Land of Hills

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Bryher. My home. Known in ancient cornish back in 1336 as Brayer…..Land of Hills. 28 miles from Lands End sitting amid the blue Atlantic, is this tiny island, approximately 330 acres, 1.5 miles North to South and 0.5 mile East to West with 81 permanent residents. Due to its position on a Paleolythic mountain structure known as Hercynian granite, the island is a contrast of rugged steep granite cliffs, wild windswept rusted bracken, yellow gorse and pink heather. On a stormy day the wind seems to blow right through you and the waves can reach from Hell Bay in the west across the island to the Tresco channel on the eastern side. To the south, tiny coves and long stretches of pale golden sands, so soft and twinkling it could be fairy dust, reach gently to the calm, crystal clear waters of the Tresco channel.

This beautiful island gives so much of itself to so many people. Hundreds travel here each year to soak up it’s natural beauty, it’s tranquillity. It’s freedom from the norm of mainland life, from traffic, noise and constant rush. People take from it wellbeing, peace of mind and happiness. They refill their visual tanks on nature’s wonders, the seal, the heron, eagrit, oystercatcher, puffin and wren.

I live at Hillside farm, a large beacon of a house, standing brilliant white against Timmy’s Hill. It was painted white by Trinity House and used as a shipping marker for boats approaching from the westward sea. Seventy years ago there was a single story thatched roof cottage nestled in beside the farmhouse. Only the remains of one wall and the hearth are left now. This cottage was called Clem’s cottage and was home to Clementina Hicks. She lived in Bryher all her life (1868-1953). In a book, Deep Down There Are Still Mermaids, Penny Gay, a long time visitor to Bryher, writes;

” Clemmie loved Bryher. It was the picking of tears in her eyes, the lump in her throat, the joy in her heart and the golden thread of happiness running through her life. She had to be tough, but she knew that this inner strength was drawn from the deep sense of contentment that came from living in such a magical place”

This strength of feeling for Bryher resonates with me and I often think of the islanders of the past, especially as I swim and walk and work, in places that Clemmie would have known and loved.

Great Par is a deep horseshoe shaped bay. At low tide a vast expanse of heaped brown bladder wrack, pale sand and granite, at high tide a lagoon of underwater exploration. Piles of rounded and smoothed granite pebbles wash in and out and change their position on an almost daily basis during the winter. Today the driving rain of first thing has dissipated to leave a blustery spring day. Bright sunshine one minute, then thick grey mizzle blowing in like damp dust the next. The sea is choppy, with a cool northerly wind whipping the surface into small busy waves, my skin tightens and pimples with goosebumps as I wade into the water. It’s cool and clear. Colours move through steel grey, turquoise green and deep blue as the light dances in and out from behind the clouds. As I float, the sun shines through and the sea turns to blindingly bright liquid silver, such beauty.

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