Continuing our tale of a couple of incoming Brits to the tiny community of the Falkland Islands, in the turbulent South Atlantic. The census results published this week say there are 2,121 residents in Stanley and another 500 souls scattered around the rest of the islands, although this didn't include the 2,000 military and civilians based at Mount Pleasant. Whatever the headcount - there is still a lot of space here!
We choose to have a night in Darwin Lodge. It has a lovely position, nestling on a sea inlet in the small settlement of Darwin, and about a mile from the neighbouring Goose Green. These communities were established to house the farm-workers who worked on the vast sheep stations ("farms" doesn't convey the size). With mechanisation and a more "self-starting" workforce, some accommodation has been converted into self-catering cottages, or, in the case of larger, former managers', homes, into small hotels.
|For some reason, the car park is nor near the Lodge!|
We watched the sun set, and the stars come out, and saw herons and hares enjoy their last feed of the day....
|Rockhopper penguins, enjoying the view|
The Lodge had an honesty bar, and - I cannot tell a lie - we used it! Our hosts served us (there were 10 guests staying that night) with delicious cream of tomato soup followed by chicken pie, washed down by a carafe or two of house Chilean red....
|2 Para memorial|
Next morning, like the weather, we were up bright and breezy for another traditional meal of Full English breakfast, before heading off to explore the area. First stop was the poignant memorial to those British paratroopers who lost their lives in the first land battle of the Falklands War. It is situated on a gorse-covered ridge which separates Darwin from Goose Green, and it was here that some very fierce fighting took place during a battle that lasted about 14 hours. The Commanding Officer, Col. H. Jones, frustrated at the lack of progress, decided to lead from the front and was killed attacking Argentine positions on this ridge. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.
|Goose Green community hall|
When the British troops eventually reached Goose Green, and took the surrender of the 1200-strong Argentine force, they found that every member of the settlement (about 100 people of all ages) had been locked in the Community Hall for over a month! As the battle raged around them, they had been forced to cram into a hastily-constructed bunker under the floorboards.
|Sheep shed, Goose Green, with "POW" just visible.|
|Bodie Creek Bridge|
The bridge was built to shorten the journey of the vast flocks of sheep that were annually herded into Darwin for shearing. It crosses a broad inlet, and saves about 40 miles of walking. However, the bridge has fallen into disuse, and is no longer deemed safe. We didn't fancy checking if it would take our weight, although we had been told several hundred sheep regularly used to be on it at the same time!
|The Golden Gate of the Falklands....for sheep only.|
|Lafonia - the south half of East Falkland. Big horizons.|
|San Carlos Water.|
|Old meat factory, Ajax Bay, San Carlos Water|
|Royal Marine flag?|
|"Operation Corporate" was the name for the British invasion of the Falklands|
"If you are able to save them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go".
I've discovered that Lance Corporal McKay died, aged 19, on the 27th May 1982. Reading the excellent and uplifting "Red and Green Life Machine", by Rick Jolly, OBE, I find that the 27th was the first day that the field hospital was attacked by enemy bombers, leaving seven dead, and two unexploded bombs in the roof of the hospital. The bombs remained there throughout the war. Unfortunately, as much equipment, including ammunition, was stored beside the hospital, it meant a large red cross couldn't be painted on the hospital roof, as this was against the Geneva Convention.
|Memorial to 44 victims of the War.|
|Birdlife in the Bay|
|Climbing the hill. Two gentoo penguins.|
|"Are we nearly there, yet?"|
|Well hidden colony|
Apart from low bushes and rocks, I could see nothing that would attract penguins up a hill. But suddenly, they arrived in the middle of a well-camouflaged colony, hidden among the foliage and stone runs. Stone runs are a unique feature of the Falklands. Charles Darwin called them, "rivers of stone", and they resemble lava flows, except they comprise solid boulders. Very difficult to walk across.
|Stone run, San Carlos Water|
We had the convenience of a car, and about 2 hours later we arrived back in Stanley, slightly shaken by the very bumpy road. But when we considered it had taken the troops who landed at Ajax Bay 4 days to walk the same distance, (and then fight fierce battles), I felt a bit pathetic whining about the potholes in the road!