The most dramatic of the walks, with the most enchanting destination, was the very first I did, which introduced me to the Conservation Group and the walkers who made my weekends so pleasurable on St Helena on all my trips. It was organized by Rebecca herself and she had reached out quite widely and obtained a good turnout. It included several tourists of the ship down, a few kids, and the governor himself, Michael Clancy. Rebecca had organized the rendezvous to be the car park at Sandy Bay. Along with Rupert’s Bay and the wharf at Jamestown itself, this was the third and final place where you could drive an ordinary car to the beach. Having circled round the back of the Diana’s Peak on to the ring road, you entered the small community of Sandy Bay, some three miles from the beach itself. You turned off the main road and it steeply descended in a series of hairpins, past the community’s little church.
One spot was particularly precarious for cars with low chassis and I heard a grating noise as I dropped round a very sharp bend and the nose of the car appeared to drop vertically for a second. Although the main part of the village is up near the main road, there are a bunch of isolated farmsteads most of the way down the valley. But the climate becomes more arid and dry as you drop down and few would want to eke out a living down in the rubble here. But it was a popular place to come down for picnics. Rebecca had shown me round the Sandy Bay area very early in my trip; she had been trying to ensure the embattlement at the bay was properly conserved and had been having arguments with a couple of government departments on how it was being treated. Sandy Bay is a bit of a misnomer, apart from a few pebbly bits of sand it is predominantly a rocky beach.
Despite this turtles had been known to nest here. The waves came crashing in like anywhere in St Helena despite the bay being better protected by headlands than most. On the day of the walk, we parked a little way up the hill – off the tarmacced road on a very hostile ridge. It took a while for everyone to arrive (there being no mobile phone network on St Helena at the time you just had to wait and see who turned up). I took the chance to look up the valley. It was dominated by an amazing rock feature. A plug had formed when there had been volcanic activity on the island; the rock formed was metamorphic in that it had melted and reformed with the intense heat, and hence was a lot more dense and robust than the surrounding igneous rocks. When those softer rocks had eroded away over the centuries, the massive plug was left high in the sky. It had been given the name Lot by the first settlers. Behind it in the distance was a similarly formed plug but it had eroded in to a much more slender and jagged shape; this had been labelled Lot’s Wife.