Here in St George’s there’s a wee gem of naval history, the Martello Tower. If you are visiting, exit the bus to St George’s at Mullet Bay, and walk along Ferry Road to Ferry Point Park. Ignore the sign by the storage facility marked Railway Trail, because there has been a slip there, so it’s closed for safety right now. Once you’re at Ferry Point Park, you can decide whether to walk the track past the Muslim Cemetery, to the West Coast part of the railway trail, then turn left. If followed to the end and then up the hill past the old Ferryman’s Cottage, or as we know it the old Yellow Fever hospital, you will find the Martello Tower at the top. The other way is to follow Ferry Road right along to the end of Ferry Reach, which also connects you with the park at the end and the Martello Tower. It’s quite nice to walk as a loop.
Now I don’t know how many tourists I’ve had to explain to, that firstly there’s no bus along that way, it’s a walk. Just 1.6 kilometres, to the end, and the same distance back to the bus stop. The bus drivers are very helpful making sure you get the right stop. That leads to their second question, no there isn’t a bridge across to Coney Island, it has been gone a long time now. Well longer than I have ever been here. It can look deceiving on the maps as the little dotted line shows where the railway line used to be, and the two islands were connected here, but not anymore. I had one American couple really get mad with me, as though it was my fault. The poor things were heat exhausted and just found out they had to trek back, absolutely understandable why they felt growly. And sometimes it’s hard work being foreign, in a place you don’t know. Alternatively you can hire a scooter or an electric vehicle from St George’s and then drive yourself there. There’s a car park at both Ferry Point Park and Ferry Reach Park, so you only have to walk as far you want to, and drive back.
I’ve lived at this end of the island for nearly two years, and I have never seen the Martello Tower open. My lovely husband said ‘Yes you have, we went in it!’. No, I’ve never been. I have walked around it, photographed it, and marvelled at it, but never stepped inside, until last week.
So I was on one of my walks, and there was a lot of activity up at the end of the Reach. Bermuda has their very prestigious Cup Match Weekend this weekend starting 30 July, where they get two days off work for a long weekend. The annual cricket game between rival teams Somerset and St George’s was unfortunately cancelled this year because of the Covid-19 Shelter in Place. Even though, there has been a lot of clean up going on, because traditionally Bermudian’s go camping at Cup Match Weekend and usually the parks are open for about two weeks. This year it has been announced that even though the game was cancelled the parks will be open for only a short time, and everyone is really looking forward to it. I had a hunch that’s what all the action was at Ferry Reach Park. The Government workers were sure giving it a good mow and tidy up, but there was also a group there who looks after historic places, clearing around the Tower. They were working so hard, cutting down the trees that have self-seeded in the moat, making sure everything is safe, mended and secure.
I walked past and thought, ‘Ooool, the door is open’ but kept walking, as I didn’t want to interrupt them. A little further on, I thought ‘Why didn’t I seize the opportunity to go in?’ so I turned back. Bravely introducing myself and they gave me permission to have a look inside. Only the ground floor and top floor, the underground floor level with the base of the moat was out of bounds being really slippery on the stairs. Oh, I hear you giggle. No, I didn’t try the stairs. I could see how slippery they were and for once listened and believed them. So all on my lonesome, I went in.
Slideshow photos: 1. The first level has information, 2. Looking out the barred window to the walled dry moat, 3. Stairs curve up to the rooftop, 4. The cannon is not original but resembles what would have been in place, 5. View to Dockyards at the other end of Bermuda, 6. The metal rails and wheels which enabled the cannon to be turned a full 360 degrees, 7. The domed brick ceiling, this photo doesn’t do it justice.
First you walk along a stone walled path, then onto a steel bridge that is see-through made with wire mesh that connects you across the depth of the dry moat and to the entryway to the Tower. It’s a good distance to the ground, and there is a ladder in the centre of the bridge down to the ground, but I thought that might be too cheeky to attempt. The bridge has high sides to make sure you can’t fall. The Tower looks round but is actually egg shaped with walls nine or ten feet thick made of limestone and built in the 1820’s. It’s the third fort in the area, with the original one being Burnt Fort which is right at the end of the point, and then the Ferry Island fort on the small island nearby connected by the bridge. Inside the Martello Tower the first room has a beautiful domed brick ceiling, and lots of information boards all about the landmark. The stairs wind up castle-like, with no railings to hold onto, to the top floor which is out in the open air. This floor holds the huge cannon, which is on circular rails and wheels, so it can be swivelled to any position in a 360 degree radius. There is just enough walking space around it, and a fantastic view of Bermuda right down to Dockyards at the other end, and to the LF Wade International airport in the opposite direction. It would have been quite something being on guard there watching out for enemies approaching, and practicing firing the cannon. I believe there has never been a cannon fired in actual warfare here. However, when I’m snorkelling I’m always on the look out for cannon balls, just in case….!
I was told the Martello Tower will be open to the public again later in the year, once a few more repairs are sorted out. I’ll keep an eye out for it and let you know if it happens. Meanwhile, it was so great to get inside even just that once.
More soon – Sally
References I used to get my facts right that you are welcome to look up: