A diary with a difference…..

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Christmas has arrived.

Hello all.

Christmas has arrived on flat holm. Myself and Sophia have been flat out cleaning and prepping the island. The pub looks amazing as does the farmhouse. I will put pics up soon. You will be pleased to know our Christmas guests survived the boat over. They have settled in well, we had a lovely dinner and are now relaxing in the farmhouse lounge. A few of them have even met wonkey already.

The weather forecast isn’t brilliant but we will endeavour to have a wonderful time. I will take everyone on a few tours round the island making a special stop at the fog horn station. One of the guests is an old keeper who lived here for 5 years, so we are looking forward to sharing some of his memories of flat holm.

Like I said I will get a few photos up tomorow and do my best to keep you up to date with Christmas on flat holm. I look forward to seeing you all in the new year.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all my wonderful staff and volunteers who have worked so hard this year. Thank you everyone.

Matt
Warden


Finally….. An Update!

Well, it’s been a while.  Apologies to everybody.  Unfortunately, the more work there is on the island, the less time we have to update the blog.  I’ll try to summarise what has happened over here on Cardiff’s own Sunny Isle since the last (very brief) update (all the way back in July).

This has been a big year for farming on the island.  Our three little pigs grew up fast, incredible to think quite how fast.  They were wonderfully natured, well trained, and soon became island favourites.  They were brought on to the island for two reasons, and they were great at both.  Firstly; conservation purposes.  Bracken provides great habitat for a wide variety of invertebrates, this in turn provides food for small birds and slow worms.  It is however spreading slowly across the island.  Traditionally we would pull bracken, but this doesn’t necessarily destroy the rhizome, and the bracken soon returns.  Pigs are actually able to safely consume bracken, and will actively dig out the rhizomes.  We used them in the lighthouse keepers garden, and as they grew bigger, we moved them into a paddock where they did a great job, turning the soil and destroying the bracken, only time will tell, fingers crossed that it doesn’t all grow back.  Their second reason was of course food.  To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about eating them, but I knew that they had had very happy lives, they were happy pigs.  I think it is much better to know where your meat has come from, and it’s important that the animal has been treated kindly throughout its life.  And they taste delicious.  One bite and I was sold.  We used a local Cardiff award winning butchers, G & J Braithwaite to produce what I think are the best sausages I have ever tasted.  All of the pork is now sold, but watch this space, we may very well get more piggy’s next year!

Our lambing has also gone very well, in fact out birth rate far exceeded our expectations, and we have moved our Black Welsh Mountain lambs onto the mainland to prevent overgrazing on the island.  We will be selling lamb in January 2012, please get in touch if you would like to purchase any, you can email Sam: sawhitfield@cardiff.gov.uk

Wonky the lamb continues to grow, and at one point he seemed to be sporting a rather snazzy mohican.  He has won the hearts of many volunteers and work experience students alike.

All of our summer volunteers have now flown the nest, a big thank you to all of them, Marta, Pete, Sam S, Chris, Ben and Jo, good luck in the future!

We have now been graced with so many new volunteers, Anna, Cally, Chris, Gemma, Sophie.  Having so many vols on the island will hopefully help move forward some of our bigger plans.  The Fog horn cottage is coming along in leaps and bounds, fingers crossed it will be ready to open to the public next year.  Bob ‘The Builder’ Pugh has been busy sealing off the Victorian part of Driftwood and the Ablution Block, new windows and window frames (thank you Lee and the Flat Holm Society!).  The Farmhouse has had a fresh coat of paint, our wildlife garden, despite the tenacious nettles, is definitely moving forwards.

Our pub, The Gull and Leek, or The Ghoul and Leaky Cauldron as it became during our very successful (and spooky) Halloween weekend, has gone from strength to strength.  Rumour has it that even island staff visit the pub occasionally.  Incidentally, a big thank you to Trina, Zoe and Lucy, who helped set the whole thing up!  Thank you!

Below are a lot of photos, if you have any questions, please ask!

We are slowly working on a Welsh Speaking version of this Blog too, this can be found at www.ynysechni.wordpress.com.

Education Update!

The winter season finally upon us and we are already taking bookings for education trips next year. So, if you know of any schools, community groups or societies that may be interested in visiting us next year please tell them to get in touch soon! In the mean time we are busy designing new material and updating our Island education programme. We will be out and about in 2012, delivering workshops in schools but also appearing at local events so please keep an eye out for us!

 

Sam W

Conservation Warden


Wonky Run Video – Click the picture!


You can now sail from Weston!

If you live on the English side of the Bristol Channel, you can now visit our wonderful island from Weston-Super-Mare!  Please visit www.mwmarine.org for full details, or click the link at the top right for sailing times.  You can book your trip from Weston-Super-Mare by phone..

Telephone:  01934-636734

Mobile:        07754-833158


We still have places left on our conservation weekends.  If you would like to get more involved in the island, or even if you are just looking for some conservation experience, then get in touch.  This is a unique opportunity to contribute to the island!  Staying overnight is a truly unique experience, and it’s so cheap!  You’ll even get to explore the island at low tide, something that isn’t possible on our day trips!

The following dates are available – group bookings possible!

July 29th – 31st: Adult Conservation Weekend

£50.50 per adult

August 5th – 7th: Family Conservation Weekend

£50.50 Adults,

£36.00 Children (17 years and under)

Prices include boat trip, 2 nights accommodation and guided tours.  We have a fully equipped catering kitchen for you to use, you will need to bring your own food.  Please ring the office to book your place!

02920 877904 – Open office hours, leave a message and we will get back to you, or email fla


Flat Holm pigs on the tele!

Not only are they great little (well, not so little anymore), ploughs, finally our pigs are famous!  Take a look at the Royal Welsh show on BBC iPlayer: Flat Holm report begins at about the 13 minute mark!

Flat Holm on the Royal Welsh Show: CLICK HERE!


Lancaster Bomber over Flat Holm

Had a few planes flying around the island yesterday, i only got to see the Red Arrows do a fly past, missed the Lancaster Bomber and Spitfire(s?).  They were visiting the Penarth Festival i think.  Fortunately a gentleman who occasionally practices geophysics on the island, and who lives locally, got this fantastic shot.

Thank you Peter Brabham!

You can view more of Peters photos on his flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/taffytank/


Inside the Lighthouse…


Busy week(end)!

As our weeks and weekends blur into one another, its time for yet another brief update.  Apologies for not writing too much, i’m hoping the photos will make up for it a little.  First of all, i’d like to say a HUGE congratulations to Will, our awesome ex-volunteer, who completed his coast cycle yesterday, 4057 miles!  He’s missing the sea already!  Thank you Will and good luck with your new job at Edale Youth Hostel  a beautiful part of the world!

A big thank you to all the gull ringers and especially to Brian for making the weekend on the island a special one for all of us, and for truly being the first to hear the clang of the last orders bell, and probably the first to be politely asked to leave, i hope you all enjoyed our little pub, it certainly has a great atmosphere!

Sam


Well, it’s sheep shearing time here on Flat Holm.  Last year we did this with hand shears, this year we have a brand spanking new set of sheep shears, electric ones!  Spent the best part of yesterday morning setting them up but finally got going, not as easy as it looks!  The team have also been out with the mower and strimmers attacking (mainly) the thistles.  A helicopter visited us earlier in the week, such a tiny thing!  A big thank you to Grace and Lizzy, our two work experience volunteers who have really worked hard.  A few of our Soay are pregnant and we’ve been seeing brief glimpses of the lambs, never enough for a photo, these are very wild and timid ewes.  Yesterday however i was woken at 0440am by the distinctive call of a ewe to her lamb, they were playing and feeding outside my bedroom window!


Just a few pics..

It’s been a while since i posted any pics on here, these were taken a while ago, a couple of some of the wonderful boats we see journeying too and from the island, and also some of our greenhouse which one of our volunteers, Marta, has done a wonderful job of filling with vegetables, thank you Marta!  The farmhouse garden is simply incredible at the moment, so full of life…  Pictures to follow this week!

We had ‘The Waverley”, the worlds last sea worthy paddle steamer in the channel recently, beautiful boat and still running trips around the uk.  Take a look at her Wikipedia Page for more information


The Gull and Leek is open!

Our pub is finally open! A huge thank you to all the staff and volunteers for making today happen, thank you to all who visited, including the new Lord Mayor of Cardif, Delme Bowen. It was a great day, even the gulls seemed to be behaving. You can still catch the news report here, about 21 minutes and 30 seconds in. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0122ht5/BBC_Wales_Today_24_06_2011/


Ex Volunteer Will’s Charity Bike ride – Update

Update from Kat regarding Wil:

“Just thought I’d update you as Will won’t have internet for a while.
After a slight trailer malfunction he is well on his way in Scotland – currently on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. He’s still on schedule to finish, back in Hull, in about a months time.
He’s had quite a few random Flat Holm encounters – word of this little island really does get around!”

Will reached Stornoway last night (09/06/11), back to the mainland today, heading North

 

 

Well, i first of all must apologise to Will for not mentioning this earlier.  Will is cycling around Britain (including Ireland and Flat Holm) in order to raise money for the island.  The last i heard is that he is already half way.  He started in Hull and past Liverpool last week.  If you see him be sure to wave, if you wish to make a donation, please contact the project office on 02920 877912.  Will, let us know where you are and good luck!

If anyone is looking for a fantastic and motivated Warden with too many skills to mention, let us know, and we will pass it on to Will!  Thank you to Bob for the photos!

Sam


Update…….

Well once again it has been all go in the last couple of weeks, anyone who thinks we live an idyllic lifestyle here on Flat Holm is mistaken!  All very exciting…  The pub is being finished off this week, just waiting for Matt’s license to come back.  A few promotional shots went out to BBC West, because we are now not only going to be serving Cardiff one of the best ‘Wilderness in your backyard experiences’, but from this month, we are also proud to welcome the Westward Ho,  A 100 seater beach landing ferry from Weston-Super-Mare.  They will be visiting us several times a month throughout summer giving more people than ever the opportunity to discover the wonderful secrets of Flat Holm.

Promotional shot of one of our fantastic volunteers (Ben) reluctantly pretending to drink a pint of cold tea in front of the lighthouse.  Thank you Ben.

Wonky continues to amaze us, he’s getting quite meaty chunky now.  He has been weaned off milk and occasionally forgets to run over to us whenever we go outside.  He quite often finds his way into the vegetable garden behind the agrished, then can’t find his way out again, hence the picture below..

Gull chicks are starting to appear all over the island, hopefully with a little more rain we’ll have a successful year.  Undeniably cute and protected by defensive parents, the chicks often hide in undergrowth near the nest, so if you visit the island you have to be extra careful that you don’t disturb any of the nests, even if they look a bit rubbish and unused.

The lambs are getting big and strong and starting to explore the island for themselves, it’ll be time to separate most of them from their mothers soon and get them onto a mix of pasture and pellets.

In the last week work has begun installing the bar in the pub, including adding a water supply (Hot and cold!) to the barracks.  We have also been dagging the sheep (cutting some of the wool from around their bottoms).  Dagging sheep helps prevent blow fly strike, a horrible thing for a sheep to get.  We also check teeth and hooves to make sure they are in tiptop condition.

Electricians have been working in the Fog Horn Cottage and we can finally report that we have light!  This is a major leap forward in the renovation process as it means we can really get stuck in.  Unfortunately, due to some bad weather and high winds, the long day was cancelled.  Can’t wait for the Flat Holm society weekend, we certainly have lots of jobs to be getting on with!
Sam


Gull count weekend……

Well by the sound of things it was another hectic weekend on Flat Holm, and the week is continuing this theme… Preparations are under way for our first visit from Weston-Super-Mare.

The gull count took place last weekend, if you’d like to learn a little more about the gull ringers please click this link.  I don’t have the exact figures yet but i have heard that we were about 400 pairs of lesser black backs down on last year, which would mean about 3700 pairs on the island.  This is most likely a natural fluctuation as the gulls are limited primarily by space on the island.

Sam


Fog Horn Cottage & Walking Safety Signs

Just a quick one to let everyone know the exciting news. 

The electrical works in the Fog Horn Keeper’s Cottage began this week.  Some of the old wiring (not all) has been removed and the new wiring, plug sockets etc have started to go in.  We can not remove all the old wiring and junction boxes because it is all listed, some looks nice and interesting and some could do with removing but we are not allowed.  I personally am very excited about this as it will make the renovation works inside go much faster.  Our target of renting the Cottage out by the end of Summer is looking more and more hopeful.

A few pictures are included but not very interesting unfortunately, I put them in so people would believe me that work has progressed!!

Now on to the walking safety signs.  We are very dedicated to health & safety on Flat Holm for obvious reasons (It’s very hard to get off the island sometimes).  So we have come up with a novel new idea, I’m not sure if it will take off though.  Safety signs that follow you round the island!!  Have a look at the photo and you can see Beryl The Welsh Black Sheep helping us to maintain our high standards of safety!!!

On a serious note, she became trapped inside a wooden frame for holding safety signage and I spotted her walking around with it on the central grassland.  Me and Bob our nearly resident carpenter jumped in to sheep rescue mode and released her.  She is fine and well.  Thankyou for your help though Beryl, it was much appreciated.

Thankyou

Matt

Warden


Official Website Down

This Wednesday and possible Thursday (11th-12th May), the official Flat Holm website is down while the Harbour Authority transfer us to a new server (all very technical).  we have day visits this coming weekend (friday, Saturday and Sunday), and we are still taking bookings (Places still available!).  You can contact us by phoning:

Visitor center: 02920 877904

Flat Holm Office: 02920 877912

Adults £20, Children (4-17yrs) £10.

Family ticket 2 Adults & 2 Children £50

Prices include boat, admission onto the island, free parking and a guided tour.

We look forward to seeing you.

Matt

Warden


An appeal on behalf of LATCH

We were recently paid a visit by John Holloman who supports Cardiff’s Lord Mayor Cllr Keith Hyde in his role within the council.  John spent a week camping rough on our island and refused all offers of meals in the farmhouse and games of pool.  John is raising money for the Mayors chosen charity, LATCH, a voluntary organisation that provides support for children receiving medium and long term treatment at the Oncology centre in the Children’s Hospital for Wales.  It was great having John on the island and Keith came out to visit us at the end of his stay.  I’d like to apologise to both of them for not getting this link up sooner, but if you would like to donate please visit John’s donation page at: Virgin Money Giving: LATCH  Thank you to Keith for coming out to visit the island, he always brings a few special treats!

Sam


A day in the life – minus the mowing…

Had a lovely day today, walked to work along the East coast, plenty of Shelduck, the bluebells still looking spectacular, but now with a deep carpet of grass breaking through, i really hope that we get rain this weekend, our thin soils need it..  Went for a walk around the island with the team, Matt joined us, with Wonky in tow.  That Wonky will follow us anywhere.  I think he got quite tired by the end of it.  I finished the island mowing, anything over 6 inches, mainly nettles and some of the larger thistles, i’m determined not to let any of the arum or nettles flower this year (no chance…).  I finished about 5:30 and wandered back to Driftwood, grabbing some lamb photos as i went.  Hope you like the pics

Sam


Bluebells in Bloom!

There is always something happening and something special to see on Flat Holm, every visitor has a unique experience.  This week John’s Plot, a piece of land fenced off to keep the sheep out, has bloomed.  The Wild Peony has also begun flowering…

Sam

FOR BOOKINGS TEL: 029 20877912


Up in the air!


        Here are some  photos from the balcony of the lighthouse and inside the lantern room. Like all lighthouses across England and Wales today, Flat Holm is fully automated and solar powered. The Corporation of Trinity House is the General Lighthouse Authority for England and Wales, but also The Channel Islands and Gibraltar! It was established in 1514, receiving its royal charter from Henry VIII and today it provides the key aids to navigation of lighthouses, lightships, buoys and radio navigation systems. Trinity House successfully operate 72 lighthouses and nearly 600 aids to navigation!

FACT:

  •  The Flat Holm lighthouse flashes three times every 10 seconds and can be seen 21 miles away.
  • All commercial vessels calling at UK ports must pay ‘light dues’ relative to the weight of cargo carried, and is approximately 35p per ton!
  •  The last remaining lighthouse keeper in the UK left North Foreland lighthouse in 1998

Like all lighthouses across the UK, Flat Holm’s lighthouse has evolved over time; the first light was kindled in 1737, using a coal fired brazier, which greedily consumed a whopping 25 tons of coal each month! In 1819 after the tragic loss of 40 lives from the ‘William and Mary’ running aground (which was blamed on the inadequacy of the Flat Holm light), the massive circular stone tower was adapted to make a suitable base for a lantern enclosing an oil-based lamp. The light was only converted to electricity in 1969, and finally to solar in 1997, which it still runs on today.

Despite huge advances in modern technology and particularly satellite navigation systems (Differential Global Positioning System), it seems that traditional aids to navigation will continue to play a key role in the future of shipping safety. At least for the foreseeable future anyway! Thanks to Trinity House (Terry – technician) who showed us around the lighthouse and answered our long list of questions! Cheers…

Ross

LAMBOMETER: 51 lambs


Warden’s Words

Hello Flat Holm Bloggers,

Its been a long time since I wrote on here, I have been away hiding abroad after my shameful appearance on The Weakest Link. I have been back on the island for two weeks now but only just found some time to write on here now. Its been very busy indeed, lots to catch up on and new information and sights to absorb. I came back to an excellently managed lambing flock of Ewes, who have been doing an excellent job of raising their little lambs. There are now only 6 Ewes left to lamb and then hopefully its an end to sleepless nights for a while. The team have been doing a fantastic job with only one lamb being lost, well done everyone!!

There are 5 new volunteers on now and today I am waving goodbye to the final Winter volunteer Kat, myself and the team are all very sad to see Kat leave, she has worked amazingly hard over the last seven months. We wish you the very best of luck in your future career, the same goes for Lisa and Will who were just as amazing. Ben, Marta, Chris, Rob & Sam all seem to be settling in well, they have been heavily involved in the lambing, had their first visitor trip and are currently slaving away in the Fog Horn Keepers Cottage assisting with the Association of Lighthouse Keepers residential. A big warm welcome to our new volunteers, I hope you have a great experience here this Summer and really enjoy yourselves.

The visitor experience has been greatly enhanced by the addition of lots of kindly donated furniture from the Norwegian Church and The Tube. The furniture has enhanced all the hard work our Winter team put into the Barracks refurbishment, it is a very professional looking visitor centre. The pub is still a work in progress but it won’t be long now. Please do come and visit to see all the wonderful progress that has been made already this year.

The volunteers have had great improvements made to their Summer accommodation, they now have a wonderful kitchen/ dining room and a brand new lounge room. With the kind help of our regular volunteer Bob there are now windows and doors in the Driftwood Victorian Extension. The first room of this extension now houses couches, a pool table and tv, the lights & sockets was kindly installed by friends of the island Andy and Kev. It is a wonderful new space for volunteers to get away from it all and relax. The Project is alway trying to find ways to improve life for everyone on the island, unfortunately with the limited resources we operate on, this all takes time.

The ALK weekend has been a huge success, with a great turn out of very enthusiastic volunteers to help the island team with the ongoing renovations in the Fog Horn Keepers Cottage. We have mostly been working on the interior, sanding down all the walls and wood work, filling in holes and cracks in the walls, fixing the windows, painting the new gas cage and even getting the green trim on the exterior of the Fog Horn Station. It has been a lot of hard work by many interested parties and Flat Holm staff over the last two years but we are getting there, the Cottage and Station Compound in general is looking great and so full of life again. I am very excited at the prospect of getting our first guests into the Cottage by the end of Summer.

I would like to finish by saying a huge thankyou to everyone who has worked with me on Flat holm over the last two years. Thats right!! I have been Warden now for just over two years, how that time has flown by, I must be enjoying myself. Together we have all made huge amounts of progress. I look forward to a few more years of working with you all and sharing this special place with as many people as I can.

Matt

Warden


Here comes the summer sun…

Lambometer: 48 lambs and counting…

The end of the lambing season is in sight! We only have 6 ewes left to give birth, and the majority of the flock, including lambs have been released out onto the Island and are now busy exploring! The Island is really coming to life now; and our first bluebells are starting to appear on mass. In fact, the combination of sunshine and April showers has seen plenty of plants suddenly appear, none more so than the Lesser celandine, which, seems to thriving this year! As far as bird life is concerned we are seeing plenty of shell duck and oyster catchers, so hopefully we should see some nests too. The gull colony is back in force and the first eggs have now been spotted. We are also seeing a plenty of ringed gulls returning. They have been ringed on the Island in previous years and seeing so many return indicates the importance of the Island as a nesting site. Earlier this year one of our gulls was identified on holiday in Morocco!

It has been a successful weekend with our first residential group (Association of Lighthouse Keepers and Flat Holm Society members) of the year. They have been working extremely hard with the renovation of the Foghorn Station and Cottage, so a huge thanks again to everyone that has helped out this weekend! We’re making great progress with the renovation and hope to have the Cottage accommodation open for this summer.  Kat, one of our longest serving trainee wardens has now finished 😦 and is looking for a similar position in the conservation world (so if anyone is looking for a motivated, enthusiastic and hardworking member for their team then look no further!). Thanks again Kat and to all the winter trainee wardens for all your hard work, we wish you every success for the future!

Roll on summer. Here are some recent pics (a break from the lambs)…

Ross.

Foghorn Cottage renovation team!


Triplet lamb video

Unedited and in high definition…  Please Click Here

Sam