Read this blog: The one where we celebrate a sixtieth
Monday 11th to Tuesday 19th September 2023
Leaving the RWC 2023 behind in France, we flew from Lyon to London City Airport and then caught the overnight train to Penzance, known as the Night Riviera Sleeper, to catch the helicopter over to Tresco.
Matilda always feels the need to hug Paddington when she passes. She loved the books as a child and remembers her aunt Judith, who worked in a children’s bookshop when Matilda was young, getting her a copy each time a new Paddington book was published. Sometimes they were even signed by the author.
The carriages and sleeping compartments [right] on the Night Riviera Sleeper have been updated since we last took this train but the name sounds more glamorous than it actually is.
There is also a new helicopter in operation on the route from Penzance to Tresco.
On our flight, the passengers were all travelling as couples and the ground crew asked for a volunteer to sit alone in one of the front two seats [just behind the pilot] to balance the load. Both Matilda and Robert happily volunteered as did another gentleman sitting in the row in front of us in the briefing. Despite the fact that his wife hissed at him crossly he was chosen to sit ‘up front’. All the passengers were then assigned numbers indicating the order in which they should board.
The briefing video was much more detailed and explained how to push the doors and windows out in case of an emergency as well as demonstrating the buoyancy aids and life rafts which would be triggered automatically should the helicopter land on water. Matilda was not sure whether this information made her feel more or less anxious.
We were both a little disappointed when the other volunteer to sit up front was chosen over us. However, after the safety video, this gentleman’s wife asked Robert to swap as it was their anniversary treat. Robert was only too willing. The passengers completely disregarded their boarding numbers and after another passenger declined, Robert did end up with the best seat after all, with almost as good a view as the pilot had. Meanwhile the anniversary couple sat next to each other and held hands, although it also transpired that their anniversary was over a month ago, so we felt the husband was not necessarily to blame for failing to register the significance of the trip for his wife.
Robert obviously had to record the take off from his prime position.
We knew John and Belinda were on board The Scillonian as we passed overhead and even though John was oblivious, we waved.
On arrival on Tresco, we were dropped at the cottage with our luggage which we were able to hide in the old outhouse. We then needed to make ourselves scarce until Belinda and John arrived from St Mary’s. We decided to go for a walk but although we left the cottage in sunshine we had to turn back for our waterproofs before we had even crested the hill. We reacquainted ourselves with the view form the garden at the New Inn, knowing we would be returning later.
Fortunately we were saved from having to skulk about the island for hours in poor weather as we received a message from Belinda just after 13:30 saying they had already arrived at the cottage. This was several hours earlier than we had expected.
John was under the impression that we were still in France and that we had offered Belinda the use of the cottage as a present so he was expecting to spend his sixtieth birthday with his wife on Tresco. We were looking forward to springing the surprise that we were there to celebrate as well but we also hoped he wouldn’t be too disappointed when he realised it was not going to be the romantic getaway he might have imagined.
Belinda thought she might have to persuade John, “who doesn’t normally do afternoon drinking” to have an early pint but in fact John himself suggested it on the basis that “as he was in Robert’s cottage he should do as Robert would”. She therefore arranged to meet us at the New Inn where John was indeed surprised.
Belinda should be commended for managing to keep the trip a secret since January 2021.
There were more surprises to come. We had decided we would go to St Mary’s the next day to do some food shopping. John was a little resistant as he would have preferred to familiarise himself with Tresco, but was eventually persuaded/outnumbered.
Our ulterior motive for returning to St Mary’s so soon was to meet our daughter, Ruth off The Scillonian as she would be joining us for the remainder of the week. This was another secret well-kept.
So then there were five.We all returned to Tresco and went to one of Robert’s favourite places to share the view from the Ruin Beach Café.
Robert and Belinda, who had gone ahead while the others finished their drinks, met Bill Oddie as they were walking back from the Ruin Beach Café. This turned into quite a trip down memory lane for both Robert and Bill as they attended the same school in Birmingham, albeit not at the same time. In another curious connection Bill Oddie‘s father and Robert’s grandfather had worked together at the Midland Electricity Board [MEB] and Robert‘s mother babysat for Bill when she was a teenager.
It was a pleasure to meet Bill Oddie who entered into the spirit of this chance meeting by giving an impromptu rendition of the King Edward’s School song and happily posing for a photo, although he does look as though he might be about to start doing The Funky Gibbon.
On Thursday five set off on the boat for St Agnes. As we disembarked, Belinda pre-ordered a pasty for John at The Turk’s Head. The three members of the Herd decided not to go round Gugh [an island which can only be reached at low tide] but set off immediately on a tour of the circumference of St Agnes. The Robinsons made an initial foray onto Gugh, but disheartened by a combination of the terrain and taking a wrong turn they quickly returned to enjoy the pleasures of St Agnes. This included the ice cream at Troytown Farm, the Troytown maze and the lighthouse, now disused. Any trip to St Agnes has to culminate in pint at The Turk’s Head which Matilda particularly enjoys as they serve Blue Moon. It also has a beautiful view.
The walk round St Agnes proved a bit much for John and Belinda who both have some knee issues and the following day [Friday] we all decided to forego a trip to St Martin’s and stay on Tresco to rest.
John and Belinda could not resist a stroll along the beach and were amazed by the number of jellyfish with interesting markings which they saw stranded on the foreshore by the outgoing tide.
Ruth is using this visit as a real break and stated her intention of doing as little as possible but she has kept to her daily running regime and became the Local Legend by the end of the week.
She also tried to do some of the things which she has no memory of ever having done before. One such activity was a trip out to watch the gig racing and support the local team. The sun was sinking in the sky and casting a warm glow as we set off.
We left Tresco at 18:40 and were taken to watch several 31-foot-long wooden boats, each with six rowers with wooden oars, compete against each other rowing towards the harbour mouth at St Mary’s. The night we went it was the last men’s race of the season and was a ‘Swap Race’ in which crews compete in a gig from another island. This is designed to identify the best crews as apposed to the best gigs.
One of the pleasures of watching the gig racing was listening to the children of some of the crew members shouting out their support. A particular favourite of ours was “Come on Daddy, give it some wellie.”
One morning, Matilda woke early and was able to capture the sunrise over the Blockhouse and St Martin’s.
Saturday dawned and John turned sixty.
Robert had heard that the red squirrels are fed at 10:00 am every morning in the Abbey Gardens and so we started the birthday with a stroll to see if this were true. Either side of the blue bridge just as you enter the gardens there are feeding tables set up for the red squirrels and as advertised, just after the gardens opened, these were topped up with food.
Some had arrived before the food and were obviously accustomed to the schedule. There seemed to be a hierarchy amongst the scurry of squirrels, with one or two of them claiming precedence over others and chasing them away. We were amused to see one chose to eat upside down on a tree [see Video of the day].
The gardens were more colourful when we visited in May, but at this time of year the Amaryllis belladonna lilies are in flower and line the paths as though they are presenting arms at a military salute.
Later, back at the cottage, Belinda had managed to find a cake and candles so that the birthday boy would not miss out on these important celebratory elements. This was consumed whilst watching the RWC.
Back in May, we had booked a table for the seafood grill at the New Inn. Unfortunately although a sign outside at lunch time said that the fish BBQ would be served from the kitchen grill in the event of poor weather, the planned birthday feast was in fact cancelled other than a fish special on the board.
On our last evening Belinda and John treated us to a meal at the Ruin Beach Café which was delicious [see Dish of the Day] and Belinda was particularly pleased to be able to order gluten free pizza.
We always enjoy sharing Tresco with new people and were especially pleased to be able to coincide this trip with John’s sixtieth birthday as John and Belinda both love the seaside and associated wildlife.
It was a shame that they could not manage the rougher terrain on the more rugged parts of coastline to come and see the seals but they enjoyed spotting greenshanks, oystercatchers, egrets and several varieties of jellyfish stranded by the tide as well as small fish in the shallows and of course the red squirrels.