|A BIT FROM ME
Welcome to our July newsletter - this month as our nation attempts a significant reduction in 'lock-down'
As if thrown by a switch, the
Northumberland County Council have opened our public car parks
and toilets and you can now visit 'our' island home and 'they'
currently think from 4th July possibly stay here overnight -
checkout our Holy
But I previously used
the word 'our', since
months of lockdown in this remote location has enabled an experience of our 'safe' island
home as it would have been - before the huge, post-war, growth in tourism which, each year, swamps our minuscule community with well-over half-a-million
Those visiting us will be immediately greeted
by NCC '2 metre Social Distancing' signs cautioning avoidance of crowds and a 20 second washing hands with
Previous visitors at this time of year will wonder how our
pavements will cope with crowded two-way throughput of families, prams, dogs which
already force them into the traffic on the 30mph road.
Be cautious as you will be sharing many streets without
pavements with vehicles. if you have previously been used to using our
public toilets, you may wonder how these will cope if visitors accept the recommendation, 'wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap'. For certain, we are going to find
And if you park in our car parks or anywhere else on the
island, please take your rubbish away with you or use the bins
provided. Sometimes the evidence will be all too apparent where
previous visitors have transgressed.
We sympathise with NCC in its attempt to implement a
challenging national government target and wish them every
Both the Priory and Castle have
'cautiously' notified CoVid open times which start in July and
the August - CLICK HERE - to view
these together with the Causeway Safe Crossing times. And,
for those preferring to use public services to reach the
island: 'Borders Buses' resume their dedicated Berwick/Holy
Island route: 477 on 18th
Thank you to Vicar Sarah and all
the members of the HI CoVid Support Group who continue
to keep an eye on each other. I wonder are you
one of those who follow the St.Mary's Facebook page or receive
a 'Sunday Service Sheet' from Minister Rachel at St.Cuthbert's?
My latest info is that St.Mary's are hoping to resume a
Sunday morning service at 10:45 on 5th July. But, expect
a few layout changes due to CoVid regulations. Also, this will be long-time
St.Mary's supporter, Sam Quilty's first service as Curate, Congratulations and the
very best of wishes in this new role Sam!
Holy Island Times (July/August)
Amidst any hustle and bustle you may find on your arrival here,
we remain a close community. For a second month running we
include the cover picture from our 'Holy Island Times'. Welcome to
the world precious newly born, Eleanor. Very well done to Islander,
Rachael and David!
you to Brian from Bradford who praised Ian's June Fulmar contribution and
to Barbara from California, I include below, writing about her experience of lockdown
in the USA.
May I extend my gratitude to all our authors
well as Simon Lee for all the time they expend
in keeping our readers up-to-date. I remind them and all our readers
that we have a welcome break during August before publishing resumes in time for
our September issue.
Enjoy the newsletter and we look forward to
getting in touch again in September. Hopefully, by then mankind can
close together in overcoming or coming to terms with this
God Bless and Stay Safe,
Letter from a reader
Thank you so much for sending your Newsletter! We are also
in lockdown. Me, especially, because of my age (elderly) so it
is to protect me (I guess!). I did want to relay to you about
our precious eagle up this way (as you know we are just under the
Shasta Mountain area)...a big freeway goes almost the entire length
of Calif. and comes right thru our county. One day they found
a large, sick eagle (which we nurture up this way) on the edge of
the freeway. It seems that the eagle had eaten a small animal
that had ingested poison for RATS!! And, of course it was
killing the beautiful eagle! Well, I thought I had lost a good
friend!! One has to think of how we live and what we put out
for pets, etc. etc. AND, this season my hummingbirds have left
my bottle brush bush to go to higher ground. But they are not
making it a solid home. I miss them...they were lovely to
watch. Well, since we have the huge Sacramento River running
nearby, who knows where they are nesting now.
OK, this is the report from our beautiful Shasta County in the
northern part of California. We are fighting like mad to keep
our water up here in the north state. The Governor of the
State keeps trying to legislate the transference of our water out of
here. I guess over time we just won't be able to fight it when
Los Angeles and Beverly Hills really run out of water!!!
Here we go....the old Wild West again!!! Fight for clean
water, clean air, space etc. etc.
God bless you all, and hang in during the Covid 19
Barbara from Redding, CA
PS: for self entertainment during lockdown I have been doing the
Paint-by-numbers kits, and then really painting my own stuff (I'm
painting one of my grandma!!). Also my cross
stitch..etc. You hobbyists know that there is no end to
entertainment with us!!!! God bless you and your
|HOLY ISLAND C-of-E FIRST SCHOOL
Whilst we continue through the challenges
that Covid-19 is bringing to us all, a
ray of light is in sight as we have moved forward with the
opening of schools. At the beginning of the month, Lowick School welcomed
children from Year 1 back along with a small number of key worker
children. This was followed by our Nursery children who returned in the middle of
June. We have created 'bubbles' for groups of our children. This
has made our days a little different but the children are wonderfully resilient and have coped very well with the
Each bubble, or group, of children has their
own staggered times to start and finish school. The groups have
their own doors in and out of the classroom,
their own toilets and separate playtimes. Each child has their own set of
pens, pencils & books etc. Snacks and lunchtime take place in the
classroom. There are systematic cleaning routines and regular handwashing for all children and
staff. We ask the children to try their best to keep two metres apart
but as you can imagine this is not always easy to
achieve with small children! Each group has their own members of staff and they stay with the group all the
Because I teach the
Class two bubble at Lowick, we are not opening our school here on
the island at the moment. Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella wouldn't be able to
be in two different bubbles (one here and one at Lowick) so for
now, this is the best solution for everyone's safety. I am really missing teaching
here on the island with the girls but at least we
know that this won't be for ever and we can look forward to things being more normal (we hope) in
Our garden is blooming! The
(very thirsty) vegetables are doing well and we have sweet peas, geraniums
and lupins flowering magnificently. Great news - the Himalayan Poppies burst into bloom
at the beginning of June. We were very excited to see their striking pale
blue petals and custard yellow centres. Now we just have to
try our best to get the poppies to flower again next year - I'm told this is the really tricky
You may remember our rainbow of
hope message - we still have it in our window at school. We
all continue to hope that our lives will return to normal or I suppose,
a new normal, very soon. In school, we have taken the
first few steps to normality, albeit with great care and trepidation, and we look forward, with hope, to the months
|THE CROSSMAN HALL
As May ended, the Island's Coastguard Rescue Team & First
Responders were involved in another training session keeping them up
to date with skills required to cope with today's difficult virus
problems. Additionally, the Island Rescue Team will be back for
three more training days in late June. Let's hope their enhanced
Corvid 19 training will never have to be put to use on the Island.
Well done Girls & Guys helping safeguard our Island Community
In my April notes, I remarked that HMG had announced that some
funding would be available for Charities. Being a cynical old
curmudgeon, I suggest that the Grants would be targeted at Charities
with a much higher profile than ours!
Our earned income, because of CORVID 19, to date is zero, because
all booking have been cancelled or postponed up to the end of July
and at the moment, the Sword of Damocles hangs over August. We
placed our bid for grant from HMG and my faith in the Government was
misplaced. We were awarded a grant, so this tiny community charity
says thank you to HMG and please don't forget our fishermen when
negotiating with the EU. The grant received will keep our ship on an
even keel until the good times roll!
Even though the hall is little used the grounds are maintained.
Billy continues to keep the grass spick & span and some of the
more aggressive weeds have been knocked back.
During the month because the Hall has loads of space, St Mary's,
HIPC and HM Coastguard have used the building for essential meetings
and following each session, the area has been cleansed according to
Hand and table cleaning fluids are available on the bar top next
to the side door entrance. If you're in the Hall use them.
Reminder : Because of Covid 19 the
Coffee Mornings for Ian Mills children and Barbara's Christmas
Lights appeal to be held in August may have to be postponed.
Hopefully not and we see a return to normality in August. Fingers
Stay safe and well
|OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE
- MASTER TRICKSTERS OF THE NATURAL
The primary aim of just about every creature
on earth is to survive and our wildlife has developed some amazing strategies
to live for another day.
These include camouflage, subterfuge,
mimicry and even some cunning play-acting. We've all marvelled at
film of chameleons, octopus, squid, cuttlefish changing colour and
shape to blend with their surroundings. But it's not necessary to visit exotic places or dive on coral reefs
to see some slightly more modest strategies in action. In fact, look no
further than our island gardens.
Many of our local insects and birds really
are masters of disguise and subterfuge. For example, some of our regular moths are quite amazing. Small and
helpless and among the favourite titbits of many birds, they adopt some amazingly
cunning methods of staying alive.
Let me tell you about one of the strangest
of all. I regularly trap moths in the back garden in Crossgates. One
morning after emptying my light trap and logging and releasing the overnight catch, I noticed that one of our local sparrows which
hang around in hope of an easy breakfast had left its white calling
card on the glass cover.
Hiding in plain sight: not a bird dropping, just a 'Chinese Character' moth cunningly
disguised to look like one.|
Photo: Tom Tams
It turned out that it wasn't a bird dropping at all but a small
white, grey and brown moth named a Chinese Character.
Incredible as it seems, they've been designed by nature that way to
fool predators such as those sparrows. For a moment, it fooled me
too. I was just about to brush it off the glass when I realised my
Then there's the Peppered Moth, another common species. It is
white with black mottling to merge with lichen in rural and suburban
areas. But, amazingly, those living in industrial areas are much
more sooty to blend with dirty, polluted surfaces. Since clean air
legislation and the general decline of old heavy industries, this
dark form has steadily decreased. It's amazing proof of an ability
to quickly respond to local conditions.
Another species, the Buff-tip, has a strangely blunted pale
yellow head and rear end, designed to resemble the ends of a broken
twig of Birch, one of the trees which it regularly inhabits.
Another, the Pale Prominent looks jagged at both ends. You, or more
importantly a potential predator, could mistake it for a chip of
Birds too display some cunning tricks to survive as I was
reminded recently when I came across a Long-eared Owl with the
ability to become almost invisible.
This owl, roosting on a branch jutting out from the trunk of that
lone pine tree half way down the Straight Lonnen, was nothing more
than a silhouette in the gloom.
|Peppered Moth: the mottled pattern is very obvious against a normal background. Photo: Tom Tams
When I stepped a couple of feet closer for a better view it
vanished. It hadn't really. It had just shuffled back against the
trunk where its dark brown streaked body against dark brown streaked
bark camouflaged it perfectly.
Nocturnal and always secretive, long-eared owls are among the
most difficult birds to see. They roost motionless and usually
successfully avoid detection. In this instance, when I stepped still
closer the owl had obviously had enough. It suddenly fixed me with
its glaring orange eyes, raised its ear tufts and silently flapped
away towards the garden of the Crooked Lonnen bungalow.
Although breeding in small numbers on the mainland in our
extensive conifer forests, they're more plentiful as an autumn
immigrant from northern Europe which is when a handful usually
arrives on the island.
As a species, they're rather misnamed. Those prominent head tufts
are for display purposes only. Their ears are where you'd expect, on
the sides of their head.
A few years back two of these autumn owls spent daylight resting
among the gnarled thick roots of the Hawthorn bushes overhanging the
main drain near the Brig Well. Scores of people passed them daily.
But because of their cryptic brown plumage against a brown
background no-one noticed them just a dozen feet away.
Among birds other classic examples of camouflage involve our
breeding waders. All are ground-nesters where eggs and small
young are extremely vulnerable to predators including Foxes,
Badgers, Stoats, Weasels and, from above, by Carrion Crows, Jackdaws
and various gulls and birds of prey.
Peppered Moth: It just vanishes against lichen on a tree. Photo: Tom Tams
Their response is camouflage, concealment and occasionally
play-acting. The eggs of our common waders, including Lapwing,
Redshank and Snipe are all brown, olive or buff, often with dark
blotches and designed to blend with the grasses, tussocks or bare
ground which surrounds the nest scrapes. Incubating adults
also manage because of their colouration to skilfully merge into
If ground predators get too close some adults have another little
trick. They run from the nest scrape trailing a wing and pretending
they're injured and unable to fly. The aim is to fool the
predator that they are an easy meal and to lure it away from the
nest. It's a strategy that works well, the adult running and calling
in supposed panic before taking to flight.
When wader chicks hatch and their down dries, something which
takes only an hour or so, they are able to run and feed. At that
stage they're like balls of brown, buff or salt-and-pepper down on
legs and blend remarkably well into the surrounding vegetation. They
are also hard-wired to respond to their parents' calls, different
notes ordering them to flee or freeze.
Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers, which nest on our bare beaches
or shingle, have eggs coloured and marked to blend with sand,
pebbles or strands of seaweed. You can stand within a few feet and
it's often very difficult to see the eggs.
Despite all this trickery and the fact that adults aggressive in
mob and attempt to chase off passing crows and gulls, they still
suffer heavy losses. But if their eggs or chicks were more obvious
it would be a lot worse.
We could go on and on here with examples of that kind of thing.
Our wildlife from large and prominent birds down to the smallest of
moths is full of weird and wonderful ways of coping with life in the
face of constant danger. It's a fascinating subject and one
where so much remains to be discovered.
I'm indebted to Tom Tams, former moth recorder for
Northumberland, for the use of his
|LINDISFARNE CASTLE AND THE
The last few weeks and months have proved to be challenging times for everybody. Like
many organisations, the National Trust has been responding carefully to unfolding events and following
government advice closely. For the team here on the coast, we
have closed Lindisfarne Castle to visitors, not opened the
Farne Islands this season, closed our shops in Seahouses and on Lindisfarne,
and have closed our holiday cottages on Holy Island and at Newton by the Sea.
The safety of our staff, volunteers and supporting of local communities has been
About 80% of staff across the organisation
are currently furloughed according the Government's job retention scheme. Locally we have a small team
still working who are focussed on security, compliance and visitor safety in the
The National Trust
is currently starting a phased reopening of properties and
car parks when this fits within current government regulations. Even though we
are a large organisation, the financial challenges we face a result of COVID-19 are huge
so we will be looking to generate essential income again at the appropriate
Island specifically in mind, we do not currently foresee Lindisfarne Castle reopening for
some time. As long as social distancing is in place, the confined conditions internally
and the single entry / exit point make it difficult to
stay safe. The gate to the castle grounds has
to be locked to vehicular access, but the pedestrian gates remain open
for access to the public footpath and open spaces. Our walled garden is currently closed
- again because of the single entry and exit point and the small
As we plan reopening, different elements of our business
may reopen at different times. Our shop on the island is currently
closed. It is unclear when that might reopen but we are of course keen to
get the shop open as soon as it is deemed safe to do
Nationally we are
looking at our holiday cottages and it is possible some may
begin to reopen for business in July, pending the
current national situation. This, like other areas of the business, is likely
to be staggered across the country depending on a number of criteria and as we
know, guidance and the twists and turns of the unfolding pandemic may change
We are very conscious of the concerns of
the island community at this time and want to work in a way that
is sensitive and respectful of island wishes. Our website has clear
messaging that we are closed, and we are encouraging
people to stay local rather than travel long distances to beauty spots.
Our website had also been highlighting that the island's car parks were closed but as
of the 22nd June that message has been changed to reflect them opening
As ever we review thinking regularly but this is our
current state of play. We will endeavour to keep you informed as plans
Lindisfarne Castle and the Northumberland
|Tower on the 'Inner Farne' Photo: Nick Lewis
On 1 June
of this year I was standing on the Upper
Battery of the castle taking photos of the fulmars swooping around me.
I counted six of them and five were fussing over the remaining bird who was
firmly lodged in one of the old drain holes where the birds regularly
Rather than bird watching, I should have
been doing a short film about the Upper Battery guns for social
media but was struggling a bit for inspiration, but eventually it
came to me. I realised that 1 June was the very day in 1643 when the
castle was captured by the Parliament from the King; the only time
the fort's guns were fired in anger. Berwick had fallen to
Parliamentarian forces the month before and in order to secure the
town further, the outlying forts on Holy Island and Inner Farne
needed to be captured. A warship sailed down to Lindisfarne and
after a short artillery duel, the warship landed a force who
compelled the commander of the fort, Robin Rugg, to turn his coat
and hand over the keys. Once thing that recently came to light was
the second part of the operation, the occupation of Inner Farne
tower. I say occupation as the place was not garrisoned at the time
having been abandoned in 1637 but we now know that the
Parliamentarian commander Captain Thomas Shafto send a small party
of men under a chap called Mongo Moody to take over. The reason we
know about this is that a record survives of a Court Martial case
where Moody was accused by Major Craster of murder. The record says
that Moody was watching in his fishing boat or
coble, between eight and nine o'clock on the night of the 8th of
November 1643, he perceived eight men seizing his goods on the land, and carrying
them away to their boats, and when he asked them why
they were so doing, and by whose authority, they
gave him no answer, but pursued him, intending to take him, his
men, and boat ; upon which in self defence, and for the safety of the
island, he shot at them with small shot, and killed two of the
It turned out that the men were Major
Craster's, who at the time had declared for the king. Craster later
would change allegiance to the Parliament. Moody claimed that he was acting in self-defence and following
his commission to defend the island. He demanded a court martial. We don't
whether this case was ever heard or indeed what the result was, but Moody
also said he wanted to have the Court martial so he
could live out his life safely and peacefully, so
he sounds confident as to the probably verdict. If anyone has ever
heard of this tale, I'd be interested to hear from you, as Moody is a
local name so I wonder if the story has survived in the oral
As the fulmars continued to soar around
above me, I recorded the video about the Upper
Battery guns and mentioned the old days when as many as 185 guns
a day were fired in salute to passing ships. Along with the 1 June
1643 and all those countless days of saluting and signalling fire,
I wonder what the seabirds back then would have
made of it all? Perhaps they had left the castle area when
guns were installed and only returned afterwards? Surely the gunners must have spent some of
their time - as I do - watching them dive and wheel around
/ 07918 335 471
Instagram @northumberlandcoastnt / Twitter
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
As we get used to the new 'normal' life of social distancing
and sanitising our hands every five minutes nature on
the Reserve has been quietly going about its business. It was
sods law that as soon as we came out of lockdown the
glorious weather of the past couple of months broke and we have
been treated to several weeks of rain, drizzle and murk -
although the Reserve probably needed a bit of a
At this time of year the dunes are full of
wild flowers including some rare plant assemblages. A walk along the
nature trail will reveal carpets of Northern Marsh, Early Marsh and
Twayblades - just three of the 11 species of orchid that flourish on
the Reserve. In July thousands of Marsh Helleborines will begin to
flower and of course the endemic Lindisfarne Helleborine will
emerge. With carpets of wildflowers attracting vast numbers of
Butterfies, Bees, Moths as well as other invertebrates and the
constant song of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits defending their territory;
summer is really a time when you get a sense of just how important
an ecosystem the Links and Snook are; creating a hub of
biodiversity that benefits the wider environment. Pirri-pirri bur is also coming
into flower with the seed heads ripening day by
day so walkers beware. Please remove any burs from clothes and
dogs before leaving the Reserve. Also stick to the paths and desire
lines and keep dogs on a short lead to limit your exposure.
This also reduces the risk of trampling rare plant communities and
disturbing or treading on the nests of ground nesting
We have been busy protecting the shorebird
sites around the Reserve. Protective fences have been installed
around a number of sites and signs have also been erected. Sadly a
number of nests were washed away during the last spring tides which were accompanied
with big swell. However, monitoring has shown that many nests have survived the onslaught
and chicks are beginning to hatch. This is a really critical
time for the shorebirds as they contend with trying to feed
several new hungry mouths. Battling with the weather, food
supply and ground and aerial predators the last thing they need
is human and dog disturbance. This is why we ask to give
a wide berth to any protective fencing that has been installed. Please
read and adhere to all signs when entering any access point
of the Reserve and keep dogs on a short
|Pirri-pirri bur coming into flower
We will keep you updated with the
trials and tribulations of the Shorebirds as the season
Lindisfarne & Newham NNRs
ED: Pirri-pirri bur: Originating from Australia and New Zealand, this short, creeping plant is readily available from garden centres and is popular in rock gardens. It forms dense mats of lobed leaves and ball-like heads of hooked seeds (burs).
Originally introduced to the country via seeds in imported wool, the pirri-pirri bur now mainly spreads in the wild through the dumping of garden material, but also through seed and stolen fragments. It has been found on sand dunes, cliffs, heaths, conifer plantations, old gravel workings, roadsides and disused railways. [See www.plantlife.org.uk/]
Last month I lamented how the arrival of our
short summer "nights" on Holy Island enforces a three month pause in
astrophotography from my observatory here. The quotation marks are there because from mid-May until mid-August
there is really no true night at our northerly latitude. Only a semi-dark twilight that is useless for capturing good images.
So in order to get around this snag, and for a
number of additional reasons that I will explain below, I recently installed
a telescope in Chile.
Now a telescope in South America would not
be much use without: a) some way to keep it safe; and b) a means to
control it remotely all the way from Holy Island. Both of these vital facilities are
available thanks to an organization called Deep Sky Chile. DSC operates a pair of large unmanned observatories on a remote hilltop
in the foothills of the Andes. It is in one of
these automated buildings that my telescope is "hosted" as they say in
the remote astrophotography business.
Each observatory at DSC can accommodate
around a dozen robotic systems individually operated by distant
astronomers. The structures resemble aircraft hangers.
At night the corrugated metal roof of each building is retracted
completely back on rails, allowing the optical systems protected
inside each observatory an unrestricted view of the sky. Roof opening and closing occurs at dusk and
at dawn under the remote command of DSC's owners. Wind and rain sensors constantly monitor local conditions and automatically trigger roof
closure should the weather deteriorate during the night. The whole shooting
match is solar-powered, with a room full of batteries to keep the
electricity flowing during darkness.
This is a view at night from beneath my remote robotic telescope at Deep Sky Chile in the Andes,
looking up at the majesty of the Southern Milky Way.
And DSC also supplies an internet connection. This is the
vital means whereby I am able to log-on to my telescope system all
the way from Northumberland and send it commands. I can
instruct the robotic mount to point the telescope at a desired
target, select a filter and then keep accurately tracking while the
camera takes multiple pictures. Each morning, I use the same
internet connection to retrieve all the data I have acquired
overnight using my telescope in Chile.
When I say that DSC's observatories are located on a remote
hilltop, I mean very, very remote. This of course is good for
security. The nearest neighbor is another observatory visible
as a tiny white speck on the skyline 35 kilometers away. This
adjacent observatory is operated by NASA, who selected the site
because of the limpid air and because this region of Chile is one of
the least-cloudy on the planet. On average there are well over
200 clear nights per year. On Holy Island in 2019 we had less
And what nights there are in Chile! Take a look at the
accompanying photograph taken with one of the surveillance cameras I
have installed to keep an eye on my system. It shows my robot
telescope looking rather like WALL-E from the Pixar movie. And
above it is the Milky Way in all its glory. The Milky Way is
so bright in the clear air at this high altitude that sometimes it
actually casts a shadow.
The Small Magellanic Cloud, visible only from the Southern hemisphere, is one our Milky Way's nearest neighbouring galaxies.|
The large globular cluster to the right is much closer at 13,000 light years distance.
The cluster's name is 47 Tucanae and it contains millions of stars.
The greatest benefit of locating my telescope at DSC is the sheer
quality of the night sky. It is as good as it gets without
leaving Earth. Another important benefit is the
location. At 30 degrees south of the equator, all the exotic
riches of the southern celestial hemisphere are potentially
available to target. In the course of the year I can
photograph dozens of exquisite galaxies, nebulae and globular
clusters that can never be seen from Holy Island. Take a look
for example at the accompanying image of the Small Magellanic Cloud:
a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way that is 200,000 light years
distant and 7,000 light years across. Notice the two beautiful
globular clusters (dense and much closer concentrations of stars) in
the same field of view.
Remotely controlling a telescope half-way around the world is not
without its challenges. As I write this column, the focus
motor on my system at DSC is currently broken and I need to ship a
spare one out so that it can be repaired. But having said
that, the system worked almost flawlessly for five months after I
went out to Chile to install it last December. This includes
seven weeks during lockdown in Chile, when no-one was permitted to
visit the observatory for maintenance. During the past six
months I have gathered over 100 nights worth of beautiful
images. With a following wind these are destined to be
published - along with many photographs taken from Holy Island - in
an astronomy book that I am currently working on.
|FROM FORD & ETAL
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on us all over the
last 3 months, and with all the visitor attractions and venues
closed it has been a very different spring and early summer for all.
Now - although not 100% certain because government advice and
guidance may change - attractions and activity providers are making
plans to open and welcome visitors in early July.
Please see details of below - but please also be sure to check
websites and social media both for Ford & Etal and individual
venues' websites for updates.
In all cases,
social distancing and various other measures will be in place to
ensure the safety of staff and visitors.
Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre, Heatherslaw Light Railway,
Heatherslaw Cornmill (including Gift Shop and Visitor Centre) and
Lady Waterford Hall: are all hoping to re-open in the first
10 days of July. Dates for each venue may differ but will be no
sooner than 4th July. Hours of opening are likely to be reduced in
the first instance with a number of procedures in place to ensure
the safety of staff and visitors.
Handmade at Heatherslaw: Open daily from 1st
July, 10am-4pm. Only 2 customers in the shop at one time.
Active 4 Seasons: From 22nd June, offering open
canoe and sea kayak coaching and guiding. Contact for information
and to book via http://active4seasons.co.uk/
or social media (Facebook/Twitter).
Horseshoe Forge: Opening from Friday 19th June,
10am-4pm, mostly at weekends but may open during the week as
well. Contact John on 0750 434 2379 for more details.
The Estate House Tearoom Shop, Ford: Open from
16th June, selling musical instruments, bric-a-brac, painting books
Ford Village Tearoom: The village shop is open
for groceries and take-away refreshments, and it is hoped that
the Tearoom will open early July.
|FROM THE COMMUNITY OF AIDAN AND HILDA
During the shut-down there have been fresh stirrings. Eighty
people joined in a Community zoom meeting in June.
The Black Lives Matter and replacing statues controversy inspired
me to put the case for adding new statues to British people who
fought against slavery. I proposed William Wilberforce and Aidan of
Lindisfarne. This is because Aidan bought white Anglo slaves their
freedom. Pope Gregory, seeing these boy Angles waiting to be sold as
slaves said 'Not Angles but Angels'.
A Benedictine Oblate from Australia contacted the author of the
new photo narrative of Aidan and asked what is done on the island to
celebrate him. The author, John Connell, responded: 'This filled me
with hope. Imagine people getting together in Northumberland to
celebrate Aidan's legacy as soon as it is safe and practical to do
Such a project could bring together people from all over the
world, giving the Northumbrian visitor economy a much-needed
post-lockdown boost and raising Aidan's profile internationally at
the same time.
Of course, Church leaders of all denominations would have to be
involved to ensure any such event strikes the right tone. Their
pilgrimage networks and contacts could work in synergy with the
tourist sector to promote an event that could have spiritual and
commercial benefits in a dark time.
I have a few ideas how this might be taken forward...
I picture, for example, Northumbrian folk music and bands, a
refreshment marqee, stalls selling local produce and perhaps a few
guest speakers. If the idea has any value or please let me know. I
would be anxious, however, not to have a 'circus' that was in any
way disrespectful to Aidan or Christian groups.
|A TOUCH OF LOVE OR A TOUCH THAT KILLS?
I have been feeling, like very many of us over the last week,
angry, sad, bewildered. George Floyd in Minneapolis died being held
down, kneeled on, struggling for breath. Touch comes in different
forms. George died from a touch that killed him. That touch was
sustained, unwarranted, brutal and deadly. That touch of a
policeman's body was seen by those around them in the street that
day. It was seen by millions on TV. And that touch has come to
symbolise much that is wrong in our world. Hate, racism, division,
arrogance, even evil. And then Donald Trump touches the bible in
front of an Episcopal church. Another touch - calculated, shocking,
sinister. The bible is a book about love. The gospel message found
within it is one of inclusion, not division. Of love triumphing over
death. Of righteous anger, forgiveness and justice. Of diversity and
welcome and healing. Of reconciliation. But these are not only
words. These cannot only be words. The bible embodies these words in
the touch of Jesus Christ. His touch of love for us. And he let us
touch him - his cloak, his side, his hands and feet.
In Church in Holy Week, we recreate Jesus's act of touching his
disciples as he washed their feet, days before his own death. I find
this act of foot washing on Maundy Thursday one of the most moving
and poignant services. Touching another's foot, drying their toes
carefully, feels like one of the most sacramental of acts. An act of
service, of devotion, of intimate connection. The feet come in all
shapes and sizes, some toes painted, some misshapen and painful
looking. Feet with a story to tell. Where have these feet walked?
Who with? Why? Have they had to run from danger? Or made prints in
the sand on the beach? Touches of love.
My father died at the end of March. I had not been able to say
goodbye to him, and so I really wanted to see him at the chapel of
rest. I did - but what I most wanted to do was to touch him. And I
did. I held his hand, kissed him, and said goodbye. Of course, that
last touch was not the same... but it was a touch of love.
I wonder if George Floyd's family were able to give him a last
touch of love, after the touch that killed him?
Our need for comfort through touch, through hugging a friend,
through sitting on a parent's lap, through holding a dying hand, is
about goodness. It is grace filled, and in theological language,
sacramental. It is about love being made visible.
It is an abhorrent distortion of this touch of love to kill
someone because of their race. Or their colour, or creed, or
sexuality or gender. Or for any reason.
I am a white South African, full of privilege. I am a mother and
wife, delighting in our two boys and our Labrador. I am also Vicar
of Holy Island, and Canon of Reconciliation for the Primus of the
Scottish Episcopal Church. As a reconciler, it seems no accident
that I find myself on Holy Island, a liminal place straddling the
land and the sea, a beautiful place where pilgrims come to have
their hearts and souls touched. A place founded by St Aidan in
635AD, an Irish monk sent from Scotland as a peacemaker.
My life is full of privilege. I know that. Maybe I shouldn't even
be writing this piece. But I believe that as a South African who
grew up in Northern Ireland during the troubles, now priest and
reconciler living on a holy island, that I have some duty to say
something. And so I offer this in humility. Not because I am an
expert. Not because I have experienced the racism that George Floyd
and millions of others have. But because I am confused and
heartbroken. I feel the need to offer something of myself through
writing this in order to work through what is going on around us,
and in case it resonates with anyone else. Archbishop Emeritus
Desmond Tutu has said that to be silent in the face of oppression is
to choose the side of the oppressor. This oppression has benefitted
me and all of us who look like me.
This last week I have been forcibly reminded of the time of
apartheid in South Africa that my parents and countless others
fought against. Of numerous deaths because of race and colour.
Deaths due to the touch of blows, of batons, of bullets, of electric
shocks. I was born in South Africa, and my parents were both
involved in anti-apartheid activities. We left when I was a young
child and went to Northern Ireland where I grew up. As a medical
student I spent time in back in South Africa working in a rural
hospital in the 1980's. While there, I found myself joining in
protest marches with thousands of other South Africans,
demonstrating against apartheid. During one of the marches, the
police fired on us. I joined other medics in the back streets of the
township treating those who had been shot. I touched someone's
shoulder as I fought to remove the bullet lodged in his muscle.
Afterwards, the bullet out, we exchanged the touch of a bloody
and careful hug. He and I were fortunate that day. George Floyd,
Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Ahmaud Arbery, Belly Mujinga,
Steve Biko, the people on the bridge in Selma, and thousands of
others were not.
My dear friend Glenn Jordan died earlier this week. He was a true
reconciler, a brave and beautiful man. Funny, hopeful, deeply humble
and one of the most profound and poetic thinkers I have known. I
remember him sitting on our sofa here on Holy Island, glass of
whiskey in his hand, touching my heart, and all of ours there that
evening. I suggested a swim off St Cuthbert's beach below our garden
the next morning. The touch of the icy water, then the touch of our
frozen hands as we high fived afterwards. The touch of love. I never
got the chance to hear what Glenn would have to say about the
situation we find ourselves in this week. In the USA, and if we are
honest, everywhere in our broken world. We have lived, we continue
to live with conflict, violence, and the touch of death. But I know
that Glenn would not want me to stop there. Nor would my father.
The touch of love is here to stay. The touch of love enables us
to be angry. And so we should be. To grieve. To lament. To search
for justice. For all those suffering racism, brutality and
discrimination throughout our world. For our children and our
children's children. And these things - grief, lament, searching for
justice and even forgiveness, we must do. Without them,
reconciliation is useless. But if we can hold fast to the touch of
love, reconciliation will come. Maybe not today. Or tomorrow.
But it is there in the hope that Jesus Christ brings us. The touch
of love is stronger than the touch that kills. Always. And forever.
I end with a prayer from the 'father of reconciliation', Desmond
Victory is Ours
Goodness is stronger than
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours
through Him who loves us. Amen.
|FROM OUR CHURCHES
||Rev Canon Dr Sarah
Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman |
I hope you are all coping in these strange times. The island
community has been a stunning example of mutual care and support for
one another. Jesus said, 'Love your neighbour'... and this has been
and continues to be very evident here. We are indeed blessed on this
holy island. I am so delighted that Sam Quilty will be joining us at
St Mary's as our Assistant Curate from July 4th. I very much look
forward to working with her as she begins her 'ordained' ministry.
Again, we are indeed blessed. I have asked Sam to write about her
'In 2017, after a long
time of discerning my calling to becoming a Priest, I was very
blessed to begin as an ordinand in training for the Church of
England within our Diocese of Newcastle. I have spent the last
three years training with Lindisfarne College of Theology as a
part time student under Durham University. My course was based in
North Shields every Monday evening with many weekend residentials
away. I had not written an essay since leaving school so was very
nervous that I could cope with the academic side of the course,
but it has gone well, and I have enjoyed the challenges and
learning. My course was also practical which involved placements
in the RVI and Freeman hospitals with the Hospital Chaplains, a
mission placement in Lowick and a 6-month placement in Berwick
Parish Church, which sadly was cut short because of the Lockdown.
As part of our course we have been studying conflict and
reconciliation and I have spent time in Poland at Auschwtiz and
Birkenau in Poland, Israel, and Corrymeela in Northern Ireland. It
has been quite a juggling act balancing study and a full-time job
at Marygate House. With the support and encouragement of my dear
husband Don and family and friends and so many of you here on Holy
Island and constant nudging from God I have finished my
I was so pleased when Bishop Christine offered me my Curacy
on Holy Island and am looking forward to supporting this community
which is so very much in my heart. I will be a Self-Supporting
Minister (SSM) which means I will be supporting myself financially
with my work as joint warden at Marygate House. I have felt very
much called to this model of ministry from the beginning of
discerning my vocation as a priest.
Because of Covid 19 and the situation with churches my
ordination as a Deacon, which was to be 4th July, has been
postponed until the beginning of October. I will become the Curate
from 4th July and hold a special License as a Lay Minister
awaiting ordination from the Bishop so I can still carry out the
role of a Deacon which is what I will serve as for this first year
and, God willing, priested next summer.
Many of you will know Don and I met here on Holy Island as
volunteers at Marygate House over 30 years ago when Kate Tristram
was our Warden and we left to marry and have a family but felt we
were being called to return after 26 years to run Marygate House.
I never had in my head that it was also to be called to become a
priest and now here I am after what has felt a whirlwind and being
here and serving you. It will be a privilege. Thank you.'
I'm sure you join me in welcoming Sam in her new role, and we
keep Sam and Don very much in our prayers as they begin this new
phase of their lives and faith.