One question that we are asked a lot by visitors in the summer is ‘What to you lot do all winter?’ So if you’ve ever wondered what happens on St. Martin’s during the colder, winter months then we have a few answers for you. Despite any urges to curl up in front of the fire, Churchtown Farm runs as usual. In fact the winter Narcissi period, from October to March, is our busiest and we expect to process over 60,000 Narcissi orders before the end of March this year.
In line with everyone else in the UK, the winter weather dictates much of what the residents of St. Martin’s are able to achieve at this time of year. The main tourist season has passed and it becomes a time for repairs and building works in preparation for the warmer weather, the return of our visitors and our Scented Pinks. Our Scilly climate doesn’t bring many snow interruptions and even frost is a rare event but one weather event we do get are pretty big Atlantic storms so the Island’s fishermen bring their boats and gear ashore for any necessary sanding, repainting, hole patching and general sprucing.
We aren’t the only business posting our wares off to the mainland. At the other end of the Island artists Fay Page and her husband Rob beaver away in their studio making beautiful silver jewellery. Many of their designs are inspired by the natural beauty of Scilly. As well as making jewellery for busy times in the winter, such as Christmas and Valentines Day, Fay and Rob also need to replenish stocks to cope with summer demand when many visitors to the islands like to take a gorgeous silver piece of Scilly home with them as a souvenir – beats a stick of rock or an iffy teatowel!
As we have little accommodation on the island for builders to stay during the height of our tourist season, the majority of renovation or building works have to be done during the Winter months. This year, we are having a new Reading Room constructed. The Reading Room is our island village hall, it is a essential space for our small community. Everything goes on there: toddlers, yoga, Dr Surgery, coffee mornings, quiz nights and school PE lessons, not all at the same time though! The old Reading Room was literally falling and after over a decade of fund rasing we have finally reached to point of being able to ask the builders J.S. Quick & Sons to start work. Quicks have worked on St Martin’s and Scilly before so they are used to the interesting logistics involved with island building where every part of the building arrives by boat and then is brought up from the quay by tractor. The finished Reading Room isn’t going to be bright red that is just a plastic cover sheltering the wooden structure from he worst of the weather.
So that’s the work covered, but what about the fun we have during the colder months? During the winter months we have more time as a community to get together, one very popular event is ‘safari super’, 5 households offer to cook and other people buy a ticket, you then move from house to house for different courses of dinner, eating with a different group of people each time. It is a great way to enjoy each others company and raise money for good causes. It also helps that it isn’t far on St Martin’s to walk (stagger) from one venue to the next.
Just because it is winter watersports don’t have to stop. Some hardy souls like to swim and sail all year round and the kids take full advantage of the winter flooding of the island cricket pitch donning wetsuits and perfecting their rowing and kayaking.
Before we know it the days start to get longer, there is a frantic rush to get holiday cottages ready and the first visitors start to arrive and ask, ‘So what do you lot do all winter?’.