“Such a Lyonesse there was”
Richard Carew, Survey of Cornwall, 1602
A few months ago, flying home from Spain north over the Bay of Biscay, the sky must have been unusually clear, for there below me, bright as stars in unpolluted skies, I saw where Gaia had sprinkled a handful of her sparkliest glitter.
The Isles of Scilly were reminding me I had not yet visited. Known to me since my West Country childhood, and especially via my love of myths and legends from the Matter of Britain, I’d been wanting to go for a long time. In recent years, since working with conservation organisations and writing about British wildlife, more of what the Scillies has to offer had been revealed to me.
But for a short first visit, I did not want to island-hop. I’m old enough and wise enough now to have stopped multi-tasking: stopped skimming the surface of life. I wanted a single-island focus.
So, partly because of its particular ‘management style’- perhaps guardianship is a better word – and for its world famous sub-tropical garden, I chose Tresco as my first island to explore. And after all, Gaia actually lives there, in the beautiful form of David Wynne’s sculpture.
I may have reached the bus-pass years, but there is a life for me to live on Tresco. The island may only measure a little more than two miles by one, but there’s a vast landscape to explore. The permanent residents may only number around 150, but they have a thousand multi-faceted stories to tell.
I have fallen in love, and like every new lover, I want to talk – incessantly – about my new love. So there will be more. Much more. For now, to end as I began, but in reverse.
Last night, I enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Flying Boat restaurant watching the sun set. When I left to return to New Inn, where I was staying, I stepped out into the dark night. The properly dark night: there are no street lights on Tresco, and the gibbous moon had not yet risen. I stood for a moment, allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness. But perhaps it wasn’t that dark, after all… I looked up, remembering those few months ago, when I was in the sky myself, looking down. There above me, in unpolluted skies, I saw a million handfuls of the sparkliest glitter.