Sark

So how do you spend a week on an island some 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, with as population of 400 or so? Is this a mindfulness paradise? Well, there is a clue in the 22 miles of coast, no cars, and splendid isolation.

We were in the good company of Andy and Madeline who had invited us to share their lighthouse idyll accomodation. Based onshore, the 150 or so steps to access the still working lighthouse (misty nights activating the fog horn were testament to that), offer a morning heart wake up call to reach the flat plateau above. This journey repeats itself as we explore the coastal inlets: getting to the shore involves a wind down and up.

Most of the land is now left uncultivated: food is brought in. This island has all the amenities: an incinerator which allows you to sample the emissions; a generator (no solar panels in evidence); a couple of shops and pubs (filled with locals who seem to be practiced drinkers); and hotels. 3 of these are mothballed. Half the locals and the Barclay brothers don’t get on. It is difficult to fathom who is right. Did one store close because the recluses upped the rent to force them out? Our was it because locals boycotted it? One local rag is vitriolic about lack of democracy by the ruling (elected) elite. Yet an editorial in the Guernsey paper decries the lack of Sarkees coming forward to stand for the council.

Whatever, most of that passed us by as we explored and adjusted to the pace of life. The Signeurie Gardens were great: a real buzz of insects enjoying the plethora of flowers. The whole island sagged under the weight of the sloe crop. Seaweed of mutivarious colours set off the mainly granite rock strata. Rusting iron edifices hinted at previous defences or trades.

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All too soon it is the time to leave our bags for Jimmy’s carter service and heave over the 7 mile crossing back to big brother Guernsey. Great.

An old Penisular Days -1, 0 Copenhagen

You get to Harwich via the politically incorrect town of Manningtree. Harwich has more going for it than I can remember when we set off on the original leg of the North Sea Cycle route in 2002(ish). This time we’re heading across to the Hook of Holland to catch some more of the route via Copenhagen. Navigation aids abound, framed by dominant Felixstowe at the junction of the Stour, Deben and Orwell.

Some fine medieval streets mixed up with some newer bitsnpieces, blending in with Dovercourt. Where do place names come from? Perhaps those were the thoughts of the Pilgrim Fathers as the set sail on the Mayflower; Samuel Pepys’ pen may have hovered with such reflections.

Convincing ourselves the English flags are waving for the world cup, vs in support of the prominent UKIP offices, there is an active community here. Most visibly, the Harwich Society has done fantastic week on the Napoleonic defences. Even the Beacon Hill fort left over from WW11 is having a makeover: volunteers just ignore the daunting scale of the task and make a difference.

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The best thing that can be said about Harwich International is pass through.