Flat Holm & Steep Holm


"Holm" is derived from a Scandinavian word for an island in an estuary. The two Holms in the Bristol Channel, Flat Holm and Steep Holm, are the only islands of significant size in the area, until you come to Lundy. Half the fun is getting to them, and both are of communications interest. There is also the romance of their nature reserve rôles - and smuggling associations.

If you wish to visit both islands, you have to appreciate that in communication terms, or lack of it between them, they are rather like Diomede and Little Diomede, between Russia and Alaska. Steep Holm is English - off Weston-super-Mare. Flat Holm is Welsh, and until recently was reached only from Barry. A new service started in 2011 from Weston-Super-Mare using the "Westward Ho" (not the Campbells vessel) - info courtesy of Cardiff Council.

Access to the Holm islands is restricted. Small boats, and occasionally "Waverley" and "Balmoral", make visits to Steep Holm, from Weston's Knightstone Pier. The Flat Holm Project has it's own boat, the "Lewis Alexander".

Steep Holm and Balmoral The islands have been fortified since Napoleonic times, with hundreds of personnel being stationed in barracks. This cannon is on Steep Holm, with "Balmoral" below. The Mendip Hills, Brean Down, and the Holms, are all part of the same undulating formation. To complement the fortifications,  Brean Down also had gun positions. In WW2, these were to protect waiting convoys and deal with  aircraft raiding towns & cities in the area.
Recent publicity has drawn fresh attention to the 60cm railway line. Together with rolling stock, captured in WW1, it was brought out in WW2, and laid to facilitate construction of new fortifications on Steep Holm & Flat Holm, including bringing in more guns. The unusual gauge, 1' 11½'', is considered to be due to it's German origin. Here on Steep Holm, the trucks had to climb a 1 in 2/3 gradient, with the aid of a winch - this is now the path used by visitors, to reach the top. Even though accumulation of soil, and a rock fall have occurred, the state of preservation should be compared with that on Flat Holm, seen on the next page:- Surviving railway line
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