Tuesday, 29 January 2013

On top of the world

Last Friday was our 10th wedding anniversary. To celebrate we ditched the Smalls and went for a walk, a proper unSmallfriendly, up a hill kind of walk. Actually up three hills - the three you can see here to the right of the ridge, two topped by Norfolk Pines and in between the highest point on the island: Diana's Peak

The walk starts up the charmingly named Cabbage Tree Road, actually a rather lovely, if steep, path towards the first of the peaks.

The first peak is called Cuckold's Point.

Between the peaks the path runs along the top of a very narrow ridge.

The flax you can see here either side of the path is growing from below the level of the path down the slope each side.

Next came Diana's Peak - the highest point on st Helena.

It really felt like we were on top of the world. If you look carefully at the next eight pics you will see that each one overlaps the edge of the last and you can get a sense if the geography of the whole island. (Directions are very approximate)

North towards Flagstaff and the Barn. We live on the ridge half way to the Barn.

North East towards Prosperous Bay Plain where they are building the airport.

East to the third peak: Mount Actaeon.

 South East towards Sandy Bay.

South over Fairyland.

West back to Cuckold's Point.

North West towards Jamestown.

North again.

You can really see the line dividing the top of the ridge, which is actively managed and where lots of endemic species have been replanted, and lower down which is dominated by flax.

This is a Black Cabbage Tree, endemic to St Helena and seriously cool.

These are amazing Tree Ferns, also endemic.

Even the moss is cool.

There are also some familiar faces that have escaped from gardens.

The only place I've ever been where you can walk through a forest of Tree Ferns.

This picture shows you the amazing variety of landscapes on St Helena all at once: endemic cloud forest in the foreground, pasture in the middle, desert beyond that and volcanic cliffs down to the sea.

Cabbage Tree dripping in lichen in a sea of Tree Ferns.

This is my favourite ever Tree Fern.

And my favourite Cabbage Tree.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Persian Sweetie shop Blanket #3


Just a quickie today to show you the start of the next stage of my blanket. There are two more sets of stripes to do on the other sides then I can fill in the corners with more squares.

I am really loving this project. The colours, the design process, working out the logic of how to make it look the way it does in my head...

And I am enjoying watching it grow: 12.3% of a blanket!  (plus a million ends to sew in)


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Jacob's Ladder

 "Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! "
Genesis 28

I am pretty sure we are nowhere near Haran, but Jamestown boasts a Jacob's ladder of its own. 
699 steps averaging 11' high and 11' deep giving a 1:1 gradient. One of those must-do St Helena challenges.

I haven't done it! I will, I hope, when the moment is right. But last week lots of people did it.

One of our neighbours, who does it twice a week to keep fit, decided to really challenge himself. He would go up five times (and down four times in between). Amazingly the first aiders were not required and he set a benchmark for future hardy souls of 1 hour, 14 minutes and 4 seconds.

 Another record was broken on the same day. The time for one ascent. This chap - Graham Doig from Scotland - took almost a second off the previous record and made it up in 5 minutes and 16.78 seconds.

J also had a go and took 6 seconds off his previous personal best with a time of 8 minutes and 31 seconds.

The Smalls and I waited at the top to congratulate the climbers and take in the stunning view. Oh, and Giant Baby did his best to get his head stuck in the railings.

You have the whole of Jamestown laid out below you like a living map.

If you look carefully you can see the pool where we swim after school and work on Fridays.

If there were angels in the crowd they were heavily disguised and just as susceptible to shortness of breath and copious perspiration as the rest of us!


Monday, 21 January 2013

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

You'd think, living on a little island surrounded by 1000 miles or more of ocean in each direction, that I'd feel quite connected to the sea. But St Helena doesn't conform to any norm or expectation. At home in Northumberland, our house looks over the mouth of the river and there are several beautiful beaches within a few miles and I watch the tide and the waves. But St Helena doesn't really do beaches.

There is Sandy Bay, but the story is that every Saint knows someone who was drowned there because the undertow is so strong. The sand there is black and the arid volcanic cliffs can be a little menacing if you are in the frame of mind to let them be so.

Jamestown has an area which is actually named The Seaside. It is a sea wall with boulders at the bottom, overlooked by a car park, the swimming pool and a couple of cafes and bars. It is extremely pleasant, and amusing to watch the car owners dodging the splashing waves if the tide has come up since they parked. But it is definitely part of the town and really not a beach. It is not even a harbour. It is in the lea of the island so provides some shelter, but to get on and off a boat requires a leap, both of the legs and of faith, while the boatman battles the waves with the throttle wide open and two hefty chaps hanging onto ropes in the wharf, while a third helps/catches you.

On Saturday we leapt. We leapt into a little boat that took us along the coast to Lemon Valley (where there are no lemons) and to the rocky pebbled beach there. An inflatable speed boat thingy transferred us, a few at a time, to a landing stage. The waves here in the middle of the Ocean come in fives (although some say sevens). Five humongous crashing ones, then five smaller lapping ones. The trick was to wait for the smaller ones and then take that leap. Kids were thrown bodily up to waiting adults as were charcoal, cool boxes, chairs, swim stuff...

We barbecued then explored. Some up the valley or round the cliffs, the kids made quick work of the derelict buildings and then we attempted the beach. Gradually our confidence grew and soon Tall Girl, two of her friends and two of us Mums were giggling and screaming with joy as the waves crashed over our legs, soaking our clothes and stinging our eyes. We groaned through the small waves and grinned at the huge ones. It was completely wonderful to find the sea after so many weeks living in the middle of it.

We hunted through the pebbles for treasure and found some beauties: shells and coral, and what has to be a piece of Napoleon's favourite mug.

All to soon it was time to leap the other way. But we'll be back to leap again another day.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Persian sweeties shop blanket #2 - Squaring the circle


I have reached a mile stone.

I have completed the central square of my blanket.

It measures 20 inches by 20 inches and I love it!

I think I have successfully avoided the rainbow trap.

And I have 7.7% of a blanket.

Now I just have to work out how to do the next bit... Research required I think.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013


I thought today I'd give you a little progress report...

The tomatoes and basil grew.

A little more slowly the peppers grew.

The courgettes grew wide.

The sunflowers and sweet peas grew lush.

The beans grew tall.

The peas and spinach grew and grew.

The log cabin blanket grew.

The needle needed grew.

The star burst grew.

And the percentage completed grew to 3.4.

Everything seems to grow quickly here.