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Higher Town Bay

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Overview





Higher Town Bay is a shallow open bay located to the south of St Martin’s, Scilly. It offers an anchorage for vessels that can take to the bottom or for shoal draft vessels during neaps.

The bay provides good shelter from west round through north to northeast. Access from the south requires attentive navigation with good visibility and it must be approached with a sufficient rise of the tide.



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Keyfacts for Higher Town Bay
Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: rising tide required for access

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
-2 metres (-6.56 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.



Last modified
October 9th 2019

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinitySet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: rising tide required for access



Position and approaches
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Haven position

49° 57.446' N, 006° 16.842' W

The is the head of Lower Town Quay, with a red beacon and topmark that exhibits a light Fl.R.5s.

What is the initial fix?

The following Higher Town Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
49° 56.684' N, 006° 17.755' W
The initial fix is set on the alignment of (i) the charted astern bearing of Inner Haycocks (North of Annet) & Crow Rock Beacon on 228.5°T and (ii) the Men-a-vaur in line with the landing cairn on the southwest corner of St Helen's on 322°.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Land's End to Isles of Scilly Route location.
  • From the alignment, astern, of Inner Haycocks & Crow Rock Beacon bearing of 228.5° T steer a course of 48.5° T into the east end of the bay.

  • Once the boathouses ashore come open of the head of the quay, on a bearing of less than 330° T, it is safe to turn into the bay.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Higher Town Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Bull's Porth - 0.3 miles NNE
  2. Perpitch - 0.4 miles ENE
  3. Bread & Cheese Cove - 0.4 miles NE
  4. Tean Sound - 0.7 miles WNW
  5. Windmill Cove - 0.9 miles S
  6. St Helen's Pool - 1.1 miles WNW
  7. Old Grimsby - 1.2 miles W
  8. New Grimsby - 1.7 miles W
  9. St Mary's Pool - 1.7 miles SSW
  10. Porth Cressa - 2 miles SSW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Bull's Porth - 0.3 miles NNE
  2. Perpitch - 0.4 miles ENE
  3. Bread & Cheese Cove - 0.4 miles NE
  4. Tean Sound - 0.7 miles WNW
  5. Windmill Cove - 0.9 miles S
  6. St Helen's Pool - 1.1 miles WNW
  7. Old Grimsby - 1.2 miles W
  8. New Grimsby - 1.7 miles W
  9. St Mary's Pool - 1.7 miles SSW
  10. Porth Cressa - 2 miles SSW
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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
The majestic sweep of Par Beach with Cruther's Hill in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Higher Town Bay is an open bay that lies between Cruther’s Hill and English Island Point. It is as often as not also known by its beach, Par Beach, that is one of St Martin’s outstanding features. The modernised Higher Town Quay, situated on its western end and beneath Cruther’s Hill, is the principal landing point for cargo and passengers for the island. This is predominantly handled by Lyonesse Lady the purpose-built inter-island launch.


Higher Town Quay with Lyonesse Lady alongside
Image: Michael Harpur


However, at high tide, it has limited working space and at very low tides it can dry out as much as a ¼ of a mile from its head. For these reasons, certain combinations of tidal and weather conditions result in the quay at Lower Town, Tean Sound, being used for foot passengers but cargo operations are concentrated at Higher Town. There is also a disused Old Quay on the west sides of Cruthers Hill. A few hundred metres northward of the quay is Higher Town the easternmost and largest settlement on the island of St Martin's.

St Martin's provides protection from west to north to the northeast but, being situated at the head of St Martin's Flats, it dries out entirely to clean sands on low spring tides. This makes the domain of shoal draft vessels that can take to the bottom. It is nevertheless just about flat enough to use for vessels carrying beaching legs and moderate draft vessels can lie afloat during neaps.


How to get in?
Higher Town Bay as seen from Gun Hill
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Land's End to Isles of Scilly Route location for seaward approaches. Higher Town Bay may be entered from the south or the east and northeast.


Crow Rock beacon, Crow Sound Isolated danger beacon
Image: Michael Harpur


Southern Approach The most popular and easiest approach by far is from the south. Ideally, after half-flood with sufficient water to pass over Crow Bar, it is possible to approach from Saint Mary's Road. Pass the
Crow Rock isolated danger beacon, standing on a rock that dries 4 - 6 metres, and steer for the initial fix to proceed in on the astern transit (i) described below.


Hats Cardinal as seen from Block House Point, St Mary's
with Higher Town Bay in the backdrop

Image: Michael Harpur


Eastern Approach Similarly, an eastern approach from Crow Sound, is just as easy. Simply pass south around 'Hats' south cardinal marker, VQ(6)+LF1.10s, and follow (ii) described below, Men-a-vaur alignment with the landing cairn to that of (i) Inner Haycocks & Crow Rock Beacon that leads in.


Great English Island Neck between English Island and Nornour
Image: Michael Harpur


North Eastern Approach The northeastern approach does not benefit from any leading lines and is all eyeball pilotage. Pass close outside the Higher Chimney and Chimney Rocks and the reefs extending northwestward from Irishman’s Ledge. There is a shoal ominously named Bump, with 0.6 LAT over it, about midway. However, any vessel approaching the bay will be approaching on sufficient rise to make way into the drying Higher Town Bay so Bump should be well covered. Then use the Great English Island Neck to pass between Nornour, 21 metres high, and the drying English Island that dries to 5 metres. With the exception of Bump, this approach has deep water all the way. It is straightforward but requires some careful eyeball pilotage.


Guther's Island with its distinctive twin flat-topped rocks
Image: Michael Harpur


We choose to set up the southern and eastern approaches as they are simply a matter of closing on two navigation marks and then following transits all the way in. The initial fix is set on the conjunction of two alignments:
  • (i) The charted astern bearing of the centre of the Haycocks rocks, the jagged rocks immediately north of Annet 4 miles distant, and Crow Rock Beacon on 228.5° T.

  • (ii) Men-a-vaur in line with the landing cairn on the southwest corner of St Helen's on 322° T.
The initial fix is located ⅓ of a mile southward of small rocky Guther's Island which is easily recognised by its twin flat-topped rocks, 12 metres, and its surrounding rocky ledges.


Inner Haycocks and Crow Rock Beacon as seen from Gun Hill
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the initial fix bring the Inner Haycocks & Crow Rock Beacon on the astern bearing of 228.5° T steering a course of 48.5° T towards the English Island Point, the western end of the bay, for just under a mile.

It is important to stay precisely on transit as it passes between Three Rocks, drying to 0.9 metres to port, and very close to the Middle and Great Damasinnas (known locally as The Sinners) to starboard, which cover and dry to 2.4 and 2.3 metres respectively. The water here is crystal clear over white sand and the Damasinnas have a large amount of weed clinging to that maks them highly visible.

Lower Town Quay, with a red beacon (Fl.R.5s) and topmark on its inner head, will be soon become visible around Cruther’s Hill. Once the two boathouses on the dunes behind the beach open beyond the end of the quay, on a bearing of less than 330° T, it is safe to turn into the bay. This alinment clears Harry’s Rock that dries to 1.2 metres and is located 200 metres south by southeast of the quay.


Local boats moored in the western side of the bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor or dry according to conditions in the western end of the bay but do not impede the approach to the quay which is regularly used by passenger ferries and the inter-island supply boat.


Keep the quay clear for island operations
Image: Michael Harpur


Land by tender on the beach. The pier is in constant use so no tenders should land on the pier.


Why visit here?
Do not be deceived into thinking the 'town' in Higher Town has anything relating to a large settlement. Nor the use of 'higher' as an indication of a lofty elevation as the highest point of the town, and not the island as a whole, is just 32 metres above sea level.


Higher Town
Image: Michael Harpur


The word 'town' in Scilly is often used as an abbreviation of 'townplace', a term also used in Cornwall as describing a small settlement. Higher Town, as well as Middle Town, and Lower Town, terms also used on the islands of Bryher and St Agnes, are simply ways of describing the settlements relative locations on St Martin's. The only thing that could be said to resemble a 'town' in Scilly is Hugh Town on St Mary’s. But, technically, Higher Town could be classed as a village having both of the island’s two churches, the Church of England parish church of St Martin's, and the more modest Methodist chapel.


Church of England parish church of St Martin's
Image: Michael Harpur


The larger church of the two, St Martin's, was erected and possibly managed by Thomas Ekin in 1683. The first Steward appointed by Sir Frances Godolphin of Godolphin, Ekin also erected the Daymark at this time and actively encouraged the settlement of St Martin’s by Cornish people. The building encountered today is not the church built by Ekin as the original was only 6.1 metres (20 feet) in length and this was enlarged in 1821. The larger building was subsequently damaged by a lightning strike and was rebuilt by Augustus Smith in 1866. Smith left his initials alongside the date that can be seen just below the bell tower, the bell having been taken from an island wreck.


Drystone wall on the slopes overlooking Tresco
Image: Michael Harpur


The road from the main quay leads uphill to Higher Town, and the church may be found by branching off left. Beyond the church, the road runs westwards to Middle Town and from there to Lower Town at the western extremity of the isle. The road to the right quickly gives way to a grassy pathway passing across the fields out to the Daymark on Chapel Down. Leading from Lower Town to the Daymark, through Middle and Higher Town, the road provides the ideal pathway to explore the two miles long island and see its contrasts.


View between houses from Higher Town
Image: Michael Harpur


The third-largest and furthest north of the islands, St Martin’s is one of the least developed of the five inhabited islands. The road forms a long island spine which, at just over 30 metres above sea level, acts as a windbreak against the north that, in turn, defines the nature of the island. The northern slopes of St. Martin's, exposed to all the fury of the Atlantic gales, are almost entirely wild and left as nature intended. The wind does not permit more than shallow beds of heather or the occasional low thicket of gorse to grow around the deep rocky bays and coves of its northeastern coastline and its flat top. This entire area is managed as a wildlife reserve by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust.


View out over the southeast
Image: Michael Harpur


But its south-facing edges could not be in greater contrast. Consisting of the lines of dry stone walls fronted with protective hedgerows that provide windbreaks to its patchwork of fields. All here is a lush verdant fields fronted by almost uninterrupted arcs of white sand that give way to the vivid turquoise waters over Saint Martin’s Flats. Nowhere do the flowers bloom so early in Scilly as on this long series of slopes to the south that facing towards the roadstead. These warm, sunny and sheltered southern slopes make St Martin's one of the main centres for Scilly’s flower-growing industry. Another shorter but nonetheless wonderful walk is westward along Par Beach, past Perpitch Bay and up to Chapel Down along the coast with wonderful views out over the eastward isles all the way. Then it is possible to return across the fields to Higher Town. Either walk is truly magical with sights where one would be forgiven for thinking at times that they were in the Carribean.


The view westward along Par Beach
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, the shallow drying bay, is far from ideal for deep draught vessels. But, as always the case in Scilly, shoal draft vessels and vessels that can take to the ground will have the best of it in Scilly. But during neaps, this may very well provide a wonderful anchorage for moderate draft fin keel vessels. It is a wonderful location from which to explore the island, and those looking for a fine beach have Par beach immediately ashore with the best of the Island’s resource a short stroll up the hill.


What facilities are available?
Having left the Quay, follow the road up to Higher Town when and there is a shop and post office as well as a bakery. Polreath Tea Rooms is also located in the settlement and along the path is Adam’s Fish and Chips.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, eOceanic.


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