No Place Like Holm

We just took a short excursion to the muddy Bristol Channel. Liz G, Heather and myself launched from Clevedon Pier for a bit of island-hopping. It was a pretty impromptu trip, with Liz only joining at the 11th hour after some music festival that she was attending got rained out.

Anyway, a dozen or so miles down the Channel and some way offshore is Flat Holm, actually part of ‘Wales’. Strong tidal flows helped us through the distance. We stayed in bunks at the the pictured farmhouse.

Flat Holm has 4000 pairs of black-backed gulls, and they dominate the place, nesting everywhere and filling the air with their abrasive screeches. I just bought myself an expensive ‘image-stabilised’ lens for my birthday, and on the evidence of the pic below (taken at full 300mm zoom whilst panning fast across the sky) it seems to work.

There was also a group from a local canoe club visiting; here a Warden briefs them/us on the island.

The second day dawned – well not so as you’d notice, for there was dense pea-soup fog (you’ll have to take my word for it, all the photos below were taken after it cleared). The fog was rather disconcerting, as we planned to cross to Steep Holm island across the tidal flow and across the main shipping lane of the Bristol Channel. Heather conjured up a rough guesstibearing off the top of her head, and remarkably it proved perfect, landing us on Steep Holm, and at exactly the right spot. Even though the island is fronted by sheer cliffs, we didn’t see it until it was 100m away. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any supertankers out in the fog …

Steep Holm is also dominated by arsey gulls. I laughed when Heather carried a split paddle to encourage them to keep their distance, but the laughter wore off when I was repeatedly pebble-dashed by precisely aimed gull shit.

Victorian cannon.

By the time we left Steep Holm, the fog had burned off, allowing us the privilege of seeing where we were going as we rode the tide back up to Clevedon. All good.

7 thoughts on “No Place Like Holm

  1. That takes me back – I stayed on Steep Holm in 1974 after answering an ad from the Kenneth Allsop Trust in Private Eye, and found myself alone for 4 days – wonderful place, apart from the gulls which attacked at head height. Sadly that year many chicks had botulism picked up by the parents from the rubbish tips on the Welsh coast and were staggering around, the desperate parents trying to fend me off. I too took to carrying a stick. Best of all was the other birds which treated me as part of the furnishings and came almost within touching distance.

  2. Mark – As yet no idea! I’d like to repeat the Holmes trip as it was ace. Other than that I don’t know, I think there is a new book out, so I’ll have a look through and pick out a trip or two! I’d like to do some sort of epic crossing to a remote island. Lundy could be good…. ?!
    I’ll speak to you during the week.

  3. Tom – paddle from your part of the world down to Land’s End, and cross to the Isles of Scilly too – 1-2 weeks dependent upon weather and ice cream stops.


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