Sunday, 2 August 2009

Flat Holm & Steep Holm 02/08/2009

After 3 weeks of paddling inactivity due to mostly work and the British Summer, it was great to finally get back on the water.

Launching early from the slipway at Penarth in ideal conditions, I let the last of the SW ebbing tide of the Bristol Channel aid my progress towards Flat Holm, the first of the two islands that is approximately 4 nautical miles off the South Wales coast with the island of Steep Holm, another 2 nautical miles further south.

The nearer I get to Flat Holm, the more my speed increases and as I pass the lighthouse, glancing at my GPS I am paddling at a speed of nearly 6 knots with very little effort.

Maintaining this speed with ease I am soon approaching Steep Holm which is very different to it's neighbour apart from the pretty obvious.....the height, the vegetation is a lot denser.

Paddling around Rudder Rock at the west of the island I see the first of the island's numerous gun emplacements dating back from Victorian times once again to repel the threat of a French invasion and again used in both World Wars.

Rudder Rock, I suppose was named due to the vertical layers of rock looking like rudders!

Paddling along the south of Steep Holm the layers of rock are horizontal with again more gun emplacements on the South East corner.

From here the coast of England looks very close but I will leave that for another day, also the number of Gulls seems to have increased and their constant squawking is becoing rather irritating.

Paddling northwards I pass the only steep pebbled beach on the island with it's landing jetty and now derelict inn.

On the steep cliffs on the north of the island the full extent of the Bristol Channel's huge tidal range of 15 metres or 49 feet can be seen with the dark stained high water mark a long way above my head. The Bristol Channel has the second largest tidal range in the world after so it is quite important to try and get the tides right!

I paddle right along the north side of Steep Holm back to Rudder Rock passing another gun emplacement perched high on the cliffs and then paddle on a course back over to Flat Holm.

I was soon at the lighthouse built in 1737 and was again greeted by the squawking of the Gulls.

Paddling along the south of the island I pass more gun emplacements, and on rounding Bottleswell Point on the Southwest side of the island I paddle on a course for the South Cardiff Cardinal Buoy.

After about 25 minutes of paddling I reach the Buoy which is straining at it's moorings due to the ever increasing flood tide.

On the last leg of my paddle back to Penarth I am passed by the MV Balmoral one half of the Waverly Excursions running pleasure cruises in the Bristol Channel during the summer months.

In 2009 the Balmoral is celebrating its 60th year being built in Southampton in 1949. I follow her as she pulls alongside Penarth Pier picking up more passengers.

As I load the kayak on the Landrover I watch the Balmoral leave and take one last look at Flat Holm and Steep Holm in the distance after a great paddle of 14 nautical miles (16 miles or nearly 27 kms).

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