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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Green Tours

Yesterday, 26th April, I joined 19 walkers and my fellow guide aboard the Oldenburg bound for Lundy to lead them on one of the North Devon Walking Festival walks.
We had travelled to Ilfracombe in torrential rain and expected cancellation, but the clouds had cleared, the sun was out and we all embarked.
Simon with salt encrusted glasses
The purser announced that 118 passengers were aboard but that the forecast was for Force 5, with a “rough” passage against a West South West wind.   Experience dictates that this forecast should be increased to the next level, it is always understated!  This was just as we were leaving the shelter of Ilfracombe harbour and feeling the first effects of the swell.
The voyage started in sun, then we had rain and always the strong wind.
Before too long it was like being on a hospital ship under fire, almost everyone was sick and movement on the ship was difficult due to it rolling, yawing and pitching – often all at the same time! Bow waves were crashing over the top of the ship onto the aft deck so only those who could not stomach going inside were left clinging to supports and receiving regular soakings.
Indoor picnic at Old Light
While we did see sea birds all the way over to the island, the majority of Manx Shearwaters, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls were close to land probably not taking shelter but feeding close to potential nesting sites.
I think everyone was thankful to arrive in the lee of the island, but disembarkation was not easy either. We left ship thankfully, only to be advised to walk quickly up the centre of the jetty to avoid the buffeting south wind which could easily have pitched anyone near the edges into the sea.
We were lucky with our walk which encompassed the South end, Castle, Rocket Pole, Cemetery, Old Light and Quarter Wall. Our walkers were amply exercised and informed on all aspects of Lundy's History and Natural History. We were fortunate to miss heavy rain which commenced as we entered the Old Light for the traditional bad weather indoor picnic. Our final leg before returning to the Village was to go as far north as Quarter Wall to see the Lundy ponies and 8 Highland Steers where they were also lucky enough to see 20 Sika does ruminating with the cattle in Brick Field. We headed back into the teeth of the wind and rain to a welcome pint and retail opportunity in the Village. Heading back to the Jetty, another of Lundy's mammals were spotted, the Castle Goats put in an appearance appropriately near the goat path.
Devil's Kitchen - boiling
The return journey was just as eventful. We were met at the Dive Shed and advised that we were to expect a difficult journey back. Our tickets were collected and we were allowed to proceed down the jetty in pairs spaced 5 metres apart and then embarked one at a time as the gangplank was alternately wet and dry and the tide ebbed and flowed.
The return was as eventful as the outgoing voyage with many ill people. Sitting in the aft saloon we realised that the alternative light and darkness was caused by the sea covering and uncovering the starboard portholes as the southerly swell rose and fell.

I think everyone was relieved to arrive in the shelter of the North Devon coast but this trip should be renamed from North Devon Walking Festival to Green Tours!

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