• A bit from me...
  • A farewell to Mr Stafford
  • Repairing the Chancel of St Mary's Church
  • The Holy Island of Lindisfarne Community Development Trust
  • Crossman Hall
  • Lindisfarne Castle
  • Summer? It's already autumn for the birds
  • Peregrini Lindisfarne landscape partnership
  • AONB Partnership
  • From our United Reformed Church minister
  • From the Vicarage
  • Holy Island Festival - programme
  • Pause for thought

Excavations on the Heugh - June 2017
(Photo: Thelma Dunne)

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear *|MMERGE3|* ,

Welcome to our latest issue of 'SitEzine'.

As I write it is a wet June day. At breakfast this morning the Visit England inspector remarked, "it only takes a few days of rain and all those weeks of experiencing the most blazing temperatures since 1970 will be forgotten". I wonder if it is just us Brits who enjoy a grumble. It's either too hot, too cold, to dry or too wet - never just right...

A caution if you are planning to visit the island: please be aware that little seems to have been done to improve sand obscuration of road markings on the causeway nor potholes. Do take care if you are using this, our only access road, particularly if the tide has only just opened.

And some news : whilst the UK election results on Thursday 8th June might be construed as just 'interesting ', historians are absolutely agape after, continuing on from last year's dig, Richard Carlton of "Archaeological Practice" and their '2017 team' appear to have literally unearthed what could turn out to be the sandstone foundations of Aidan's original church atop the Heugh. Our newsletter includes articles covering this 'find' by David Suggett and Jessica Turner.

In addition to David and Jessica, this month we are also pleased to present articles from Rachel P, David O, Ian K, Nick L, Paul C. Unfortunately, we still await 'Natural England' appointing a new warden to replace Mhairi.

Finally, readers who have been with us over the years will remember (!), we give our authors a month off and will not be publishing until the end of August. Meanwhile, we hope that you enjoy our newsletter and look forward to getting in touch in September.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

ED: Thank you to 'Islander' Thelma Dunne who sent in pictures of the excavations taking place on the Heugh. And congratulations to great granddaughter, Olivia Rose Mann, who was christened at St.Mary's by Rev.Dr Collins. Although parents,  Grandparents,  Godparents, Great Grandparents and guests were present, Olivia was definitely the star of the show. And well behaved too!


We were all very sad to learn that our school teacher Mr Stafford had decided that it was time to move on from Holy Island. We will all miss his calm and genial presence, in school, in the village and at church.

Over the past three years we have very much enjoyed his company and his contributions to the life of village - enabling the learning of the school children and serving on the Development Trust and Church Council. Thank you for all that you have done to enrich our community's life.

We wish you Nick, and Erne, Luke and Lilly all the very best in your new life in Northern Ireland.

ED: From us all!!


For the next 4 to 6 weeks the chancel of St Mary's will be being repaired. The cement mortar will be removed and replaced with lime mortar which allows the walls to breathe and conserves the stonework much better.

During the repairs the interior of chancel will not be accessible to the public and will not be used by congregations in worship. We are required by our insurers to do this, to avoid any risks.

Donations to support the conservation of the ancient stonework of St Mary's are very welcome and can be made in the donation boxes in the church or by contacting the Vicar or PCC Treasurer.



The Holy Island of Lindisfarne Community Development Trust are delighted to announce that the "Lifeboat House" is nearing completion and now open. We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for project funding and particularly to the archive group for their research into the island's proud lifeboat heritage.


I am out of the country at the moment and expect to be back shortly to help arrange the formal opening of the new hall, by arrangement, early in August.

Sorry to be brief.

David -


It's taken until now for me to be able to write this monthly article and not have any need to refer to scaffolding being built. That either means I am getting boring or there has been rather a lot of it to talk about. We have reached a point now where there is a period of calm in terms of the scaffolding and attention can turn to what is actually being done inside.

Now that the temporary roof is up the joiners and roofing contractors have being stripping lead and constructing the new roof levels designed by the architects. This reconfiguration of the roof at the Castle will see water moved away from the building in a totally different way than previously. Given that the roof of the building isn't one of the most recognisable features at Lindisfarne I don't suppose it will be something people really notice, but I think it will be interesting perhaps in a future edition of this newsletter to post a 'before' and 'after' photo of the roof - particularly the central area - to show the changes that have been made. As I mentioned last month all that will be noticeable to visitors will be the introduction of three new downpipes on the Upper Battery, and a new spitter on the west side of the Upper Battery's southern buttress. This spitter is the only major new introduction we are making to the Castle fabric which has required Listed Building Consent. It is being modelled on the existing spitters or spouts around the building and will take water which falls on the Upper Gallery roof (near the flagpole) and runs under the Upper Battery surface.

Stone replacement works have continued around the building and where previously this had mainly be limited to window work paving the way for the glaziers to fit refurbished panels, we have recently seen more elaborate work undertaken. A large lintel above one of the Long Gallery's windows has been installed replacing the old one which has been ravaged by water and wind damage. The old stone is being reused in repairs elsewhere in the Castle. Other replacements have been installed in the gatehouse buttress above the front door so will be noticeable to visitors, but the stone will of course weather quickly so it won't be long before they look like the others.

The large tracery windows on the north side have been worked on by the glaziers but issues have come up regarding the tracery itself - the elaborate decorative stone work at the head of the arches. The main rectangular leaded panels which make up the bulk of the window have been successfully removed to be taken away and refurbished, but the more detailed stonework was found to be in very poor condition, and any attempted to remove the glass would result in the stone being lost. We are looking at options for how best to repair these windows and it may mean some of the stone work has to be replaced with new pieces of tracery. Ideally we want to retain as much of the original material as possible, but where this impacts on the main aims of the work then we may need to look at new stone tracery.

Best wishes
Lindisfarne Castle @NTLindisfarne
01289 389244 (press 1, then 1903)


It's high summer as far as we are concerned with the island at its busiest. But it's already autumn for many of our visiting birds, particularly for thousands of waders. 

While this edition is appearing at the height of our summer season and probably before many of us have had their main holiday, it's very different for these birds.

As far as they are concerned summer is over and migration is in full swing. I always watch my first returning northern waders during mid-July. That's when high Arctic breeders such as Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot and Northern Golden Plovers suddenly begin to appear.

It often provides a very short period to enjoy them while they're still at their finest in breeding plumage. Godwits and Knots appear in glorious shades of dark red and orange while the Golden Plovers are still resplendent in glossy black, gold and white. All will quickly moult into more sober winter browns and greys.

Many of these early waders are failed breeders which lost eggs or young. There is nothing to keep them on the tundra of Iceland, northern Scandinavia and Russia and they immediately move out. They are strong and fast flyers and can reach us within days. When they arrive they mingle with our British breeding waders, including growing parties of Curlews and Lapwings around the island's meadows.

They aren't the only birds on the move. Across on the Farne Islands, many breeding seabirds, including Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills, have departed. As soon as their young can get into their true element, the open sea, they desert the breeding burrows and cliffs for another year.

Smaller species, particularly among our summering warblers, have fledged young and are drifting down the east coast, the first stages of migration to traditional wintering areas of Africa or around the Mediterranean. The smaller species include many Willow Warblers and Sedge Warblers. The peak movements of Sedge Warblers, those very noisy little inhabitants of reedbeds and wetlands, are usually in late July and early August.

All of this activity lends credence to an old saying: "The birdwatcher's autumn begins on August 1st."

It really does. From now on when I'm not concentrating on ringing the island's second broods of Swallows, my mind is certainly going to be on autumn migration, always the most exciting period of the year. The island is wonderful places to be at any time but as far as birders are concerned, particularly during autumn migration.

Year after year, because of its position thrusting out into the North Sea, it manages to attract many of the species sought by more dedicated birders.

With an incredible 336 species on the island's bird list, there's always the hope that other new and spectacularly rare birds will turn up. Last autumn was a prime example with four new species, all incredibly rare eastern visitors, being added to that list, three of them within a couple of days.

Raptors were represented by an elegant young Pallid Harrier which hunted low over the fields towards between the Castle and the Crooked Lonnen. It was only the second ever found in Northumberland.

By an amazing coincidence, two other newcomers were named after the same Spanish queen, Isabella of Castile (1451-1504). The Isabelline Wheatear, a large and pale desert-dwelling cousin of our own familiar upland Wheatears, was on the North Shore. It provided the second county record. An Isabelline Shrike, in the willow patch west of Snook House, was only the fourth for Northumberland.

Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand are in the history books for despatching Christopher Columbus to search for a new sea route to India. He failed in that and instead found America. There's also a bizarre legend involving Isabella, a very pious lady. She vowed that she wouldn't change her under-garments until the last Moors and Jews were either driven out of Spain or forced to convert to Christianity. As that no doubt took a considerable time, it's probably just as well that history doesn't dwell on the outcome.

As if these species weren't enough, another mega-rarity occurred. Siberian Accentors, close relatives of the Dunnocks most of us see in our gardens, are normally sedentary and had never been recorded in Britain.

Last October for unknown reasons, Accentors sudden began to wander and an influx occurred into northern Europe. One turned up in Shetland, causing great excitement. Others quickly followed in East Yorkshire, Cleveland and closer to home, in the unlikely setting of a derelict dockyard at Sunderland. The Holy Island bird was discovered a few days later on a path through the dunes, the first for the county and only the fifth for Britain.

Pallas's Warbler: this tiny brightly striped species is a very rare visitor from Siberia.
Photograph: Andy Mould

It was the climax of an incredible autumn for birdwatching in general and on the island in particular. The presence of the accentor tended to overshadow a host of other rarities on the island which made it the best autumn on record.

The others included another Siberian super-rarity, a White's Thrush, only the third ever found in county. It turned up in Robert's willow patch in the Straight Lonnen 102 years after the county's first was found, naturally enough on the island.

The autumn was also marked by the presence on the island of other Siberian and eastern species, all rare but not quite in same super league.

These included record influxes of dainty Red-breasted Flycatchers and of tiny and striped Pallas's Warblers, named after a German zoologist and explorer who first identified them in Siberia in the 18th Century.

Of course, every autumn is different. It's difficult to think that this one could possibly be as good as 2016. But you never know. That's what makes birding so fascinating.


Peregrini Heritage Festival shines bright

Our festival over the weekend of the 17th and 18th June was bathed in sunshine and shone the spotlight on a number of Peregrini activities. Around 3000 people visited us over the course of the weekend and got to try their hand at a range of heritage skills including candle making, wool spinning, pot making and willow weaving. The Immersive Northumbrian Landscapes art exhibition was a huge draw with the volunteer led art project bringing in over 400 people. Also creating a buzz was the community archaeology dig on Lindisfarne Heugh which continued the excavation of what is thought to be an early Medieval church site.

Richard Carlton from the Archaeological Practice said: "Excavation on a number of sites on the Heugh, known from earthworks and previous exploratory archaeological work, began on 12th June and will continue until the end of the month. The focus of investigations is on a site just west of 'the beacon' where the substantial foundations of a large rectangular building have been unearthed. The foundations consist of large stone flags set on the natural boulder clay, defining a rough rectangle approximately 16 metres long and seven metres wide, with the east end more roughly constructed and slightly stepped-in to form a distinct component which is best interpreted as the chancel of an early chapel or church. The construction of the chancel against a partially robbed-out wall between chancel and nave suggests that the chancel may have been a later addition. Other features of the building include a doorway in the north part of the west wall and another at the west end of the south wall, with remains of an external flagged floor. Apart from some crudely dressed window surrounds, including arched lintels, few artefacts have yet been found to elucidate the dating or phasing of the structure, but all suggestions are that it is very early, certainly pre-Conquest in origin. Work will continue here, as well as on three more sites on the Heugh, until the end of June in order to uncover more evidence to elucidate the origin and function of these interesting and potentially very important sites."

We only have 6 months left before the end of the project so anyone wishing to be involved can contact David at For a full list of our events please visit our website 


Is this St Aidan's first church on Holy Island?

The remote and beautiful Holy Island of Lindisfarne holds a special place in history. Known as the 'Cradle of Christianity' in the North East, it was here that St Aidan established a monastery in AD635 and set out to convert the pagan Northumbrians. The monastery developed into an international centre of learning and craftsmanship and it was during this Golden Age of Northumbria that exquisite items such as the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced. All this came to a crashing end with the arrival of the Vikings in the late 8th Century.

Archaeologists working for the National Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Community Archaeology project  have made exciting new discoveries which may well have turned a long held belief about Holy Island on its head.

Many in academic and ecclesiastical circles have long maintained that the close linear arrangement of the the Parish Church of St Mary's with the Priory church is evidence of the original locations of the two Anglo-Saxon churches on Holy Island. This close linear relation is evidenced at other early Northumbrian monasteries such as Hexham and Jarrow.

The Venerable Bede, writing in c.731, records that St Aidan arrived in Northumbria from St. Columba's monastery on Iona in 635AD at the request of King Oswald and was gifted the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to establish his own monastery. The parallels between the islands of Iona and Lindisfarne are remarkable and it is easy to understand how this was a suitable location for Aidan to evangelise and convert the Northumbrians, especially given the close visual relationship between the island and the royal court of Oswald at Bamburgh. Contemporary historical sources refer to at least two churches on Lindisfarne, a small timber one built by Aidan and later one built by Finan which was dedicated to St. Peter.

Until this summer the assumption has been that the original Anglo-Saxon churches stood down in the shelter a high rocky ridge known as of the Heugh in the area now occupied by the Parish Church and the Priory. But excavations during the last four weeks up on the Heugh suggest a very different configuration. The excavation has revealed the stone foundations of a small rectangular building with a chancel type configuration at the east end.

The  crude and unmortared walls, very simple window arches and positioning of a possible alter stone all suggest an an early date  which has led to speculation that this is a church building which could date from the 7th century.

Richard Carlton, the director of The Archaeological Practice running the community archaeology dig on behalf of the Peregrini Lindisfarne HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme said "This second  year of investigation on the Heugh has exceeded all my expectation. And with work still to be done to revisit the watch tower structure identified last year and work in the Lantern Chapel building there is potential for the Heugh to yield more of it's secrets". Excavations last year further west on the Heugh revealed a massive foundation wall that archaeologist are now speculating is a foundation for a 'watch tower'. The Venerable Bede, in his 'Life of St. Cuthbert', made reference to a signal from Inner Farne being seen from the watch tower on Holy Island to mark the death of St Cuthbert.

Sara Rushton, the Conservation Manager at Northumberland County Council said "This latest discovery of a potential church building on the Heugh cements Holy Island as one of the most significant early medieval sites in Britain. It is incredible to think that we have uncovered two very significant buildings associated with the early Christian foundation of the priory that  provide tangible links to both St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert".

The monastic tradition on Iona, where Aidan came from, was much more dispersed than the patterns that developed at Hexham and Jarrow. The Irish monastic tradition was for small chapels and 'turas' type buildings defining the monastic precinct. The scatter configuration of buildings on Heugh certainly seems to have parallels with Iona where there were at least six chapels and this new discovery could be one of a number of chapels within the monastic complex. In addition the close visual relation between the buildings on the Heugh and the castle at Bamburgh, which the priory does not have, is significant and supports the early date.

The Peregrini Lindisfarne project is a Landscape Partnership Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) thanks to National Lottery players and has been developed to conserve, enhance and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of Holy Island and the wider shoreside landscape.

Cllr John Riddle, portfolio holder for Planning who host the Peregrini Lindisfarne HLF project commented that "Community participation is at the heart of the Peregrini project and this Community Archaeology has been a brilliant opportunity for people to get hands-on experience of absolutely fantastic archaeology which illustrates how wonderful the cultural heritage of our beautiful county is".

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: "The North East is full of incredible heritage and this find shows that there is still so many stories left to discover. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we're delighted to support this project which is putting communities at the heart of celebrating the history of their landscape and creating strong partnerships to ensure its bright future."

Jessica Turner
Tel. 01670 622648
07970 018214


Regularly at St Cuthbert's we pray for "all who are on this Island this day, for those who are visiting, for those who are on holiday, for those who are on a spiritual journey, for those who are working, and for those who are getting on with their day to day lives".  I hope that covers all the bases of who is inhabiting this space on any one day, but the prayer also illustrates the different threads of community here - sometimes they are intertwined, sometimes they do not connect at all.

I am struck by the focus of those who are here on a spiritual journey.  From the moment they reach the causeway they travel with hope and expectation of encountering something luminous and hopeful.  The way they engage with the landscape, and often, with the various acts of Christian worship on the Island, reveals a desire to find stillness and truths that can be elusive in the rush of their day to day lives.

The experience of living and working here is very different to that of those who we welcome as visitors, but maybe in the midst of the rush of life there is something to learn about moments of focus, however fleeting they are.  How often we do stop to fully appreciate those things we take for granted as we hurry on to the next job ?   Our landscape, the people around us, simple everyday joys are all gifts of life with which we are blessed, and absorbing their riches can enrich us when life is demanding or rough.

Rev Rachel Poolman
St Cuthbert's Centre

FROM THE VICARAGE Revd Dr Paul Collins

Our island has inspired many to write and paint in our own times and indeed to create the Lindisfarne Gospels those many centuries ago.

The Holy Island Festival seeks to celebrate that inspiration particularly in music and performance. This year the Festival will run over 3 weekends beginning on 30th June and finishing on 16th July. For those with an island address the ticketed concerts are available - two for the price of one: or if you just wanted one ticket - then of course price. Tickets are available to purchase beforehand at the Vicarage or at the concerts themselves.

For the two ticketed concerts on the final weekend the Festival organisers have commissioned the artists: Christian Forshaw and Kathryn Tickell to write new pieces which celebrate Holy Island. Those pieces will be given their premiere at these concerts.

Atop St Mary's
Together with Paul checking out progress on the chancel refurbishment Simon Lillywhite (left: from Purcell's the architect's practice) and Jacob Ward (right: one of the conservation men)

Christian is working with a special text which celebrates the island called 'The Lindisfarne Benedicite'.

O angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
O Gabriel and Michael and all the hosts of heaven,
O blessed maiden and mother, Mary to whom our church is dedicated, bless the Lord
O Aidan and Cuthbert and all the saints of this island,
O followers of Jesus who here have sung praises to God, through many generations, bless the Lord,
O souls of the faithful who rest in Jesus,
O kindly folk of this place, bless the Lord
O sheep and lambs that jump in the fields,
O fish and seals that glisten in the waters, bless the Lord
O sea creatures that navigate the seas,
O ducks and terns that fill the beaches with your song, bless the Lord,
O flowers that gem the earth with colour,
O piled rocks, fashioned by nature's might through countless ages, bless the Lord,
O sand and shingle, O shallows, and blue deeps of ocean, bless the Lord,
O winds and cloud, O all the works of the Lord, bless the Lord. 

           After the Iona Benedicite

A printed full schedule of the Festival events will be available..

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

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