The title of this post may be ‘home with a view’ but as I write this there’s no view at all as low cloud is blowing past the front door.
The Bungalow is the Ramsey volunteers’ home for their stay, whether it be one or two weeks for the short-termers or six months for the intern. Sat on the eastern side of Carn Ysgubor in the north of the island, the Bungalow looks out across the drystone wall-bounded sheep fields to Ramsey Sound. Beyond the water is the mainland with lifeboat station at St Justinian immediately opposite the front door and St David’s nestled in the shallow folds of the patchwork quilted Pembrokeshire countryside. Off to the north can be seen Whitesands Bay, the distinctive hill of Carn Llidi and St. David’s Head; to the south is St. Bride’s Bay and usually a few tankers at anchor waiting to enter Milford Haven harbour. One of my favourite ways to pass my spare time on the island, whether first thing in the morning or last thing at night, is to sit on the Bungalow’s doorstep and look out over this grand view – in fact, I know of no better view.
The Bungalow is about 1km from the Farmhouse, where the wardens live and which is the main focus for all activity – it’s a pretty special commute each morning and evening. The Bungalow is also a short walk from the sea-watching hide, off to the north-west, which gives great views of the manx shearwaters as they pass each evening.
The Bungalow was built as a family summerhouse by a former owner in 1907 – that’s about all the history I know but will endeavour to find out more the next time I stay!
The building is made up of one main sitting-cum-dining room with north and south ‘wings’ attached – a little bit less grand than it sounds! The north wing houses the kitchen, the main bathroom and the intern’s en-suite bedroom. The south wing has the three bedrooms for the other volunteers (two singles and one twin). While the outside looks rather stark and not very summerhousey, the inside is characterful and quite cosy (especially when there’s a gale blowing outside!). All rooms are brightly coloured and most have birds painted on a few walls – the main room has a particularly good collection, especially around the fireplace.
The wood burning stove in the main room is the only source of heating in the whole building and it is usually lit in the early evening on cold spring or autumn days. In warmer periods, the Bungalow is a cool retreat from the strong sun but volunteers can still need an extra layer in the evenings when the sun dips behind the hill. There is electricity, from solar panels, and there is enough for lighting and charging small device such as cameras and mobiles. The hot water comes from a calor gas fired boiler which provides for great showers.
Sitting in a nature reserve, the Bungalow has it’s share of wildlife, both inside and out. Inside, there are some other residents to keep the volunteers company, including Vincent the Vole and Seb the Shrew. Outside the front door, the red deer often wander by, rabbits hide in the bracken and bats can flit past in the evenings. Clearly, there are also loads of birds but it is at night that the Bungalow has it’s most distinctive avian visitors. Anyone who stays in the Bungalow will be woken at some point by the loud, almost indescribable sound of manx shearwaters flying past in the darkest part of the night.
Tips for someone planning a stay in the Bungalow? Bring a hot water bottle, a head torch for reading in bed at night, a sense of humour, plenty of food, and alcohol to share. There is also the unwritten rule that no food may leave the island – the longer-staying volunteers will probably check your luggage on departure just in case you’ve tried to sneak any off.