• A bit from me...
  • Stop Press!
  • Crossman Hall
  • Lindisfarne Castle
  • Goldcrest invasion from northern forests
  • Natural England Lindisfarne NNR
  • Lindisfarne Priory
  • Joys of moving to Holy Island
  • News from Ford & Etal
  • From the community of Aidan and Hilda
  • From the Vicarage
  • Parish Diary
  • Pause for thought

Holy Island - Emergency Power

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

'The Heugh'
Remembrance Service

Dear *|MMERGE3|* ,

Welcome to this - our last newsletter in 2016.

Last month I neglected to mention the effort that must have gone into preparing for those two funerals. To this may I add the further appreciation due to our clergy for the Remembrance Services. As a reminder that we are a tiny island community I add a special poem written by one of the children at 'Holy Island CofE First School' which I felt specially poignant:

Remembrance poem
We remember red poppies of the dead.
We remember green stalks,
We remember black nectar,
We remember big, long, small.
We remember poppies bleed as we fight evil.
We remember soldiers march with rifles up.
We remember they get their command to fire.
We will remember them.
By Luke.

How spirits soared when, on 31st October, contractors arrived to begin the long-awaited safety improvement work to be carried out on the causeway. However, elation turned to dispair when on 1st November the island's mains electricity supply failed - allegedly "damaged by 3rd party contractors"' working on the causeway.

Fortunately, 'SPEnergy' were prompt in contracting-in industrial generators to serve community needs. As a consequence there is, like residents, nowhere throughout the village that visitors will have been able to escape the constant drone of huge capacity generators.

Whilst we believe that our electricity supply will be repaired by 16th December, we are also looking forward to hearing when the contractor will return to continue causeway improvements....

Thank you to all who have written for us this month. Our authors are now due a well-earned Christmas break and come together again in the New Year in time for February's edition.

Not forgetting those who, for various reasons, are stationed away from their homeland at this time of year, from all of us to all of you: wishing you the joy of Christmas and the hope for Peace and Health in the New Year.

We look forward to getting in touch again on 1st February 2017.

God Bless - Geoff Porter

STOP PRESS! Cllr Douglas Watkin

It is hoped to resume works asap depending on the receipt of the relevant licence. (ed: from UK Marine Management Organisation.)

The work done on the southern drain appears to be successful and when combined with a northern drain hopefully will be a lot better. However, I am sure ongoing clearance maintenance - which is included In the relevant permissions obtained - will be necessary. To clear that area of standing water and hopefully sand, will be superb.

'Causeway Improvements'

Whilst the current appearance of the drain is obtrusive I am sure after a short while it will blend in. It was important to get on and do some work as the scheme had been held up for 3 years by oblections and counter proposals contradicting each other with few people agreeing on any course of action. If this doesn't work at least we have tried something rather than continuing to go in circles of discussion. It can also be firmly laid on my shoulders !!!! But occasionally in life, if you want to move on someone has to be responsible for taking a decision.

The causeway will continue to be regularly maintained and the current damaged sections will be subject to works as soon as possible.

May I take this opportunity to wish all on the Island a great Christmas and a super New Year, Health and happiness to you all,

Best Wishes,



At a recent meeting of the Trustees, Simon Bevan, Treasurer for the past 16 years announced his retirement. Simon guided the Trustees though the period when significant sums of money were dispensed during the rebuild period.

The Trustees paid tribute to Simon's stewardship of our funds during a very busy and at times complicated period.
It is with great satisfaction that we announce and welcome a new 'young' Trustee to our ranks; Chris Douglas. Chris will take over as Treasurer and was warmly welcomed by the Group.

In an ideal situation we have vacancies for two more Trustees. If you are interested, let me or any other Trustee know and details will be provided.

David O'


Well we did it. The Castle is empty for the first time since the summer of 1903, well, that is apart from 6 bits of furniture too big to go round the corner at the front door, a huge computer network cabinet, and a kettle we have generously left behind.

Packing and documenting 1,179 collection objects in about 5 days was quite a feat and was solely down to the hard work of the staff and volunteers involved. I myself can very little credit as I was in very much a 'floating role' keeping a supervisory eye on everything (!), along with the fact I caught a sickness bug in the middle of the week. We also had to send everyone off with the tide on the Tuesday due to the now infamous power cut so lost half a day. The teams packed an average of 295 objects a day, which worked out at about 1 a minute, which is a fair old pace when dealing with historic and sometimes fragile objects. In doing so we got through almost a square kilometre of bubble wrap, and about 100 square metres of tissue paper. The following week one of the removals team clocked up over 60 miles on his pedometer - most of that was up and down the Castle ramp!

All of this effort is of course not just for fun, or to get some slightly eerie photos of empty rooms (something we are all now guilty of). We needed to clear everything out to make way for our main contractor, Datim Building Contractors based in Cramlington. We will be formally handing the place over to them on the 28th November which means from then until the end of the work, the Castle will be their building - and even I will have to sign in! Those of you on the Island will soon hear from Datim and us about the immediate priorities of the work, particularly the scaffolding which is going up in the next couple of weeks, and over the next few months you will probably get used to seeing their vans and the workers around the place. The Castle is in good hands, and the site managers are very keen to meet as many folk on the Island as possible and make sure everyone knows what is going on when, especially where deliveries through the village are concerned.

We are now in the flat above the shop in Elm House so you know where to find myself, Steve and Daniel if you need us! Downstairs Mel and Biddy have the shop open in the run up to Christmas and of course there are bits and bobs to whet your festive appetites. Festive food and decorations are a staple of the stock at this time of year and I hear there is 20% off on diaries and calendars for 2017 (that's the mother-in-law's present sorted).

As always if you have any questions about what is going please do get in touch and if I don't know the answer, I'll ask the contractors. In fact, if you are in the village, feel free to pop in to the new office above the shop and I'll stick the kettle on; don't worry, we have a spare.

Lindisfarne Castle // @NTLindisfarne // 01289 389903


Golden Plovers are birds which really live up to their name provided, of course, that it's a sunny day."

Then the mottled ochre and brown and white patterning of their backs and heads can really glow in the bright light, showing off this plump and very attractive member of the wader family to best advantage. There are certainly plenty of them around to admire this winter.

Recently, while leading a bird-watching group along the shore from Jenny Bell's Well we noticed a broad band of deep gold stretching out on the sands towards the poles of the Pilgrims' Way.

As we got closer and set up our telescopes and focussed binoculars, we found that this was nothing more than a wonderfully bright optical illusion. It was created by the massed ranks of over 5,000 resting birds. They were so closely packed that they hid the ground. They were also filling the air with their low, melodic trilling chorus.

These stocky and short-billed birds were at rest. As we moved closer, we could see their large eyes, typical of so many waders and one of nature's adaption to allow them to feed at night or in low light conditions.

Although Golden Plovers breed in small numbers across our uplands they are much more common and obvious, like this huge flock, as autumn and winter visitors from the far north and east.

A group of Golden Plover at rest on the sands - Mike S Hodgson

While they are with us, they typically gather on pastures off the lonnens often feeding with Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls and Starlings, all attracted by the highly nutritious invertebrate life. At other times they congregate on the sands, like that huge gathering which created the golden illusion.

Golden Plovers typically move between feeding and roosting areas in large and tight, fast-flying flocks. In flight, they flicker from yellow-brown to white as they twist and turn into the light. On other occasions they stream high over the village in tight chevrons, often calling as they go. As they drop to settle, there is often that lovely far-carrying chorus as they jostle together.

Birds which breed on our higher moorlands are members of the southern race of Golden Plover. During the breeding season their faces, breasts and bellies are black giving them a striking appearance.

Over these uplands the male plovers rise high and display with rather mournful whistling cries designed to mark out territories and to impress the female hidden below.

The plovers nest in short heather or rough grass and many I've watched in the Simonsides and Cheviots seem to favour larger patches of cotton grass bogs. Like all waders, they produce four eggs and their young are able to run and feed within hours of hatching, a great safety adaption for vulnerable chicks at threat from a host of mammalian and flying predators.

That selection of cotton grass bogs is probably quite deliberate. It not only provides superb cover, but these soggy areas are also generally richer in insects on which the chicks are totally dependent in their early days. Later they'll learn how to detect and catch worms and other invertebrates.

The breeding season is short. Post-breeding flocks begin to form from late June and into July when small parties start streaming towards the coast. They are quickly joined from August by incoming parties of birds of the northern race from distant breeding grounds, particularly in Iceland and northern Scandinavia. Others arrive from northern Russia and from breeding grounds extending far eastwards across Siberia.

These northern birds make up the vast majority of our wintering flocks which are so prominent across the island the flats.

Newly-arrived northern adults are often still identifiable, having more extensive black markings than their British counterparts. But that breeding plumage quickly fades. Numbers continue to build up during and September and October when flocks of over 5,000 are often present.

Some of these migrants pause only to feed and rest before continuing on southwards while others settle to remain with us for the remainder of autumn and winter.

This newly arrived bird from the far north is moulting out
of its black breeding plumage Mike S Hodgson

Just occasionally these northern flocks hold some surprises. On their farthest eastern breeding grounds populations start to overlap with the American and Pacific races of Golden Plover. Individuals of those races, identifiable by plumage, occasionally occur locally, having been caught up in mass movements westwards.

By late February and March many of our wintering birds begin to develop their breeding plumage. This makes the northern birds once again easily identified by their more extensive and solid black markings.

They often linger well into April and even early May, presumably knowing that their Arctic breeding grounds could still be either frozen or under snow. At that stage our own small breeding populations are already nesting on the hills.

But that Arctic summer, while abundantly rich in food, is extremely short. Within three months many of them will be streaming south westwards again to enliven the island with their charming presence.


Autumn migration g a summer helping with the Shorebird Project, Alex has returned as a seasonal warden to help during winter - it was great to welcome her back.

Mhairi Maclauchlan
Reserve Warden, Beal Station,
Tel: 01289 381 470

ED: Mhairi's blog and facebook page can be found at and


Puffin catches the judge's eye to win Photographic Competition

A photo taken by a visitor to the Farne Islands has been chosen as the front cover image for next year's Northumberland Coast Visitor Guide.

Chris Orange from Surrey snapped a shot of the Puffin with its eyes closed during the summer. The image was chosen as the winner of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership's photographic competition and will feature on the cover of fifty thousand visitor guides in 2017.

Chris said "This photo was taken whilst on Staple Island, during the summer of 2016. After several hours in different locations watching the puffins as they continually flew on and off the Island to catch fish, I began to get into the rhythm of photographing their activity, which was a pleasure to witness. As I photographed this particular puffin I took a couple of frames, and noticed that on the second shot his eyes had closed in the same split second that I closed the shutter on my camera. I did wonder if he was winking at me! A really wonderful moment to capture".

"I am thrilled that my photograph of the 'Puffin with his eyes closed' has won the Northumberland AONB photography competition, and it will be an honour to see it on the front cover of the 2017/18 visitor guide. Northumberland has always been a very special place to me, both for its beauty and its fantastic heritage".

The image was chosen as the winner of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership's photographic competition by judges Cllr John Woodman, Ken Stait and Jane Coltman. As well as featuring on the front cover of the 2017 Visitor Guide, Chris will also receive a 150 voucher for Stait Photo in Morpeth.

Explaining why the image caught his eye Cllr Woodman, Chair of the AONB Partnership said "I've always thought the sand eel is the secret ingredient powering the bird and seal life of the Farnes, which in turn embody the AONB. So I'm pleased our choice of cover picture next year shows that the puffins agree."

Ken Stait who runs Stait Photo in Morpeth and Hexham sponsored the competition and was also a judge said "It was, as ever, great fun to go on a photographic tour of the Northumberland Coast with the standard of this year's entries especially high. We all felt that the shot of the Puffin captured the essence of the AONB and was a worthy winner".

Jane Coltman, image manager at Johnston Press said "Yet again I am amazed by the standard of the entries; it gets better every year. I am delighted to have been able to judge the competition again".

The Northumberland Coast Visitor Guide provides information to visitors about the landscape, history, wildlife and villages of the coast as well lots of things for visitors to do and see during their stay. The guide will be published next April. Businesses wishing to advertise in the guide should contact Mike Jones at Command Print on 01665 713899 or email

The judges also chose a runner-up and two highly commended entries:

Highly commended - Bamburgh Castle at Sunset by Alan Leightley from Seahouses, Northumberland and

Bamburgh Castle in Flower by Elaine Holden from Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne

Runner-up - Haybales, taken immediately north of Dunstanburgh Castle by Bob Fogerty from Pegswood, Northumberland

Catherine Gray [].


Myths and legends of Northumberland

We've had some fantastic feedback from the folks that came along to the Peregrini Lindisfarne storytelling evening at the end of last month. So much so, we hope to invite Malcolm Green, collector of local folklore and expert entertainer back to regale us in the New Year!

Over the course of a captivating hour and a half, Malcolm related two stories from Holy Island, Bamburgh and Budle Bay, as well as a handful from the wider region. He also gave a fascinating introduction to his craft of storytelling. Northumberland is blessed in having such a rich heritage of legends and myth and Malcolm explained this wealth of folklore is a result of Northumbria being a 'liminal' place - a border county, bounded by dramatic coastline and scenery, the Tyne and the Tweed.

One of the audience emailed "A quick note to say thank you for organising the storytelling event with Malcolm Green. In this digital age where everyone is connected and information is delivered in sound bites it was refreshing to take time out and enjoy the tales of another age presented by a master in storytelling. It was no problem for Malcolm to keep everyone's attention while Childe Wynd sailed back to Denmark, built another ship in Rowan wood and returned to give the Dark Queen her Comeuppance!"

National storytelling week is at the end of January and start of February. Look out for another Peregrini Lindisfarne event with Malcolm and the opportunity to delve into the myths and legends of North Northumberland. Keep in touch by visiting our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @PeregriniLLP. And to find out more about Malcolm Green, please visit and

Sarah Winlow []


One of the many joys of moving to Holy Island has been to experience the abundant and varied bird life that the island attracts. In the short time we have been here we have experienced migrants from many parts of the world who have made Holy Island a resting place as they journey on. A few days or even hours have been enough to bring refreshment and re-creation before they depart once more on their journey.

This led me to reflect on the abundant and varied guests that have passed through the Island and the Open Gate thus providing a parallel with the natural life of the island. Why do so many people come here?

Many I'm sure are attracted to the natural beauty of the island, its history and its culture. But there are others, who like the birds, are needing a rest and an opportunity to re-create spiritually, physically and emotionally on their own journey through life.

We live busy lives but as one retreatant said recently, 'time on Holy Island makes you stop and assess your life; just seeing the starlings coming into roost made me realise that we all need to stop, look and rest'.

How often do we take so much for granted? The things that we see every day such as sparrows and starlings can become no more than life's wallpaper unless we take the time to stop, look and reflect. As individuals, we see things through different eyes; for example, a tree is a tree but we all see something in the tree that has a significance to where we are on our journeys.

When we look at an object we can often see no more than the object itself; sometimes we need to look beyond and winter can give us that opportunity. In summer when we look at a tree we cannot see beyond its foliage. But as the leaves fall off what lies beyond the tree is revealed to us.

As the waiting time of advent reveals the joy of Christmas we are called to look through the bare branches of 2016 and catch a glimpse what 2017 might bring. Whatever it brings it will be different for each of us; the one constant will be the beauty of this island and its abundant and varied bird life from which there are many lessons for us to learn. Even sparrows have their story to tell...

Kevin Downham
Joint Warden The Open Gate

NEWS FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

Santa Specials are running at Heatherslaw Railway on 10th, 11th, 17th & 18th subject to repair work being carried out on track following recent flooding. But they are all booked in advance.

Attractions are expected to be open during February half term (subject to weather) and expect more programme information in the February edition.

Best wishes for a happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.



Now I temporarily reside on the mainland land I lead more church services in the surrounding area.
After leading a service at Wooler I stayed on for a hotel pensioners lunch and chatted with nonogenarian John Hope. He lived as a toddler at the Snook. He told me about the Stake Nets (fixed to what many now call the Pilgrim Posts) where they caught salmon.
I also read a Sunday newspaper. Stewart Lee's article in The Observor referred to Lindisfarne:
'We are entering a second dark age, but the light that flickers on the screens of our iPhones, from a five second clip of a dog sliding on some ice, is blinding us to the encroaching blackness. Our civilisation teeters at the abyss. We are 8th-century Lindisfarne monks, spotting black Viking sails on the horizon and hurrying to hide our illuminated manuscripts, before shaving our hair into tonsures to look less desirable to frustrated seafarers. But barbarians come in many guises ...'
I joined members of The Community of Aidan and Hilda at Whitby for a retreat led by Graham and Ruth Booth. They asked 'What can we do in the face of modern barbarians?' People renewed their vows to our Way of Life and Sue skyped from Geelong , Down Under, as she took her first vows (Voyage) there.
In Queensland some Aboriginal friends painted cultural emblems in the trees of a Community member, next to a guide post with 'Lindisfarne' painted on it.

Ray Simpson
Founding Guardian,
The International Community of Aidan and Hilda

FROM THE VICARAGE Revd Dr Paul Collins

As I write this, the month of December is approaching fast with all the expectation of Christmas. It is a time which brings all kinds of different emotions to the fore: memories from a past long gone, or more recent events of the year just ending; and hopes and fears perhaps for what is to come.

The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany hold out to us the possibility of a renewed sense of hope: and it is this renewal of hope that we celebrate in the different times of worship across these seasons. The first of these will be the Christingle Service at 4pm on Sunday 11th December (with Christingle making from 2.00pm on the day in the Vicarage ). The School Nativity Performance will be held in Church on Monday 12th December at 6pm. The Christmas Carol Service will be at 5.30pm on Thursday 22nd December. The 'Midnight Communion' for Christmas will begin at 11.30pm on Saturday 24th, and there will be 8am Holy Communion (BCP) on Sunday 25th and a Family Service and followed by a shortened Communion service at 10.45am. (Please note that the tide is closed for these last two services).

The feast of Christmas tells us what Christianity is truly all about: it is not a list of ideas to be believed, nor a list of rules to be kept: but it is about 'the Word made flesh': about a person: the person Jesus of Nazareth. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of that person: a new life; a life given; a gift - which hopefully like all the gifts we will give and receive - expresses love. Here are words of Christina Rossetti - sometimes sung as a carol - which put this before us:

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Paul Collins
The Vicarage, Holy Island
Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 2RX
Tel. 01289 389 216

Sunday 4th December: The Parish Eucharist 10.45am - visit of Bishop Christine of Newcastle
Sunday 11th December: Christingle Service at 4pm
Monday 12th December: School Christmas Performance at 5pm
Saturday 17th December: "Journey of the Magi" (see below)
Thursday 22nd December: Service of 9 Lessons and Carols at 5.30pm
Saturday 24th December: Christmas Midnight Eucharist at 11.30pm
Sunday 25th December: 8am Holy Communion (BCP)
10.45am Family Service & Holy Communion

Saturday 17th December

11.30am in the Crossman Hall

Holy Island

Tickets available from the Vicarage
(Tel. 01289 389 216)

6 per adult // 4 per child
Family Ticket 2 Adults and up to 4 children 18

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT Revd Canon Kate Tristram


Some jokes really are a bit primitive.  Take the classic scene of a man - and it usually is a man - well-dressed, confident, a little pompous even, walking, or one might say strutting along the road... and he steps on a banana skin and ends up in the mud.  And everyone roars with laughter.  At least, we adults don't, because of course we are far too sophisticated to laugh openly at anyone's fall. Children can laugh because they don't yet know enough of the tragedy of life.

Why, today, this mental picture of an undignified slither and fall?  Because, in a modern poem about the meaning of Christmas, I found these words:

"It is rumoured that thrones will be upended and every Caesar stands on a banana skin."

Every Caesar, every emperor, every human power stands on a banana skin.  The thought echoes that of the Virgin Mary in the poem known as the Magnificat: "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly".  But this is just so hard for us really to believe.  Our news bulletins bombard us with stories of the strong and the rich.  Money and power, power and money.  Does President- elect Trump stand on a banana skin?  I think we can see that he might.  Does President Putin stand on a banana skin?  Well, history will tell us.

But historians, archaeologists, poets, are fascinated by the way huge empires of the past have gone with hardly a trace.  The poet Shelley writes of the discovery in the desert of three broken bits of a huge sculpture: a head and two legs. An inscription read:   "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!"

Had you ever heard of Ozymandias?  Nor had I, until I read that poem.  He was a big power in his day, obviously, and a nasty one.  We don't know what happened to him, but clearly his statue had stepped on a banana skin, and now "the lone and level sands stretch far away".  Sic transit gloria mundi.w Worth thinking about!

ED: w literal: "Thus passes the glory of the world." or "Worldly things are fleeting."