A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to our July newsletter - this month as our nation attempts a significant reduction in 'lock-down' measures.

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 Island accommodation !

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 visitors.

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 soap.

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 out.


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 success.

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 July.

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!

Thank 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 as 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 world pandemic.

God Bless and Stay Safe,

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

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 thing!!!


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 projects!!


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 changes.

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 time.

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 September.

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 part!

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 ahead.

Heather Stiansen

Author: David O'Connor

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 and Visitors.

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 NHS guidance.

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 crossed.

Stay safe and well

David O'

Author - Ian Kerr


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.

Chinese Character
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 mistake.

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 wood.

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 their surroundings.

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 photographs.

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle

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 paramount.

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 countryside.

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 time.

With Holy 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 space.

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 so.

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 that.

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 up.

As ever we review thinking regularly but this is our current state of play. We will endeavour to keep you informed as plans change.

Simon Lee
General Manager
National Trust
Lindisfarne Castle and the Northumberland Coast

Tower on the Inner-Farne
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 nest.

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 assailants.

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 tradition.

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 overhead?

Best wishes

Nick / 07918 335 471
Instagram @northumberlandcoastnt / Twitter @NTNorthd_Coast 

Marsh Orchid

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 soaking.

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 birds.

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 lead.

Pirri-pirri bur
Pirri-pirri bur coming into flower

We will keep you updated with the trials and tribulations of the Shorebirds as the season progresses.

Best Wishes,
Andy Denton
Reserve Manager
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]


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.

Milky Way

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 than 30.

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
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 Elspeth Gilliland

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 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 and antiques.

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.


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 so.

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.



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 Tutu

Victory is Ours
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us. Amen.

Sarah Hills

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

Holy Island Churches Together

From Churches Together Dear friends

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 journey...

'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 course.

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.

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




Worship Times

Public worship is on hold to help stem spread of coronavirus: since Wednesday 18 March 2020.

Following government guidance on coronavirus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued advice that public worship is suspended until further notice. I am very sorry as this means that there will no services in St Mary's Church for the time being. We have just this last week been allowed to open the church for individual private prayer on a very limited basis.

We will keep you updated as things progress.

Lord, help us to be with one another... even if at a physical distance. Help us to build a kinder world. To reach out. To love and to care. To be sensible and not to panic. Help us, Lord, to hope. Because together we can. Amen.

Revd Dr Sarah Hills

A Blessing - for this time and every time

Lift your hearts to heaven
and receive the eternal gift of peace

Keep your feet on the ground
and walk with those who need God's love

This day

you are loved by God
You are held by God
You are blessed by God

Now and for evermore

Rachel Poolman