St Helena Island
Having spent 20 years living in a the small village of Wigglesworth Mike up sticks and sailed forth to St Helena Isalnd in the South Atlantic. The walks look terrific and he has outlined his favourites below. It may not be part of your summer holiday plans but enjoy the photos for somewhere that is genuinally very very different. For further details visit http://www.sthelenatourism.com/
Given that getting to Saint Helena is an expedition in itself, you can be forgiven for hoping that walking on the Island might be laid-back but in fact there is everything from easy level(ish) walks to the seriously challenging.
Situated in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, St Helena is one of the remotest places on the planet. There is currently no airport, so the only way to reach the island is by sea on board one of the world’s remaining mail ships – either from Cape Town (5 days sailing) or Ascension Island (2 days sailing). Just 47 square miles and with a population of 4,000 St Helena is a British Overseas Territory, so much will be familiar to people from the UK. St Helena’s position made it a vital staging post for ships during the British Empire, and its isolation made it the choice for Napoleon’s exile.
The Island is a volcanic outcrop, with massive sea cliffs and a lush interior. Landscape runs from arid desert to humid cloud forests, resulting in a remarkable environment and many endemic plants. Consequently there is a variety of walks. The Island has developed a series of post-box walks, which are detailed in a book available from the Island’s Tourist Office; but there are a number of other walks and tracks that can be explored. It is important to follow local advice as some paths suffer from erosion and others are not for the faint-hearted with narrow paths along sheer ridges. But many paths lead to historic locations where cannons remain abandoned or there are spectacular views. It is important to take adequate sun protection…and wet weather gear…and plenty of fluids.
Flagstaff is a great walk to get used to the Island with a clear track to follow. Starting from a small green at Deadwood, it is a straightforward stroll across Deadwood Plain, past wind turbines, and up through scrub and a small forest. What seems a gentle slope reveals sheer sea cliffs when you reach the summit. The walk allows you to often see the rare endemic Wirebird, and it passes the site of one of the Boer prisoner camps. This is a perfect walk for families, or for an afternoon, with great views across the Island. Allow 1,5 hours.
Diana’s Peak is the highest point on the Island (2700’/823m), and on a clear day offers stunning views right across the Island. The walking is not difficult, but it can be slippery when wet. The walk starts from a parking lay-by on Stitich’s Ridge on the road towards Sandy Bay that leads off the “W” road. Walk back a short distance and the start of the walk, up Cabbage Tree Road grass track, is clearly marked. Following this track brings you on to a ridge, where you bear right towards the Peaks (left here takes you to Halley’s Observatory). On reaching a cannon, bear left then right, following the stepped path onto the Peaks themselves. The first peak reached is Mount Actaeon, and has a large pine on the summit. Continuing on, the path drops slightly and then climbs back up to reach Diana’s Peak itself. This is part of the cloud forest of the Island and has many endemic plants and insects, including massive tree ferns. From Diana’s Peak the walk continues to the third peak along the ridge which is Cuckold’s Point. Carry on from Cuckold’s and down a path through the tree ferns. At the bottom turn left along a broad track and follow this below the peaks, rejoining the outward path below Mount Actaeon. Then retrace your steps back along Cabbage Tree Road. Allow 2-3 hours.
Sandy Bay Barn is a moderate walk, with spectacular views, and walking across some brightly coloured eroded areas. The walk starts at Green Hill, where there is a picnic site. Walk back along the road and bear down the gravel track on the bend. Turn right immediately before the track enters a house and follow the grassy track. Continue straight on where the fence ends, and along the ridge up to the summit of White Hill. Enjoy the views across Sandy Bay to Lot and Lot’s Wife. Keep straight on from White Hill, dropping down onto the eroded ground with its stripes of colours. Bear right around the bottom of the next hill, and follow the ridge to the base of the Barn itself. It is possible to climb straight up the rock, or alternatively follow the gravelly path to the right, at the foot of the cliffs. This brings you round up to the Barn and a short stroll to the cliff edge. The views along the coastline are spectacular, and whales can sometimes be spotted in the sea below. Allow 2-3 hours.
More challenging walks include The Barn and Powells Valley. A new circular walk from Jamestown is being developed that will take in High Knoll Fort and the Heart-Shaped Waterfall. And, of course, every walker should walk Jacob’s Ladder – 699 steps (600’) – up the side of Ladder Hill from Jamestown to Ladder Hill Fort.