Wind-lashed and stormy, Flat Holm island, just five miles from Cardiff, is a popular destination for day trippers who clamber aboard the Lewis Alexander boat for the sometimes choppy 45 minute trip from the Bay.
However for Matt Lipton, the warden of Flat Holm, it’s much more than a day trip destination; it’s home. Since March last year, Matt, 25, has spent three weeks out of every four on the island, living in a beautiful 16th century farmhouse and disturbed only by the gulls and sheep with whom he shares the 56-acre strip of land.
It wouldn’t be for everyone, but for Matt, a self-confessed hermit with a passion for conservation, life on Flat Holm is perfect. It lacks just one thing: someone with whom to share it. So, in January this year, he appeared on BBC Wales’s Jamie and Louise radio show in search of a girlfriend.
Matt said: “I’ve been living on islands for three years now and it’s not really done relationships any good to be honest. I’m a genuinely nice person, and I’m just looking for someone who’s enthusiastic, bubbly and wouldn’t mind if I was away for a few weeks at a time.” But, as yet, his plea remains unanswered.
He originally came to Flat Holm as a seasonal volunteer in 2007, his first full-time post after graduating from De Montfort University with a degree in environmental studies. After a stint on the Farne Islands, he returned to Wales in March 2009 as the Flat Holm warden. Along with a handful of other volunteers, he is responsible for conserving the buildings, plants and animals on this Site of Special Scientific Interest.
He said: “I do like living out in these strange places and it’s very different lifestyle. I can leave the doors unlocked, I get to wake up on a lovely unique location, there are no cars, no pollution, no noise. Well, there is noise, there’s about 10,000 gulls making noise, but it’s more peaceful than 10,000 cars! I just feel very lucky to be able to live and work there.”
After almost a year as warden Matt still sounds as if he is in love with Flat Holm. Even being left on the island for eight weeks on his first stint rather than four did not faze him; if the boat can’t reach him the only thing he worries about is running out of food. He said: “I can walk round there in the dark without any worries. I recognise most of the pathways under my feet, I know it so well now.”
Much as he loves his solitude, one of his favourite aspects of his job is showing people around the island when they come on the three-hour tours which run from March until December. He said: “It’s just a chance to show the people of Cardiff what they’ve got here and to share it with them and to tell them about its history. I love telling people about it.”
Primarily funded by the council, the island is also supported by the Flat Holm Society, which raised more than £10,000 last year. Small-scale farming, tours and mini conservation breaks also help to generate income for this historic island, once the site of a cholera hospital. Matt intends to spend another four years on Flat Holm, and with a new cottage development, a new assistant warden and increased farming, he has big plans for the island. All he needs now is a girlfriend.
“I’m just a fun, genuinely nice person who’s just looking for someone to spend time with. I’m very passionate about the environment so I’m looking for someone else who’s very passionate as well, and who won’t mind me being away for a while. I do love going to the cinema and I do love going out to restaurants, so those are the two things I miss the most. So if I did have a girlfriend then she’d be treated to a lot of nights out.”
Reposted from Capture Cardiff