Sunday, July 04, 2010

Flat Holm - an awfully big adventure


Just back from an extraodinary day courtesy of the wonderful other half of my family. My ma in-law Penny has spent the past three years undertaking a practice based MA. The subject of her study has evolved over the course and in the end her major project has been a study of an island in the Bristol channel called Flat Holm. Penny's grandfather Ralph Alfred Erskine Somerville, was a highly decorated gunner in the Royal Artillery and lived on the island, one of very few people who did. Even more unusually as there were few married soldiers stationed there, Penny's father was born on the island.

This weekend we celebrated the culmination of the work that Penny has produced, an exhibition comprising drawings, etchings, screenprint, photos, writing and enamel work, plus an evocative book which you can buy here. Yesterday evening was the private view, which was held in a unique arts centre on the waterfront of Cardiff Bay. The arts centre occupies an historic Norwegian Seamans' chapel which was relocated when the Bay development and regeneration was under way. It's an extraordinary sight, this tiny clap-board structure in amongst the marble and glass clad architectural monstrosities that accompany this sort of development.

After a late night - dinner for 16 takes a while.... we had to get up super early this morning to get to the dock for our boat ride - no ordinary ride this, a high speed rib ably captained by our skipper Ryan.

Never have so many small members of our family screamed (with joy and a little fear) for such a consistent amount of time!

The boats are often hired out purely for the "bay blast" experience and so there were several nautical hand-brake turns and swerves. On the way out we were well dressed in waterproofs provided, and they weren't really needed as it was relatively calm - but on the way back, and just wearing our civvies, Ryan had a little fun at our expense and enjoyment - those of us on the left of the boat caught some spray as we headed back, but a cheeky swerve into someone else's wake meant that no-one remained dry....through every layer of clothing! Oh, and my sunnies could have done with wipers.

We were welcomed onto the island by some of the most lovely people I have ever met - the wardens of the island who live and work there as volunteers. Their openness and kindness and made us feel welcome from the minute they helped us off the boats, tried to gather us together (herding cats comes to mind)
and continued as 2 of the guys took 5 of the 6 smalls off for an hour long treasure hunt across the island, leaving us free to explore without worrying about cliff edges and abandoned gun emplacements.



All we did have to worry about - and this involved wearing building-site hard hats or waving a stout stick above your head- were the dive bombing gulls. There's a huge colony and they are currently hatching their young so really protective.


The island has a working lighthouse,
a no longer working but amazingly sculptural fog horn, series of gun emplacements, magazine stores, farmhouse and the barracks, where we had this wonderful team snap of the whole family.
I'm not sure in the end who was more excited about the family gathering, us or the wardens who work on capturing the stories and heritage of the island as well as the ecology. I think it is safe to say that the children will remember today for the rest of their lives, talking about their memories, the fossils, rabbits, seagull chicks and hard hats! It will shape their shared heritage and I'm sure they and we will be back again.

4 comments:

anne said...

I wrote a comment which you may have seen, it seems to have been blocked off...it was to congratulate Penny. I loved scanning the book from the link you gave me.What a fabulous piece of work. And as you said in a roundabout sort of way they will always have something to remember granny by, a super write up from you about life, love and families.

penny said...

just found this lovely piece about our Flatholm weekend. Such a great record of a wonderful expedition. How did you get that photo of the boats disappearing out into sea?
.
lovely reminder thankyou

penny said...

just found this lovely piece about our Flatholm weekend. Such a great record of a wonderful expedition. How did you get that photo of the boats disappearing out into sea?
.
lovely reminder thankyou

penny said...

just found this lovely piece about our Flatholm weekend. Such a great record of a wonderful expedition. How did you get that photo of the boats disappearing out into sea?
.
lovely reminder thankyou