A diary with a difference…..

Cardiff’s own Holm

I’ve been living on Flat Holm for about 10 months now.  I have been asked some pretty crazy questions during this time by all kinds of people, but nobodies ever asked why Flat Holm is a Holm rather than an island.  Even our own Council website refers to Flat Holm as ‘Flat Holm Island’, yet the word Holm is an old Norse word, simply meaning Island.  Old Norse is technically a dead language, spoken by the inhabitants of Scandinavia until the 14th Century.  There are dozens of ‘Holms’ in Scotland, yet England and Wales have only 4.  Holm Island in the Thames Estuary, Grassholm in Pembrokeshire and of course Steep Holm and Flat Hom in the Severn Estuary….. Oh and Burry Holm, down the Gower… in fact i’m sure there are more still.   But why?  What were the Scandinavian’s doing down here that was so great they got to name islands (Holm’s).

Before Flat Hom was Flat Holm, it was Braden Relice (this was the name used in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles).  Bradan is an old english word meaning broad or flat. Relice could imply an Irish religious settlement (Relic).  An even more sinister suggestion is that the name Relice is derived from the old Irish Relicc or Reliquiae meaning simply, ‘Cemetery’  Indeed many people are thought to have been buried on this small island although few records exist that describe where exactly.  In the 1980’s 3 bodies appeared in the gradually eroding cliff face to the West of the island.

So the old name, Bradan Relice, or in modern english, Flat/Broad Religious settlement/Cemetery, became, at some point after a boat load of Danes retreated to the island and subsequently died of starvation, Flat Holm.

Gildas, the sixth -century historian, estabUshed himself 
with a small monastery, and is there said to have written 
his British history. At that time St. Caradoc, the her- 
mit, was his neighbour on Flat-Holm. This latter be- 
came in 918 the scene of a gruesome tragedy ; the Danes 
landing at Watchet were defeated with great slaughter ; 
some few got away, and these ** sat down on the island 
of Bradan-relice (Flat- Holm) until such time at they 
died of hunger."

There are clearly some rather large gaps in the story, and i’m sure many of them are due to my own shortcomings as i trawl the internet on this gloomy Sunday afternoon for a little more Flat Holm history!  Please feel free to add your own stories!

So what’s been happening on our Flat little cemetery island since the last update?  Quite a lot!  Contractors have finally made it onto the island to begin work on our new island wide sewage system.  This involves digging a trench right across the middle of the island, and trenches attract (and require) archeologists.  Nothing has been found yet, a few very large and well dressed stones, but they seem to be ‘ex situ’, or, ‘not where they used to be’.  I’m not sure how archeologists can tell this, but they seem sure.  It would certainly be a double edged sword should anything turn up, it would be very exciting of course, but it would also stop the sewage pipeline dead in it’s tracks.

Our presumably and hopefully pregnant ewes are becoming increasingly needy, and some a little bulgy around the belly too.  Gestation is about 147 days in sheep.  Olchon Valley Leonard (to give our ram his full and proper title), arrived on the island on November 1st and got straight to work.  That means that our first lambs could be due on 29th March.  We’ve already received meat orders so let’s hope the ewes don’t let us down!

The ducks have moved yet again.  The Heligoland (a type of bird capturing device) has been closed off at one end and fully rabbit proofed.  The ducks, their eggs (assuming they don’t lay them in the pond) and their food should now be safe from rabbits, ravens and robins.

Planting has commenced in the propagator, our windowsills are currently covered with seed trays full of salad that will hopefully be ready by late march.

Well, here are some of the photos for the week.  Flat Holm is always looking for ways to raise money so if you fancy buying any larger versions of the digital images you see on this blog, let us know!


3 responses

  1. Carole Sharp

    Don’t forget Skokholm, also in Pembrokeshire!

    January 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    • Thank you Carole, i knew i was bound to miss a few!

      January 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

  2. Stuart McMillan

    Hi Sam and the Gang.
    The FH blog is a superb way to keep your fans ashore on the mainland up to date with Island happenings. I have enjoyed reading each blog and particularly appreciate the attached photos and titles. Keep up the good work and the blogs. Thanks.

    January 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

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