• A bit from me...
  • Crossman Hall
  • Tooth fairies hit Holy Island in disguise...
  • Lindisfarne Castle
  • Not-so-friendly robins fight it out
  • The Archaeology of Holy Island
  • Willow sculptures for the Lindisfarne nature trail
  • News from Ford & Etal
  • From our United Reformed Church minister
  • From the Vicarage

St. Mary's Church
'Dressed for an Exhibition?'

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear *|MMERGE3|* ,

Welcome to our October issue of 'SitEzine' - particularly if you one of our new subscribers this month.

'Dogitor' (Toby)

For obvious reasons when the tide has closed the causeway and with a pocket full of appropriate receptacles (!) the 'Dogitor's' first walk takes in the island's car park. Even with the approach of October there have been surprisingly few opportunities to stretch his legs before the scrunch of tyres over gravel and potholes announces the arrival of the first visitor-of-the-day. As we make our way homeward, via the doggy-bin, the parking rows are beginning to fill and passing us is a copious flow of workers cars continuing on into the village to open the island businesses. Close on their heels is the low note throbbing and hot smell of diesel engines as visitor coaches begin to land in the centre of the village. But returning to the main car park and Dogitor (who has had barely 6-months to experience anything!), we do notice a seemingly increase in friendly doggy-visitors and the, hopefully, responsible owners they bring with them. 

Perhaps some of you will have visited St.Mary's this week and been puzzled by the wallpaper 'artwork' pasted and bedecking our pillars and pews. With the vicar away on holiday - so are we! If you have any thoughts on what it might represent please write in and I'll pass your comments on.

I am particularly looking forward to seeing the presentation by the archaeologists who have been digging up our island during the summer. It begins at 7pm on Wednesday15th November and entry is free! Perhaps of wider appeal might be the seasonal 'Pop-Up' markets in October and the Christmas-themed one in November. Very, very well done, David, on developing the use of our new village hall both in the community and for commerce.

Thank you to all who have given their time in contributing to this month's newsletter.

We hope you enjoy the fruit of our work and look forward to writing for you again in October.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

Dear Editor,

How very sorry I was to learn about Lady Rose.  I met her on several occasions when I was a member of the kneeler group and was very impressed by her quiet and modest demeanour but obvious indomitable spirit.  She will be much missed.

My deepest sympathy to her family.

Lesley J

ED: Thank you for your kind words of condolence to her family. Lady Rose was very much respected and loved within our community with countless selfless acts of help and support. And even just to sit with her in the choir stalls one could sense the presence of a very deep and private person - a Lady in every respect.

Hi Geoff,

Thanks for the newsletter - really informative as per usual.

My wife and I are looking forward to our next visit in mid-October. We first visited the Holy Island in April last year and we now drive up from London twice a year as part of our "Northern pilgrimage" taking in lots of cathedrals and historical sites as well as the beauty of Northumberland and the Border Counties.

The absolute highlight of our last visit in early June was very unexpected. We were standing outside St Mary's Church priory listening to the seals barking across the tidal flats from the sand bars which was mesmerizing.

We can't wait to visit again - it really is a very special place and we're really appreciative of your updates.

Keep up the great work and all the best.
John & Jeanette B (Cheam - Surrey)

ED: Hello John & Jeanette - have a safe journey. We had been 'invaded' by common seals for a few years before their ousting by these grey seals. The commons just as loud but more sparsely populated. But those 'sandbars' are much higher than they look and perhaps because of more recent memories of mans interaction, the seeming sparseness might be because they backed out of sight of humans...

Dear Geoff

I have found the resume of your e-mail magazine most informative and thank you very much indeed with keeping people like myself in touch with events.

I have been in closely in touch with Holy Island from early 1960's when I was engaged with the T.A. who spent a series of 'Camps' on the island in the extension of the pier.  This was involved in anticipation of the present Queen Elisabeth and Prince Philip being on the lsland and the extension of the pier was built especially for the use of the Royal Party.

I have had a holiday cottage at Seahouses since 1957 and came to live there permanently after 1985. I find it most interesting in all the happenings on the Island and find the information that you and your other contributors provide very worthwhile.

Ted S (Seahouses - Northumberland)

ED: Hello Neighbour! Compared to Holy Island you will have seen a huge number of changes in Seahouses and North Sunderland - the influences on the local population and community perhaps of major significance. Visitors tend to think of Seahouses as our northern version 'Blackpool' but we remember our first local butcher who visited from Seahouses - several years before being put out of business by the Coop - we transferred to Bamburgh Bangers'.


August ended on a sad note with the death of Lady Rose. Following her interment, a celebration of her life was held in the hall where friends and family gather. Light refreshments were served and a great mix of her friends enjoyed exchanging memories.

The commemoration was attended by the great and the good including local fishermen, lifeboat crews, the farming community and a significant number of family and friends from the south.

10.30 Tuesday 24th October

Coffee Morning

Cake Stall , Tombola, Bric-a-brac , Raffle etc.
Any contributions or help on the day very welcome.

In aid of Berwick & District Cancer Care Group
Please support this essential charity which provides free travel to all the regional hospitals. All run by volunteers.

The Twins: Christopher & James Fortieth Birthday Party was a huge success and well catered for by the Family. It was so good to see the community together celebrating a happy event with dancing and the odd drink going on until the wee small hours.

Reference Pilates & Yoga; a lot of interest has been shown and I have e-mailed Julia Waters requesting more information.

REMINDER: Please don't forget the Coffee Morning on Tuesday 24 October in aid of Berwick & District Support Group who provide private car transport to patients attending regular appointments at Oncology Departments on North Tyneside and the Borders.

David -


Tooth fairies hit Holy Island in disguise as a paramedic and a coastguard Team effort helps five-year-old Anya

A Gateshead family has been reunited with a paramedic and coastguard rescue officer, to say thank you, after their five-year-old daughter fell ill on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Anya Conway, aged five, was enjoying a summer holiday on the Island with her mum Nadia, dad Martin and brother Evan, when she lost a tooth and suddenly began to have a fit. 

Nadia, who is a senior paediatric nurse, noticed Anya's behaviour change and quickly moved her to the floor as she began to fit. When she didn't seem to recover fully after some time, she rang 999 for an emergency ambulance. Paul Douglas from HM Coastguard attended soon after to support the family. 

Holy Island is an island cut off from the main land twice a day by the tide, with a population of around 160 permanent residents with hundreds of thousands of visitors. At the time of Anya falling ill, the tide was in and there was no access to the island by road.

NEAS works closely with HM Coastguard to agree the best option for access to and from Holy Island in the event of an emergency. The RNLI assisted North East Ambulance Service clinical care manager, Chris Chalmers, and his colleague paramedic Martin Browell to the island.

Chris Chalmers who has been with the Trust for 13 years explains, "We received the call to Holy Island but were told the tide was in so were unable to cross the causeway.

"Once on scene, with help from the RNLI and Coastguard, Anya did not look to have fully recovered from the fit which is unusual. That's why we decided she needed to go to hospital. The Coastguard again assisted us back to land and we were able to take Anya to hospital by road ambulance.

"This was a great team effort during what must have been a very distressing time for the family."

Mum, Nadia explains, "I've been a nurse a long time but when it's your own daughter who's ill the situation was a bit more daunting.  We were in the local café at the time when Anya started to jerk and turn a bit blue.  She wasn't out for long but it's never happened before and it took some time for her to become fully responsive.  Paul was a great support and organised access for the ambulance service team to get to us as quickly as possible because there was no access by road.

"Once Chris and Martin arrived they too felt like Anya needed checking over to be sure nothing else was going on.  Having all of them there to help put me and the rest of my family at ease.  It's been great to meet the team that helped us again in better circumstances and thank them again."

Nadia is now hoping to encourage further training and support for the coastguard team during incidents they might attend to build upon their recent co-responder training delivered earlier in the year by NEAS.

Paul Douglas, Deputy Station Officer at HM Coastguard Holy Island said, "We're really pleased we could help to get Anya the care she needed that day. It's such a pleasure to be able to see them, now Anya is better. HM Coastguard and the North East Ambulance Service work very well and closely together to provide the best medical care to casualties on Holy Island and on the coast of the North East of England."

Ryan Douglas  
Senior Maritime Operations Officer (CGOC Humber)
Station Officer (Holy Island Coastguard Rescue Team)


As ever when we get into September there is the feeling that we are 'out the other side'. The temperature has dropped, the afternoons seem shorter and shops seem to be competing to be the first to annoy everyone by getting the Christmas gear out. I mentioned the link between the feeling of the particular time of year and the progress at the Castle last month so forgive my repetition of the device, but it is as appropriate this month as it was last.

'Out the other side' applies neatly to the work up at Beblowe at the moment, because as the major chunk of work on the east and south elevations nears completion, the focus moves to the north and west sides of the building. By comparison, the west 'elevation' of Lindisfarne is tiny; consisting only really of a few bits of the Upper Battery visible from the harbour. Of course this side bears the brunt of the prevailing weather, so is in need of particular care, as is the north side, on the left as you look at the building from the harbour. The full harl applied in the 1990s (to much discussion shall we say?) is in fairly decent condition as it should be - only being 20 years old. However the wall behind has deteriorated much like the other elevations and its core is in need of packing and pinning before the harl can be reapplied and, as I mentioned last month, lime-washed in tune with the rest of the building. To access this there is further scaffolding going up both on the north side and on the Upper Battery. The huge scaffold already on the north side is being extended westward by 5 bays while the construction on the Battery will go up and over the Upper Gallery to connect up to the north side. The vast tent covering the east roof will then be dismantled - along with the giant buttress on the south side which holds it up - and then reassembled over the north and west roof.

In July I talked about the introduction of a new spitter (or spout) on the south elevation overlooking the road up to the boat sheds. This has now been installed and will take rainwater from the Upper Gallery roof (by the flagpole) down onto the crag. This was carried out via a cantilevered scaffold from the Upper Battery weighed-down by two giant water tanks. The stonework itself was carried out by Hutton's at Berwick along with the St Astier masons onsite, and is an exact copy of the other spitters at the Castle. In fact one of the few surviving Lutyens drawings for Lindisfarne was of his spitter design - which is held at the V&A in London.

Inside the works have progress further with major strides being made in cleaning off impermeable paints from the walls. This process used a DOFF machine which is essentially a giant steam cleaner, although while the temperature is very high there is little pressure on the surface being cleaned and a low volume of water is used - which is handy when working on historic surfaces and in a building where retained water is a problem. The impermeable paint was mainly covering rubble walls but in places it had been put on ashlar blocks on window surrounds or on door and fireplace lintels. Removing this paint will restore some features from the original Lutyens scheme that have been lost over the years.

I am hoping to organise some hard hat visits to the Castle over the next couple of months for Island businesses and residents. Once I have the dates and times arranged I'll get them circulated, hopefully in next month's issue.

Best wishes

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


Everywhere I've been around the village in the past couple of weeks one sound has been constant: the rather sad autumn songs of Robins.

The song is particular noticeable at this time of year because, unlike spring, when Robins have to compete to be heard again a host of other common garden species, they are virtually the only birds singing.

In spring, of course, it's all about mating for the breeding season. In autumn the song has a very different purpose. It's a way of marking out winter feeding territories. The song says very clearly: "This is my patch. Keep out or else."

Robins set up these winter territories as a matter of survival. There's a limited amount of natural food to go around. Each individual is determined to stake its claim and is ready and willing to defend it vigorously.

A couple of years ago in a national poll the Robin was, to the surprise of no-one, was voted Britain's overwhelming favourite. I often wonder if all of those who supported the Robin against other contenders realised that it's not always the friendly little garden character we like to have around the place.

When it comes to defending winter territories, often small and just a single garden or even a section of a larger one, there's no small bird as pugnacious and violent as our friendly little favourite.

Two Robins coming face to face at this stage will fight it out, chasing each-other around, until one flees the scene. It's not just other Robins which come in for aggression. Other small garden birds such as Dunnocks, which have the same habits of feeding on the ground, are often chased too.

They are not the only ones who are chased and attacked by Robins. I remember back in November 2008 when an extremely rare Red-flanked Bluetail, a close Siberian relative of Robins, turned up in the Vicarage garden. All hell was let loose.

Two local Robins which had been singing against each-other and competing to hold either end of the garden, joined forces in harrying it. Each time the poor and obviously hungry Bluetail, then only the fourth even found in Northumberland, emerged from deep cover in the garden's shrubs and attempted to forage, it was immediately set upon and chased by them. It was never allowed to settle.

An island Robin - not always such a lovable little character.. photo: Andy Mould

After a day of constant hassle it obviously realised that the Vicarage garden wasn't a healthy place to stay. It moved across the village and spent an a trouble-free week ranging through the roadside trees and dropping to feed along the bank and grass verge on the western side of Chare Ends.

During its stay it regularly dropped to feed on the wooden seat almost opposite the Lindisfarne Hotel which I'd baited, ironically, with a feed mix supposedly specially formulated for Robins, which I'd picked up in a garden centre sale.

Presumably, its new temporary territory was just far enough away from the gardens in Chare Ends for it to keep out of harm's way and to avoid the attentions of the other local Robins.

The autumn song of Robins is not the only seasonal sound. Anyone who has been down on the beach at Jenny Bell's or along the Heugh can't fail to have heard the sound of our newly arrived Brent Geese.

At the time of writing, at least 1,000 are  present but by the time you are reading this numbers will have grown as further groups appear to be arriving daily.

While the songs of Robins are pleasing to the ear, the sounds of Brent Geese, a wide range of guttural grunts, certainly aren't. Nevertheless, it's great to see them back anyway, particularly the many family parties which have travelled together down from their breeding grounds on the Arctic Ocean islands of Svalbard.

It's a sobering thought that those adults and their goslings have probably had to run the gauntlet of a whole range of predators ranging from starving Polar Bears, stranded on the islands because of the melting of the sea ice and unable to hunt seals, to Arctic Foxes, Snowy Owls and large gulls and skuas, all with hungry young of their own to feed.

With virtually no natural enemies here and abundant food in the form of eel grass or Zostera to use its scientific name, they must think themselves very lucky.

Other Arctic geese are also on the move. Over the past fortnight or so on fine days I've heard the tell-tale contact calls of Pink-footed Geese passing overhead. The calls are nearly always the first hint of their presence. On some occasions, I've had to scan long and high into the deep blue to pick up small skeins moving southwards, often a couple of thousand feet up. Without those far-carrying calls they'd have passed unnoticed.

Several thousand Pinkfeet, mainly from Iceland, usually remain in the area, roosting on the flats and flying out at dawn to graze on the meadows along the Tweed and in the Wooler area.

Another wintering population, usually involving three or four thousand, remain in the Druridge Bay area. But the vast majority of the wintering birds carry on southwards to winter in East Anglia where the great attraction are the large acreages of sugar beet stubble. It provides them with extremely rich grazing to restore fat and body weight lost on migration and to enable them to survive the coming winter. 


The Archaeology of Holy Island
Date: 15th November 2017-09-08 Time: 7:00pm
Location: Crossman Hall, Holy Island
Cost: Free

From humble beginnings, St Aidan and King Oswald's monastery on Lindisfarne grew into the religious powerhouse at the heart of the great Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

Though there is significant documentary evidence of this early phase of Holy Island's religious life, the material evidence that has come to light has thus far been relatively sparse. Over the past several years DigVentures and Durham University have conducted systematic, scientific archaeological excavations on Holy Island; additional significant excavation has been undertaken by The Archaeological Practice as part of the HLF-funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership.

The results of both projects have been stunning, with both digs making international news as a result of findings including a new, very rare Anglo-Saxon namestone, and this summer's discovery of burials as well as a previously unknown chapel on the Heugh.

What do these discoveries mean for our understanding of the Golden Age of Northumbria on Lindisfarne? Join us for a fantastic evening of archaeology, with both archaeological teams on hand to discuss their results, take questions, and share plans for the future.

SPECIAL NOTE: Holy Island Residents - do you  want us to investigate your garden?

We know that much of St Aidan's community lies underneath Holy Island village, and many of you may have evidence of this just under your feet. DigVentures and Durham University are planning further excavations in September 2018, and we are on the look-out for volunteers who would like us to dig a test pit in their garden as part of our hunt for the early monastery. The pits will be 1m x 1m, and will be fully backfilled and left in good condition.

If you're interested, and would like to chat further or volunteer your garden, please get in touch with Lisa Westcott Wilkins, Managing Director of DigVentures, on 07787188184 or


Willow Sculptor Anna Turnbull with the
Lindisfarne Helleborine

A series of eight larger-than-life willow sculptures have taken up residence on points around the Lindisfarne Nature Trail. The sculptures were created by local artist and willow sculptor Anna Turnbull with help from 40 volunteers. The sculptures depict key species of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, managed by Natural England, and include Brent Geese in flight, a creche of two female Eider ducks and their chicks and a flowering Lindisfarne Helleborine orchid. The project has been delivered by the Heritage Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership, the Northumbria Basketry Group, the Lucker and Bamburgh Basketry Group, the Etal Basketry Group and Natural England. The materials for the sculptures were purchased using a grant from Northumberland County Council's Community Chest grant scheme.

The sculptures are situated on the Lindisfarne Nature Trail, a circular walk of approximately 3 miles, that loops from Holy Island village along to the Castle, then follows the former limekiln waggon way to the dunes of The Links. The trail returns to the village via the Straight Lonnen. A sculpture trail guide with information about each species featured is available.

Andrew Craggs, Senior Manager of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR), said "The National Nature Reserve was set up to protect the fantastic wildlife that depends upon the rich resources found here, and part of our work is to enable people to access this unique natural heritage. This project introduces a handful of the huge range of animals, insects and plants found on the Reserve in a subtle and engaging way, with the aim of encouraging visitors to the Reserve to want to find out more".

Anna Turnbull, willow sculptor based at Biteabout near Lowick added "The idea of the willow sculpture trail was to get people out into the landscape. The Nature Trail is a short walk that takes in a variety of different habitats, and only takes about an hour and half to complete. We want people to walk to the Castle but then keep going to experience more! The sculptures will be in situ for the warmer months of the year, when Holy Island is at its busiest."

Introductory basketry classes with the Northumbria Basketry Group and Lucker and Bamburgh Basketry Group were run alongside the willow sculpture workshops. Both classes and workshops were part of the Peregrini Lindisfarne project to celebrate and share the heritage of the landscape. The project has been supported by a £1,375,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), made possible by National Lottery players. Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: "Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Peregrini Landscape Partnership is having a real impact on the heritage of the Island of Lindisfarne - from its role as a haven for wildlife to its archaeological significance as demonstrated by recent discoveries on the Heugh. As well as forging some fantastic partnerships, this scheme is putting local people at the heart of their landscape, whether through art, traditional skills or taking part in excavations. We look forward to seeing the project continue to succeed."

The sculptures will be in situ until the end of October, after which they will be taken down for winter storage at Lindisfarne NNR's headquarters at Beal. They will be re-erected in Spring 2018. 

The Nature Trail starts at the Window on the Wild on the road to the Castle, east of Holy Island Village. Copies of the sculpture trail guide will be available from the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre, Holy Island Post Office, Berwick and Alnwick Visitor Information Centres from the 16th of September. A digital copy can be downloaded from HERE

In addition to the significant and well publicised discovery of the foundations of a possible early Anglo-Saxon chapel on the crown of The Heugh, other exciting remains were uncovered in the vicinity.

NEWS FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

October and winter hours:

  • Lady Waterford Hall is closed to the public on 21st & 22nd October for filming of "Make"; also closed 25th October for a private function.
  • During October, Lady Waterford Hall and the Heatherslaw Mill site open 11am-4pm; Etal Castle is open 10am-4pm.
  • Heatherslaw Cornmill, Gift Shop, Tearoom, Railway and Visitor Centre will also be open on 1st & 2nd of November, closing for the winter from 3rd November.
  • Winter hours for Heatherslaw Cornmill will be Wednesdays and Thursdays 11am-2pm with entry by donation.  Handmade at Heatherslaw is open Wednesday - Sunday 11am-3pm.  (Tearoom and Gift Shop closed.)
  • Lady Waterford Hall will open by arrangement for pre-booked groups.
  • Etal Castle is closed from 1st Nov ember and will re-open on 1st April 2018.

Looking Back 7th & 8th October

Old skills fayre at Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre.  See the horses working the land.  Demonstrations, market, refreshments.

Etal Live Music - Rosie Doonan & Ben Murray 7th October

These two talented young musicians have grown up surrounded by live music with parents who have been performing and enjoying traditional music and dance for decades within the Doonan Family Band.
As a duo Rosie and Ben are something special, with their haunting and beautiful arrangements of songs old and new. Individually their musical C.V.s are impressive. Rosie has sung on tour with Peter Gabriel - look up on YouTube her duet with him of the famous Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush number "Don't give up" (2012). Ben is currently playing the part of the song man in the National Theatre's legendary show "Warhorse" and he recently featured on T.V. in the special BBC First World War tribute commemorating the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele.
This concert also marks a small anniversary for Etal Village Hall as the folk concerts here began in October 2007.  Come along and raise a glass to celebrate 10 glorious years of great music and wonderful entertainment!
Doors open 7.30p.m. music starts at 8.00p.m, tickets £12.00 - please email or 'phone to book in advance.  Bar on site.

Hallowe'en and The Scarycrow Trail - October Half-Term

There'll be lots of Hallowe'en fun at Etal Castle, Lavender Tearooms, Heatherslaw Railway, the whole Heatherslaw Mill site, and Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre as well as the Famous Scarycrow Trail With themed quizzes and competitions, a beastly bat hunt, decorations and fancy dress, treats for children, scary stories, blood-curdling baking and ghostly carriage rides - including a witchypoo picnic - you're sure to have a fangtastic day out!
Visit (sorry link removed) for full details.

Autumn Pop-up Markets 

St Abb's traders and friends will return to Etal Village Hall for the last time this year, holding two pop up markets on Wednesday 25th & Thursday 26th October, 11am-3pm.  A good chance to do some early Christmas shopping - or just to treat yourself!.


Visitors to the St Cuthbert's Centre often ask me to explain what the United Reformed Church is  - a fair question, especially given that the foundation plaque above the original entrance proudly states 'St Cuthbert's Presbyterian Church'.

The United Reformed Church came into being in 1972 as a union between the Presbyterian Church of England, and the Congregational Church, so from that time onwards the 'little church' was officially St Cuthbert's United Reformed Church.  The impetus behind the union was the belief that all Christian churches should be working together more, and that there are more things that unite us than divide us.  Both of the original partner churches trace their roots back to the European Reformation - you may have seen programmes and articles marking this year's 500th.  anniversary of the Reformation.

One of the core beliefs of the reformers is summarised by the Latin phrase 'semper reformanda' usually translated as 'Reformed and always reforming'.  A hallmark of reformed churches is that important decisions about the life of the church are made by church councils made up of all church members, not just clergy, or a hierarchy.  The councils should always be open to change - always reforming. 

The formation of the United Reformed Church embodied the belief in the need to be 'always reforming'.  In September this year we celebrated the centenary of the ordination of Constance Coltman, the first woman to be ordained in a major Christian denomination in the UK.  At our General Assembly in 2016 we agreed that our ministers should be able to conduct same sex marriages in our churches, another first that I hope other denominations will follow, as they have done with the ordination of women.

To me the Reformed heritage, and it's principle 'Reformed and always reforming' provides a good example for day to day life as well as church life. We look to our past and value and learn from those who have gone before.  We consider the world we live in now, and the generations who are to come. We all need to not keep our ideas and beliefs set in stone, but to be willing to re-form them gradually for the greater good.

Rev Rachel Poolman
St Cuthbert's Centre

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