Waiting on the jetty, the Roa Island Lifeboat station to the left and Piel castle just visible on the right of the picture.
We continued our exploration of the north side of the bay with a first ever trip to Piel Island. An interesting drive along the coast from Ulverston brought us to Roa Island – a tidal island connected to the mainland by a short causeway. From there we had the excitement of a brief boat trip across the channel on the Piel Ferry. After becoming frightened on a dinghy on Coniston Water earlier in the summer,A became quite hysterical about this trip, but the ferryman was very sympathetic and although she didn’t enjoy the journey, she was much more confident when it came time for our return trip.
The island has a ruined castle, a pub and a row of cottages.
The castle was clearly once very extensive. Built by the monks of Furness Abbey it protected their harbour here and their lucrative trade particularly with Ireland. It’s big moment in history came during the reign of Henry VII when Lambert Simnel, a pretender to the thrown supported by the Yorkist party, landed here from Ireland. The uprising was soundly defeated, but unusually the story has a happy ending for the puppet figurehead of the coup who was pardoned by Henry and given a job as spit turner in the royal kitchens.
The castle has both outer and inner walls, the latter quite well preserved except on the seaward side where the action of tide and waves has undermined and destroyed them. The keep is quite large and it looks as though it should be possible to explore the battlements, but sadly at present the access to those are barred by a locked grille.
The wall corners and the edges of windows and doorways are all in the same red sandstone as Furness Abbey, but otherwise the walls are built of a more rough and ready rubble and mortar construction.
The sandstone was everywhere pocked and creased by erosion into fabulous miniature landscapes. The walls on close inspection turned out to be a haven for a wide variety of mini beasts. One wall of the keep was festooned with snails, at least until the boys pulled them all off.
More mobile and therefore not so easy to photograph were a tiny black and white wasp hauling the carcass of a pale spider up a wall, and the odd earwig like creature which B coaxed out of a narrow fissure and onto his coat. There were inevitably plenty of spiders taking advantage of the rich pickings.
With the white cross on its abdomen I think that this is our Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus. A little surfing leads me to believe the diadematus means crowned or wearing a diadem, perhaps a reference to that rather spectacular pattern. A more successful resident of the castle than old Lambert Simnel then (and isn’t that a name to conjure with?).
The island has a wild and stark beauty of its own. The beaches are shingle…
With stones of many hues, textures and types.
This was a feature of the beaches on the Baltic too, indeed the holiday home which we stopped in (a house swap – thoroughly recommended if you haven’t tried it) had copies of two colourful guide books – Strandsteine and Noch Mehr Strandsteine with identifying pictures of the geological treasures to be found.
I found a fossil here on the beach…
It’s the one on the right, on a desk at home. The circular striated pattern runs through to the other side of the stone. The fossil on the left I found in Germany. I think that it’s something like a Sea Urchin, it’s not really seen to best advantage here, but has a five neat lines of dots like a thin starfish on the bottom.
The top edge of the shingle was colonised by specialists like this Horned Poppy
All parts of which are apparently poisonous.
Or this Sea Campion with its gorgeous veined pattern…
Scarlet Pimpernel is rather less specialised and much more widespread, but as some common names imply – ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor-man’s-weatherglass’, ‘shepherd’s-sundial’ – it closes in dull weather and so I offer this photo as evidence that despite the cloudy views on show we did have some sunshine!
At present camping on the island is free and a number of groups were taking advantage of that opportunity. There is a toilet block by the pub with a couple of showers. The pub is being refurbished but drinks and food can still be had. The publican is traditionally ‘King of Piel Island’ and I suspect that the pub will be well worth visiting when the new incumbents have restored the seat of their fiefdom.
We rounded of our day with a visit to the Lifeboat station on Roa Island…
…and an ice-cream in the cafe.
These handsome Starlings were feeding in the road by our car. I presume that the beige heads are because they are juveniles?