Lundy September memories… golden grass, glittering grit, glistening sea and lighthouse sunsets. Again please. 2 days before leaving Met office declines the request with a prophecy of hailstorms, force 8 gales and cold. I swallow the bitter pill and move to a mind-set of rest and relaxation. I pack winter clothes and books.
The ferry pitches and rolls out of Ilfracombe and then wallows its way through the troughs and dips while its passengers moan and turn green and white. Becky lies on the deck and asks: ‘When is it all going to end?’, while Peter scampers around saying: ‘The waves are incredible’, to anyone who is able to pay attention.
On the island the sun shines but recovery time is given priority over any strenuous activity so we sit in stripy deck chairs on a green lawn with a view of the north Devon coast and eventually motivation creeps in. We should at least get a rope out.
I heave the heavy rucksack up the hill and down the other side, and back up the same hill, and down another. Steep, very steep. I had forgotten the Lundy Alpine mountaineering experience: finding the right bit of rock at the right time of day is for the older and wiser and therefore fatter people.
We arrive at Flying Buttress at the wrong time and watch the waves crash around us and over the way into most of the routes. We are left with a brutal looking VS 5a. We get the ropes out and Peter does a short vertical dance on it for a while, and then it starts to rain, so he retreats and we put the ropes away and walk uphill again.
I’m not disappointed – just glad to be back at the foot of rugged sea cliffs on this wild and beautiful island.
Pinned to the notice board in the pub that evening is a print-out of the forecast: Cloudy, drizzle and more.
I look out of the window the next morning and see a blue distant coastline above a glistening sea. The winter packing was so, so wrong.
The hot sun bakes us as we tentatively try to find our way down a steep grassy slope to where the abseil should begin above Needle Rock. It seems a lot harder than the way down we found before, 5 years ago, but we continue, down past loose rock and a blank wall, down to the big boulders on the shore. We get the ropes out and play at being brave (and sweaty) climbers until the sea starts to be an irritating presence for the belayers. Sitting in the sun on top of the stack after an interesting Severe, among the drying regurgitations of some mythical Lundy bird of prey, I watch the seal watching us and the goats being braver than us, and take in the glittering grit and glistening sea. It is all so good.
The blank wall is too blank to provide a route out so the adventure of getting down to the shore is reversed. I lead the way up a precarious scramble, trying to find something solid to hold on to and avoiding goat shit, until we meet up with the ab rope. The sun is still baking us as we walk up to the breezy top.
Last year I ate too much. This year I’ve been discerning and only eaten my favourite food. It’s a diet of adventure, fresh air, sunshine, remoteness, and dramatic scenery. It takes me beyond my comfort zone, but only just. I haven’t been ticking the boxes or pushing my grade – I’ve been discovering my ideal meal and at the end of this day I was replete.
And that was it, and it was enough – a storm raged over the island the next day and the last day I couldn’t get motivated to get the rope out for the non-tidal routes on offer so spent a few hours sitting in hot sun on a rock above a cove watching seals sunbathe and sing. Simple pleasures.
Keep it simple.