SITEZINE: Holy Island's E-Mail Newsletter: March 2020

SITEZINE: HOLY ISLAND'S E-MAIL MAGAZINE March 2020
A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to the March issue of Sitezine our Stay-In-Touch-Ezine.

Whatever the reasons behind the changing weather pattern, many parts of our nation are certainly learning some very harsh lessons. Our thoughts are with those whose worlds are collapsing about them with rivers that have burst their banks and news of further major cyclones. In one of the driest parts of Britain conditions have been bad enough with seemingly weeks of non-stop gales. But thank goodness we have not yet been deluged by flooding and so far, the power lines are holding.


If my ears have not deceived me, government conservation/planning experts are currently permitting 34,000 'affordable homes' to be built on land known to be prone to flooding. And lost in all the news hoo-hah and government mumbo jumbo, the words of a solitary victim struck a chord: "why-oh-why have they stopped dredging the rivers".

  • I had asked that same question 20 years ago at a county council meeting in our old village hall which gave an opportunity to query the worsening condition of the Holy Island causeway. I sited that between the world wars a fishing boat could sail around the island at low water and mussel beds thrived on the island's north side. Islanders noticed the mussel beds beginning to silt up after WW2, concrete tank-traps were sited along the west side of the river Low. By the time the bridge was built (1950s) it was no longer possible to circumnavigate the island at low water. And now not at any state of the tide. You might imagine the council's answer. Too expensive. Yet they went on and paid £110k for a study and then millions more - to tarmac and raise the road by 6 inches. Whether it worked is there for the world to see.
  • I had asked that same question 18 years ago at a meeting with English Nature (now Natural England). We, the Community Trust, on behalf of our fishermen, were investigating the development of the native mussel beds. 'Western Fisheries' and Welsh mussel fishermen had recommended the dredging technique be adopted. They had found that the subsequent scraping of the beds even improved mussel yield. English Nature strongly objected to any disturbance to the conservation of the river bed. Our community development opportunity was lost.

Perhaps the time has come to recognise that 'we' are at the top of the conservation tree. Today's status quo exists not because of folk buying houses near rivers and on flood plains and developers growing rich through the proceeds. It arises because those government authorities, who wield power on our behalf, have permitted such developments to take place. Such authorities must bear responsibility and costs for their failed judgement - not the homeowners. They should solve the environmental problems before allowing these developments to take place. We continue to be a growing population. We must make safe space for their homes. Expensive? It certainly will be - ask the Dutch! Taking on nature has a huge and ongoing cost. But the government's cost will be far less than paying compensation for failed actions. And can you put a cost on the misery these poor folk have suffered...


Nevertheless, despite some horrendous weather scenarios the island has been visited by a myriad of half-term visitors. They will have experienced the condition of the causeway and coast road. Maybe now they understand those with no alternative than to face such conditions daily. We caution all visitors to: check the safe crossing times. We despair over the waterlogged state of our main car park and the rubble and pot holes in our coach and disabled car park.

Being a dog-walker myself (see the morning-walk pictures above) I find my dog attracted to rubbish. There are an ample number of bins around the village for litter. Added to my mention of a �1000 fine for dog-fouling last time, if you bring animals, please take care over dog control in our public places.

Thank you to all our writers - particularly to those who sent tributes to David Adam whose death we reported last month. A few of these are reported below. Not only for those who were privileged to know him will his memory live on but also for those who discovered him through his poetry and writings.

We hope that you enjoy this month's newsletter and look forward to getting in touch in April.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)
editor@lindisfarne.org.uk
www.lindisfarne.org.uk/ezine

IN MEMORIAM OF A VICAR OF HOLY ISLAND - DAVID ADAM Readers Tributes
David Adam
Rev Canon David Adam
Vicar of Holy Island
(1990-2001)

Very many people, both those connected with the Island and those from a much wider world, will have been saddened by the news of the death of David Adam.  He was very widely known through his books, which had reached far-flung places like Australia and everything in-between.  I think that he may have considered his main form of ministry to be his writings, and while he was Vicar here, when I as Curate stood with him at the end of a Sunday service to say good-bye, I remember that many visitors thanked him as they went for the help they had got from his books.  I remember also that one major publisher considered him to be their best selling author.

There is a memory of his kindness that I would like to record. He joined us at the time when the ordination or women to the priesthood was a hot topic in the church.

David would have preferred the decision to be 'No'. But here I was as the curate, already a deacon and certainly hoping to be a priest.  David accepted this and at the time of my ordination was very kind to me, and made sure that I was confident and knew how to do things.  I asked him to preach at my first Eucharist, which he did.  Then he gave me a very fair share of the work of the parish, and we managed a good working relationship.  I was his curate for the rest of his time here.

I did not see much of him after he left the Island, but I know that his ministry of writing and speaking continued, as well as helping with services at several local churches.  So we pray: may he now rest in peace and rise in glory.

Kate
Rev Canon Kate Tristram
Retired Priest
St Mary's Parish Church


David Adam RIP

I owe this ex coal miner, who became a brilliantly succinct writer, so much. When the church recognised I was called to be a 'monk in the market-place' I hoped to live on Lindisfarne, but only if its vicar invited me.  David Adam told me he had dreamed of starting an S.A.S. (Britain's Special Air Service, whose motto is Who Dares Wins, helped Britain win World War 11, about whose pilots Churchill said 'Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few').  David's SAS was a St. Aidan Society.  Since he had not in fact started this he welcomed a Community of Aidan and Hilda presence on the island and gave us advice.

When donors enabled us to rent and then buy the Guest House on the cross-roads as a retreat house, we named it after the title of one of his books - The Open Gate. In this book he points out that in Celtic folk-lore the worst fate that can befall anyone is to be shut into a field with a locked gate. He writes:   'The open gate is the call to explore new areas of yourself and the world around you.  It is a challenge to come and discover that the world and ourselves are filled with mystery and with the glory of God.... We should look upon the open gate as a way to extend ourselves and our vision.'  He donated the original picture which formed the cover of his book to the house.

He wrote an inspiring article on A Vision for Mission on Holy Island which was printed in the second issue of our community magazine.

From  the Editor: At this point Ray included  three extracts from David's writing, which we are not able to include.  Ray concludes his letter:

David wrote a host of books and we aim to include every one of them in our library. Our greatest way of honouring him is to make these a reality.

Rev Ray Simpson
The Community of Aidan and Hilda 


 I first met David whilst we were staying on Holy Island. which would be around 1990.  My wife mentioned to him that I was an organist and it happened that he had not got anyone to play for the services on the two Sundays we were there, so I was "conscripted" to play for him! On subsequent holidays on the island I again played for David.

In later holidays we spent time on the Isle of Arran and I eventually lost touch with David. After a break of three or four years we decided to again stay in Northumberland, and booked to stay at Cove Cottage, a self catering cottage in Waren Mill. The following morning I was out with our chocolate Labrador and coming out of the next-door-but-one house was David!

Unbeknown to us David had retired, and he and Denise had moved to Waren Mill. We have kept in touch since then, and each year when we have visited Northumberland I have made a point in calling in to see him and purchase his latest book. He was an inspiration to many, both through his example as Vicar of Holy island and also through his books.

Malcolm S Bentley
Organist & Director of Music
All Saints Bingley


Our family first visited Holy Island in the mid-1970s, at that time we lived near Middlesbrough. We instantly fell in love with the peace and tranquillity of the island, visiting and holidaying on the island many times over the years.

In 2001 my beautiful best friend lost her 3 year fight with cancer. I and my daughter, who is named after her, made our way to Holy Island from Derbyshire where we lived then.

As we stood in the church David Adam entered, although there were lots of other visitors he came straight to us. He listened to our story, held our hands and led us to the altar, where he spoke with us about her. I will never forget that day and the calm he brought to us, or his kindness and compassion.

A very special man, he leaves an empty space, which cannot be filled, in the world.

Barbara Prater


Dear David,

We feel ourselves so blessed that we were able to meet You on the Holy Island.

So blessed that we had the opportunity to sing to and with You the prayers You wrote,
Prayers that are translated into Finnish and are arranged into ancient Celtic liturgical melodies.

We would like to express our deepest condolences to David's family

With love and gratitude on behalf of the chanting pilgrims from Finland,

Hilkka-Liisa Vuori, music educator, D.Mus.
Terhi Varjoranta, pastor
Tuomo Pulkkinen, music arranger
Pirkko Hakkarainen, tour leader.

HOLY ISLAND CofE FIRST SCHOOL Heather Stiansen

What a windy few weeks! Our new greenhouse is still safely tucked away in the shed awaiting some calmer days. Let's hope it won't be too long...

We welcomed Lowick School here on the island two weeks ago. Our focus for the day was to think about the lives of people who have to leave their homes, sometimes at very short notice, because of natural disasters such as flooding or drought or because of war and conflict.

The children took part in activities which helped them to imagine what this must be like for children around the world. We walked around the village role-playing events to mirror a family being evacuated from their home.  This led to some deep thinking where the children had to decide which items they would 'grab' as they left their homes. This is leading up to our work about Christian Aid and the work that they do to help people around the world.  A coffee afternoon was held at Lowick last week raising over �140 for this very worthwhile charity and we were generously supported by our Holy Island families. We are planning a new display of the children's work in St Mary's church which will reflect the learning focused on Christian Aid.

Our spaceship in school has been a success. The 'out of this world' topic was a great way to get the children thinking about space travel, the planets and our moon & constellations. Scarlett-Beau and Lily Ella have been having a go at using chalk to recreate some of the constellations.

Our next topic is 'war and peace' and we are already having a think about what we can build to replace our spaceship in the classroom. This is a fascinating topic for the children as many of them have links or memories of war in their own families. If you have any stories or memories that you'd like to share with us, please do get in touch. We will be finding out what it must have been like for children who were evacuated which links very well with the children's previous learning in our Christian Aid workshops.

We plan that the topic will end with a magnificent street party to commemorate 75 years since VE Day in 1945. Now that will be a treat!

Heather Stiansen
heather.stiansen@lowick.northumberland.sch.uk
www.lowickholyislandschools.org.uk

THE CROSSMAN HALL David O'Connor

February News, maybe that should read, 'no news'. Apart from too much wind and big tides, the hall survived the bad weather, but the wind helped coat the windows with a layer of salt & silt. The Ladies sewing circle was the only event in the hall apart from a couple of strolling players popping in to rehearse.

The admin work has continued with a range of bookings made by off Island Groups and two planning visits from a local mainland family planning Golden Wedding in April.

Dates to remember:
Village Hall Coffee Morning - Monday 13 April 2020
Village Hall Friday 17 April 2020 - at 18:45 - Free entry

Archaeologist's from DigVenturers and Durham University, will brief residents on their work and finds to date, including the blue glass gaming piece that recently hit the media headlines.

David O' - Contact doconna@hotmail.com
OR via the new Crossman Hall website: crossmanhall@holy-island.com

Footnote

Earlier this year the Government took the first step to withdraw from the European Union.

I paused to consider my most remembered event during our years of cruising in and around Europe; it was an evening in Tournai, Belgium, a quiet modest City near the Border with France.

My seaborne travels began on retirement and this trip was to move the boat from Le Harve to overwinter in Sixhaven Marina in Amsterdam, a great spot just across the waterway from Amsterdam Central Station.

As we travelled along the French coast the weather let us down and the forecast was poor, rather than lie in Calais waiting for the weather, we decided to use the canals to progress north to the Schelde.

On the second night, having crossed into Belgium, we birthed in Tournai, it was chilly and wet, and so we decided to go ashore for a beer and food. Having had a drink in the Grand Square we headed towards the Cathedral de Notre Dame and noticed a small restaurant with steamed up windows. Outside the posted menu looked good and it had a fair number of customers. In we went; the atmosphere was warm and friendly and the food and drink good.

So why do I remember this night above many; we had finished our food and sat chatting, when on aged Lady, aided with a stick came to our table and in English said; "Oh it is so good to hear English voices in our Town, your Country brought great hope to many Belgium's during the war with the BBC and clearing out the Nazi's when you came back" By then we had become the focus of those sitting around us and the Old Lady with tears in her eyes told us of some of her experiences and was joined by others with stories of how the British Services helped Belgium Citizens in their time of need.

A truly humbling encounter. 

OLD YEAR'S NIGHT - NEW YEAR'S DAY - HOGMANAY David O'Connor

Mention was made in a recent Newsletter that Christmas was very much a time for the young ones here on the Island, and on the 31 December the adults said good bye to the Old Year and welcomed in the New Year with gusto.

Tradition has it that First Footers had to be dark haired, it was always suggested that a fair haired man at the door maybe a Norseman up to no good!  The First Footer, the first man in the New Year to cross the thresh after midnight carried a bottle of whisky and a lump of coal; 'warmth and succour' for the household for the coming year'.

This tradition is similar to that of Hogmanay enjoyed in Scotland. And there are still many New Year events across the Border, up along the East coast to the Shetlands were special events are held. On Shetland 'Up Helly Yy' is celebrated and down along east coast fishing villages Guizers burn barrels of tar cleansing the towns before the new fishing begins and sharing many a nip with Family and friends.

Many who read of the role that the Holy Island of Lindisfarne played in the development of early Christianity in Britain often become confused and consider that those living here today are deeply religious and devout souls. But no, we are just a close knit society working to make a living in the shadow of the Island's early Christian heritage. For decades life has centred on the sea, the land and developing tourism opportunities. But change began some time ago. Modern religious groups began to seek a foothold on Lindisfarne and exploit the islands association with the development of Christianity in England. However, Islanders continued to enjoy and celebrate life gathering at such events as the Legion Supper, the Pigeon Dinner and the Duck Supper and dances and other family celebrations in the old hall. 

Back to Hogmanay; Old Year's Night was enjoyed and New Year welcomed in the Pubs where all Landlords provided a spread of food and the merriment continued around the village as some of the community went First Footing.

On the First, after a good breakfast some men visited family and good friends to wish them all the best. Later small groups and Guizers in fancy dress, set off around the town. It was usual that all houses had to be visited. Entering a house you'd see a table set with nip glasses, a bottle of whisky, sherry and ginger wine. There would also be a plate or two of nibbles, nuts, mini-sausage rolls, and mussels for the visitors to pick at.

It was usual to walk around the town in small groups and enjoy the crack. We usually started at the 'Rails' about 2ish then up the Front St. and along the Little Loanin, down Paly Hill, back up to the Square, aiming to be at the Vicarage by 5 to sing a carol or two and then off along Fiddlers Green aiming to be at the Lindisfarne or elsewhere for supper. It was unlikely that we would finish the circuit before Pub time and any missed house to be visited the next day and trying to get round before the First Footing Ladies caught up.

The second of January, was known as 'Ladies Day' when the men stayed home to 'baby sit' and the Women went round the Town First Footing!

Essentially days and nights of great fun and games, spiced with tall tales.

One well remembered New Year's night, standing in a crowded Crown & Anchor, the door opened wide and in came Tinko and Wee Raff dressed in long boots, doppa's & seawestas not a word spoken, sat down on the floor, started to mimic rowing and began singing that favoured hymn/chanty:

"Light in the darkness sailor, day is at hand!
See o'er the foaming billows, fair heaven's land.
Drear was the voyage, sailor, now almost o'er;
Safe within the lifeboat sailor,
Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore
Heed not the rolling waves, but bend the oar;
Safe in the lifeboat, Sailor, cling to self no more
Leave the poor old wreck and pull for the shore."

And we all joined in...

Sadly, most of the boys are no longer with us. But there are those of us who walk through the Churchyard from time to time and wish them all the Best and remember the fine memories and fun times of yesterday                                                                       

The essence of the Island is much changing. However, long may Islanders retain a strong foothold on their Island heritage.

OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE Ian Kerr

SPRING THRUSHES CHEER UP THE VILLAGE

The days are really lengthening now with spring just around the corner and in the village we're being treated to early singing from Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, Collared Doves and the other common resident species.

I heard my first glorious burst of singing from a cock Song Thrush as long ago as February 9th when he put on a superb performance at dusk in the Whitebeam behind the cottage in Crossgates. The sun was just setting and there he was in the bare uppermost branches, bill angled upwards towards the reddening sky and throat feathers quivering with the effort.

Unfortunately, next day Storm Ciara arrived followed a week later by Storm Dennis and I didn't hear him again until later in the month. But that ten-minute outpouring of exuberant song really was a sign that spring was coming even if we had to put up with the odd westerly gales and lashings of rain while we impatiently waited.

Song Thrushes, as their name implies, really are wonderful musical birds and their ringing, far-carrying songs are always a signal of early spring. We're very lucky in the village and around the island in general to still have a good healthy population as their numbers have crashed nationally in recent decades.

juvenile Song Thrush

A juvenile Song Thrush enjoys a shower on a hot day under a sprinkler in the Vicarage garden
Picture: Andy Mould.

They are early breeders. Very soon they'll be building nests in thick cover, particularly in the gardens, and giving them a tough lining of mud. Their eggs are a wonderful bright shade of blue, lightly speckled with black or dark brown. Young birds fledge at around three weeks old, emerging as pale imitations of the adults. Pairs often then go on to raise second families.

Sadly, Song Thrushes are now officially Red Listed in Britain as birds of serious conservation concern as numbers have fallen by half over the past 25 years even through there is still a population of around 1.1 million pairs.  While numbers in the countryside, including the island, have held up well they are now far less plentiful than previously in urban and suburban localities. There they are no longer an everyday sight in green spaces such as sports fields, parks and gardens showing that their problems lie in those areas rather than across the country in general.

A clue to their decline could lie in their diet. Like our very familiar Blackbirds, whose numbers haven't gone down, they rely heavily for food on earthworms and over invertebrates when conditions are wet. But unlike Blackbirds, they switch to snails during periods of dry or cold weather when worms go deeper and out of reach.

Here on the island we have an abundance of snails. They seem to be in every damp nook and dark cranny in every stone wall and I'm continually coming across them hiding under the curved lips of flower pots and tubs in the gardens. Their presence is almost certainly to thank for our thriving thrush population.

Adult Song Thrush
Adult Song Thrush shows off his speckled breast
Picture: Andy Mould.

Song Thrushes have their favourite places to hammer open snail shells and reach the soft food inside. These thrush "anvils" usually consist of large flat stones which are often surrounded by the white, grey and silver pieces of hundreds of smashed shells. There's a very big and long-established "anvil" on the west side of the Straight Lonnen under the cover of the Hawthorns which must have been used by generations of thrushes.

Many birders now believe that this heavy reliance for much of the year on molluscs could be at least partially responsible for their decline. You only have to look around garden centres to see the arsenal of pellets, sprays and liquids with which gardeners are urged to wage relentless warfare on these admittedly destructive creatures.

This has had two effects: it has dramatically reduced the numbers of snails and slugs available as food and may also be responsible for the secondary poisoning of thrushes when they eat contaminated molluscs.  This can either kill the birds outright or interfere with their fertility leading to failure.

Secondary poisoning is a term generally used when the substances used affects creatures other than the intended targets. Secondary poisoning of a different type is also a growing problem for carnivorous species, including Barn Owls, which are being affected by poisoning picked up when they find or catch rats, mice and others left dead or dying from various rodenticides.

An old friend of mine has a city allotment where he tries to stay organic. He tells me he despairs of the quantities of pellets being liberally scattered around by his fellow gardeners. The use - or perhaps overuse - of these substances could be playing a part in the catastrophic decline in another former garden favourite, the Hedgehog, which also relies heavily on slugs and snails.

I don't know whether it's just our sheer abundance of snails which keep the Song Thrushes going or whether those of us who are gardeners are just doing it in kinder way and not splashing the cash on chemicals. Perhaps it's a bit of both. The result is that Song Thrushes are thankfully still a common bird to delight us around the village.

LINDISFARNE CASTLE Nick Lewis

The castle is now back open for the 2020 season, and yet another winter is behind us - although as I type there has been a flurry of snow on the Upper Battery. Getting the place ready for an open season is never straightforward, however the 2019/20 version has been particularly challenging.

First of all, as ever, there are the ongoing maintenance jobs. The castle needs a lot of care and attention and following the restoration work it is vital to maintain the place to the standards set during that project. There have been masons, joiners, plumbers, painters, rock technicians and conservators here over the last couple of months, all doing their bit to get the castle ready. Even something as simple as a coat of paint in the Loo with a View has made a huge difference, whilst elsewhere we have put paint on some internal walls to see how it reacts to another year on the Island. This will be especially useful ahead of the planned painting work throughout the castle this coming winter.

We also had a van-load of collections return from the store with notable returnees being the Lutyens Dining Room table, the Kitchen table, a Dutch wall clock and a couple of bedrooms-worth of furniture. We have also begun the process of reviewing our collections which is a process where each individual object (all 1,300 of them) is considered against set parameters. This has been a fascinating process so far especially when we have been able to give strong provenance to objects that were previously thought to be relatively mundane items. For example, a set of ceramic bon-bon dishes were found to be in a 1906 photograph of the Long Gallery and even better than that, some objects can be identified in photographs of the Deanery Garden, Edward Hudson's home prior to Lindisfarne down in Berkshire (now inhabited by another eminent 20th century figure, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin). Knowing he brought those objects with him to the castle gives them that little extra boost in terms of significance. 

From the end of March, we have a new installation going in - Limelight, by artists Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer - which through the planning stage looks very exciting. They are using LIDAR scans taken ahead of the project to create spectacular lighting, video, and audio projections in the Ship Room, while there will be additional projections in other spaces all based around the castle's wild and exposed location. While this is going to be really impressive in itself, we have re-dressed some of the other rooms where they aren't installing their work. Having said that, their work does heavily involve the castle collections so it will be interesting to see how that cross-over looks.  

The installation will open on Thursday 26th March so will be well worth a visit.

Best wishes

Nick Lewis, Lindisfarne Castle
nick.lewis@nationaltrust.org.uk  @NTNorthd_Coast  01289 389903

NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR Andy Denton

It seems that the weather is on repeat as increasingly strong and frequent low pressure systems keep battering the British Isles. With the storms coming from the west we seem to have escaped the worst of the rain but the severe wind has been an ever present feature.

It is important to note that during this period of stormy weather many of the wintering wildfowl hunker down. This is a critical time for them as they are constantly feeding, preparing for the long migration back to their northern breeding grounds.

We have also been out with our volunteers continuing to remove hawthorn regeneration from within the dune system. This is important to keep the dune system from turning into woodland scrub, losing this valuable habitat. Larger more mature trees are left as refuges for migrating birds to use on their epic journeys

Our new events leaflet is hot off the press and can be found on our blog website (lindisfarnennr.blogspot.com) and also displayed in the pagoda at Chare Ends Car Park.

Our first event took place on the 17th of February at the WoWL building and was a success with a steady stream of visitors on their half-term holidays. Love Birds was the theme of the day as we tested visitor's knowledge of matching male and female ducks. Some found it surprisingly difficult as the subtlety of female plumage can be quite confusing!

Looking further ahead we are organising two 'Celebration of Nature' festivals. The first is approaching fast and will take place on Saturday 11th April with the second occurring on 23rd August. The idea is to raise awareness of the NNR and showcase the islands rich biodiversity through a series of events and activities over the course of the day. We will bring you more details in next months edition.

February and March are transitionary months as many wintering birds on the Reserve make the journey north to their frigid breeding grounds. Meanwhile Terns are making their mammoth journey from Africa or (as for the Arctic Tern) all the way from Antarctica. By the end of next month the first Sandwich Terns will be able to be heard along the coast.

Currently Skylarks can be heard occasionally singing in the dune system as they begin to establish territory and Snow Buntings have been seen in small flocks on the beaches.

Peak counts of birds on the Reserve include over 2000 Pink-footed geese at the start of the month, up to 1500 Barnacle geese seen around Budle Bay with 1000 still present on 20th February. Light-bellied Brent geese can still be observed on the Reserve with 900 seen on 14th February.

Andy Denton
Reserve Manager
Lindisfarne & Newham NNRs
Natural England

HEAVENS ABOVE Max Whitby

Holy Island is rightly famed for its constantly changing coastal landscape, its vibrant natural history and its rich Celtic past.  The island also offers another special attraction that is less celebrated, but none the less remarkable for that.  I am referring to the spectacular quality of our night sky.

I have come to appreciate just how good the night sky can be in this part of Northumberland as a consequence of building an astronomical observatory here in 2018.  Looking East from my home on Chare Ends after dusk, the only visible lights are slowly flashing navigation beacons on the Farnes and on a couple of small buoys warning of rocks closer to our shore.  Otherwise there is no source of light pollution looking out in that direction until Denmark!  When obscuring clouds and the Moon are both absent (sadly something that occurs much less frequently that I might wish), myriad stars are revealed on a velvety black background. This pristine darkness is exactly what is needed for taking the very best pictures of the heavens.

Cone-Nebula
Cone-Nebula

We are enormously fortunate still to enjoy this precious natural spectacle, that has been lost now from almost all populated parts of the world.  It is so sad to consider that the majority of people alive today in the world have never seen the Milky Way.  This is the great galaxy towards the edge of which our own Sun is situated.  On Holy Island on a clear dark night, the Milky Way can be seen as a great pale wash of densely scattered stars stretching right across the sky.

Astrophotography, as the esoteric activity of taking pictures of objects in the night sky is properly known, is a relatively recent development. It is made possible, like so much else in the modern world, thanks to the rapid advance of digital technology especially computing power. The telescope that I use in my observatory is not designed to be looked through.  Instead it brings light from the stars to focus on the sensor of powerful digital camera, cooled to -25C to achieve exquisite sensitivity to the faintest starlight.

Pleiades
Pleiades

The heavens above us are filled with a rich and wondrous menagerie of nebulae, galaxies and star clusters hiding in plain sight in the night sky. The equipment that I use reveals these spectacular deep space objects that are impossible to see with our unaided eye. The Andromeda Galaxy (as pictured) is just one example of the sort of target it is possible to image from Holy Island when conditions are favourable.

To take such pictures of a galaxy or nebula, a number of feats must be accomplished.  First the light that has travelled in some cases for literally billions of years to Holy Island, must be carefully and perfectly focussed onto the sensor of the astronomical camera.  Secondly it must be allowed to build up a signal in the camera over many minutes per exposure, while keeping the image perfectly stationary.  This is made complicated by the constant spinning of the Earth, so the camera is attached to a high-precision mechanical mount that exactly rotates to cancel out this sidereal motion of our planet relative to the rest of the universe. Finally many individual frames, often taken over multiple nights, must be combined together using a powerful computer to create a single finished image.

Pleiades
M31

In fact the process is more complicated than I have so far described! For example the astronomical cameras that I use capture black-and-white images.  To generate colour photographs, special coloured filters must be placed in turn in between the telescope and camera.  This allows multiple images showing the pattern of light at different wavelengths to be gathered.  Then these can be carefully registered and combined using sophisticated software to create a final colour picture.

What you might ask is the point of scanning the starry heavens and gathering pictures of the strange and wonderful objects that can be revealed in the night sky? For me there are several answers to that question.  First there is the opportunity to better understand our position in the universe: on a planet orbiting an ageing star (the Sun) on the outskirts of the Milky Way, one galaxy containing hundreds of billions of stars among hundreds of billions of galaxies that we know to exist.

Then there is sheer visual delight in photographing some of the exquisite structures that a telescope can reveal.

More sublime though than either of these reasons is the sense of appreciation that studying the heavens brings.  How fortunate we are to be alive and conscious of the Universe in which we exist. How precious is this bubble of awareness - our Earth - hurtling through the void.

FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

12th March - NTC presents "Angels of the North" at Etal Village Hall www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events/event/1394-angels-of-the-north .

14th & 15th March - Sled Dog Association of Scotland - races, Ford Westwood www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events/event/1360-sled-dog-racing

23rd March - 23rd March - Lady Waterford Hall & Heatherslaw Cornmill site open daily up to and including 1st November.

28th March - Heatherslaw Light Railway opens for the season.

28th March - Berwick Wheelers Reivers Road Race, starting at Etal Village Hall season www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events/

 

FROM OUR CHURCHES Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman

Holy Island Churches Together

From Churches Together  Dear friends,

As I write the Island has enjoyed some beautiful, but very windy weather - with occasional hints of Spring.

As usual in the UK climate, there is nothing predictable or consistent in our weather at this season of the year.

Throughout March the Christian church walks through the season of Lent, with Easter Sunday falling on April 12th. The great message of Easter is of God in Christ, with us in death and always pointing us to new life and new hope. It is a great over-arching theme for all creation and humanity, and for all time, an ultimate hope which offers, in the words of Jesus, 'a peace that passes all understanding'. However, belief in ultimate truths does not mean that we can avoid living through the seasons of life, and we are constantly reminded that they can be as unpredictable as the weather.

At this time of year, there are reminders in our gardens, of how shrubs that have been cut to the quick will produce new growth once more, and of how bulbs that inhabit darkness have stored energy to flower again when the time is right. We cannot predict, or control the seasons of life, but the strength stored up from good relationships and memories can sustain us when we are forced to live through times of uncertainty in our lives, and in the wider world.

We are holding a number of Lenten services, quiet mornings and events over the next few weeks...please do come along.

They are listed below. You will be most welcome! 

Sarah Hills
StMary's Church
01289 389216
incumbentholyisland@gmail.com
Rachel Poolman
St Cuthbert's Centre (UnitedReformed Church)
01289389254
rachel.poolman@holyisland-stcuthbert.org

 

 

 

HOLY ISLAND EVENTS FOR LENT
EVERYBODY WELCOME!


Wednesdays at 5.30pm at St Mary's
Lenten prayers for peace

Wed 4 March : 2-4pm at St Cuthbert's
Reflective craft space with Mary Fleeson of the Lindisfarne Scriptorium

Sat 14 March : 1pm at St Mary's
Stainer's Crucifixion performed by Edinburgh Royal Choral Union (Tickets �8)

Sun 15 March : 2pm at St Mary's Church
'Stories of Sanctuary' - Sam Slatcher & the Sanctuary Seekers Choir (�10, �8)

Wed 18 March : 2pm at St Cuthbert's
Film Show - 'Son of Man' - a retelling of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection in modern-day South Africa.

Fri 20 March : 3pm on St Cuthbert's beach
St Cuthbert's Day Service

Thurs 26 March : 10.30am - 12.30pm at St Cuthbert's
Lenten reflection - space, music and words

Wed 1 April : 11am - 1pm at St Cuthbert's
Lenten reflection - space, music and words.

St Cuthbert's United Reformed Church and St Mary's Parish Church working together


ST. MARY'S NOTICES


  Worship Times - Sundays
8am    BCP Holy Communion
10.45am    Holy Communion
5.30pm    Evening Prayer
   
Pattern of worship (Monday - Saturday)
   8 am Morning Prayer: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
 
   8 am Holy Communion: Wednesday
 
   5.30 pm Evening Prayer: Daily
 
 

Please note: any changes to service times or additional services will be posted on the noticeboard inside the church.