Walking with Val
St Helenian, Val Joshua, is an active walker. She climbs to the highest peak, crosses the rocks along the island’s coast and climbs the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder, just for fun! As a model walker on the island who ventures out on a daily basis, we caught up with her on her favourite paths and recommended tool.
Val’s favourite walk: Diana’s Peak
Diana’s Peak, along with her neighbours Cockhold’s Point and Mount Actaeon, make up 1 of 2 National Parks on St Helena and is part of the Central Ridge National Conservation Area. It is one of the most popular amongst the 21 Post Box Walks.
The park contains some of the best remaining habitat on St Helena. Diana’s Peak is the highest point on the island and has a unique community of flora and fauna. The area of the Peaks National Park was extended in 2015 to incorporate much of the central ridge, including both the George Benjamin and Clifford arboretums and High Peak.
Amongst the endemics that grow at Diana’s Peak are the He Cabbage Tree, the Dogwood, Whitewood, St Helena Lobelia, the Jellico, Diana’s Peak Grass, Tree Fern and Lays Back Fern. The Tree Ferns are most distinct and can reach 6m, but more often grows to between 4 – 5m tall. The fronds, often three metres long, grow from the top of the long trunk giving the Tree Fern a palm-like appearance. Current distribution is above the 700m altitude where it flourishes at both Diana’s Peak and High Peak.
Val escorting visitors to the top of Diana’s Peak. Photo by Emma Thomson
The walk Val recommends to visitors and experienced thrill seekers: Lot’s Wife’s Ponds
A definite ‘must-do’, a walk recommended by locals and visitors alike is Lot’s Wife’s Ponds. Why? For the thrill of walking along the cliff edges? For the heart thumping rope climb down a cliff? For the picturesque ponds awaiting you at the end of the trail? For the boast worthy phrase ‘I walked to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds’. Quite possibly all of the above. Lot’s Wife’s Ponds is St Helena’s challenge, not because it is the hardest walk, quite far from it when compared with other walks around the island, it is because there is an incredible attraction at the end of the walking path. When you drop your rucksack and walking stick, you are immersed in a unique surrounding that invites you to swim, picnic, fish and take in the natural wonder. It is definitely worth it!
The secret tool for walking on St Helena: a walking pole
Val never leaves the house in her walking boots without her walking pole – the two go hand in hand, or foot! St Helena’s natural trails can at times be wet and muddy, or long and steep; either way, Val always keeps hers handy and knows she is prepared for whatever nature throws at her.
Val’s best time for Jacob’s Ladder Challenge: 12 minutes
Current record time: 5 minutes 16 seconds.