The Isles of Scilly are a world apart, an island paradise with sparkling turquoise seas and deserted white sandy beaches lapped by gentle tides under a cloudless sky. Everywhere is within walking distance or just a short boat ride away. Small fields with high hedges are awash with wild flowers and even the stone walls are colonised by an abundance of interesting plants. The famous exotic flora of the islands owes much to the Tresco Abbey Garden, the once flourishing cut flower industry, and their escapes, as well as the benign climate and the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. However, the Isles of Scilly have a unique flora in their own right with plants of a Lusitanian and Mediterranean origin. Orange Bird’s-foot (Ornithopus pinnatus), Least Adder’s-tongue Fern (Ophioglossum lusitanicum) and Dwarf Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana) do not occur on mainland Britain. Others such as Small-flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica), Four-leaved Allseed (Polycarpon tetraphyllum), and Small-flowered Tree-mallow (Lavetera cretica) are found elsewhere but are never as abundant as they are in Scilly. This tour will explore all five of the inhabited islands and admire the vast range of flora they have to offer, both within Tresco Gardens and in the wild.
• Stunning island scenery
• Outstanding flora containing many rare species
• Leisurely paced tour visiting all five inhabited islands by boat
• World-famous Tresco Abbey Gardens with its collection of exotic tropical plants
• Grey Seals
• Abundant birdlife including chance of rare migrants
• Unique Scillonian way of life
• ed by expert naturalist guide
+32 71 84 54 80
Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Wed 6th May - Wed 13th May - 1386€
-Accommodation: Comfortable guest house, all rooms with private facilities.
-Food:Breakfast included in holiday price only; allow approximately £30 per day for lunches and evening meals.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Dawn Nelson spent much of her early childhood in Cyprus and Java and has had an interest in plants from an early age - since seeing Anemone coronaria growing wild in the Troodos Mountains. Graduating in Ceramics developed her eye for detail, and she loves sharing her knowledge, having been a teacher before rearing her family and developing four gardens on vastly differing soils. She has lived in the West Sussex countryside all her adult life where she is a freelance horticulturalist and botanist, with a particular emphasis on ecology. For many years she has been an active member of the Botanical Society of the British Isles and the Sussex Botanical Recording Society, leading botanical walks, recording for the New Flora of Sussex and partaking in botanical surveys for Plantlife and the National Trust. She enjoys travelling, especially in the UK and Ireland, searching for new plants and habitats, as well as having a wider interest in birds and other wildlife.
Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Depart Penzance, sail to St Mary’s
On arrival at St. Mary's, if travelling on the Scillonian III, there is much activity around the quay as crates are unloaded and passengers for the 'off-islands' assigned to the correct launches but you can avoid having to wait for your bags by using the island transportation service which ensures the delivery of correctly labelled luggage to the respective guest house. Free of this burden you can stroll around the harbour edge into Hugh Town where there is a choice of pubs and cafes in which to purchase lunch and sit back to absorb your first taste of that special Scillonian atmosphere!
Although the largest of the islands, distances are not great on St. Mary's and after eating it will not be more than a few minutes’ walk to our accommodation where (hopefully!) we can be re-united with our bags and check-in to the rooms. After settling in we will meet up to explore The Garrison, the high headland to the west of Hugh Town, which affords spectacular views of Tresco, Bryher and St Agnes. The first fortifications were built here in 1593 and were added to over the next 200 years. We will be looking for local specialities such as Western Clover (Trifolium occidentale), Wild Madder (Rubia peregrina), Rock Sea Spurrey (Spergula rupicola), the coastal variety of Wild Carrot (Daucus carota subsp gummifer), Thrift (Armeria maritima), Sea Spleenwort (Asplenium marinum) in sheltered clefts, and also Small flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica) on the tops of the walls. Interesting aliens might include Giant Herb-robert (Geranium maderense), Cineraria (Pericallis hybrida) and Wire Plant (Muelenbecki complexa).
Each of the islands has its own identity that differs in many ways form the others, but St Agnes being separated by a deep water channel seems even more set apart. It has a compact inhabited area and in contrast a wild windswept down to the south; both of which we will be exploring.
Today we will see another source of the alien species that thrive here; the many small bulb fields created for the protection of the produce of the cut-flower industry.
At Higher Town we hope to see Hairy Bird’s-foottrefoil (Lotus subiflorus), Hairy Buttercup (Ranunculus sarduus) and other bulb field weeds such as Smaller Tree-mallow (Malva pseudolavatera) and Corn Marigold (Glebionis segetum). From here we will move on to the northern part of the island finding Honey Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera) and German Ivy (Delairea odorata) on the way. Big Pool is home to Saltmarsh Rush (Juncus gerardii) and Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris). In the damp grassland around it we hope to find Suffocated Clover (Trifolium suffocatum), Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), and Early meadow-grass (Poa infirma).
We will lunch at the Coastguard’s Café, then the afternoon will be spent exploring Wingletang Down to the south of the Island, notable for the rare Adder’s-tongue ferns (Ophioglossum lisitanicum and Ophioglossum azoricum). We are also likely to find Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvtica), Early Forgetme-not (Myosotis ramosissima) and Heath-grass (Danthonia decumbens). For those who enjoy beachcombing, we will pass Beady pool where you can still find beads that are the relics of a 17th Century shipwreck.
Bryher has differing aspects depending on the weather; it can seem storm-washed and dangerous, which a visit to Hell Bay at the north western end of the island can confirm, or gentle and sun kissed towards the south on a calm day. We will explore the southern end! Here we will be concentrating on the maritime grassland where we hope to find Dwarf Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana), and are likely to see Common Scurvy-grass (Cochlearia officinalis), Sea Sandwort (Honkenya peploides) and Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum). We shall also visit the only saline lagoon in Scilly which is separated from the sea by a narrow stony beach known as Popplestone Bank. Here we should find Lesser Sea-spurrey (Spergularia marina) and Sea Milkweed (Glaux maritima). In the surrounding grassland we may find Spring squill (Scilla verna) and a darkleaved, pink flowered form of White clover (Trifolim repens var townsendii) that is common on Bryher. A search along the base of the hedgerows should enable us to find several established exotic species.
We can choose to treat ourselves and indulge with lunch at the luxurious Hell Bay Hotel or take a picnic, and we should have time for tea at the café before catching the boat for our return to St Mary’s.
Tresco is the second largest island and possibly the most famous due to the Abbey Garden and the patronage of the Dorien-Smith family that dates back to 1834 when Augustus Smith took on the lease of Scilly from the Duchy of Cornwall. He built his home close to the ruins of the twelfth century abbey, which he incorporated into his garden. He set about introducing new industries to the impoverished islanders and is credited with establishing new agricultural policies and introducing the flower industry and even tourism to the islands, thus revitalising the island economy.
Tresco offers many contrasts: from the wild grandeur of the western cliffs, wind pruned heather headland and Cromwell’s Castle in of the north of the island; to the exotic subtropical gardens, sheltered bays, dunes and sandy beaches at the southern end. Inland is the Great Pool and a maze of bulb fields, a hotel, a pub and a thriving time-share complex of cottages both traditional and new; all this in an island that measures just over 3km long x1.7km wide!
We will land at either Carn Near or New Grimsby depending on the tides and probably return from a different quay. We will make our way noting a few of the interesting plants along the way of which there will be many, mostly escapes from the garden; but we will save an extensive search for our second visit to the island. Our focus today will be the Tresco Abbey Garden and all it has to offer, which includes over 20,000 exotic plants from 80 countries, set out in a series of terraces with carefully created vistas and adorned with some exquisite artworks. We will explore and experience these tranquil surroundings enjoying the atmosphere and the stunning plantings in this unique garden. The collection comprises species from such diverse locations as Mexico, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Canaries. The tallest Norfolk Island Pine in Britain, a specimen Cordyline, Silver Trees and a spectacular New Zealand Christmas Tree are just a few of the highlights. Within the gardens as well as the magnificent plantings there are also a large number of naturalised species such as Goldenfleece (Urospermum dalechampii) and Aichryson (Aichryson laxum) to spot. There is also the splendid Valhalla collection of ships figureheads from the golden age of sail. We can take our time and either enjoy lunch at the adjoining Café or take a picnic in the gardens. Having familiarised ourselves with some of the exotic flora introduced to Tresco Abbey, and from there to other gardens on the islands, we will gain an understanding of part of the unique alien flora to be found in Scilly.
St Martin’s is a favourite for many regulars to Scilly. It has some of the most spectacular views of all the islands and a variety of ‘towns’ each with its own character.
Today we will visit a flower farm to see the eponymous buttercup (Ranunculus marginatus var trachycarpus) and other bulb field weeds such as Shepherds needle (Scandix pecten-verneris). Along the lane we will spot many established exotics such as Bermuda Buttercup (Oxalis pescaprae). We will have lunch overlooking The Plains partly for the spectacular views but also to explore the interesting maritime grassland flora such as Common Bird’s-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus) and Orange Bird’s-foot (Ornithopus pinnatus), as well as more exotics.
The day’s list will hopefully also include Brackish Water-crowfoot (Ranunculus boudotii), more of the unusual native Fumitories and Clovers and some Eyebright (Euphrasia) species. Amongst the grasses we should see Rescue Brome (Ceratlocha cathartica). Also Aeoniums growing in the dry stone walls, Babbington’s Leek (Allium ampeloprasum var babingtonii), Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum), Common Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum angustifolium), and Lesser New Zealand flax (Phormium cookianum) are likely to be added to our finds.
St Martin’s, like Tresco, is another island where, due to the tides, we often land at one quay and depart from another, so the route we take will be dictated by this. We will take a picnic lunch and should have time for tea at the hotel or a café before catching the boat back to St Mary’s.
Today, without the restrictions of the boat times, we will be free to make an earlier start. We will purchase a picnic lunch from Hugh Town and take the Island Community Bus to our starting point. We will make our way through Holy Vale and Higher Moors Nature Reserve to Porth Hellick Bay where we will enjoy our picnic lunch overlooking the dramatic rocky outcrops. One of the first notable plants we are likely to spot is the white flowered form of Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis forma alba) among a variety of garden escapes such as Karo (Pittosporum crassifolium), Silver-bush Everlasting-flower (Helichrysum petiolare) and Giant Viper’s-bugloss (Echium pininana).
We will also see Lady Fern (Athyrium felix-femina), Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis ), the impressive towers of Greater Tussock-sedge (Carex paniculata) and mature elms, an unusual sight these days; the species in Scilly are under investigation at present but Cornish Elm (Ulmus minor subsp angustifolia) and Jersey Elm (Ulmus minor subsp sarniensis) have both been recorded from Higher Moors. After leaving the nature reserve we will take a short detour to see Chilean Hard-fern (Blechnum cordatum) and Western Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria occidentlais). Least Adder’s Tongue (Ophioglossum azoricum), Chilean Iris (Libertia formosa), Sea Spleenwort (Asplenium marinum) and House Holly-fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) may also be seen.
The area round Porth Hellick and Salakee Down will afford us a good example of the wind pruned ‘waved heath’ so called because the plants of Ling (Calluna vulgaris), Bell heather (Erica cineraria) and often Western gorse (Ulex gallica), which comprise the ‘heath’ are rolled over by the wind exposing their stems, roots and often bare soil on the windward side and causing a concentration of leaves and flowers on the sheltered side giving a visual effect of rolling waves.
Before we stop for tea we should find many established exotics e.g. Shrubby Orache (Atriplex halimus), Pale Dewplant (Drosanthemum floribundum) and rare natives such as Sea Pea (Lathyrus japonicus subsp maritimus) and Toothed medick (Medicago polymorpha). We may also see the delightful and unusual coloured form of Small-flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica var quinquevulnera) with a crimson spot on each petal; it is now sadly extinct in the wild on Scilly; but it occasionally escapes from gardens on St Mary’s where it has been conserved. Then we will proceed through Lower Moors Nature Reserve, adding to our list a variety of Sea Rush (Juncus maritimus var atlanticus) that only occurs in Scilly, and Bog Pondweed (Potomogeton polygonifolius), as well as the distinctive leaves of a recent alien find, Toothed Fireweed (Senecio minimus). No doubt more species will be noted on our route back to Hugh Town along the lane.
Today we return to Tresco to explore other areas for interesting native species and established escapees from the gardens. We will make our way from the quay to start the day exploring the Abbey drive. This consists of many interesting natives such as the rare Four-leaved Allseed (Polycarpon tetraphyllum) and the locally abundant Balm-leaved Figwort (Scrophularia scorondonia), as well as established plants that have escaped from the garden, such as African Hemp (Spargmannia africana), Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria), Fleshy Yellow-sorrel (Oxalis megalorrhiza) and Tresco Rhodostachys (Ochagavia carnea).
We will picnic overlooking the sea, or if the weather is inclement we can visit the café. We may search for Moonwort, (Botrychium lunaria) in its last known location in the islands. Then make our way to the dunes at Apple Tree Banks which are famous for their many exotics such as African Lily (Agapanthus praecox subsp orientalis), Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana), Annual Buttonweed (Cotula australis) and Bugle-lily (Watsonia borbonica). Native plants we should see here include Portland Spurge (Euphorbia portlandica) and Sea Bindweed (Calystegia soldanella).
Then we will follow the path between arable fields and Great Pool to explore both habitats and add more species to our list such as the blue form of Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis subsp. arvensis f. azurea) and Brookweed (Samolus valerandi) respectively.
St Mary’s, sail to Penzance
Today will see our return home. However the Scillonian III sails in the afternoon and the island carrier service will arrange our luggage again for a small fee, so once packed and breakfasted we will be free to have a last foray to parts of St Mary’s as yet unexplored. These include Buzza Hill, where we may find Lesser Sea-fig (Erepsia heteropetala), and Rough Dog’s-tail (Cynosorus echinatus), and also the sheltered community garden at Carreg Dhu. Lunch will be enjoyed in one of St Mary’s many establishments that we have not yet sampled, with no doubt another amazing view. Along the way back we should find the eponymous Scilly Pigmyweed (Crassula decumbens), Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis) and a Hugh Town speciality, if not already seen, Rough-fruited Buttercup (Ranunculus muricatus).