A PUB landlady looking for her next challenge after selling up has bought a Caribbean Island – as you do.

Willow Reed exchanged The Plough, in Station Road, Taunton, for a four-acre piece of paradise following the death of her mother, Virginia.

After her arrival in January, Willow, 37, renamed the island, which is seven miles off Belize, Virginia Caye.

It had been left to deteriorate for years following an aborted attempt to clear it and create a millionaire’s island and resort.

The lush green mangroves had been hacked back, the white beaches were littered with rubbish and the traditional buildings were rotting and near collapse.

Willow said: “My aim is to restore the paradise with a limited budget, a passion for restoration, a love for the Belizian people, an army of continuously rotating volunteers around the world and locals who share my desire.

“Life on Virginia Caye is simple, with work to restore it taking place daily and ranging from litter clearance, building restoration - a role taken mainly by craftsmen from the mainland, helping the local economy - planting mangrove seeds to restore the shore line defences and land reclamation with the aid of a wheelbarrow and muscles.”

Although the work is tiring in the heat, Willow and her colleagues relax swimming in the clear blue sea, lazing in hammocks and fishing for dinner.

Willow’s project hit a snag last month when the Island Projects boat, used to ferry workers, materials and food to the island, was stolen during a thunder storm She said: “If I can get another boat, then things will get back on track, with a slight change to the plans and a boathouse next on the 'to do' list.

“If not, then my dream of restoring paradise to commemorate my mother will likely fail and the island will likely begin falling back into the deteriorated and dying state the project has been working so hard to prevent.”

To this end, Willow is appealing for help from ‘crowdfunders’ each contributing small amounts to keep the initiative going – for details click on the related link on this story.




*BREAKFAST: A dish of Belizian bean stew, kidney beans, slow cooked with a host of ingredients, including onions, peppers, carrots and garlic, with freshly made tortillas.

*LUNCH: Roasted beetroot salad, or whatever veg is available made into “something yummy”, again with tortillas.

*DINNER: Freshly caught fish such as barracuda, snapper or other line caught fish, served with rice and beans, a baked potato or a local accompaniment such as durasa, a local dish, or hadut, a Belizian favourite made with plantain and spices.

All meals are topped off with a hot pepper sauce that would test even the most dedicated chilli sauce fans.