The harvesting of seawed for spreading on the asparagus beds is one of my favourite winter jobs. For many different reasons, the low impact, sustainable and local sourcing of rich feed and mulch for the crops, the pure beauty in the autumnal colours of browns, oranges, pinks and greens, and the feeling of a connection to a Bryher of times gone by…albeit a very loose connection.
During the 1700s life on Bryher was almost unbearably harsh, island folk struggling to just feed themselves. The collection and burning of kelp for use in the manufacture of glass and soap was one of the ways in which islanders tried to make a living. Women dressed in heavy skirts would heap seaweed into carts pulled by donkeys. Then as years went by the seaweed were collected as we do for putting on farmers fields and gardens.
Today our job is much easier, we still collect much of it by hand, heaving the piles of seaweed that have been ripped from the seabed in the storms and stranded upon the beaches, but we also have the tractor to scoop some up and pull the trailer back to the fields.
The many different colours and textures create wonderful swirling patterns that would keep me occupied for hours if I had time to indulge in sifting through it all. Instead it’s headed for the rows of asparagus that once covered in their winter blanket of weed, look satisfyingly neat and tidy.
Afterwards Graham and I do indulge ourselves in a climb to the top of Samson Hill, from where you can enjoy a 360° view of all the islands, the wild Atlantic surging towards Bryher and the stretches of sandbanks in the channel, just submerged by the incoming tide. Although the sun is shining it holds little heat in the icy north westerly wind that brings blurring tears to the eyes.
Our farm from Samson Hill
There’s just enough time for Ruthie and I to squeeze a quick dip in before the children return from school. For a moment we feel the chilly wind upon our skin and then into the icy blue sea, the coldness slipping over our backs.
We swim out to a little blue buoy, far enough to forget the cold and instead enjoy the beautiful blues and greys of the water and the activity of a small shag swimming nearby. As we dry off and snuggle up in our towels afterwards the buzz of the swim brings wide smiles to our faces. We are living the island dream.
Pre swim smiles just as big as post swim smiles