Skokholm Work Party April 2014

15th April 2014
Day 1 (April 4th)
It was a small group of just half a dozen volunteers that left Martins Haven on the Dale Princess at 2pm. This was earlier than planned due to an unsuitable weather forecast for the weekend. There were some familiar faces and some new faces.
On arriving in South Haven on Skokholm the changeover was quick, with only a handful of people departing. It was then time for a cup of tea, sorting out a room and getting down to work. I spent the rest of the afternoon applying red oxide primer to planks of wood to be used for the wall of the new drying room.
After the evening bird log was completed we were introduced to the game of Maltese Cross dominoes.

Day 2 (April 5th)
The day was foggy with drizzle and rain throughout so that meant indoor work, and there was plenty to do at the lighthouse.
The generator room had become a store/dumping ground, so that had to be cleared before any work could be done. The first task was to replace the fibreboard tiles in the false ceiling that had absorbed damp over the winter, which had either sagged or dropped out, with plasterboard tiles. We were well insulated in the lighthouse from the wind and rain. Nick and Ron started scraping the old paint off the metal window frame of the lantern room.
It was dominoes again after the bird log.


Removing ceiling tiles at the Lighthouse


Paint scraping at the Lighthouse

Day 3 (April 6th)
It was foggy again, with heavier rain and an even stronger wind that had to be fought against on the way to the lighthouse. Normally wind would get rid of fog, but not here. Several of us spent the morning painting the generator room walls magnolia. Pete and I painted the adjoining bedroom in the afternoon. By this time the fog had dispersed and it was getting sunny. Ron and Nick carried on scraping in the lantern room.
I had three quarters of an hour in the Well Hide before the evening meal. There was little activity but just before I was about to leave a meadow pipit obligingly landed on a fence post.


Teabreak at the Lighthouse

Day 4 (April 7th)
There was very heavy rain overnight, which left many puddle around the farm and on the path to the lighthouse. I helped Nick and Ron scraping off paint in the lantern room in the morning. It was really hard to get off in places and required the use of a hammer and chisel.
The afternoon was bright and sunny which meant we needed to take advantage of it with as many people as possible to lime wash the buildings. I joined Giselle and Molly to paint the cottage walls, while Pete started on the roof. Howard put the glazing in the drying room and Mike gloss painted the cottage window frames.


Limewashing the cottage


Painting the window frames

Day 5 (April 8th)
A bright and sunny start to the day but with a very strong cold wind.
I continued lime washing the cottage before moving on to the rear wall of the central accommodation block.
I went to the Well Hide towards evening but there was very little activity apart from a wren building a nest.


Lime wash

Day 6 (April 9th)
Charlie, Howard and the Sutcliffes left just after 9 am, a day later than planned due to the rough seas the day before.
I completed the central block rear wall by lunchtime. Pete started lime washing the Wheelhouse roof, I continued in the courtyard while Mike started on the front of the central block.
It was bright and sunny all day which meant we made good progress with the lime washing, but although the wind had dropped it was still quite chilly.


Toast for breakfast

Day 7 (April 10th)
A cloudy start. A good number of willow warblers were ringed in the morning. The order of the day was to continue lime washing. Pete completed the Wheelhouse roof.
The Lady Helen came over in the late afternoon and we loaded her up with 37 empty gas bottles and rather a lot of scrap metal which had accumulated over time.
At 5.30 we conducted a puffin count. Each person had their own patch of coast to walk and count puffins on sea, on land and in the air. This was the first day the puffins had come in to land. The count revealed over 5000 puffins which was up on the same time last year. It seems that Skokholm puffins may not have been that affected by the mortality of auks over the winter.


The scrap metal to be removed


Puffin counting

Day 8 (April 11th)
The boat arrived at 8 am in South Haven with a small team of mycologist researchers. Anne also arrived which meant we had a full time cook. It must be said that Giselle, Renate, Molly and Richard had done an excellent job taking it in turns to prepare lunches and evening meals over the last few days.
I moved on to lime washing the rear of the Wheelhouse block. Mark joined me in the afternoon and Mark did the gable end, so we were almost finished. It was fortunate that we’d had such a good spell of dry weather so that we could get the work done.
I went off to Crab Bay but all the puffins stayed out on the water.


Replacing the Alice Williams in the Wheelhouse

Day 9 (April 12th)
All the razorbills were out to sea when I walked around the Neck early in the morning. They had been on the ledges yesterday. I counted 415 from the Neck to South Haven. The weather was dull with a strong wind.
Mike and I tidied up the library which had become a rather untidy store room. At least when we finished it had a semblance of order and the books were accessible. We blocked up all the holes we could find with builder’s caulk or Polyfiller to prevent mice getting in as we’d found evidence of that.
Pete finished the lime washing of the Wheelhouse gable and, and together with Mark applied second coats in those places that needed it.
I went to Crab Bay in the late afternoon and this time the puffins were coming in.


Limewashing the Ringing Room roof


A Puffin in Crab Bay

Day 10 (April 13th)
A bright and sunny day but again with a cold wind. There were no auks on the cliffs or out to sea in the morning, at least around the Neck to South Haven. I painted the walls and ceiling in the kitchen. Ron and Nick who had spent every day in the lantern room had managed to remove most of the old paint and apply new cold galvanising paint. There was still a little bit of work left to do.
I took a walk up to the lighthouse and met up with Pete. There was very little bird activity apart from 13 puffins out to sea.


The completed cottage

Day 11 (April 14th)
It was an early start. All the luggage was ready to be loaded into the dumper by 8 am as the boat was due just after 9 am. We cleaned and tidied our rooms ready for the visitors that were arriving.

After leaving South Haven and heading back across the sea the cottage and farm buildings were gleaming white in the strong morning sun.




All text and images © Keith Rowley 2014

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