When the Cardiff Council announced that it no longer had the funds to maintain the historic island of Flat Holm, local citizens and conservationists jumped into action.
The news last month that the Cardiff Council was reportedly thinking of selling Flat Holm, a circular 86-acre island in the Bristol Channel, was not exactly greeted with cheers by the local community. In fact, the media reports spurred a groundswell of opposition from nature-lovers and history buffs alike.
With lengthy records of human habitation that stretch at least back to the era of Viking marauders, the island has played a part in a number of fascinating historic vignettes.
It was a pilgrimage site for monks, a depot for smugglers, a quarantine hospital for cholera sufferers, and also has the distinction of the first place on earth to send a radio transmission, delivered to the mainland by Guglielmo Marconi in 1897.
As for the bountiful nature on Flat Holm, the most southerly point in Wales, it’s all of a hardy variety that can thrive in harsh sea air – but nonetheless, enough rare species are found here that the island was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the 1970’s. Giant 6-foot-tall leeks with garlic-smelling flowers, colourful rock sea lavender, and several thousand nesting seabirds all add to the island’s natural charm.
“If the island were to fall into the wrong hands we would lose not only a very important conservation area but a valuable environmental learning resource for young people and community groups in Cardiff and the surrounding areas,” said Glynis Parsons, chair of the Flat Holm Society.
Her organization has just presented a proposal to take over the island – if, that is, the appropriate financial backing can be obtained. The Society is looking to larger groups like the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB) as potential partners.
And it looks like the Society may just have a shot. In response to the public outcry, the Cardiff Council issued a reassuring statement that, despite previous reports, they would not be selling the island to private interests. “I think the furore around it was caused more by unfortunate wording than anything else,” said Ms. Parsons.
If nothing else, the prospect of losing Flat Holm – beloved for its storied history, massive lighthouse and children’s education programs – may have made local residents aware of just how important it is to keep the island in public hands for future generations to enjoy.
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