Our Easter is­land treat

This isle full of strange crea­tures and sweet flow­ers never fails to en­chant

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Fiona Reynolds

Fiona Reynolds gets away from it all on Lundy

A‘Seals loll fatly on sunkissed rocks be­fore slid­ing into the sea with un­ex­pected grace’

FTER an in­tense uni­ver­sity term, noth­ing is more ap­peal­ing than the prospect of time on an is­land with no phone or wifi sig­nals. We’ve spent Easter on Lundy for the past 15 years and we boarded the trusty HMS Olden­burg at Il­fra­combe with the sense of en­joy­ment that ac­com­pa­nies fa­mil­iar­ity and free­dom.

Lundy, which can be seen from the north Devon coast, is three miles long and half a mile wide: a gran­ite table­top sur­rounded by pre­cip­i­tous 200ft cliffs and bat­tered by huge Bris­tol Chan­nel seas. Only in the south­east of the is­land is there a proper beach and land­ing bay and, as we walked from it up to the vil­lage in warm sun­shine, we could feel our wor­ries evap­o­rat­ing.

‘What do you do on Lundy?’ peo­ple ask, know­ing that I love walk­ing, but cu­ri­ous as to how such a small is­land could sat­isfy me. The list is end­less. We go to see puffins— re­colonis­ing the now rat-free is­land in num­bers and just ar­riv­ing af­ter a win­ter at sea—pere­grine fal­cons and mass­ing ra­zor­bills; the herds of wild goat, Soay sheep, sika deer and Lundy ponies; and seals that loll fatly on sun-kissed rocks be­fore slid­ing into the sea with un­ex­pected grace. Even af­ter 15 years, there are new places to ex­plore among the craggy cliffs. There are new­born lambs and High­land cat­tle, jig­saws and good books in the com­fort­able Land­mark Trust cot­tages.

My favourite thing is to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the is­land, tak­ing the path clos­est to the cliffs. Walk­ing clock­wise, I be­gin at the Old Light, a de­funct, beau­ti­ful gran­ite light­house, work­ing my way north past the Bat­tery, an old look­out; the Earth­quake and Jenny’s Cove where puffins nest; the im­pres­sive Devil’s Slide, a chal­lenge for any climber; and even­tu­ally pick­ing my way along the very top of the cliffs to where North Light perches and the rough seas smash into the rocks as the cur­rents meet.

Off the north-east point, I be­gin to see seals, lots of them, in the wa­ter and gath­er­ing on the rocks of Gan­nets’ Bay as I turn out of the wind into the gen­tler east coast. The path twists and turns through Gan­nets’ Combe be­fore be­com­ing a de­light­ful, grass-clad walk which hugs the gen­tle slopes as they slide into the sea. On past the Mouse­hole and Trap, Brazen Ward—a huge flat rock loved by seals—and un­der the pin­na­cle-like cliffs of Tib­betts Hill, haunted by pere­grines.

Ap­proach­ing the vil­lage, I walk past the quar­ries from which a for­mer owner hoped he’d make his for­tune ex­port­ing gran­ite, along cliff edges hap­pily stripped of rhodo­den­drons and rev­el­ling in prim­roses and early blue­bells and into Lundy’s only patch of wood­land, shel­tered from wind and fenced against deer.

I de­scend to the land­ing beach and Rat Is­land, Lundy’s big toe, be­fore climb­ing steeply to the Cas­tle, the old­est build­ing on the is­land, with its his­tory of smug­gling, pi­rates and dun­geons. Skirt­ing the sea­ward side of the Cas­tle ex­poses the de­li­cious sweep of the south coast, its springy turf dot­ted with sea thrift teased into bloom by the April sun.

The cliff edge is scar­ily steep: once, the farmer’s quad­bike was picked up by the wind and smashed to smithereens on the rocks be­low. As if to em­pha­sise a sense of peril, the is­land’s south-west cor­ner is dom­i­nated by a vast chasm, the Devil’s Limekiln, the prod­uct of a mas­sive an­cient ge­o­log­i­cal slip.

My last leg is back up the west coast, head down against the wind, past Mon­tagu’s Steps and Pi­lot’s Quay. The ap­proach to the Old Light is wel­come—this walk hasn’t been a stroll. My re­ward is a half-pint of Old Light bit­ter at the Marisco Tav­ern, which con­firms that all’s well in the world af­ter a good walk, in­spir­ing beauty and no phone. Fiona Reynolds is Master of Em­manuel Col­lege, Cam­bridge and the au­thor of ‘The Fight for Beauty’ (Oneworld)

Fol­low her on Twit­ter: @fionacreynolds

Puffins on Lundy Is­land by John Ge­orge Nash

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