Early Rising

The mornings are starting earlier and earlier for us now as we gradually ease ourselves towards a 5am alarm in order to get the increasing amount of produce picking done before the day really gets going. It is even more of a requirement if you intend to spend a day off island, as we did this week with a visit to St Agnes. Our "day off" means we need to fit three hours of work in before we leave and another three on our return.

I am awoken quite pleasantly at 5am by the dawn chorus outside the bedroom window. 5:45 am heralds the sound of cattle calling, breaking the silent air. Red dragon cattle breathing billows of steam warm across the morning sky. Frost on their backs like a dusting of icing sugar. A thick band of mist lies at hedge height, a pale blue sky above, below a frosty floor.

At 6:30 the animals have been fed and checked and it is now time to dig the potatoes needed for the stall. The old tractor splutters into action, a little put off by the early, chilly start, but soon the tubs are full and back at the barn for bagging up. As I walk through the farm at 7am the hum of bees on the tall purple echium drifts across the garden, the lettuce are planted and the school run beckons. 8am and Firethorn's engines sing at the quay as the children jump aboard, all chatter and giggles, looking forward to a day over on St Marys.

At 10am we set off for Agnes, the gentle mumble of folk. Excitement as two puffin are spotted flying towards Tresco. A bumble bee buzzes past mid channel, I wonder where she is off to.

A walk around Agnes always enchants me. Through tiny woodland glades, where four or five trees have grouped together and created a miniature woodland, complete with twisted roots, bluebells, dappled shade and perfectly framed vistas.

And then out on the wild, exposed far western flank, where Rocks are sculptures or sleeping beasts and mythical creatures. We sit and watch the rolling, lurching swell, frothy and heaving like the belly of a beast. Granite boulders the size of small houses lie quiet and sleepy in the sun. Smoothed and perfectly moulded like lumps of clay that waits to be worked. The sky is so clear that in the far distance behind me I can make out the hazy shape of the mainland.

After some catching up with friends and of course an ice-cream from Troytown, we settle on the bar, the sandy causeway that links Agnes with Gugh. Gugh holds its own enchantment and mystery. It is often separated by tide, leaving the two houses alone. They sit with their curved steel roofs, like homes from another world. I sketch and sunbath and walk the rocks for treasure, finding twisted driftwood and lots of stinking weed. Then a quick swim. The seabed is undulating and unfamiliar so I stumble rather tentatively into the sea. The water is murky and churned from recent swells and I don't swim far as the tide sucks and pushes me around the bay.

Eventually the incoming tide chases us from our sunny spot and we make our way back to the boat, and back to Bryher. Before I go though, I enjoy a fond memory of my Dad swimming in that same spot several years before me. Agnes will always hold a special place in my heart.

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