A Week on St Agnes

In a rather hectic schedule I found a week where I could explore St Agnes with little or no interruptions.

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Plane to St Mary’s from Lands End

St Agnes is part of the group of islands called Scilly.  Around 29 miles off the coast of Cornwall. It is the most South Western part of the UK and a long swim from here would eventually bring you to America assuming the currents don’t crash your small and frail body into the rugged and jagged rocks around the Bishop Rock Lighthouse.

Bishop Rock Lighthouse

Bishop Rock Lighthouse

In order to reach the Scillies you become a slave to public transport.  That 29 mile stretch of water can be overcome by boat or plane.  A while ago there used to be a chartered helicopter ride from Penzance but the heliport is now a Sainsburys supermarket.

The Scillonian III

Accommodation and camera kit would have to all fit into a rucksack on my back so I needed versatile equipment and to travel light.

In the rucksack the camping gear took up most of the room leaving space for a body and a couple of lenses, a travel tripod, slimmed down filter kit and cleaning essentials.  No charging or laptop so enough batteries and memory for the week.

My choices were the Nikon full frame kit, the Nikon crop frame kit or the Fuji X kit.  Now Fuji has strange battery consumption and often in a days shoot I can consume five or more batteries.  This excluded the Fuji’s from my choice.  The Nikon full frame kit with body and 2.8 lenses is just too bulky and heavy   So this left the Nikon D3200 with 18-55 and 55-200 compact VR lenses.  Both of these have 58mm filter thread so the smallest Hitech filters were taken too.  Circular Polariser, Graduated, Neutral Density, Warming and holder were also packed.  To complete kit a Velbon Ultrek travel tripod, infra red release and some gaffer tape.

All this was packed into a fleece camera insert and then into the side pocket on the Lowepro Sport 200 rucksack.  This has been slightly modified with the padded area removed so when not photographing the bag can be use for hiking and travel.

Resolution on the D3200 is awesome and when keeping to low 100 ISO I was comfortable that results would be outstanding.  I may not be able to blow images up to fifty inches but with a steady hand and secure tripod combined with the vibration reduction in the lenses I felt confident with the image quality.

The D3200 is aimed at consumers but somewhere deep within the menu options all the functions are there.  The scene selections are also a quick way to access aperture control. It would have been good to have two bodies as there was a lot of lens swapping during the trip.

Tropical sand and arctic temperature sea

Tropical sand and arctic temperature sea

Walking up to the dock I spotted our vessel that would take us to St Mary’s the Scillonian 3, a shallow draft passenger and cargo ferry.  The draft makes it a bit bumpy in anything other than flat calm seas so there is a plentiful supply of sick bags strategically dotted in wall dispensers around the ship.

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Looking towards St Michaels Mount from the rear of the Scillonian III

Sitting on the rear facing observation deck St Michaels Mount looked stunning in the distance. This was my first chance to confirm that the 55-200 and the vibration reduction would be up to the job.  About half an hour into the journey things began to get choppy and increasingly greener people were retching into those sick bags.  Not long after the man selling pasties had abandoned his post and mopped up a sea of puke in the lower cabins instead.  Luckily I don’t suffer from sickness so for me a pleasant journey across.

Arrival in St Mary’s was gorgeous, the sea was shimmering and the sky a vivid blue.  All the boats in the harbour bobbed pleasantly and the view across the bay towards the lifeboat station was the first Scilly picture I took.

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St Mary’s Lifeboat Station across harbour and bay

We waited for the smaller Spirit of St Agnes inter-island ferry to take us to our St Agnes island hideaway.  The first interesting spot on the island was a day mark.  Looking from a distance the gable end of a two or three storey house.

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St Agnes Daymark 

Tent pitched and some food consumed and it was time to explore. Right next to the campsite is Troytown Down which is a mix of gorse, grass and heather punctuated by lumps of granite which have been sculpted by nature into some amazing shapes. Over the years people have named these rocks.

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St Mary’s Pirates are here

The campsite is right on the end of the island and the sea is a stones throw away from the boundary wall. The sea is quite rough here and at times there is no gentle lapping of waves on the rocks. More an ever increasing roar similar to what would be experienced on the edge of the M25.

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Gugh is an island attached to St Agnes by a sand bar that is dry at low tide. There are less than ten permanent residents on the island. The coast is mainly rock with the occasional beach. The general ground is gorse with rocks and a few small trees.

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Gugh Sand Bar

There are some rocks naturally carved by the sea and some that have been placed by humans at a similar time to Stonehenge.

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The old Man of Gugh is a 3 metre lump coming out of the ground at a forty degree angle.

Old Man of Gugh

Old Man of Gugh

Here are a selection of other images taken.

Troytown Maze

Troytown Maze

More tourists leaving their mark

More tourists leaving their mark

The birdlife is really tame and sometimes cheekily sharing your sandwich

The birdlife is really tame and sometimes cheekily sharing your sandwich

Nags Head rock

Nags Head rock

Tourists making their mark in shells

Tourists making their mark in shells

Some amazing rock formations sculpted by nature all over the island.  This one reminded me of an elf

Some amazing rock formations sculpted by nature all over the island. This one reminded me of an elf

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The sand on the Scilly beaches is white, coarse and inviting.  There are billions of glittering bits reflecting the sun

The sand on the Scilly beaches is white, coarse and inviting. There are billions of glittering bits reflecting the sun

St Agnes Lighthouse which is visible from just about anywhere on the island

St Agnes Lighthouse which is visible from just about anywhere on the island

St Agnes Sunset.  A shame that there was a bank of cloud on the horizon which remained there all week.

St Agnes Sunset. A shame that there was a bank of cloud on the horizon which remained there all week.

Shah the St Agnes gigg on the way to St Mary's to race .  They won !

Shah the St Agnes gigg on the way to St Mary’s to race . They won !

Taking Shah, the St Agnes Gigg down to the water

Taking Shah, the St Agnes Gigg down to the water

Troy town beach towards Bishop Rock at Sunset

Troy town beach towards Bishop Rock at Sunset

Sunset over Troytown St Agnes

Sunset over Troytown St Agnes

Blue skies and blue flowers

Blue skies and blue flowers

I couldn't work out if these flowers were grown commercially or just for aesthetic reasons.  In St Mary's

I couldn’t work out if these flowers were grown commercially or just for aesthetic reasons. In St Mary’s

The flowers across the Scillies are vibrant, everywhere and really unusual and different from the mainland

The flowers across the Scillies are vibrant, everywhere and really unusual and different from the mainland

There are only a handful of vehicles on St Agnes with a couple of cars, tractors and golf buggies.  Visitors and tourists have to walk

There are only a handful of vehicles on St Agnes with a couple of cars, tractors and golf buggies. Visitors and tourists have to walk

Couple of the Gigg's after a race from St Mary's to St Agnes.  St Agnes won this particular race

Couple of the Gigg’s after a race from St Mary’s to St Agnes. St Agnes won this particular race

One of the Troytown Farm Cows on St Agnes.  They make amazing ice-cream in wonderful flavours there

One of the Troytown Farm Cows on St Agnes. They make amazing ice-cream in wonderful flavours there

Public convenience in the form of a shed in one of the tea rooms on St Agnes

Public convenience in the form of a shed in one of the tea rooms on St Agnes

Jellyfish in St Agnes

Jellyfish in St Agnes

Pebble Tower

Pebble Tower

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Tourists making their mark with pebble towers.  These cover a beach on St Agnes

Tourists making their mark with pebble towers. These cover a beach on St Agnes

St Agnes Boathouse

St Agnes Boathouse

Troytown Maze close up

Troytown Maze close up

Tropical sand and arctic temperature sea

Tropical sand and arctic temperature sea

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One comment on “A Week on St Agnes

  1. bananabatman says:

    Read with interest Chris, since I don’t think I am likely to make it to the Scillies now. My Dad kyaked around the islands with a friend when he was a young man, I think it was just before WW2 as I’m pretty sure it was before I was born. I’ve got some old photos somewhere, and a very old map of the islands. I don’t think there were very many tourists there then.

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