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Isles Of Scilly

I have been to the Isles of Scilly (not the Scilly isles, apparently) a couple of times before. It was a few years ago and not at the best time of the year, late winter. Then it was a bit bleak and cold, and it did rain quite a lot. I also had the added problem of a small child, not really a problem, just trying to find things to do when she was in a ski suit all day. It can be a bit challenging.

We have fond memories of this little bit of Britain that a lot of people forget is there. So I dug out the pics, reminded myself of the isles’ natural beauty, and was really looking forward to going back again.

This trip was the final part of my island-hop series, and the weather forecast was going to be fantastic due to an unusually hot end to September. Temperatures could touch 30C, so I packed light summer stuff and plenty of sun cream.

It was quite difficult to get to, as the airport is so small and there are very few flights from Newquay or Bristol. The helicopter does fly from Penzance, but that’s a long way down, and we really did not have the time; it was already a four-day trip. So I caught the train to Bristol, from Reading, leaving home at 4.30 am. On the train, I met Janice (boss) and Will and sat in an empty coach.

We arrived in Bristol, then got a taxi to the airport, where we met Matt (cameraman) and Ritchie (sound). Jackie sorted us out after a little toing and froing as there was a slight problem with excess baggage. We all then went to the runway and filmed a piece to camera me getting on the small turboprop, the sun now was high, and it was turning into a beautiful day.

The flight took 5 other passengers and us out over Weston Super Mare, and along the coast, the views of the Somerset coast were stunning. Then on down towards Taunton and Wellington (my old stomping ground), then over Exmoor and the north coast of Devon.

We then drifted slightly inland over Padstow and the beautiful north Cornwall coast to Newquay, then down to Lands End. From here, it was only 15 minutes to Isles Of Scilly.

As we came into land, we circled and came to a very short stop on a runway probably no more than 500 metres long. We hung around a bit so we could film the next flight coming in. The Penzance helicopter also arrived. You can even bring a dog on that flight, and off he went, an awe-inspiring sight indeed.

We counted all the kit bags and packed them into a small transit van, along with a slightly older couple who was going to be dropped off at a local guest house. Then off to the quay to pick up our jet boat. Whilst filming the harbour, we were told off, as we needed a permit, oh well, best-laid plans and all that, still the harbourmaster was a nice chap.

Bryher boats were to be our transport between the islands, a sort of fun taxi service. They are speedy boats used extensively in New Zealand and cost about 300 grand. They were our lifeline. More about that later. The short trip to Tresco takes about 15 minutes. As you arrive, you can see the magnificent house and beautiful gardens, with stunning beaches.

We were staying at the Flying Boat Club and the New Inn pub. As I walked into the pub, I recognised the landlord. We shook hands; what a warm, friendly place. We tucked into sandwiches and tea. As we were too late for lunch, Rachel was a warm and inviting host. Nothing was a problem. My room was small, immaculate and functional. The bed was very comfortable indeed. The lads, meanwhile, stayed at the boat club. A series of newly built, 2 storey beachside homes, with steps right onto the beach. They are beautifully finished, with all the mod cons, a good-sized kitchen and BBQ. They were delighted indeed.

We did a quick recce of two beaches in a golf buggy (not many cars here) and saw a beautiful sunset, then back to the pub.

We had a beer or two and a couple of games of pool (me and Janice undefeated, I hasten to add) and ordered our food to take back to the lad’s house as the football was on. Janice ate hers outside on the balcony, very happy with the view.

The food is standard pub grub, with a few twists here and there. I ate a Little Gem Salad, with blue cheese and mustard dressing and Jambalaya. The salad was fine, straight to the point, the Jambalaya was also okay, prawns and chicken were fine. They just needed a little more attention to taste and flavour. Off to bed as we had a long day tomorrow.

After a nice breakfast of fruit, boiled eggs and soldiers, we set off to film fudge making over on Bryher. The charming Hell Bay Hotel manager, Philip Callan, picked us up from the short 2-minute boat trip along with a colleague and drove us up a muddy beach track.

Kris Taylor was waiting with 4 pans complete with sugar thermometers bubbling away at various stages. We filmed her and chatted about how she got into fudge making and how she made it. We then filmed her outside her stall in front of their lovely cottage. It was so nice to see an honesty box and several varieties of her very nice fudge.

Phillip picked us up, and off we went to pick up the boat again to take us to St Martin’s to meet Val & Graham Thomas at their vineyard. We stopped off and had a quick sandwich and a cup of coffee. Janice, Will and I walked to the vineyard. Matt and Ritchie got picked up by Graham.

A vineyard is an interesting place. Some 300 vines produce in a good year about 2000 bottles. We filmed by the vines and chatted about how these two teachers, semi-retired and thought it was a good idea to grow grapes. It was a bit of a shock to them, harder than they thought, but they clearly loved it and also loved the island.

We tasted several wines, white and red, light, clear and pretty good. I rather liked their rose. They kindly served us homegrown tomatoes, biscuits, cheese and hummus.

I could have sat there all day in the mid-afternoon sun but had to go and meet Tony Tobin Dougan, the village and islands baker.

We walked across the cricket pitch, up the hill, past the information corner, where all that’s happening on the island is stapled or pinned to the wall and telephone wire poles, passing many twitcher’s (apparently it’s the best time of year).

We arrive at the bakery, a converted old building, where we meet Tony and his daughter Darcy. The bakery is small and produces and a large array of sweet and savoury offerings. Tony’s background in photography, he sold his studio in Soho and moved here some years ago and loves it. He also owns the local pub. His reputation is growing rapidly, and he has just secured a contract to supply the Co-Op on St Martin’s.

We were here to see how he makes Cornish Pasties. Yes, it’s Cornwall here!! We film and taste and then walk back to the quay to get the jet boat back to Tresco.

That night we eat in the Flying Boat Club, a lovely restaurant open plan, modern, and has a lovely feel to it. I ate wild mushrooms on brioche with cep mascarpone, which is very good. I then had duck with greens and roesti, a little disappointing. The duck was slightly overcooked, the roesti slightly raw, and the dish lacked a punch. My lemon posset was good though, tangy, very light and very creamy served with nice shortbread. However, the chocolate brownie with clotted cream was very heavy and very rich, a bit too much for me.

After breakfast, the next day, we set off again to meet the Gig racers down at the quay at 8 am. This was because the tides were going to be very low, so we had to film fairly quickly. In was told I was told by the boss that I was only going to row across to Bryher about 5-8 minutes in total. In reality, we rowed out to sea, then across to Bryher.

To say it was hard work was an understatement. It was very tough, using all the muscles, leg, back, neck and arms. These are fit guys that train really hard. I take my hat off to them all.

Knackered, I got off and went off to meet Rachel Lambert, a forager to gather some aromatics and edible shore foods to add to my crab chowder I was going to make for the gig racers later in the day.

Rachel took me to various places just on the seashore, and I was amazed at the variety of colours and textures available. We tasted sea beet, sea wort, wild carrot seeds and wild fennel. All I decide would be able to enhance the flavour of the crab.

Back at the Hell Bay Hotel, chef Glen had very kindly prepared all the ingredients for the chowder. He had also made some Alexander seed rolls, seeds from a sort of cow parsley; they were delicious.

Phillip had organised all the tables and cooking utensils and suitable view. Unfortunately, as it had started to rain, we had to relocate as the mist had blocked out all the fabulous views.

I finished the chowder as the lads turned up, and we filmed with them tasting, along with the two ladies who had given up her balcony for us to film. Everyone seemed to be really happy with it. Finally, we packed up, said our goodbyes and left to get the jet boat back to Tresco after a long day.

Our final piece to camera was on a small rock out in the sea. We needed an opener to the whole series and had failed to use the helicopter shot in Anglesey as he could not fly too low.

I paddled out in a kayak, climbed the rock, and paddled back, just as the gloom lifted. In the distance, the mist was ominously rolling in that was it a wrap.

8.30 am sharp the next day (Sat), Janice and I left to get a flight from St Martin’s back to Newquay, then a plane home. As we set off on the jet boat, the mist got thicker and thicker. We were going nowhere. At the airport, 3 flights were delayed, and ours was the fourth. If we missed the flight today, we would not get back ’til Monday at the earliest, as there are no flights on a Sunday.

Janice enquired about the jet boat taking us to Penzance, it could be done, but it would take 1½ hours and at a price!! So we agreed, picked up the crew and off we went. It was quite weird in the mist travelling at speed across to Lands End.

The mist was thick and soupy, then suddenly, we went into brilliant sunshine and passing Lands End.  The journey along the coast took us past The Minac open-air theatre, Mousehole and finally into Penzance past St Michaels Mount. A taxi then took us quickly to Newquay airport with only 4 minutes to spare and off home.

My thanks to all that helped us, another great trip, series and film. Now it’s time to spend a little time at home before we jet off again, the next trip is a really special one!

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