Tag Archive | seal

Come on a day trip to Lundy

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There is great excitement in our house as it is the start of the Lundy day-trip season. In the winter, the island is served by helicopters, and day-trips are not allowed. But from now until the end of October, the Oldenburg, Lundy’s own ship, sails three times a week, giving lots of opportunities for a fabulous day out.

Based in Bideford, she often sails from Ilfracombe, where she can sail whatever the tide, but leaving at 10am and returning by 6pm gives you only 3 1/2 hours on the island. When she sails from Bideford, she has to sail on the high tide to clear the sand bar at the end of the Taw / Torridge Estuary, so you often get a much longer day trip.

Saturday was forecast pretty fair, with a ‘slight’ sea, and the sailing schedule promised a whopping 7 hours on the island, so we left at 7.30am for the short drive to Bideford, arriving in plenty of time for the recommended 8am check in time.

9am

With about 150 passengers on board, some day-trippers like ourselves, and some staying for a few days in one of the 23 properties, we set sail on time, and in a bit of drizzle. That soon cleared and we had a lovely 2 hour crossing, watching out for seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, shearwaters, gannets, and kittiwakes. No dolphins this time, but they are sometimes seen.

11am

Down the gangway and onto the jetty, and finally we were back on Lundy for the first time since September. Shedding layers of warm clothing that keep one comfortable on the boat, we slowly climbed up the steep beach road, pausing often to take in the wonderful views down the island.

Most people head straight for the village, but we prefer to get walking, so we took the gateway that leads along the lower east side path.

 

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Winding its way along the gentle slope of the east side, this path is often sheltered from the prevailing winds, and can be a good place to find migrant birds sheltering, as well as the sika deer.  There are few trees on the island, and all are on this gentler coast. Even here they are sculpted by the wind.

 

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We followed the path as it clings to the slope, passing through copses of trees and shrubs that nestle in the sheltered valleys. Pausing frequently to watch the chiffchaffs and willow warblers feeding, we didn’t rush, just enjoying the beautiful day. We found a herd of 29 deer, including a couple of young stags, and some of last years youngsters.

12noon

The path brought us out onto the terraces, which are the remains of old granite workings. Quarries dot the side of the island, and a railway ran along the flat terrace to transport the rock. We found a comfortable flat rock, and stopped for a picnic lunch.

 

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1pm

Continuing up the terraces, we found a male black redstart hopping around in the bushes in one of the quarries. An occasional spring visitor, it was a nice highlight of the birding.

 

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1.30pm

At the end of the terraces you can curve back up onto the top of the island, but we chose to continue down the east side. We only saw one other couple all the time we were on the east side, so it shows how peaceful it can be compared to some of the more popular spots on the island.

 

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This coast is also an excellent place to see the grey seals that live and breed on Lundy, and we counted 24 during the day.

 

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2.15pm

The path leads to Gannets Combe, a deep valley that separated the southern body of the island from the more rugged North End. We didn’t have time to carry on to the North, so we headed inland.

 

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2.30pm

The island is about 3 miles long but a maximum of 1/2 mile wide, so it doesn’t take long to cross the flat top to the other side. The west is much steeper and rockier than the east, and often much windier as well. We found a spot with a view, and stopped for a drink and a snack.

 

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Walking south now down the broad grassy paths on top of the west side , we passed an old mill stone, a reminder that people have lived on Lundy for a very long time, and there are many archaeological finds for those interested in history.

 

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There is always plenty to see on Lundy, and we found flocks of the wild soay sheep, a few of the feral goats, and these two Lundy ponies.

 

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3pm

We made it to Jenny’s cove, the most famous seabird colony on the west side, and sat down to watch the guillemots flying onto and off the breeding ledges. There were plenty of razorbills in rafts on the water, and we were lucky enough to see a few puffins too. It is still early in the year for puffins, and they will arrive in increasing numbers over the next few weeks.

 

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4pm

Continuing back down the west side of the island, we passed through the jumbled rocks of the ‘earthquake’, and could soon see the tower of the Old Light, which marks the start of the southern end of the island.

 

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The southern end is a working farm, and the sheep have just started lambing.

 

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The Old Light was built on the top of the island to keep shipping away from Lundy’s treacherous rocks, but when it was finished they realised that it was so often fog bound as to be useless. Two new lighthouses were built lower down on the northern and southern tips, and the Old Light was retired. Now it forms two pleasant holiday cottages in the main building, and everyone is welcome to climb the tower and relax in the pair of deckchairs inside the lantern.

 

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We headed back through the fields towards the village, where we had some much-needed refreshment in the Marisco Tavern.

 

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5.40pm

Sadly it was time to head back down the valley to the jetty to rejoin the Oldenburg at 6pm for the return journey. The weather was absolutely glorious for 1st April, and we were able to cover a large part of the coastline during the day, so we had thoroughly enjoyed our day.

 

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6.30pm

with everyone safely aboard we set sail for the return crossing to Bideford. As we sailed, the sun sank behind us, streaking the sky with pinks and oranges.

 

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8.30pm

Back on the quayside at Bideford after an uneventful but chilly journey, we headed to the fish and chip shop for the traditional post-crossing dinner, before heading home. It was a perfect Lundy day out.

Cute fluffy babies, and other animals

One of my favourite Lundy activities is mammal watching. Yes, I also birdwatch, and there can be some excellent birds on Lundy, but I can do that anywhere. Lundy offers opportunities for mammal watching that are not normally available. Seals, for example, are easily seen either in the water, or hauled out. On our walk to the north end, see  my blog, we saw several snoozing happily on a flat rock. We were also lucky enough to see a porpoise fairly close in, while we were sitting watching the sea, low down on the west side.

There are also Lundy ponies to track down and admire, who have the run of the North end of the Island. Visitors are warned that they may bite and kick, but I ‘speak horse’, i.e. I know how to sidle up to them and see if any are  interested in meeting me, and can tell when they are not. So I always manage a bit of scratching time. (Me scratching the pony…)

Also roaming the top half of the island is next year’s burgers…

 

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These guys are a fairly recent addition to the farm, and seem to be a success so far, especially now that the first offspring is on the menu in the Tavern. There is something very satisfying about eating meat that lived its entire life on the island. The farm also has pigs and a lot of sheep, although these live in the fields in the southern half of the island. Plenty of cute lambs at this time of year!

 

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There are ‘wild’ animals to find too – a herd of Sika deer can be seen almost anywhere on the island, but are most reliably found on the east side, where they are fairly unafraid of people walking past gently.

 

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Less wild, but equally interesting are the feral goats and their ridiculously cute kids.

 

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We watched this family playing for ages, and then two young males started to size each other up…

 

 

The last of the herd animals are the soay sheep. A rare breed, I believe, but doing very well on Lundy, with lots of the most adorable lambs…

 

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As with the deer and goats, they do so well the numbers need to be reduced regularly, so all of these feature on the tavern menu. The roast soay was delicious.

Last but not least, I couldn’t resist a picture of this lady. Not sure Lundy duck has ever been on the menu, nor duck eggs, so not sure what purpose she serves, but she was waddling around the farm quite contentedly.

 

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So we had a great week finding all these animals, and a few good birds too, including a short-eared owl, a cuckoo, and a ring-ouzel, all just passing through on migration. We walked all over the island, often in a sharpish wind, and spent the one rainy day curled up in our cottage playing a fascinating new board game. Our crossing home was as sunny and calm as the first one, so was a fine end to the holiday.

A few days on Lundy, my favourite island

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We enjoyed the 90 minute crossing to Lundy last Tuesday on the MS Oldenburg, the Lundy supply ship, on a beautiful sunny day. Hats and gloves were needed to counteract a chilly breeze, but we didn’t have to layer up in waterproofs, and we stayed on deck for the crossing, eating bacon sandwiches and drinking coffee. No cetaceans this time, but we saw a few razorbills, guillemots and puffins once we neared the island.

Not everyone is as lucky with their crossings! By the Oldenburg’s next scheduled arrival on Thursday, the wind had become a stiff easterly, which is the worst wind for Lundy, as it blows right into the otherwise sheltered landing bay. We watched her as she approached the island, looking fairly stable, but as she turned into the bay the waves were catching her side-on, and she started to wallow about. She made it to the jetty, but was plunging up and down so much they couldn’t secure the passenger gangway, so they aborted the landing! Instead they took her around to the sheltered side of the island until later in the afternoon, when the wind had dropped a little, and the tide was lower, when they managed to tie up and offload the passengers and supplies.

 

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The island is  long, narrow, and flat-topped, with a gently sloping grassy east side, and a more precipitous, rocky west side The beach road winds gently up a valley from the beach to the village on the top of the island.

 

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We stayed in one of the rental cottages, just below the village and handy for the tavern, but with fantastic views back down the valley to the sea. They have fully equipped kitchens, but we usually eat in the tavern in the evenings, as the food is so good.

 

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After some very tasty island born and bred soay casserole, we wandered over to see the Anthony Gormley sculpture, Daze IV, which has been on the island for the last year. It is one of five life-sized sculptures placed near the centre and at four compass points of the UK in a commission by the Landmark Trust to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It is due to be removed soon, and despite my initial misgivings when it was first suggested, I think it has been good for the island and I will be sad to see it missing in September.

 

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The next day was just as sunny, but with a very stiff breeze, so we dressed warmly, put on sun cream (typical for Lundy to be wearing a thermal hat and  factor 50 on the cheeks…) and headed up the island towards the north end.

 

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Pondsbury is the biggest pond on the island, and is good for birds, but there are several other small pools dotted about.  This is quarter wall pond. We stopped at Jenny’s Cove which is the main puffin colony, and with the aid of decent binoculars found 8 puffins sitting on the cliffs, and 36 in the sea. They are just settling in to breed at this time of year, and by July there will be at least a couple of hundred buzzing around bringing sand eels to their chicks.

Finally arriving at the north end we found a sheltered spot for a picnic, watching the migrating wheatears and swallows, and counting the seals lazing on a flat rock below.

 

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Walking straight back down the centre of the island takes only about an hour or so, so we had a relaxed afternoon reading before heading to the tavern for dinner. A perfect Lundy day.

 

To be continued…