Football, Football, Football

I love football, it has its detractors, and for good reason, there are hooligans and trouble makers who use the sport as an excuse for violence, and of course the money involved is obscene and the commercialisation of the sport is unsavoury, but despite its faults, I love it.

There are few things in life, quite as un-important as football that can raise emotions in the way it does, that can have billions of people around the world all watching the same thing at the same time. What other un-important thing makes people cry and cheer in equal measure, what other utterly pointless pastime is played and watched by countless millions and millions of people every weekend, from your local park to Anfield (sorry I am a Liverpool supporter after all), in the back streets of Brazil’s favela’s with a tin can, to the Nou Camp in front of 105,000 people.

And on St Helena it is no different, our lives have involved a lot of football recently. With the excitement of Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool the optimism has reached the far flung places of the World and even here people have been discussing the enigmatic German. Ive had friends over to watch games on the big screen and passers-by make conversation on the prospects of Liverpool, the fate of Louis Van Gaal, the joyous downfall of Chelsea or the positivity surrounding Arsenal.

But more importantly than the English Premiership, is the local St Helena leagues, which, from 5 years olds to veterans has reached its pinnacle in the past few weeks. Sundays have been taken over by junior football in the morning, and my own games in the afternoon, followed by watching Liverpool!  With The league season coming to an end and the cup competitions taking place the junior leagues played their final few games. This involved their own respective cup finals, and friendly games for those already out in the earlier rounds. My team, Jungle Rangers, being one of the youngest in the cup structure, went out in an earlier round and were therefore left to play a friendly with the Longwood Dynamites. It seems that there exists a strong rivalry between different districts on St Helena, this is played out through the various sports teams. Jungle Ranger representing the Jamestown district, and Longwood Dynamites representing…. Well you can figure that one out.

Following the junior football, the big game arrived, the St Helena FA Cup. The Rovers, narrowly beaten to this year’s league title by Hearts, played the Chop Shop Boys. There are some real players on St Helena despite a poor playing surface and uneven ground.  Id love to see some of these boys play on a half descent pitch. But despite the testing conditions a fantastic, entertaining game of football was played out, the Rovers running out eventual winners.

 

At the end of the day, Trophies were held aloft by all ages. All junior players, winners or not, received a trophy. It’s a funny thing, and people will tell you that football doesn’t matter, but try telling that to the kids who played their heart out. Try telling them that their efforts do not matter and football is silly as they walk up those steps to collect their first ever sports trophy.

Presentations Begginers325Presentations Begginers326

Presentations Begginers332

Jungle Rangers

Presentations Juniors374

Oliver played a few games with the next age group.

Oliver now sports three trophies on his shelf, bringing back fond memories of my own junior football days. I recall receiving most improved player, and defender of the season, presented to me by non-other than former Everton Goal Keeper Neville Southall. Do I still have the trophies, of course I do, they meant something then, and actually they still do today. They represent good things, my childhood, my friends. They represent rainy days on a frozen pitch, hoping the changing rooms might be unlocked. They represent my Mum and Dad, tirelessly supporting me, driving me to games and standing in said rain shouting me on. But most of all they represent a dream, a dream I once had, and the same dream that Oliver now has. That same dream that he enacts in our back garden as he runs away from goal, his arms aloft in celebration as he sticks one past his Dad, dreaming that one day he will be running out at Anfield.

I love football, it represents dreams, and there surely cant be much wrong with that.

Presentations Senior386

Cup Runners Up Chop Shop Boys

Presentations Senior398

Cup Winners Rovers

Presentations Senior413

League Winners Hearts

I Dont Have to Buy a New Shirt

So its been a long time since my last update, this has been down to several reasons, not least of which I have been waiting for a new computer to arrive. Our laptop broke a more than a month and a half ago, and as is life on St Helena it has taken a long time to get a new one. When I say it broke, I of course mean, I broke it, dropping on the floor and causing irreparable damage!! However the event gave me the chance to buy a purpose built computer designed to allow me to process and edit photos and graphics much more efficiently than a mid-range laptop ever could.

Although the wait was annoying it did allow me time to look at things and find a way to raise myself out of the down patch that I was experiencing. I was going to re-focus on my photography and design work put out some adverts and get back on track………or I was going to be CEO of South Atlantic Media Services. Which brings me round to the second and main reason I hadn’t provided an update recently. South Atlantic Media Services provides Newspaper, Radio and TV news to St Helena and the current CEO is leaving the Island in the New Year. With great excitement I accepted the interview I was offered, and turned a few surprised looking heads in town as I headed to the studios all suited and booted.

The interview went well but after an agonising week and half wait, I received the doomed phone call telling me I was unsuccessful. I was genuinely gutted and took a real knock for a while. This was going to be my opportunity to make a difference, to leave my mark on the Island. But it wasn’t to be, I suspect in part due to the temporary nature of our stay on the Island, the job, probably rightly going to someone of Saint descent who could be here indefinitely. Good luck to Stuart George, I wish him well.

And so Im back to the photography and design work, which actually, is fine. I have a big new contract to deliver interpretative panels for various tourist spots on the Island, allowing me to leave my mark in some way. I have a few private contracts for product photography and will be doing some family and maternity portrait shoots. It seems my work is still in demand

I have also, with the arrival of my new computer finally had the chance to finish a night scape of Jamestown, a photo which is now on its third incarnation, and has taken literally hours and hours of work. The image is composed of around 46 photos, taken in two batches, one at sun set, one three hours later at night to capture the lights and cars of Jamestown. This meant perching myself precariously on a loose scree slop above the town for around four hours as I waited for the right lighting conditions to take the two set of shots I wanted.

Back on the computer hours have been spent aligning and carefully merging and blending the two sets of shots, and then blending in further images which showed cars moving through the town.

The result is a huge photo, over a meter across which I hope to sell on line on in print on the Island. With the arrival of a new professional quality printer I can now produce these at A3, and it looks great even if I do say so myself.

Jamestown Nightscape 3 watermarked

Sorry for the heavy water mark but as this photo will be for sale I need to protect its copy write!

Aside from work, I have re-started my football career, playing an initial twenty minutes in my first games, and culminating in a full ninety minutes for the last games of the league, my team, finishing in a respectable fifth place. Unfortunately the season has ended all too soon, and an early exit from the cup at the hands of the league winners means that I will have to wait more than six months to play my next match. But still, I am pleased to be playing again and even more pleased my groin has held up and seems to be on the mend.

Summer is now trying to make a comeback, although winter is doing its best to hold it off. Days of bright sunshine and high temperatures and interspersed by periods of cloud and drizzle. Oliver and Charlie took part in the schools harvest festival. One would expect this to be carried out in the autumn, but in keeping with British tradition we still celebrate in October. It is not too out of place though, as spring on St Helena is full of beauty and change. Sunsets are taking on a greater intensity and trees and plants all over the Island are bursting into flower. Colours are popping up everywhere. Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to get out and photograph much of this beauty yet, but keep your eyes open and I’ll do my best to bring this to you in due course.

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Watching the boys at the Harvest Festival shows me how well they have settled, and what a lovely group of friends they have. It was of course a huge worry coming out here, how would they adapt, would they miss home too much, will they make friends? But looking back at how much the boys have changed and grown we can never have any regrets, it has been brilliant for them. I often have pinch myself moments, and this was one of them. 24 months ago I had not heard of St Helena, and yet here we are, watching Charlie sing “Juicy Fruits” with his classmates. in the middle of the South Atlantic on an Island we call home. Temporary home it may be, but home none the less. Although I have had my ups and downs and testing times personally, I am still filled with excitement when I step back and look at what we have done, what we are doing,

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Oliver and Charlie in their den. I think I had more fun building this than they did!!

and that we are even here at all. To the people who live here it is normal, just life, but this is an adventure that people dream of, and we are getting to live it. I hope the boys grow up and look back with fondness and appreciate the experience. I hope they remember, the Harry Potter nights and building dens, the football, the whale sharks, the freedom the friends they have made and the fantastic times they are having.

As summer arrives, St Helena gears up to Christmas, yes, weird I know. Oliver is playing the role of one of the Wisemen in the school nativity play and the shops are filled up with gifts, chocolates, lights and decorations, which makes me wonder what there will be a shortage of in the coming months, there is only finite space on the RMS after all. This year we will ensure that we are fully kitted up for the festival of lights, and I look forward to the festive season kicking in, with more Christmas songs on the radio such as Santa Arrived in a Pick Up Truck!

On Sunday the 8th of November St Helena joined the rest of the World in paying respects to those who have lost their lives in the tragedy of war. The service on St Helena involves various churches, Scouts and Guide groups, police and armed forces on the Island, and brings together Saint and Ex-pat communities from all over the Island. This year, Oliver, who has just joined the Beavers had a small role to play, walking with the rest of his group in the precession through town to the Centotaph. Oliver was beautifully behaved and look very proud to be doing his bit, even if he didn’t quite understand the point of it all. I looked around the water front and compared the faces to those that stood next to me 12 months pervious. Many of them have changed, new ex-pats arrive on the Island all the time and new friends have been made in the process. But the most significant thing that stuck me looking around that morning, was not how many people had left, but how many people I knew, Saints whom I now call friends, who say hello as we pass in the street, who know who we are, what we do and whom I hope consider us to be a good addition to the Island. Looking back 12 months I feel established on the Island, but I realise now that it takes more than three months and a few friendly faces to be established here. Maybe I will make a difference and leave a mark here after all.

The sun came out for the ceremony, just as it did last year. As the sun shone down, the heat was too much for some and , in my shirt and tie with sweat patches on my back, realised that it is probably a good thing I didn’t get the job after all, at least this way I don’t have to buy a new shirt.

 

 

 

 

It Does Funny Things!

Whether the same applies to Saints, living here all their lives I do not know, but for me, and indeed many travelling ex pats, St Helena does funny things to you. Having arrived on St Helena retired, expecting a laid back life for two years, indulging in hobbies and reading, I find myself now worrying about everything I have taken on, whether I can fulfil my obligations and meet my own newly defined goals, make the most of my time here on St Helena and indeed be the family man I intended before we left the shores of the UK.

I look back a few weeks, to a time where, despite falling in love with St Helena, I was not in love with myself, unsure of my place, my future on the Island and unable to see a way out of a hole of cleaning and domestication.

The lack of cisual content to accompany this entry leads me to just post some pretty pictures. As the weather continues to improves the nights become clearer as this shot of Half Tree Hollow at night shows only too well.

The lack of visual content to accompany this entry leads me to just post some pretty pictures. As the weather continues to improves the nights become clearer as this shot of Half Tree Hollow at night shows only too well.

A recent conversation with a local left me pondering some things, to which I have not found an answer. The crux of my depression was in not having, what I regarded as a good answer when the inevitable question, “what are you doing here” came up. I would joke that I was retired, afraid of being judged by my profession, or lack thereof. But why is this, do I lack the confidence to just be myself, without the need to be something of importance? I don’t believe I judge people based on their profession, I have always strived to see the person and not the badge, so why do I assume others will judge me. I find myself playing up or down previous roles dependant on the profession of the person I am speaking to.  But then it seems to me that it is often the case that people will ask what you do, before they ask your name, and indeed St Helena is a funny place for ex-pats where humble retiree’s like myself rub shoulders with those holding seats of government, lawyers, Prison Officers, Chief of Police, Doctors, Deputy Governors and the like, if there was ever an environment to make one feel inadequate, this I suspect this is it.

I find myself now more and more at ease with things, I no longer feel

A little bit of abstract macro work on a walk around plantation wood.

A little bit of abstract macro work on a walk around plantation wood.

the need to joke to cover up my own self judgment, opportunities are presenting themselves, and along with those opportunities are choices to be made. St Helena does funny things to people, ex-pats arriving without work, supporting loved ones are presented with opportunities to take part in the most wonderful and varied things, I have even been offered my own radio show, something which Im afraid I simply don’t now have time to do. It seems, having bought a cheap camera a few months ago, am now a photographer, my work is being recognised and appreciated and it is difficult to place in words how wonderful that feels.

Last weekend I attended a craft fare, and sold a few of my photos, even being asked for some signed copies, and today I sit having spent

One of my first new ventures as Paul Tyson Photography. Little more than five months after first picking up a camera I am offering beginners courses!

One of my first new ventures as Paul Tyson Photography. Little more than five months after first picking up a camera I am offering beginners courses!

most of the day producing a collage of my work for the St Helena Government representatives in London, having been called upon directly from London to see if I could help. I pinch myself that I have completed the necessaries and await confirmation to see if I am able to register my new business, Paul Tyson Photography! Now who’d of thought that as we stepped onto the RMS St Helena three months ago.

St Helena creates friends; this funny melting pot of peoples in a strange situation brings about close and powerful friendships. We find ourselves spending time with people from all walks of life and all professions. Why is it that dive Instructors become friends with housing planners, that prison officers become friends with videographers, that lawyers become friends with teachers, what is it that breaks down the normal barriers and creates friendships that would be unlikely to form back home, what is it that binds us?  Ex pats on the Island all have one thing in common, and it seems so obvious as to almost not be worth stating, we all live in St Helena. It is not the living here however that brings a closeness, it is the spirit that brought us all here in the first place, a curiosity for the unknown and a sense of adventure for leaving the safety or normality at home and venturing out into something new, something exciting, something with huge potential to fail but huge potential for great reward.  I have learnt to look beyond first impressions; St Helena does that to you. In the knowledge that the size of St Helena makes it inevitable that you will bump into people regularly, that you will share a drink and spend time in the company of others, you are forced to bide your time, to form friendships with people whom at home you may pass up, turning away based on an inaccurate and fleeting first impression.  I hope I take this new found measured approach to people with me when I leave, just another in a long list of improvements I believe I am making.

IMG_9631 Friendships on St Helena are also transient, as fleeting as our time here. Already three fellow passengers on board the RMS have departed these shores, and families we have become close to will be leaving in the New Year.  Even those residents, the Saints themselves whom we are slowly making friends amongst, will remain when we depart. In the social bubble I find myself in, one remains ever aware of the RMS and the departure we and others will make.

Between my work with the National Trust, my burgeoning photography career, looking after the house and the boys I am clinging onto my time with the Marine Conversation team, just! This Monday had the huge pleasure of assisting in tagging Red Billed Tropic Birds on the aptly named Egg Island.  A small group of us headed out to this small rocky outcrop, some 300 yards from the shore, and accessible only by a leap of faith from the back of a boat onto a vertical cliff face, all the while judging the movement of the waves and hoping the next wave pushes you closer to your target and not further away. After a full twenty minutes of ups and downs back and fourths, the team of four were safely onto the Island. From a distance Egg island looks white, closer inspection reveals it is indeed, the rock stained white from centuries of guano. Stepping across the rocks and climbing to the Island’s peak at around 70m, tens upon thousands of Black Noddies and Sooty terms flew around us, angry and upset by our disturbance and sure to let us know about it, their powerful beaks and quick head height fly pasts a constant reminder that we were on their turf.

Egg Island, stained white with years of bird poo!!

Egg Island, stained white with years of bird poo!!

The valuable work on Egg Island is revealing the secrets of these sea birds, potential new species being revealed and population trends being followed, all essential if these birds, residents of the Island for thousands of years are to survive a thousand years into the future. Our journey was also in preparation for next week’s adventures when the trip will be repeated in the pitch black of night, lit up by the stunning nocturnal skyline as we turn our attention to the resident, nesting Storm Petrol population. The short climb back down the vertical cliff to leap back onto our waiting boat left me nervously excited about attempting the same feat at 1 o’clock in the morning!

Three months into our time here I am at something of a cross roads, determined to help out with the amazing marine conservation I have become involved with, proud of my work with the National Trust, desperate to develop a new career in photography, and without losing sight of the family we have ventured here to become. Writing this blog has, from the very start helped me to make sense of things, but St Helena does funny things to people, and for the time being even my writings are not helping  me to make sense in this sudden turn around. I am not quite sure how I make sense of all this and where I should go next. What I need is more time in the day, what I suspect I will end up doing is somehow just squeezing it all in, and seeing what pans out. What I do know is opportunities are coming my way, opportunities that would never of been afforded to me should I have stayed in the UK, what I do know is that St Helena does funny things to people, and I think I like it.

*Footnote. Please accept my apologies for the lack of updates for a week, I have been so busy with things it has simply not been possible. I will do my best to get back on track this week.

It’s Ridiculous!!

I started my last blog wondering if I would be able to fit in two weekends worth of St Helena in my normal body of text, and in short I couldn’t, because Lemon Valley was on the agenda and required an entry all of its own.

Lemon valley is a remote valley even by St Helena standards, with no road access its rocky shore and crystal clear waters can be reached only by boat or a long and somewhat tricky descent from the wonderfully named Rosemary plain some 500m above the valley floor.  Over the course of last Friday and Saturday I did both.Lemon Valley Post Box Walk St Helena

A boat trip had been arranged with a large group of families. Some more energetic souls however had made the decision to walk to the bay, and return to Jamestown by the boat. Wondering if Charlie would be able to make the walk I decided a solo trip to assess the terrain would be appropriate.

Leaving Rosemary plain, the path takes a steep descent through Sarah’s valley. Initially moving along a narrow path boarded by conifers, like much of St Helena the descent takes you through several climatic zones. Conifers give way to a multitude of deciduous trees and bright flowers, flashes of burnt orange from the Silky Oak tree (Grevillea robusta) standing out against the back drop of blue waters several kilometres below.Tungi at Lemon Valley

As the path becomes drier it becomes trickier, with bare rocky slopes giving way to fine powdery scree and solid footsteps being replaced by a step and slide pattern. Trees are replaced by large stands of English Aloe, and the orange of the Silky Oak is replaced by the orange of the Nargy Weed, (still a favourite of mine).  As Sarah’s Valley converges with  Lemon valley Tungi begins to dominate and as I stop to look across the now wide Y shaped eroded slopes behind me, a row of caves can be seen across the way. As the wind rushed down from Rosemary plain above I shouted to find my voice echoing back at me in such clarity had it not been my own Id of thought someone else was shouting toward me from the caves afar.

Lemon Valley to the right and Sarah's valley to the left (as you view the image_ and the echoing caves.

Lemon Valley to the right and Sarah’s valley to the left (as you view the image and the echoing caves in the bottom right of the picture.

After descending the last scree slope, more suited to skis than boots the valley flattens and the path twists through a dark, entangled forest of wild mangoes. Feeling like Indiana Jones in his latest adventure, I, with almost every step, broke the web of a Spiny Orbweaver Spider (Gasteracantha cancriformis).IGasteracantha cancriformis Now of course to some this is a trip close to hell, but for me it was great, and these incredible and beautiful spiders just added to the intrigue as their webs stretched wide across the narrow path. As I pushed through the trees and webs the curious Fairy Terns visited, flying close to suss out the new visitor. A particularly curious individual flew within touching distance, hovering motionless to look me right in the eye before letting me move along my way.

Wild Mongoes follow the line of the stream. Thick, interwoven branches and spider webs make this feel like a jungle.

Wild Mangoes follow the line of the stream. Thick, interwoven branches and spider webs make this feel like a jungle.

Fairy Tern St Helena

Fairy Tern St Helena

Reaching the valley floor it opens up, and once again the history that wraps up every story on this Island is evident, abandoned homes and buildings, of a once small but thriving community that built up around a still intact quarantine station farther down. A defensive wall borders the rocky beach and the blue lagoon is overlooked by the remnants of an old gun battery, no longer a surprise to see given that it seems there was once a gun of some sort pointing toward every inch of this fortified outpost of the empire.

Atlantic Ocean comes into view nearing the end of my walk.

Atlantic Ocean comes into view nearing the end of my walk.

Having Completed another post box walk, and after spending ten or so minutes exploring the rocks and pools I headed back up the valley. Luckily for you, my description will be considerably shorter than the monotonous, endless trudge that the walk up Lemon valley is. A relentless climb across loose scree ensuring your feet cover twice the distance of your body due to the slips across the dust. Pushing myself as hard as I could the constant thirty degree incline was conquered in just over an hour, but it was the mountain that won, leaving me struggling for breath in the mid-day heat!

Having decided that the concentration required for the slippy descent was too much for Charlie, we took the boat with everyone else the next morning to Lemon Valley. Our dive instructor Anthony from Sub-Tropic Adventures provided our transport for the day, a

Transferring from the main vessel to the landing craft

Transferring from the main vessel to the landing craft

watery taxi service. With most people and a mountain of stuff from snorkels to seats, food to fishing rods on one boat, a few others shot ahead on a smaller outboard rib to assist with unloading the gear and ferrying others from the main boat to the shallow water deck area. Arriving at Lemon Valley from the sea instead of on foot and its beauty is revealed in a new light. The bay at the mouth of the valley is not a classic tropical vision, draped in white sand or palms trees, like much of St Helena its beauty is not in the obvious, but in the detail.  Its beauty lies in the grandeur of scale from the steep sided volcanic cliffs, to the endemic fish in the rock pools, from the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the shoals of butterfly fish. It is the childlike excitement that is generated from scrambling over rocks,  the wonderful group of friends from all walks of life that our day was to be spent with and the laughter and excitement of the Children as they jump from the shore into the sea. Lemon valley, like St Helena, is everything and nothing a unique place in a unique way of life.

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The tone of the day was set, as once the boat was anchored, some of the children jumped into the cool blue waters to swim to shore. With everyone and everything on the wooden decking our transport departed, leaving us stranded in the valley for several hours. And what a place to be stranded, hours spent snorkelling, swimming, exploring and rock pooling. With five families, one couple and of course John it was a splendid social event.  With each of us bringing our own contribution to the popular “bring and share” idea of catering, we presented a feast of epic proportion from local Pilau to home-made

John enjoying a swim

John enjoying a swim

cakes and biscuits, and the now inevitable sausages and some particular lovely home baked Banana cake from the David’s.

Exploring the rock pools revealed urchins and starfish, crinoids (feather stars) and anemones, crabs fish and even a moray eel. Plunging into the Atlantic Ocean revealed a multitude of fish species most of which you will find nowhere else on earth. Shoals of butterfly fish, tangs and chromis, with needlefish and trumpet fish, soldiers and parrot fish to name a few. We were made particularly proud when we convinced Oliver to come for a swim, donning his snorkel and mask to be enthralled by the life below the waves, his nervous swim was only short, but a significant first step for our boy. Those not exploring the pools or snorkelling were enjoying sun and relaxation perhaps with the occasional dip to cool off whilst other splashed and played in the waters.

Lemon Valley St Helena

IMG_0425As the day drew to an end our boat returned to take us home. A day of incredible fun was then turned into a magical day, our return journey being accompanied by a humpback whale mother and calf swimming alongside the boat some 150m away. Bev and I looked at each other and back to the whales, we turned to Oliver who was now driving the boat and exclaimed almost in unison, “it’s ridiculous”. How else do you describe this, a boat ride to a remote inaccessible valley, where wild Mango trees meet blue waters and Fairy terns brush shoulders with you as you explore marine life found nowhere else on earth. Shared with great friends, great food and great fun, clear blue waters and shoals of colourful fish, and the still magical sight of a humpback whale and calf on the way home I can find no words and the best I have is ridiculous.

The Gigantic Isle

I have been led to believe that St Helena is only small, apparently ten miles long and five miles wide, fifty square miles in area. That would make it very small in comparison to London for example which is around 950 square miles. (more comparisons between London and St Helena here)

However, quite simply I do not believe it, it cannot be true, St Helena is gigantic, it must be enormous, it is the only explanation I can find for the huge array of people and places, of habitats and climates and even of seasons on this Island.

Sunset 6

Another Stunning Sun Set

Having driven almost every mile of St Helena’s roads I can say that this Island is continental in its variety of environments. Were you to flatten is peaks and valleys into one large sheet, I have no doubt it could envelope the earth.

Coastal areas are dry and arid, dominated by bare scree slopes, steep cliffs and sparse vegetation of low lying salt and arid tolerant Ice plants (Aizoaceae),  hottentot figs (Carpobrotus edulis) , and the endemic,  lime green Babies Toes (Hydrodea cryptantha) which are still found in isolated pockets. The Sandy Bay amphitheatre, containing the only significant beach on the Island with its black volcanic sands, steep crags and sharp ridges is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, snaking its way deep into the Island, the eroded remains of the second of St Helena’s two shield volcanoes that erupted some 12 million years ago. Huge cliff faces and giant rock formations reach from the waves below; flashes of white pass by as the beautiful Fairy Tern or Red Billed Tropic birds fly in to their nest sights, contrasted against the rocks of blue, purple and orange.

Moving up to the low lying terraces of Half Tree Hollow, Prosperous Plain, Donkey Plain or Horse Pasture and the environment takes on a semi-arid scrub land feel. Like an old Western where Cacti grow thick. Nargy weed with its bright orange golf balls lining its central stem thrives here, and low lying scrub with creepers now forming large expansive mats, succulent leaves with bright red flashes and large yellow flowers. Carpets of yellow tussocks of fountain grass stem the tide of erosion, whilst the elegant and grand English Aloe stands high, reaching for the sky with singular bamboo like stems some three or four meters high. Canaries, finches and Mynah birds provide a chorus of chirps whistles and song as they fly in small flocks from feeding ground to feeding ground, picking off scurrying insects, moths or falling seeds.

The enormous yellow flowers of the cup of gold (Solandra maxima) catch the eye as you past A&D mini market. Roads are lined with wild tomatoes, currants, lilacs, hibiscus, fuscia, acasia, passion flowers which sit along side more species of plants than I could mention, providing all colours of the rainbow where ever one looks. The endemic dwarf Ebony, with its delicate white, petticoat like flowers,  cultivated from the last specimen on earth found clinging to the edge of existence high on a cliff face, now grows in abundance. Trees of craffa thorn (Erythrina caffra), jacaranda (Jacarana mimosifolia) and coral trees (Erythrina speciosa) provide red and purple flowers of colour against the historic buildings, whilst the occasional palm tree reveals the sub-tropical climate of the Island

Crucifix Orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense)

Crucifix Orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense)

As you move inland the environment changes again, becoming green and lush with valleys of grass and tall woodlands appearing. The stunning Arum Lilly (Zantedeschia aethiopica) starts to make an appearance, pure white flowers and elegant glossy green stems, growing wild in huge abundance.  Pasture and wide open green plains are grazed by cattle and sheep providing a sense of home, a familiar rolling landscape of fields and hedgerow, its peculiarity revealed by the nesting wirebirds, a beautiful and dainty plover found, like hundreds of other species, only on St Helena. Forests planted over a hundred years ago contain such diverse mix of trees that one could equally be in a Scottish Highland forest of pines facing one way, and yet turn around to find themselves in an

Cape Iris Napoleon's Grave

Cape Iris at Napoleon’s Grave

old English forest with Oak and other gnarled trees twisting round, thick roots breaking the forest floor, On the South Side of the Island, at Levelwood, huge stands of Eucalyptus trees pass for a rainforest canopy. Their stripped bark hanging like vines, with a variety of species forming multiple layers as the forest itself is dissected by the steep slopes and truncated spurs. In the valleys, streams provide a permanent wetland, home to Banana trees, wild celery and yams. The orchestra of frogs play continuously, like a thousand raindrops echoing into an underground lake. These mid-level valleys are a land where daisies grow as trees, home to the last remaining stand of wild, endemic gumwood trees, in Deep Dale.

Sandy Bay Arum Lily

Sandy Bay Amphitheatre. Slopes of Flax and Arum Lilies give way to forests with endmeic Gumwoods and eventually the barren steep gorges of the Gates of Chaos and Broad gut.

Driving up higher, the winding roads take you into green carpets of flax covering entire slopes with a velvet coat. Flax, once a major export industry on St Helena was planted in huge quantities and now dominates much of the upper slopes. Although the flax has sadly replaced much of the native cloud forests it does in its own right hold a degree of beauty, and adds to the sense of history that the Island exudes in abundance.

The central ridge of St Helena holds one of the most precious habitats on earth, a world where dinosaurs would not look out of place, now sadly an urgent conservation concern. Just forty hectares of native wild cloud forest, dominated by the prehistoric Tree fern (Dicksomia arborecens) remain. Where cabbages are trees and some of the rarest invertebrates on earth find shelter in the damp undergrowth.

Perched high on the central peaks this is a wind-swept world, where clouds hang forming dew of the tips of leaves only to be swept away forming swirls of smoke down the valleys before burning off in the warmth of the lower reaches. Trees bend sideways, almost reaching the ground at the their tips, their longest arms often lower than their roots as they bend down over the sharp ridges, pushed over by the relentless Atlantic Ocean winds.

Wind B&W

Wind swept central ridge

These changes in environment, almost continental in their diversity happen over such short distances that one may even experience changes in season whilst driving half a mile up the road. Plants now dry and bereft of life at the lowermost end of Half Tree Hollow can be found in full bloom at the top. Jamestown may be five or more degrees warmer than a mile inland at Francis Plain, where a thick layer of cloud often provides rain all day whilst James Bay bathes in sunshine.

From the Grand Canyon to rural England, from Asian cloud forest to Texan desert, ST Helena has it all and is indeed an enormous Island. The St Helena Tourist board promotes the Island as the most extraordinary place on earth, approaching our third month here I should think they are right, and I am certainly not going to argue with that assessment.