I love to collect yellow shells on Pelistry, which sit on the tide line in abundance waiting to be gathered up. If the tides are right you can take a walk over to Toll's Island, but don't get caught out by the fast moving tides.
Not to be confused with Room 101, the OS map of the Isles if Scilly is the Explorer 101 and it has a lot of blue! Despite this there's still loads to look at. It's incredible to note how many of the islands have the bird symbol, which means they are closed all year round to protect breeding wildlife, seabirds and seals. I didn't realise until looking at this map that there are different symbols for different kinds of lighthouse. The names of islands are funny too: Daisy, Doctor's Hole, Carn Itchen, Illiswilgig, Great Cheese, to name but a few!
One great way to GetOutside on the Isles of Scilly are the Walk Scilly festivals in April and October, which have numerous interesting walks and activities over a period of a few days. These walks will introduce you to a wealth of interesting places and people. You will find out which food can be foraged from the shoreline, you will discover where and why there is a body buried vertically, you will learn about the significance of the fact that St Agnes is rat free, and you will walk the most spectacular walks imaginable.
Whatever the weather, Walk Scilly is a must for any walkers who want something that little bit different. Travel is easy to arrange through Scilly Travel. The Two Blondes can't recommend it highly enough.
Lucy Atkins (Blonde One) is one half of Two Blondes Walking, and is a qualified Walking Group Leader. You can often find Lucy leading Ten Tors Challenges or inspiring Duke of Edinburgh groups. When she's not exploring, Lucy is a teacher at a local school in Dartmoor.