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Steep Holm Island pics

Steep Holm Island is one of the two Holm islands in the Bristol Channel, UK.

Steep Holm and Flat Holm islands lie in a rough line between Cardiff and Weston Super Mare. Steepholm is currently owned by a trust as a memorial to the writer, broadcaster and naturalist Kenneth Allsop.

Steep Holm was fortified originally in the 1860's in response to the threat from France and then again during World War 2 as an anti-shipping and anti-aircraft fort. In several cases, the World War 2 gun emplacements were built over the earlier Victorian constructions as the 19th century military engineers had already chosen the best sites.

Access to the island is from Weston via the trust's boat the 'Bristol Queen' and a journey time of around an hour brings you to the islands only usable landing point.

Owing to the strong currents created by the channel's tidal range which is the second highest in the world, the landing has to be made within a very short time of high water. (See the pictures of the landing beach below taken at high and low tides.)


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Steep Holm Island

Landing Beach

Landing Beach at low tide

Disembarking on the Island

The 60 cm Railways on Steepholm

Steepholm, owing to its limited accessibility, is something of a time capsule. The high cost of transporting tons of steel back to the mainland meant that the island escaped the attentions of the scrap dealers. As a result many of the military artefacts from World War 2 and Victorian times which have long since vanished from the mainland, are still in situ.

The 60 cm gauge railway which zig-zags up from the jetty to the top of the island was installed in 1941 when it became apparent that the tons of sand, cement and steel necessary to construct the gun batteries could not be carried up on the backs of mules which had been the method to date! These mules were apparently imported from India complete with handlers, who must have found the rain and wind of the Bristol Channel rather a change from the heat and dust of the subcontinent. There were no curry houses in Cardiff or Bristol at the time but arrangements were made by the war office to accommodate the dietary requirements of both the Hindu troops and their four legged charges.

The railway was constructed using ex WW1 German feldbahn prefabricated track which had been held in stock at Longmoor in Hampshire and was cable operated using diesel powered winches at the top of each of the three inclines.

Originally, it ran across the plateau at the top of the island to serve the gun batteries, but once construction had finished and the 6 inch ex-naval guns had been installed, this temporary track was lifted. The main incline, however, was left together with a second incline which led from the plateau down to a searchlight post and landing stage.

The landing stage itself was constructed from prefabricated girders and was demolished at the end of the war.

60cm gauge track

60cm railway Incline

Nature reclaims the 60cm railway

60cm spare track

Searchlight Bunker

Not for the faint hearted!
Steps down to the bunker

Victorian Artillery

Ammunition store

The bofors gun

No more planes

The observation post

Bunker Roof


Flat holm Pictures

Santorini Island external site

More Flat holm Pictures


Lundy Island Pictures