The Spirit of St Agnes

As soon as we docked at St Agnes’ Quay I asked a nearby guide when it was safe to cross over to Gugh, the neighbouring island linked to St Agnes by a sand bridge that disappeared when the tide came in. Getting stranded on an island with two houses and no facilities would be less than ideal. Luckily, the guide told me that the tide would be far enough out to be able to cross all day, so I made my way over to Gugh. My first object of interest was the Old Man of Gugh, a menhir dating back from the Bronze Age. Menhirs are tall upright standing stones erected by people living on the islands many thousands of years ago.

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After getting acquainted with the Old Man, I wandered down to Beady Pool, so named because to this day ceramic beads from a 17th century Venetian shipwreck can be found there. Although it was tempting to have a little look, I already had enough miniscule treasure to find, so after eating my lunch looking out to sea (again!) I walked out to Wingletang Down.

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The first thing I noticed – after the forest of gorse that almost completely covered Wingletang Down – was the Devil’s Punchbowl; a curious name for a curious phenomenon. It was described as a rocking stone because it was positioned in such a way that it rocked easily from side to side. Looking loosely like a ball and socket joint, the top of the stone was a sphere cut in half, resting on top of a thick, squat column of stone. What was most intriguing was that the stone was completely natural. Somehow, Mother Nature had created the Devil’s Punchbowl for seemingly no reason other than to exist, perched at the tip of St Agnes.

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Amongst all the orange of the gorse were the delicate flowers of Ornithopus pinnatus, my target wild plant on St Agnes. After nibbling a few Haribo and admiring the Punchbowl a little longer, I began to search for it. However, after seemingly no time I noticed that time was running away from me again, and I headed around St Warna’s Cove towards another peculiarity: the Nag’s Head. Another naturally occurring feature of the landscape fully exposed to the Atlantic, the granite stone has been moulded into unusual shapes by the water and wind, so now it has a likeness to the head of a horse. William Borlase, a Cornish antiquarian saw the strange hollows and shapes of the Nag’s Head and thought the stone had been moulded by ancient cups and bowls, when in fact every mark on the granite is natural. It was yet another feature of the Scilly landscape that gave it its intriguing and quite unique personality.

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