• The Seer’s Stone
  • The Dodo Dragon and other stories
  • A Breathtaking Window on the Universe
  • About Sheila Crosby
The famous sea-front balconies in Santa Cruz de la Palma

The Famous Balconies

These are the famous sea-front balconies in Santa Cruz de la Palma. Actually these are the backs of the houses: the fronts look onto the Calle Real. When I first came to the island in 1990, the woodwork was all green and the plaster all white. For the town’s 500th anniversay, in 1993, the whole lot disappeared behind acres of black plastic sheeting for weeks while they were repainted in…

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Francis Drake on La Palma

Francis Drake tried to enter Santa Cruz harbour on November 3rd, 1585. This was after Drake was knighted and before the defeat of the Spanish armada. The Spanish regarded him as a pirate, with some justification. Drake left Plymouth with 23 ships and over 2,000 men, heading for the Caribbean. The prevailing winds meant that the logical route was via the Canary islands, so he headed for the biggest port…

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Rocks on the road to the Roque de Los Muchachos

Rocks on the Road

La Palma is the steepest inhabited island in the wold, so it’s in a losing battle with gravity. Sometimes rocks fall on the road, particularly after heavy rain, a freeze or a thaw. (Of course the last two only happen at high altitude.) Normally the roads get cleared pretty quickly, but the road to the observatory takes a little longer, maybe a day and a half. Then you get to…

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Roque Teneguía and a line on the sea

A line on the sea

La Palma sits in the trade winds. Most days of the year we have a stiff breeze from the northwest. That creates most of the island’s climate: the wind hits the island at Barlovento (which means “windward”) and gets flows uphill. As it rises, it cools down and forms clouds. Sometimes it rains, and Barlovento is the wettest part of the island with a metre of rain per year. By…

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Close up of the root of Rabbit's foot fern, Davallia canariensis

Rabbit’s foot fern

This is the Rabbit’s Foot Fern Davallia canariensis, which likes to grow in the warmer and damper parts of the island. It particularly likes dry stone walls, barrel-tile roofs and cliffs. As you can see, the name comes from the root, which is very pretty. I believe that the Awara used to make gofio from it, and so did more modern Palmerans when there was nothing better available, although I’m…

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Footpaths on La Palma

La Palma has a network of well-marked footpaths, most of which are centuries old.  As late as the 1960s, walking was still a major form of transport for the islanders, The whole network of hiking trails on the island comes to over 1,000 km, and between them they pass through just about every kind of scenery on the island: lava fields, pine forests, lush laurel forests, farmland and village centres….

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