Nestled in my homestead I had the first inkling of a sensation that oft repeated itself on St Helena. I was inland. It might seem an odd thing to say, but in most of my experiences on islands you were never out of sight of the coast. St Helena was different. Partly the incised nature of the island meant you were often in a deep narrow valley and unable to see its terminus. But also, although St Helena had its highest peaks in the centre of the island, the fringes too were where some higher elevations could be found, and if you were in the parts in the middle you got the sensation that the land went on for miles in every direction. Only when you were at the true peaks or right on the cliffs did you see through the illusion and saw the enormity of the ocean that imprisoned the inhabitants.
Of course, most islanders would never have used the word imprisoned to describe their lives; to them this lay of the land gave them a lot of security. I was to learn that the richness of the landscapes in St Helena gave such a lot of diversity and opportunity that if you had the right mindset you would never be bored of this country.
The transect of my first drive up from the narrow streets of Jamestown to the lush greenery of my home in Alarm Forest was immediately demonstrative. I found out soon after than even a short walk from my house passed me from one climate to another. The house was on the fringes of an area often called the Green Heartland. But if I set out north from the house, under the eaves of a small rusty car port, I found an old track. Disused from vehicle use but still very walkable, it descended gently along the ridge. The trees were mainly pine here and there was little understory so I got good views out over the valley. Almost at the same level was a large building which I later found out was the only secondary school on the island, the Prince Andrew and out the front was one of the flattest pieces of land on the whole of St Helena. Called Francis Plain it was where many sporting fixtures, parades and ceremonies could take place.
As the track continued to gently descend the trees thinned out and I emerged to a wide open scrubby dryland. There was gorse and heather like plants and warm smell of dried vegetation. The track had dissolved but I was able to pick my way along the gravelly earth between prickly plants to a point where the slope steepened. I was on the end of the ridge and had a wonderful panorama which looked straight down at the top end of Jamestown. To my right was the ridge where Sidepath zigged and zagged and on my left was a formidable fortress set atop a magnificent cliff. You could see how much St Helena was on a volcanic rump by examining the layers of lava, the hollowed out caves in the pumice and the general fragmented nature of the rocks in this face. I had three weeks to explore so decided I would not rush round the island.