Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Visit to Looe Island

We were blessed with dry weather on Sunday when we joined a group of nature enthusiasts to visit Looe Island. Looe Island, more correctly known as St George's Island, lies unsurprisingly off the South Cornwall coast near Looe. It has become well known to the public at large through the books of Evelyn Atkins who, with her sister Babs, purchased the island in 1965. The books Evelyn wrote are 'We bought an Island' and 'Tales from our Cornish Island'. Both sisters have died now but they left the island to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and it was the Trust's warden who showed us around. Of special interest is the fact that the two sisters had previously lived a perfectly 'normal' life in suburban Surrey! It's fascinating how people can so radically change their lives.

Unlike Burgh Island opposite Bigbury-on-Sea on the South Devon coast or St Michael's Mount just across from Marazion Looe Island is a 'full time' island with the sea permanently surrounding it. On very low spring tides I understand that it is just possible to wade out to the island but you would have little time to linger before the flooding tide prevented your return.

It's easy to understand the passion for the island that the Atkins sisters had and it is great to know that its future is assured. Because of the limitations of tides and boat sizes the island should never get overrun by tourists. Speaking of boats we crossed over on 'The Islander' which has been converted so that there is now an hydraulic ramp that can be raised or lowered at the bows so that one merely walks straight on or off! On the island they brought in some Hebriddean sheep to keep the herbage down and the new boat which only started the service this year will be ideal if any further livestock are taken over.

From the shoreline at Hannafore one can see woodland on the northern side of the island but what surprised us was the extent of this woodland. Mainly sycamore, quick growing and a good windbreak, there are plans to remove some of them and bring in other varieties. I like all trees but I know that Sycamore isn't particularly good at providing a habitat for other species. Moreover the leaves on these particular trees looked far from healthy looking very brown and curled up.

It might be thought that being an island there might be some very rare sorts of wildlife but this doesn't seem to be the case. However one of our party had a nice sighting of a silver washed fritillary butterfly and the island is home to one of the largest colonies of greater black backed gulls in Cornwall.

There was a benedictine chapel near the summit but only one or two stones now remain.

This visit was something we had wanted to do for a long time and we were very glad we had availed ourselves of the opportunity.

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