Skokholm Work Party March – April 2013

31st March 2013
Day 1 Saturday 30 March
I arrived at Martins Haven at 1.30 in plenty of time for catching the boat. While walking down to the landing point I saw Phil, who I first met last year. Margaret, a long term volunteer for this year was already there. Soon after, Charlie arrived, who I’d also met on a previous work party. We carried all the gear across to the landing point and loaded it onto the boat once a group of Skomer visitors had disembarked.
We boarded the boat but instead of going straight to Skokholm, the boat went to Skomer to pick up some day visitors. Half an hour later the boat returned and headed to Skokholm. The tide was low, so after some toing and froing and catching the bottom, we waited for ten minutes before a successful landing.
I took a walk around the island and took a look around the lighthouse. There’s plenty of work to do there and I’ll get some pictures later in the week.
A hearty stew for the evening meal, together with some wine (which was unexpected, unless you’ve brought your own), followed by an evening in front of the wood burning stove in the cottage rounded off the day.
It’s a pity we would lose an hour with the change to BST.

Day 2 Sunday 31 March
It was definitely not summer. One of the coldest March months on record. The wind had got up in the night and was very fierce. There was plenty of work to do. I was busy mixing lime mortar and cement, mainly for tidying up holes in the buildings left after installation of the water system. Charlie worked on the Heligoland trap, tiles were put on the kitchen wall and several others started to limewash the buildings. The sun was out most of the day, though the strong and bitter wind never relented. Out of the wind it was reasonably pleasant. However, at least plenty of work could be done.

Giselle limewashing the cottage

Day 3 Monday 1 April
Phil finished painting the toilet and limewashing the buildings carried on. Pete and Joe (Assistant Warden) have been the stalwarts at this, not to mention Margaret (long term volunteer). Peter continued to tile the kitchen. I must mention Gwyneth who is the cook for the week. She is doing an excellent job catering for us all, especially as it is her first time out here.

Phil painting the floor

Pete limewashing the cottage

Peter tiling the kitchen

Gwyneth preparing the evening meal

Day 4 Tuesday 2 April
After breakfast, we all went down to Blacksmiths landing as the builders were coming across to work on the jetty. The landing is not an easy one (to put it mildly!) and all the gear has to be lugged up steep steps. It was good to meet up with familiar faces, Chris, Phil (who also appeared in the Dream Island TV series last year) and Rob (who I saw the year before. Liam was the fourth builder and it was his first time here.
Later, I helped Charlie with the Heligoland trap at the well, packed the kitchen sink so it wouldn’t flex so the tiles could be properly sealed, and made headway inj sorting out the lab.
Manx shearwaters were calling as I was going to bed. To me it’s a nice sound, and must be one of the top ten wildlife experiences in the world. It’s something few people have ever heard first hand.

Charlie at the Heligoland trap by the Well

Day 5 Wednesday 3 April
I took an early morning walk up to the lighthouse via Spy Rock. Three razorbills on the sea but no puffins as yet, though Phil had spotted some earlier. They should be coming ashore now, but it has been an unseasonal few weeks recently. Skylarks were singing, and while watching a couple of meadow pipits, five choughs were nonchalantly searching for grubs just a short distance away.
I again helped Charlie with the Heligoland trap at the well. We were delayed slightly as a robin and a redwing got trapped so had to be checked. While tensioning the wire mesh a wooden post broke under the strain. A replacement post broke as it was hammered in. Fortunately the third post used remained intact!
I did some small jobs and finished the afternoon painting the window frames and door of the cottage gloss black. The builders worked on the shuttering around the jetty ready for the concrete. It’s chilli con carne for tonight’s meal, so everyone is looking forward to that.

Assistant Warden Joe limewashing the Wheelhouse

Day 6 Thursday 4 April
The wind had turned to the north and was just as gusty as ever. It’s still very sunny but with a few clouds. That’s four days of unbroken sunshine, excellent. But it’s still cold. Ice is something of a novelty in this coastal location. The clear skies mean superb views of the stars as there is very little light pollution.
I spent the morning and the first part of the afternoon painting more window frames and doors. Painting the Lab door was great as it was in a sheltered spot. Peter spent all day limewashing, most of it on the Wheelhouse roof. Almost everyone else spent three hours down at the jetty helping the builders – mixing, wheel barrowing and pouring concrete. Each person had their task which meant a continuous supply of concrete into the shuttering.
At least this year there is hot and cold running water, thanks to the solar heating system, which was very welcome for washing after working on the jetty.

The jetty being made ready for concreting

Day 7 Friday 5 April
I spent a little while before breakfast documenting the internal state of the lighthouse. Some work has been done, but plenty more needs to be done. The weather had been so good all week (albeit bitterly cold in the strong wind) the priority had been outside jobs around the main accommodation.
The rest of the day was spent painting more windows and doors, together with other small jobs and tidying up. Pete cracked on with limewashing the buildings which now gleam in the sunlight.

The generator room in the lighthouse

Day 8 Saturday 6 April
Today turned out to be a momentous day for Skokholm. Dale based artist Sean Kehoe had spent the winter creating a superb replica of the Alice Williams figurehead. Apart from the fresher paint and the absence of some missing bits you wouldn’t tell them apart. Indeed, Alice as she would have looked originally. The original will stay protected in the wheelhouse. The replica was installed on the vantage point overlooking South Haven, keeping watch on the comings and goings of visitors. The arrival of Alice coincided with that of several thousand puffins – a few days later than expected but an excellent arrival party.
The week has passed quickly. Yes there are still some jobs to do, but much work has been done. We were quite late leaving and the tide was high. The Dale Princess couldn’t get close to the jetty with the shuttering and scaffolding posing an additional obstacle. Those leaving and those due to come on for the following week, together with luggage and supplies, were ferried to and fro on Steve’s RIB.

Sean Kehoe with his Alice Williams replica

Heading out to the Dale Princess on the RIB

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2013


Photo comment By Nikki Anderson: Brought back happy memories of Wildlife Watch group weeks spent on the Island

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