Friday, 24 June 2011


The roadside verges on the last couple of miles down the narrow lanes to Martin’s Haven are uncut and awash with red campion and foxgloves; they paint a vivid picture against the vibrant blue sky of a Pembrokeshire morning. Our destination is the small island of Skokholm. Approaching the haven, tantalising glimpses of the island are visible through hedgerow gaps and our hearts beat a little faster. It’s Founder’s Day, when the Wildlife Trust offers a trip to the island to the major donors who contributed to Skokholm’s purchase a few years ago.

The crossing takes about half an hour. Jack Sound can be unkind and landing on the island is never easy. Today we’re lucky, there’s little swell in South Haven as grey seals and puffins watch us jump ashore. The gentle walk up to the old farm buildings announces the beauty of this wild place. Soft rabbit-mowed turf covered by great patches of scarlet pimpernel marks the path bordered by dense bracken, sheep sorrel, red campion and singing sedge warblers. Just as on Skomer Island to the north, the narrow track is littered with corpses of Manx shearwaters; they fall prey to the gulls at dawn.

The old cottage and wheelhouse are full of history, but most famously known as the home of the pioneering ornithologist Ronald Lockley who lived here over half a century ago; his books inspired many a budding environmentalist including both Chris and I.

We walk round the island, small white-painted stones marking the indistinct route. Each step has to be carefully considered so as not to crush one of the 45,000 fragile shearwater borrows. The screams of choughs are never far away. Mad Bay, Purple Cove, Wild Goose Bay, Wreck Bay; we wonder about the history of these beautiful sandstone cliffs. Away from the white lighthouse, the path follows the faint remains of the old pony-driven rail tracks passing smart male wheatears and down to Crab Bay. In a small sunken hide overlooking the glistening sea, puffins, almost at eye level and only a few feet away, go in and out of burrows with sand eels; hundreds more wheel overhead and a wren competes valiantly against the sound of the sea. This is my favourite spot in the entire world. I’m in heaven and I know Chris is too.