A trip out to the furthest south-western extremity of the British Isles (assuming we treat Ireland as separate) — namely the Isles of Scilly, a hundred or so lumps of granite stuck thirty miles off Land’s End, of which five are inhabited. The ‘capital’, Hugh Town, is located on St Mary’s island, and built on a narrow isthmus, which is apparent here thanks to the houses having blue sea behind them as well as in front, which is why I chose this picture — that, and the profusion of coloured things (buoys?) in the sea.
That’s one of the harder-to-reach County Tops bagged as well. There were lots of photos from the day I could have chosen to give an impression of this distant part of my country, but see the other blog for more.
Those of you not from Britain might not be immediately aware of the cultural significance of Land’s End, although the very name gives a clue. This is not the southernmost point on the island of Great Britain (that being the Lizard), nor is it the westernmost (Ardnamurchan, in Scotland), but it is the furthest extremity of the long toe that the island sends out into the Atlantic, and the distance of, about, 875 miles in a straight line to John o’Groats in Scotland is the longest distance between any two points on this lump of land off the north-west coast of Europe.
The building you see here, officially known as the “First and Last House”, is a café — with, behind, the Longships lighthouse — and somewhere just to the left is a rather tacky complex of buildings targeted firmly at the very large number of tourists who flock here during the summer months. I consider myself fortunate to have seen it in the off-season. But while at one level it seems very arbitrary to value this point over many others nearby which are far more attractive and interesting (like Porthcurno, yesterday, which is about four miles away [and further south]), there is a sense here that one has come to the end of something, in a quite physical but also a spiritual sense. Which is why people want to come here, I guess. I can’t knock it — I made a point of making it to this spot, and now document it here on the blog. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t mean anything, but in a small and personal way, perhaps it does.
I said yesterday that Penzance, or more generally this part of the world, has not always been peripheral. On this beach at the tip of Britain, the main trans-Atlantic and international telegraph and, later, telephone cables came on shore, from 1870 onwards. That fact explains why I am here — thanks to the Cable & Wireless training centre (for telegraph operators) being built around this vital connection in the country’s communications network, buildings that nowadays house the archive that I have come down to Cornwall to consult.
Either way, Porthcurno has a damn fine beach, one that you would never know was such a strategically important spot. This is the southernmost shot I’ve yet taken in England, and as there is only a tiny portion of the country further south than here (just the Lizard peninsula), this sets a record that I may never beat.
And here’s what more-or-less the same part of the world looks like in the morning — pointing the camera in the opposite direction. Seems an OK place, Penzance — attractive, plenty of pubs — but it’s a long way out, and typical incomes in Cornwall are among the lowest in the whole UK. Being peripheral is not an economic asset these days: but the thing is, in some ways this is the centre of things. More on that tomorrow (if I remember).
2023 starts with a walk, not strenuous (I was somewhat tender in the morning) but picturesque — at least, if mudflats are your thing. The River Lune debouches into Morecambe Bay not far to the right of this shot. On the far side, Glasson Dock, still a working port and marina. Taken from Sunderland Point, which is unique as the only settlement on the mainland of Great Britain which is still cut off, twice a day, by the high tides: though these were not due until some time after this was taken, which is why I was able to be there.
Circumstances today brought me to Southport, a place that has featured twice on the blog before: here and here, both of them images of endless sand and sky (the sea here makes a notoriously long retreat at low tide, going out literally miles). These suggest the major function of the town is as a seaside resort, and that’s quite correct. So in late November, quite a lot of it looks like this.
I like this shot, except for the parked car. It’s impressive how often cars screw up an otherwise pleasing composition.
After not finding much of interest in Southampton, I headed for the next city to the east, Portsmouth — a more agreeable spot. At least, to look at from across its Harbour, one of the greatest natural harbours in the world, and the explanation for why this has always been a naval base. The Spinnaker Tower, seen here, is 560 feet tall. I passed this point on my latest County Top walk, so feel free to look at that other blog for more photos and so on.
Time to cross the border into the Republic of Ireland, getting out of the UK for the first time since late November. Time to get out of the city and into the country — right into it. More of this over the next few days, I sure hope.
My son might have chosen to live out his university years in a place (Dundee) that is about as far as he could have got from us in West Yorkshire, while staying in the UK. But, there are compensations. Over in the distance, Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh. Closer to the camera, the Firth of Forth, all taken just before passing through Burntisland station.
Brighton is still in the top ten of this blog’s most-depicted locations, but hasn’t been seen since February 2018, until yesterday anyway. There are reasons why I should regain the habit of coming here. How much longer the old West Pier will last before collapsing entirely into the sea, no one knows for sure, but the ruins will doubtless feature on many people’s photos before they do.