I had only vaguely heard of Skomer island before I went there. I knew it was out at sea somewhere around Britain’s coastline, but I had mentally stuck it somewhere high up north and pictured it as a windswept, desolate place composed mainly of rock and bird crap and covered in Puffins. I booked the tour anyway, since I knew if David was teaching there, it would be worth it.
After some frantic googling (and FlickR-nosing) a few days before the trip, I quickly discovered it is actually an incredibly green and verdant Welsh island with enough soil that hundreds of thousands of pairs of burrowing birds can make their homes there every season to breed. It turns out the island is also made of mainly volcanic rock and so is of massive interest to scientists and conservationists alike. Stuck out in the sea a short distance from the mainland of south Wales, I was becoming more optimistic about the whole trip – despite the best efforts of work colleagues to convince me otherwise.
Saturday 27th June 2015
Having been to see The Who in Hyde Park the night before at a festival with friends, the trip was not destined to start well. I was thankfully not hungover, just really really tired – never a good condition for one of David’s tours. I had to do all food shopping and packing in the morning too as I had been away for work all week – laying out meals on the floor and then adding spares as instructed in case bad weather caused us to get stuck on the island. We were told there are two cookers and ample shared fridge space as well as all cooking utensils, pans and crockery on the island in the residents block and that all we need take is food and drink for 5 days, some bedding, clothes and of course camera gear. I took only my new Nikon with both lenses (the 80-400mm cheapie and the VRII 70-200mm beast). I later came to realise I had not packed anywhere near enough clothing and way too much food!
I set off on the 6 hour drive after lunch - aiming to arrive in time for a shower before meeting the group for dinner at 7pm in the local pub – “The Lobster Pot”. Once I had got past the boring motorway sections (M25>M4) the trip actually allowed me one of the nicest drives through western Britain I think I have ever had, with a night in the timeless village of Marloes, to kick it all off with. Although in stereotypical Welsh fashion, the rain started just as I crossed the Severn Bridge.
I’m sure the journey would not have taken me so long had I not found myself following David Plummer and deciding it would be impolite to overtake... I crawled along behind him for miles and miles and just as I was about to arrive in the village of Marloes, he turned off into the supermarket… probably to get supplies I thought…. however it turns out it wasn’t him at all – what on earth the driver in that jeep thought of the mad woman in a fairly nippy car, refusing to overtake and waving at him periodically, I don’t know.
Anyway, I finally arrived at The Clock House (B&B in Marloes) run by John and his wife with time for a quick shower and change. Met a fellow “student”, Tim, in the hallway who was also on his way to meet David for dinner – Tim is an ex Director of Britvic (one of my old customers – small world). Already in the pub, were the two ladies who had volunteered on the island last year, (Leslie and Sally) as well as another two ladies, Catherine and Gail (Both had been on at least one of David’s tours before) and one other guy called Kurt; lovely guy, from Switzerland I believe, who had spent the last week with David on his residential course at Knepp Safaris in West Sussex.
As we ate, the rain continued and the wind picked up, it was looking dubious for a crossing in the morning… or were they simply winding me up? (I don’t do open water very well). There aren’t many things in this world that frighten me, but open water, submerged seaweed and chavs are probably my top three. I knew I had get a good night’s sleep if I was to survive the next 4 days.