I was back on Bryher today, having a go at finding the elusive dwarf pansy. As was becoming a daily ritual, I engaged in friendly conversation with my fellow passengers on the Seahorse as it made its leisurely way out of St Mary’s Quay.
“That’s a fancy bit of kit you’ve got there,” one man said, gesturing at the camera hanging from my neck, “What are you hoping to photograph?”
I told them about my mission to find the dwarf pansy, to which the man said, “Ah yes, such a shame about the flowers this year.”
I supposed he was referring to the recent snowfall, which had pushed the growth and emergence of the Scilly wildflowers back a few weeks. Still, I didn’t like his pessimism and although I smiled politely I was feeling confident. The weather had been and still was beautiful, and I was here to find the dwarf pansy. So when the boat docked and I hopped onto dry land I strode towards Rushy Bay with steely confidence. The sun was already beating down and incidentally I would later regret not covering my sore, red ears from that beating sun. Meanwhile, I was on my hands and knees peering at grass and getting some very strange looks from passers-by. I found my tiny purple flower from last visit, which I vowed to ask the tour guide about on my walk that afternoon.
By lunchtime my stomach was rumbling, so I tucked into my sandwiches and rested my sore knees. It really was a stunning day, and I had the beach almost to myself. A couple of holidaymakers were foraging for shells by the water, and every so often a dog appeared with a wide-eyed expression of sheer joy before loping back over the dunes.
I decided to give the area one more scope before it was time to walk back to the quay and meet the tour group. Just behind the high grass was a group of binocular-glad walkers huddled together gazing at something on the ground. My heart leapt into my mouth and I hovered awkwardly where I was standing. Was it cheeky to go over and exploit their find? I hadn’t paid for their walk, after all.
But this was the dwarf pansy, so I made a beeline and gazed between shoulders to see Will Wagstaff pointing at a tiny white speck in the grass. I waited as patiently as I could, hopping from one foot to the other, for the group to take their turns photographing the pansy. Once they’d dispersed, I lay down on the grass and noticed there were two! One was fully open, the other was still fairly closed but still beautiful; in fact, it was a real stroke of luck to see two different stages beside each other.
The Red Ruby cattle mooed at me as I lay there, trying countless angles and focuses. A man and his son approached me and asked what I was doing. In moments we were talking about the pansy, my uni work, and he was amazed that I’d come all this way for a flower. After he’d moved off another couple appeared from Heathy Hill, and once again I showed them what I was so captivated by. Like all the others, they responded with the courteous “oh really?” and “wow!” but I could tell they weren’t nearly as excited as I was. I wanted to shake them and say they were not found anywhere else in the UK, only this tiny archipelago! I had to share my joy with someone who’d appreciate just how special the sighting was.
So, as I hurried back to the quay, now nearly late for the walk, I rang my parents separately and wheezed my good news. They’d shared my worry and calmed my panics on the run-up to the expedition, so they responded with completely authentic enthusiasm. I was beaming ear to ear.
Once I got to the meeting place and Darren, the guide from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, told us our route, I realised we weren’t even going through Rushy Bay, so I would have missed the pansy completely! I was hesitant to call it fate, but if I hadn’t eaten my lunch where I did, I’d have been journeying back to St Mary’s very disappointed.