|A BIT FROM ME
Welcome to our May newsletter again coming
to you in the midst of a pandemic. It seems unreal to be saying the entire UK remains locked-down to reduce
Here on Holy
Island, the majority of
our tiny community are assessed in the highest risk
Covid-19 category. In an effort to dissuade visitors from visiting
the island the County Council have located large signs along
the road side announcing that public car parks are closed (as are public
So, for the first time on record, may we
offer huge thank you for NOT visiting
Since our last newsletter the post office
has been shut, through illness, with the Holy Island Support Group
shop compensating by replicating some food items. Thanks to Max who
organised newspaper delivery and 'newspaper boys' Molly
and Harry. We welcome Jill and Michael back. Much-talented Mikey is
using his 3D printer to produce masks for the NHS. The Ship and
Crown&Anchor continue to offer meal deliveries twice a week.
Ed: unbelievable battered-Fish & Chips! And Kevin continues to do a great job HERE.
We feel for the millions of self-isolating
individuals, families and pets (!). Bottled up together at home,
like a powder-keg, except for emergencies, prevented from using
their vehicles - freedom and relationships will be under
Almost certainly, long before the availability of an anti-virus,
there will be relaxation for the millions in self-isolation and
use of vehicles.
If unchecked, this could mean 6,000
potentially Corvid-carriers visiting our island home, its
facilities, narrow streets and footpaths
An obviously huge threat to that miniscule high-risk
group of residents...
Thank you to all our writers. We hope that you enjoy our May newsletter and look forward (Deo volente) to getting in touch in
God Bless and Stay Safe,
|HOLY ISLAND CofE FIRST SCHOOL
Haven't we had some beautiful sunny days this
month! When times are very different and hard for us all, a bit of
sunshine certainly lifts our spirits. Our rainbow of hope message in
our window at school has inspired lots of you to put rainbows in your own windows which are lovely to
School continues to be closed but we've still
been busy getting on with learning through messages and online
contact. There has been a really positive approach from parents to our home learning ideas and we are in touch through telephone and
Thank you for helping us with our magnificent
bear hunt earlier this month. Sheila Lishman came up with the idea
which is based on the book 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' by Michael
Rosen and after a request on our Holy Island Support Group page, the
village had all sorts of bears popping up in windows, planters and
porches! Thank you Sheila. Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella really
enjoyed searching for the bears during their daily exercise with
their parents and had a checklist to help them to count. Even though
they couldn't do this together, it was still a great thing to do. The final count was 64 bears - what a
You may remember that Karen (our caretaker)
and her husband Richard were keen to get our greenhouse built in the
school garden. Those winds at the end of March died down and we were
delighted when the greenhouse was eventually built and stood proud
and ready in the garden. We were ready to get on and planted lots of
seeds in trays and pots. Then what happened to the wind? Yes of
course, the wind returned and some huge gusts from the west managed
to remove some of the panes. Luckily, the panes are poly-carbonate
so didn't break. We found most of the panes around the garden but one was completely gone! Luckily, we managed to save most of our seeds which was good
The greenhouse has now been repaired and
strengthened by Karen and Richard and the missing pane has been
replaced - thank you so much - and we are back in business. We have
a good selection of vegetables and flowers under way. We have
planted our seed potatoes and are excited to see that our
blackcurrant bushes are flowering. We are following the crop
rotation plan which was put in place by Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella
last year, so we know what to plant in each bed when we are ready.
We will continue to keep things going in the garden for the girls in readiness for our gardening club starting up again when we get back to
These are unusual times and we are all being
tested in various ways but here on the island there has been a
wonderful supportive atmosphere for us all. Please take care, stay
safe and well and I look forward to when we can all come back together again for another coffee morning in school, with cake and songs of
|THE CROSSMAN HALL
Coronavirus or Covid 19, rampaged into our lives early in March 2020 and on
Wednesday 4 March 2020, I had my first discussion with our insurance
provider. Allied-Westminster. I indicated that we were meeting the
requirements of the day. Subsequently,
we received up graded advice that required, when the building was closed, the premises must
be inspected weekly by a 'competent person' and if used for special
meetings that appropriate cleaning materials would be available on demand.
On Monday 16 March HMG announced that people should avoid large gatherings and gatherings in small places.
Additionally, listed premises had to close. This list did not include Village
or Community Halls, nor have they been included to date.
Many halls provide for isolated
communities and there can be a significant reason(s) for the facilities they
provide to remain open, at the discretion of the Trustees.
Until such time that
HMG decide that Halls must close. Crossman Hall will remained available to small groups providing
users follow NHS advice and "wash hands and clean down hard surfaces".
The hall will continue to remain available for 'emergency use'.
Maintenance Apart from day to day work, there
is/was a problem with the ingress of
water into the core of the building. That probably occurred during a period of SW
gales and rain, when the run-off from the roof was blown under
the slates into the roof void. I'll continue to monitor.
A second problem was noticed when the Gents
loo began to smell of pee. Following observation it was noticed that
the urinals were not flushing as
programed. The instruction manual was found and studied. It took a significant amount of time
to identify and resolve the problem. I'm happy to report that the
smell has gone and the urinals are operating as programed.
Bookings The most significant impact of
Corvid 19 was the need to cancel bookings that ranged from Weddings,
an Anniversary Party, several Religious & other Group
meetings, an Election and other
Charity gatherings. All events up to 24 May 2020 are cancelled and this has had
a significant impact on our annual income. It is probable that the
Church Coffee Morning, Monday 25 May 2020, will be cancelled.
Chancellor announced that funds are to be made available to Charities, I
suspect they will be targeted at more high profile organisations.
Trustees meeting Wednesday 29 April 2020 - Cancelled
van Tuijl: Most of us have known Mikey since birth and of his huge skill
levels and achievements. Like picking up his pilot's licence before he was
of an age to drive, and his well-known IT skills,
Well, he's now helping the NHS. In an e-mail he explained that since returning from
University, he has decided to help by producing much needed Face Shields
for local Nursing Homes, GP Practice's and soon local Hospitals.
We are all aware of the shortage of
PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).
Currently Mikey working
at home and running out of space, can produce up to 50 vital shields a
day. How, by using a 3D printer he is able to fabricate
and assemble masks. Don't ask me how he does it!
Longridge Towers, his old
school, is providing a second printer. Consequentially, he will have the ability
to make 100 masks a day for our local NHS.
But he needs space and I see this as a
valuable service to the wider community and we
are offering him a room in Crossman Hall in which he can produce, assemble and
store the masks prior to distribution. He will work in Melville's Room
and work will operate using NHS health & safety guidelines.
I met Mikey and we worked through a risk assessment and I am
now in contact with our insurance provider to check and see if we require additional cover. I agreed Mikey can
operate on a monthly basis, depending upon need for PPE by local
NHS services his use of Mel's room could be extended.
Footnote: A Personal View
This note is, in particular, is for those who receive the well circulated E-zine, and provides a window on our fishing community that some residents have little interest in.
When Governments around Europe demanded the closure of hotels and restaurants, Corvid 19 substantially impacted on the Islands fishing community and their ability to work. Working the sea has been and continues to be the backbone of the Island. Generations of fisher folk and those who work the land have ensured that the village was fed and prospered.
Although the Island is renowned for its role in the establishment of Christianity in England, it is not a dedicated shrine like that of Santiago de Compostela or Lourdes. It is a quiet island community drawing a living from the land, sea and now visitors. In recent decades, many incomers with strong religious beliefs have arrived and sought to make capital from Holy Island's religious heritage often disregarding the Locals opinion.
As Coronavirus impacted on Europe and Borders closed, shellfish and whitefish markets crashed. Although many Buyers continued to take the crabs and lobsters for a while, with no bait available from whitefish boats, catches declined and soon the vivier tanks were filled. Local fishermen lost their best customers; the 'lockdown' in France, Spain, Belgium, Germany and the Nederland's knocked the bottom out of the market. Further compounded by the closure of Hotels and Restaurants in the UK; the impact on the Island economy is significant.
With markets closed, the men came ashore and will have to wait for better times to come after Corvid 19 has been controlled. But, isn't there always a but, what will happen to this vital Island resource as the Country negotiates terms for Bexit proper in 2021.
Will the fishermen once again become pawns in a political game as the North Sea and other waters are divvied-up and marketing tariffs imposed?
David O' (April 2020)
|OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE
PUFFINS - CLOWNS OF THE SEABIRD
Right through spring and until late summer
one of the most fascinating birds to appear off the island is the
Puffin, surely Britain's favourite seabird.
Feeding groups from their nesting colonies on the Farne Islands are regular off Castle
Point, Emmanuel Head and Snipe Point. Other groups are often movingpast to
and from feeding areas north of the island.
Sadly, this spring I'll be missing them being
locked down in Newcastle because of the Corvid-18 emergency. But for those
on the island and able to enjoy their permitted daily exercise they're
certainly worth looking out for from now on.
Puffins really are remarkable looking birds.
Give a small child colour pencils and ask it to draw a bright-beaked
comical bird and I suspect they'd come up with something resembling a Puffin. With
huge triangular beaks of red, yellow and blue, white clown faces and
eyes where someone has gone mad with mascara, they waddle along on
brilliant orange legs. They really are comic-book characters.
For all those reasons they're by far Britain's best-known and favourite seabird. They're
certainly the most photographed, particularly when caught in that classic pose with
that huge bill draped with glittering sand eels.
Their appearance has gained them some colourful folk names.
These include Sea Parrot and Sea Clown, both obvious from
their appearance to the more difficult to explain Tommy Noddy herein north
Northumberland gradually morphs into Tammy Norie in Scotland.
Few birds arouse more public affection than
the Puffin with many folk, without the slightest other interest in
wildlife, eager to go out on boat excursions, cameras at the ready, just
for the experience of getting close to them. Not for nothing was
it chosen as the logo for the largest series of children's book
in Britain and the English-speaking world in general.
We're very fortunate in Northumberland in
being able to encounter these delightful members of the auk family
at close quarters at two of Britain's most successful breeding
colonies on the Farne Island and on Coquet Island.
Between them, they hold around 75,000 breeding pairs, well over 10% percent
of the national total. The other 90% are around Scotland and its
islands with smaller concentrations in Ireland and Wales.
Elsewhere, almost five million pairs nest
around the North Atlantic with colonies stretching from Northern
Russia and Norway to Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland
and Labrador and southwards down the American sea-board to Maine. Our Atlantic
Puffin, as it's officially designated, is replaced by two related species, Horned
Puffin and Tufted Puffin, in the North Pacific.
Puffin with Sand Eels - the picture everyone photographer wants to catch|
Photos: Mike S Hodgson
Despite those seemingly colossal numbers, the
Puffin in now on Britain's official Red List of species of major
conservation concern as numbers have fallen sharply over the past
quarter of a century. They're also considered very vulnerable because most
of the breeding population is concentrated in just a few sites. A
natural or a man-made disaster, such as a really violent storm or
a huge oil pollution incident, could be devastating.
The great news here is that Northumberland's Puffins
are beating the international downward spiral. National surveys are carried out every
five years and the latest figures show that our numbers are going
up, right again the national and international trend.
For example, almost 44,000 pairs were breeding on the Farne Islands in the latest census, up from 39,000 back
in 2013. On Coquet Island the upward trend was even more dramatic
with 32,000 pairs compared with the previous 12,000.
Puffins have bred on the Farnes since at least 1532 when a batch was sent for
a religious banquet in Durham. In contrast, they're recent arrivals on Coquet
Island where breeding didn't start until the 1960s.
Puffins, like all the auks, are truly
maritime birds. They spend most of their lives far out at sea,
wintering in both the North Sea and the Atlantic, existing on a diet of small fish caught by diving from the surface. They
only need to come ashore during the breeding season which is our
only opportunity to see them at close quarters.
The Puffin season starts early. Thousands can
arrive ashore on the Farnes and on Coquet Island on calm and sunny
days in March and April. Any change in the weather sees them
temporarily vanishing back out beyond the horizon. By May they are settling to breed in their nesting
burrows, either taking over existing ones or using that sturdy axe-like beak
and their feet to dig out new holes.
A single white egg is laid in the burrow,
sometimes five or six feet from the entrance and safe from the
attentions of gulls. Incubation takes around a month before the chick, known rather endearingly as a Puffling, hatches and looks like
a little black powder puff. They grown fast on a rich oily
died of sand eels and other small fish.
That's the stage all visitors to Puffin
colonies, particularly the photographers, really love. It's when the
adults will fly in with rows of fish gripped in the beak and makes a
dash for the burrow before big gulls, invariably hanging around, can swoop to try and rob them of
the catch. Puffins don't always make it and must simply fly back
out to sea to start all over again.
Living dangerously: Pufflings usually emerge during darkness, This bird out in daylight is at extreme risk from predatory gulls.|
Photos: Mike S Hodgson
The Puffling grows rapidly and finally leaves
the burrow under cover of darkness to avoid predators when it is around six weeks old. It will walk or fly
to the sea. The young are then independent and won't need to
return to land for several years until maturity.
Puffins face many threats, including global
warming. Even a degree or two differences in water temperature can affect the availability of food and may be behind the total
collapse of some previously huge colonies in Iceland and Norway. Industrial fishing
has also reduced stocks in many breeding areas.
Despite that they are still being killed in
Iceland where they are traditionally served as food, these days
mainly to curious tourists. There is also an increasing trend, Incredible as it seems, for so-called sportsmen
to pay up to �3,000 a head to shoot 100 Icelandic Puffins
and bring them home as sad little trophies.
The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting is urging
the government to ban the importation into Britain of puffin and other threatened seabird trophies. Encouraging sounds have been made
but unfortunately, at the time of writing and with Government totally preoccupied
with the coronavirus emergency, no action has followed.
It was exactly a month ago that the castle closed as part of the
wider response to the coronavirus outbreak. Since the 20th March the
world has changed immeasurably, and I feel slightly underqualified
to be talking about the disease and the devastation it has wrought.
Instead I can try to update you on what we are doing in all its
triviality with our eyes on the other side of this, and how we
When I last wrote for the HIT, we were just
about to install this year's exhibition - Limelight - in the Ship
Room. This work was carried out successfully by four people (myself
included) nervously adopting these new-fangled social distancing
protocols and wearing blue gloves. The installation is amazing,
really amazing. I'll include a photo with this article, but it won't
do it justice given the soundtrack, lighting, the overall ambience
of being in the Ship Room with its magnificent acoustics. The screen
the projection appears on is fitted to the shaped of the room, about
two thirds down the space and we have blacked out the room, so it
feels like a cinema. The beginning of the film is very clever and
features one of the artists in what feels like hologram-form but
isn't. The film then travels through the castle and lime kilns in an
ethereal, almost surreal way based on the 3D scans carried out a few
years ago for the restoration project. The accuracy needed for the
building work is a huge advantage for the artists as it allows such
intricate details to form part of their work. When we do reopen, it
is pretty much a case of pressing a button and off it goes. If
you can, and when its safe to do so, I would urge you to see it for real.
Aside from that most of the staff are now on
furlough leaving Daniel and I to keep an eye on the castle. We visit
to carry out essential checks and tasks which keep the place ticking
over during this closed period. I should point out that we wear
gloves at all times and observe all government advice on social
distancing - which is pretty easy at the castle to be honest. Lone
working has its advantages, but it is also important to keep in
touch with each other while on site; checking in when we arrive and
making it known we are home safely. I should also thank Danny at
Belvue for the excellent webcam which allows me to keep an eye on the castle from home!
It seems like the vast majority of people in
the area are respecting the island's wishes and staying away. On my
visits it feels like I am the only car on the road and there have
been times when between leaving the house and getting back home, I
haven't spoken to a soul! This was especially strange of course over
Easter - surely the island hasn't seen an Easter like that before?
It is though always nice to see familiar faces and have a quick chat
from two metres or more away. It is reassuring to know that the
community is staying strong and coming together in this crisis, particularly through the Holy Island Support Group.
I look forward to getting to the other side of this and will hopefully see you all there.
Take care and stay safe.
Nick Lewis, Lindisfarne Castle
@NTNorthd_Coast 01289 389903
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
With the Coronavirus still very much in our
minds, changing the way we live our lives with many of us stuck at
home more than we would like, it has been a strange month on the
Reserve. As you will have noticed visitor numbers are significantly
lower than what we would expect at this time of year and I'm sure it
was one of the quietest Easter Bank Holidays on the island in living
An annoying side note to being in lockdown is
all the glorious weather we have been having with barely a drop of
rain so far this month and wall to wall sunshine most days even if a
chilly easterly breeze takes the edge of the temperature. Find a
sheltered corner and you could be mistaken it's the middle of July.
All this fine weather has bought about an
explosion of spring activity with Skylarks a plenty singing in the
dunes and several species of flowers out in bloom. Migrant breeding
birds have also been sighted this month with the arrival of Sandwich
Terns forming pre-breeding roosts on the Reserve and using the rich
waters around Lindisfarne to feed. The first Swallows have also been
observed this week flying low of the dunes, scooping up flies and
other insects as they go.
Looking for a silver lining that this
horrific virus has caused is that pressure and disturbance on nature
has been dramatically reduced across the Reserve, a unique
circumstance that we are keen to investigate particularly as the
breeding birds start nesting.
Eventually, life will return to some sense of
normality as we transition out of lockdown but the rhythms of nature
on the Reserve have continued, ignorant to the chaos that this
crisis has brought to our lives.
Comets are interesting and unusual
astronomical objects that occasionally make a temporary appearance
in our sky. Throughout human history they have often been seen
as ominous portents of doom, harbingers of disaster and
catastrophe. Sure enough... at the very end of last year a new comet was discovered just as early cases of COVID-19
were occurring in China. My own personal name for this apparition
is therefore "The Plague Comet" and recently I have been pointing my
telescope in its direction.
C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), to give this comet it
correct designation, was first detected on 28th December 2019 by the
alarmingly named Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System
telescope on Mount Loa in Hawaii. It is the initials of this
NASA-funded automated system that gives the comet the last part of
its name. ATLAS is intended to provide the inhabitants of our
planet with a few days warning of incoming lumps of rock that could
potentially cause much greater harm even than COVID-19. Fortunately it was quickly determined there is no danger of The Plague
Comet colliding with Earth. Instead astronomers around the world were excited
that the comet might put on a spectacular show to entertain us
in the early summer.
Image 1: Max's timelapse photograph of
C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)
composed of seven 120s
By the time I managed to take my first photographs in
early April, the comet had already sprouted a tail and grown
in brightness so that it was easy to pick out among the
background stars (image 1).
Comets are generally very small objects by
astronomical standards, typically about the same size as Holy
Island, and it is something of a miracle that they are visible at
great distances. The reason for their brightness is that they
are composed mainly of ice and other volatile substances. As
their eccentric orbits bring them towards the inner Solar System,
they are warmed by the Sun so that their surface starts to sublime
(ie turn from a solid directly into gas). The clouds of vapour that are released spread out to form the comet's tail and are
then energized by the solar wind so that they glow brightly.
The Plague Comet's exhalations are an attractive blue-green due to carbon compounds
present in small amounts.
Taking a decent photograph of the comet is
rather tricky. Partly this is because, as discussed in a
previous instalment of this column, the Earth is spinning on its
axis so that the sky appears to slowly turn. On a fixed tripod
any exposure long enough to capture the comet would also be
hopelessly blurred by this "sidereal" motion. To counteract this, my
telescope and camera are attached to a special motorised mount that
precisely moves to keep the stars perfectly steady in frame. But in the case of the comet,
this does not quite work. The comet moves fast enough across
the night sky so that it tracks at a different rate compared
to the background stars.
Image 2: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko,
4.3 by 4.1 km (2.7 by 2.5 mi) at its longest and widest
dimensions, taken by:
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
/ CC BY-SA 3.0-IGO
In the first accompanying photograph I have
combined seven sub-exposures each taken 20 minutes apart. My
telescope is tracking the background stars, so their positions are
fixed in frame throughout. But notice that the comet itself
appears in seven slightly different locations in the sky, one for
each sub-exposure. The rapid motion of the comet is thus revealed: travelling
at approximately 39 kps (25 mps) relative to the Sun. Note that this speed
is measured in kpS (and mpS)... kilometers (miles) per SECOND. At
that rate it would take less than 15 seconds to travel from
Holy Island to London!
Now I admit that although my picture
demonstrates the motion of the comet well enough, it does not reveal
much about its appearance. For that you need to send a
spacecraft to get much closer. That is how the other
photographs accompanying this column were taken... by the European
Space Agency's spectacularly successful mission Rosetta (image 2).
This spacecraft rendezvoused with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and actually landed a
separate probe on its surface in 2014. In the image on
the right you can see how the comet is spewing out jets
of material into space.
Alas as I write these words in mid-April, the
news about The Plague Comet is disappointing. A few days ago, it disintegrated!
In consequence, the comet has already started to dim
and astronomers are no longer hopeful that it will become visible
to the naked eye as it makes its closest approach to the
Earth on 23rd May.
|FROM THE COMMUNITY OF AIDAN AND HILDA
We had to cancel our retreats of course.
However, Scott Brennan, the leader of our planned retreat on soul
friendship, turned this into a webinar on zoom. The
numbers booked in doubled and so we have had four weeks of sessions
for both a morning group and an evening group, including two
After giving a talk this morning I recovered by watching Al
Jazheera TV. On this a spokesman for the Australian Privacy
Association warned against using zoom. He said both Chinese
and American networks can easily hack into all private information
on the computers of anyone who uses zoom, so we should expect to
have our bank details etc etc stolen and viruses galore.
I thought we'd had enough with THE virus. It's a hard
world. But as the Archbishop of Canterbury said from his
kitchen broadcast on Easter Day, a rising tide of care for one
another in the belief that life is stronger than death is something
we can all be grateful for, not least on Holy
|FROM OUR CHURCHES
||Rev Canon Dr Sarah
Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman |
This has been the oddest Easter I have ever known. Not to be able
to celebrate the great Easter feast in church, no chance for
decorating by our wonderful flower ladies, no procession up from St
Cuthbert's Beach on Saturday evening with the new light of Christ
has been strange to say the least. And yet, and yet, it is still
Easter. In fact, it is Easter now for another few weeks. The Easter
joy we usually feel is just celebrated in different ways this year.
On our island, the Easter joy is being celebrated as we chat at a
'proper distance' outside; it is being celebrated with our island
children as they do the Easter picture hunt around the village; it
is being celebrated in the giving and receiving of neighbourly
support and help. It is being celebrated every Thursday evening as
we go outside and clap the NHS and other key workers.
I have been reading more about St Aidan and St Cuthbert during
the lockdown, as well as getting used to zoom meetings and producing
services for live streaming and the like. On some days, like today,
I have been sitting reading in glorious sunshine in the garden
(aren't we fortunate to be locked down in such a beautiful place -
what would it be like in a small overcrowded flat in the inner
city?). I wonder what Aidan and Cuthbert and the other monks would
have made of this time in lockdown? Maybe they would have embraced
it as a type of retreat or hermitage. Maybe they would at times be a
bit fed up as we sometimes are. Maybe some days they wouldn't have
felt like doing anything, as can be the case for us. And that's all
OK. We don't have to feel upbeat and positive all the time.
But it seems clear, that whatever else they felt, they would have
been praying. To the God who loves them, who loves us all. To the
risen Christ who works in and through us as we share our lockdown
time together. As we feel joy or sadness; boredom or hyperactivity;
grief or anger or worry or...
Christ has risen for us in our world today and forever. He is
with us whatever is happening, however we feel, whatever we are able
to do or not do. Our hope is in Christ - who does, who will, make
all things well. So let's try to celebrate the good things, however
small. Let's continue to look out for each other, and share for the
best our life together on this beautiful island. And above all,
let's try to give thanks - for each other, for this wonderful
community, and for God's abiding love for us all.
Sarah and Rachel
PS: And on a
personal note from Sarah - thank you so much for your looking after
me since my father died. I truly feel fortunate to be among such a
community as you all at this time. Thank