SITEZINE: Holy Island's E-Mail Newsletter: November 2019

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Subscriber,

Growing piles of fallen leaves litter the sides of our roads and gardens as we welcome you to our November newsletter. The chill of winter gathers momentum as it creeps upon the village. For us in UK, 'Guy Fawkes' night is barely a few days away. Sadly, the days of the village bonfire is now several years ago - although I expect  there will be various displays of fireworks around the village. So, it is a time for vigilance if you have animals at home or are in the proximity of livestock.

Car parks continue to fill to bursting as Scottish and English schools half-term holidays share almost a month between them. Later in the newsletter we feature Holy Island's causeway. Despite contractor's efforts those visiting at the moment will have seen that their valiant attempts at cutting trenches to disperse the ebbing tide are already filling with sand. Extensive sea-water puddles are forming along the length of the causeway. My suggestion is to drive in the knowledge that not only is extremely corrosive sea-water splashing underneath your vehicle but potholes and possible debris beneath the surface may be a threat to suspension and tyres. If the car in front of you seems to be going slower than you are - it might be because the driver lives here and understands the conditions better. And after my drive to Berwick this morning I am minded to right away go to rinse the sand and salt off the car and give it a good dose of shampoo and power spray!

Whether 'Remainer' or a 'Brexiteer', readers will, yet again, be frustrated as our participation in the European Union still remains in the balance possibly until 2020 at least - and now after a general election called for 12th December!

Thank you to our authors who have again made time to produce our newsletter this month. You will note we have promoted Ian's input to "Our Naturalist on Lindisfarne" avoiding some of my potential future typos.

Enjoy your newsletter and look forward to getting in touch in December.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)


First, I'd like to say a huge 'thank you' for your support for our Macmillan Coffee Afternoon which we held at the end of September - we were thrilled to welcome so many of you into school. We enjoyed tea, coffee and delicious cake which many of you kindly brought in from home. Your generous donations amounted to a huge �220.  This charity is close to the hearts of many of us and it was wonderful to receive so much support.

Our Harvest Festival took place in St Mary's Church earlier in the month. Thank you to Revd Canon Sarah Hills for leading such an enjoyable service. I know you really enjoyed joining in with our line dancing during one of our harvest songs!

Our topic this term is travel and transport and earlier in the month, we visited the National Museum of Flight in North Berwick. The children were fascinated by the aircraft on show and were very excited to climb aboard Concorde. In one workshop, the children learned about the early designs of Leonardo da Vinci and were challenged to create and test-fly their own paper helicopters. This was a great mix of technology, engineering and maths. Back at school, we continued our challenge by working on ways to improve our helicopter's flying performance.

Lowick School joined us for a day on the island last week and we began with a walk to the harbour looking for examples of transport. The children were delighted to see different vehicles at work in the harbour area. We got to see (and smell) the fishing bait as it was delivered and Mrs Ward explained how our fishermen use the bait in the creels. We sat on the harbour wall to sketch the shoreline and castle in our field notebooks just at the right time to see the fishing boats arriving with their catch. The lads were all so welcoming towards the children and spent time chatting to them about their journey and catch. The children were intrigued by the lobsters - it was the first time that many of them had seen one. Thank you lads! Scarlett-Beau was especially happy seeing her dad arrive back from sea.

We spent the afternoon visiting the castle and were once again warmly welcomed by Nick Lewis and the castle staff. We have been finding out about the quarries, wagon ways and the lime kilns on the island. We walked along part of the old wagon way path and spent time looking inside and around the kilns. Inside the castle, Nick had a piece of the old track to show us. We were fascinated by this and by the images of the castle, kilns and old jetty that Nick had prepared for us. Thank you Nick, this brought our visit to life and made it even more memorable for the children.

We are looking forward to the next half term which, of course, is always very busy with performances, pantos and parties!
Heather Stiansen


It's been a quiet month with bookings slowing down. This will allow planned maintenance to move slowly ahead.

A big Wedding Celebration was held in the Hall mid-month when the first Island Wedding for decades was celebrated. The Hall was beautifully dressed, the food super and the men of the Town had on their 'Fred Astaire' shoes. I'm no fashion correspondent but I can say the Ladies were rite bobby-dazzlers.

Congratulations Danial & Harriet!

More good news; in late October, the Pool Table, provided via a PPC Grant, was delivered to and installed in Crossman Hall. This will be available for use by Islanders and will help pass some of the long winter evenings.

More information soon.

David O' - Contact
OR via the new Crossman Hall website:



While rare species caught the attention of visiting birdwatchers, the real spectacle of autumn for me has been provided by two of our most common and regular migrants, Redwings and Robins.

Both appeared on the island in huge numbers, particularly during a period of easterly weather which provided them with an easy North Sea crossing from southern Scandinavia.

Redwings are small members of the thrush family which breed in a huge arc stretching eastwards from northern Scandinavia through the boreal and birch zone to Siberia. They are forced to move out in autumn and millions of them sweep through Scandinavia and onwards into western and southern Europe for the winter.

They are highly nomadic, lacking any real or lasting attachment to any particular area. They simple move on according to the availability of food.  During autumn they'll feast first on the berries of Hawthorn, Elder and other common bushes and trees, rich in sugars and proteins.

After these are exhausted they'll then forage on the ground among the leaf litter for fallen fruits and small invertebrates. They just keep moving onwards as we get into winter and weather worsens. They are rather fragile birds and don't cope well with frost and snow, another reason why they are genetically programmed to keep moving.

They're by far the most numerous autumn migrant which we see on the island in October and November. Often thousands a day can pass overhead when conditions are good or being grounded here by bad weather

They are really beautiful little birds, if rather misnamed as it's not their wings but their flanks which are bright orange. They have basic brown plumage with heavy dark streaking, much the same as our resident Song Thrushes. But they are distinguished by bold face patterns provide by a distinctive creamy eye-stripe and, of course, by those bright flank markings.

During the recent heavy period of passage most appeared fit and well and simply overflew the island and continued south westwards. Some which came down simply rested in the trees for a few minutes as if to get their breath back before rising to move on. Some, more tired than others, lingered in the lonnens and other patches of cover for a few days.

This autumn several thousand a day passed through the island, but it wasn't on the scale of some really spectacular movements in the past. For example, back in October 1991 an estimated 20,000 were stranded on the island. They'd crossed the North Sea in ideal weather conditions with clear skies and little breeze. As they approached the coast they hit a dense wall of fog. Villagers told of being awakened in the early hours by the sound of huge parties spiralling down through the fog, apparently attracted by lights glowing dimly through the wet gloom.

Within minutes every tree, bush, lawn and even the streets were filled with the distressed calls of panicking birds.  When dawn broke the whole area was carpeted with Redwings.  The fog then lifted and the vast majority departed as suddenly and spectacularly as they'd arrived, indicating that despite being grounded they were in good condition and able to resume their journey. That same morning an estimated 15,000 were on the Farne Islands with many more downed right along the coast.

Similarly, in October 2017 a co-ordinated effort by several birdwatchers produced a count during a single day of around 17,200 crossing the island. But as Redwings often migrate at night the real total  was probably much higher. Also, Redwings normally arrived on a broad front. If that was repeated, as it probably was, right along the coastline the day's arrival was probably really huge, perhaps into the hundreds of thousands. Little wonder that they're our commonest migrants.

A fine Redwing on a garden lawn at Chare Ends - Photo: Max Whitby

Many folk, used to having Robins regularly in their gardens, might be surprised to learn that they too are a migrant in large numbers. This autumn many Robins from Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe passed through the island. At one stage it seemed that every isolated bush in the dunes held small groups and they were everywhere in the lonnens and village gardens.

These northern Robins behave very differently to our familiar garden birds which appear expectantly at your feet almost as soon as you lift a spade to turn the ground or a rake to clear up leaves.  The migrant Robins are birds of the forest and are not nearly so confiding. But they are just as aggressive as our resident Robins and seem continually to chase each-other from their temporary feeding areas.

Most of them will continue onwards to winter in southern Europe and around the Mediterranean. In autumn they look identical to our resident birds but when they return in spring to pass through the island they are sometimes identifiable by a greyish cast to their backs and wings.

While I've spent a lot of time looking at these two very common visitors I'll admit I've taken time off to also check out various rarities. The best of these was an eastern species, a Greenish Warbler, which spent over a week in the Vicarage garden. As usual, Yellow-browed Warblers from Siberia were in several spots around the village and island. The most spectacular arrival was a fine Great Grey Shrike, first in the Willow patch at the north end of the Straight Lonnen before moving into the village and spending several days in the paddock opposite the Coastguard station.


A couple of days ago - I'm typing this on a dreich Sunday in mid-October - we had a host of rangers and volunteers descend on the Gertrude Jekyll Garden to strip it all back for the winter in readiness for next season. They were merciless, and if you get a chance to see the place it looks pretty bare now to be honest. But this is all part of the life cycle of the garden, and don't I know it.

That clearance is only the first step of this process which next summer's visitor will see culminate in the mass of vibrant colour and intoxicating scent that the garden becomes at it's peak. The next step as I was to find out, was the delivery and 'installation' of 6.4 tonnes of muck. I say muck, but the supplier's website refers to it as 'composted agricultural straw and rotted manure', so you get the idea. The first job was the delivery itself, and as you can imagine getting any large vehicle to the garden is a non-starter so the bags - 180 in all - had to be left on their pallets in the Castle field so we could ferry them over in a trailer. Credit must go to the young lady from the courier who not only handled her 18-tonne lorry with consummate skill but managed to get the pallets safely down onto wet ground for us.

Yes the ground was wet, but not too bad really. There had been rain the previous day but the delivery day was mild and dry. The same cannot be said for the next day which was the planned 'ferrying with trailer' day. The deluge that occurred that Friday (18th October - you'll remember it) was biblical in its relentlessness, almost like Gertrude herself was scolding us from above for stripping her garden back. Nevertheless, four loads of the bags were loaded, driven over, and unloaded. Although soaked at least we couldn't complain about being especially cold, the hot warmth - and accompanying smell - coming off the muck bags saw to that! Our gardener Fliss and her volunteers have now spread the compost across the beds in the garden and all that goodness will be good and ready when planting gets going next year.

Up in the castle we are getting ready for a ghostly Hallowe'en trail for half term week, and I'm readying myself for the annual question from visitors (and some staff) about whether the Castle is haunted or not. I don't think it is really - there is a conspicuous lack of stories with any antiquity about them here. Those there that involve white dogs and soldiers seem to have appeared relatively recently - though I am happy to be corrected on that. 'Haunted' though is distinct from 'spooky' and we can all agree a gloomy October afternoon in the dark and dingy corners of a castle definitely stand hairs up on end.

After half term that will be another season done, and work starts on winter maintenance and planning for next year. We are talking to a number of people about our visitor offer for 2020 and should have some more definitive information next month but we will once again be telling stories about the Castle via a variety of media. The furniture and collection are all in good hands and will return in some form when the time is right. Mind you, that's if the Castle ever dries out and we get the internal decoration done. It will dry out though, won't it?!

Speaking of which, I need to go and blow-dry my gardening gloves.

Best wishes
Nick Lewis
01289 389903   //  @NTLindisfarne


It has been a very wet month. The nights are drawing in and the days are getting noticeably cooler as we march toward winter; but that hasn't stopped the frenetic activity on the Reserve from wildlife, staff and volunteers alike.

Wildfowl numbers are beginning to peak and the flights to and from the Reserve provide a daily wildlife spectacular. Pink-footed Geese numbers are looking good with over 9000 counted on the Reserve on the most recent Grey Goose counts. Wigeon numbers are also looking particularly strong with recent counts nudging towards 20,000, the highest in over 15 years...

Now the breeding birds have left and the wildflowers have died back the cutting regime has begun in earnest. We have been out with the volunteers raking and removing grass from our botanically rich dune slacks. These dune slacks are a rare habitat in the UK and occur in depressions within the dune system where the water table is close to the surface, allowing plants easy access to water in an otherwise free draining area. Cutting and removing the grass removes the rank vegetation and encourages new growth, allowing the floral diversity to thrive within this important habitat. In the coming weeks we will also be tackling some of the invasive species such as Cotoneaster and Pirri-pirri  bur and thinning out some areas of scrub regen that are beginning to succeed in areas of the dune system.

The livestock have been on the island for a few weeks now to undertake conservation grazing. The cattle have settled in well and are doing a fantastic job grazing the rank vegetation. The sheep have also been moved onto the Snook where they have been grazing invasive species such as Michaelmas Daisy. The sheep will be moved around in rough hectare blocks as they graze their way through the vegetation.

As we enter half-term next week we will be running several events at the WoWL building to spread the word of the vast array of work that staff and volunteers undertake and how you can help keep the biodiversity of the Reserve thriving.

Tuesday 29th October - Gaggling Geese - Join us from 10am -12pm at the WoWL building for a morning of family crafts and learn why Lindisfarne NNR is such an important winter refuge for wildfowl.

Thursday 31st October - Bats and Bones - Come to the WoWL building between 10am-12pm and enjoy a morning of family crafts. Look at a selection of skulls of animals found on the Reserve and discover why they are different sizes and shapes.

This will be the first in a series of fact files of species that can be seen on the Reserve depending on the time of year. We will kick things off with one of the star species - Light-bellied Brent Goose.

Light-bellied Brent Goose:

  • UK Status: AMBER listed
  • The Light-bellied Brent Goose is a small goose with a wingspan 105-117cm.
  • The East-Atlantic Light-bellied Brent Goose that make up the population that winter at Lindisfarne NNR breed in Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and northern Greenland on low Arctic tundra. The cool weather allows them just a two month window in order to incubate and raise young to fledging age.
  • They are ground nesters, and are susceptible to Arctic foxes and even Polar Bears
  • Lindisfarne NNR has become increasingly important over the last 50 years as numbers wintering have steadily increased, and now support up to half the world's population.
  • The reason they come here in such large numbers is due to the extensive Eel Grass beds and the refuge the Reserve provides.

Andy Denton
Reserve Manager
Lindisfarne & Newham NNRs
Natural England


Cars, Trucks, & Buses can be swamped by the incoming tide and no the sea does not come steaming in like a Tsunami across the sands and whoosh in minutes its centimetres deep along the Causeway. But, depending upon the 'weather' conditions it can come in quickly and many drivers have no understanding of the sea.

Occasionally a vehicle may breakdown on the Causeway, but if you are mindful of the posted safe crossing time, a small vehicle may be pushed or towed off to safety.       But when the sea has crossed the road it's dangerous to drive through the water and those idiots who drive into the water place themselves at significant risk.

There's been the usual flurry of simple minded fools driving into the North Sea as they try to leave as the tide floods over the Causeway. These idiots put their passengers at risk and the sea can seriously damage their cars when trying to dash off well after the safe crossing time.

Never forget that it is the Holy Island Coastguard Search & Rescue Team that goes to help. I recall one 70 year old Volunteer Coastguard wadding out along the Causeway to a VW Camper Van and then standing in the back of that van supporting a mother and baby for 2 hours+ before help arrived. Earlier this summer a Group of Pilgrims had to be dragged to safety from the Pilgrims Way by our SAR Team after the walkers thought that they would be able to plod across the Sands at High Tide.

Lindisfarne is a tidal island linked to the mainland by a metaled road from Beal shore to the Chair Ends, a distance of 5km. It's the only road to the Island and is regularly covered by the incoming tide, cutting us off twice a day for up to 5+ hours. The maximum depth of water over the road can be 2m.

From Beal to the Snook, is where the road floods first and its here most vehicles become marooned. That's why a refuge box was built on stilts in 1950's and later in the 70's an emergency telephone was installed in the box enabling the Police to talk with those trapped and judge if a rescue was required.

The bridge and tarmacadam road to the Snook was built in 1953, and that's when increasing numbers of tourists started visiting the Island. Prior to building the Causeway, few people took their vehicles across the sands.

At times this length of road across the inter-tidal area is swept by rough seas and fatalities have occurred. However, since the road was built huge numbers of vehicles have been driven safely on and off the Island. But some drivers, like King Canute, believed that they know best and try to drive into the Sea Often and that's where problems start. Cars driven into the sea are written off because of the expense required to repair and refurbish them. Some cars have been washed off the Causeway and out to sea.

The problem has been reviewed and examined by numerous Organisations, with a variety of proposals examined, but no solution produced. I believe the best to date, was the installation of emergency telephone in the Refuge Box. The driver could report the incident and that all passengers were well and only if there was a need, would a rescue be tasked.

This year, as in other years, the RNLI Seahouses turnout and collect the wet and embarrassed. It gives them good fund raising publicity. But if a casualty is safe in the Box, let the idiots who deliberately ploughed into the sea, be left to sit it out and watch their vehicle disappear slowly under water and contemplate why it happened! That is, unless they are young, elderly or ill and a rescue is necessary.

In an earlier life, I occasionally monitored the number of visitors driving onto the Island who stopped to check the tide tables, very few did. Then a follow-up, when involved with removing people from the Box or those who plodded out of the tide to the shore. More often than not, when questioned they looked blank when asked why they ignored the tide table. They just looked blank and shrugged!

Another interesting fact was many who drove into the water were in work or hire cars! Even today following loads of publicity, ask a visitor on the Island "what time is the Tide" and they look blank, querying, "what do you mean".


FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

Lady Waterford Hall, Heatherslaw Cornmill, Etal Castle and Heatherslaw Light Railway all close for the winter on 3rd November.  Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre is open until the end of November.  Please check for 2020 opening times and for winter hours at tearooms and shops across the estates.

The Black Bull in Etal is now under the management of our local micro-brewers, Cheviot Brewery.  The pub will showcase many of Cheviot's beers and from 21st October will be offering good quality, traditional pub food.  Contact for more information.

What's On in November

1st November, 8.30pm-2.30am:  Paranormal Night at Heatherslaw; must be pre-booked.  Details at

2nd November, 8.00pm Live Music at Etal Village hall with Katie Doherty & The Navigators

17th November, 10am-4pm  "Crafty Northumbria" at Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre. An indoor event, with a range of local crafters doing demonstrations, offering hands-on and 'have a go' experiences and selling their products.  Admission �5, parking and children free.

24th November 11am-3.30pm, Ford Christmas Market.  Fabulous festive market with over 50 stalls selling local foods, crafts and gifts, and a range of artisan street foods.  Free parking, free shuttle bus from Etal, free admission.

Details of all the above can be found at


On October 15 visitors from Cramlington churches joined Aidan and Hilda members from Liverpool, London and Shetlands who were on an Igniting the Flame Course, to witness Anna Knox take her First Vows.  Jutta provided a welcome of home-cooked scones etc.

At the close of the vows service Anna read these lines from Marjorie Milne's poem Rhymes from a Lindisfarne Monk which begins:

He is my king, in my heart he's hid
He is my joy all joys amid
I am a drop in his ocean lost
His coracle I, on his wide sea tossed
A leaf in his storm....

Marjorie Milne of Glastonbury

FROM OUR CHURCHES Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman
Harvest Festival Preparations - Photos from Elizabeth Dunne

November is a month of remembrance; firstly Bonfire Night, with its slogan 'remember, remember the fifth of November', followed a week or so later by Remembrance Sunday when we bring to mind all those who have suffered or been killed by war.

Remembrance can happen on many different levels, it can be a fleeting memory of something inconsequential, or an active reliving of something significant.  I wonder how many people these days really bring to mind the gunpowder plot and its political ramifications whilst experiencing bonfires and fireworks ?  November the fifth has become more of an opportunity to have a good time, than an occasion of active remembrance.

Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day should both be another sort of occasion. This is a time to be aware of the fact that in every generation there are (often young) men and women who have been killed in war, and many, many more whose lives have been changed forever by conflict.  This awareness comes into focus at this time of year, but should not be just a passing thought.

The Island Remembrance Sunday service at St Mary's at 10.45 on Sunday November 10th is an important opportunity for us as a community to join with people around the world in showing respect for those who served, and are serving, in the armed forces as we share in the 2 minute silence at 11.00 am.  After the church service we make our way to the Heugh, where at the War Memorial we listen to the names of those who left this small Island to fight and never came home.  As we remember the impact that their absence has had in this community we also remember those communities experiencing similar loss today.

Active remembrance should involve doing what we can to pray and work for peace, and to support the numerous charities who support victims of war around the world whether they served in the armed forces, or whether they are other victims of conflict.

The prayer of St Francis is a famous prayer for peace; it is thought that it wasn't actually written by Francis, but it embodies the spirit of his teachings and the ideals of Christianity.  It was first circulated widely during the First World War which gives it an added poignancy and pertinence as we approach this season of remembrance.

The prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Sarah Hills
StMary's Church
01289 389216
Rachel Poolman
St Cuthbert's Centre (UnitedReformed Church)

Berwick Food Bank

We're reached the time of year when many of us are aware of the costs of heating fuel.  For many households in our area, for many different reasons, people might be having to make a choice between eating and heating.  Gifts to the food bank are always welcomed, and can be left in the porch at St Cuthbert's.  Canned and non-perishable goods and toiletries are welcomed.  Thank you for your support.


  Pattern of worship for Sundays
8am    Holy Communion (BCP) 
10.45am    Parish Eucharist 
5.30pm    Evensong
Pattern of worship (Monday - Saturday)
   8 am Morning Prayer Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
   8 am Eucharist Wednesday and Friday
   5.30 pm Evening Prayer every day

please check notice board in church porch in the event of revision