|A BIT FROM ME
Welcome to our November issue coming to you
on 'All Saints' Day' and I quote from Rev Kate Tristram's editorial in this month's Holy Island Times
referring to 'Baron von Hugel' who wrote:
"The feast of every heroic soul, every
heroic act, inspired by God since man began on earth. The day of
all saints, in all times and places and disguises, most of them
known to God alone; indeed it is the day also of all the saintly
bits, the saintly moments in those not otherwise saints at all... We
might think of this as we keep 'Remembrance Day'. Many of
those who died, indeed of whom we say in gratitude that they died
for us, were never thought of as saints, but had their moments. Let us be thankful for our
belief that God notices and remembers everything."
All Saints' Day falls during schools' half-term, when it seems that almost the
entire UK is back in lockdown. On Holy Island, travel
restrictions have not returned and the car park remains well-filled. Even in
the early evening, as businesses are closing, vast numbers
of visitors, some with families, some with dogs, loom out of
the darkness wending through unlit streets to locate their vehicles
in the muddy field. If you were here at the weekend, I hope
you weren't one of those who discovered the 'hard way' that the
NCC traffic warden had also been visiting...
In March, at the onset of Lockdown,
churchwarden, Mark, set up a 'Facebook Group' on behalf of the Holy
Island Support Group and the residents they represent. I would like
to pay tribute to Mark and Mary at Lindisfarne
Scriptorium and hope
the success of our group continues long after a Covid solution has
been found. In particular, for me, it has been a revelation to
discover some highly skilled amongst us - perhaps the coming
21st century cottage industry. Hopefully, you will agree when you checkout the
'Made by Residents' webpage. The 'season of giving' is not
far away now and whether you're looking for ideas for a present or
simply want to see what some of us are getting up to
in lockdown click on the link below...
Regretfully, Covid regulations prohibited a
large gathering in St.Mary's for the ordination of Sam Quilty. Sam
has a long history on Holy Island where more recently she and
husband, Don, have run the island retreat, Marygate House as well as
being a stalwart member of the PCC Thank you to Sam for sharing a
brief account of proceedings. Very well done on your
ordination - our thoughts are with you into
Thank you also to our regular writers,
particularly David who took the time to bring us all up-to-date with
the 'dig' in Sanctuary Close. This month we also introduce you to
Lesley who has lived with us her for 20 years and writes about
her impressions on island life and our community. Perhaps one day we
might persuade one or two of our islanders to share their thoughts
on Holy Island past, present
Enjoy our newsletter, we'll be
in touch again in December - our last issue for
God Bless and Stay Safe,
|ORDINATION OF REVEREND SAM QUILTY
St Mary's, Holy
3rd October 2020
It has been such an unexpected blessing to be ordained Deacon in
St Mary's Church which has come out of the midst of this Covid 19
pandemic we find ourselves in and the guidelines from the Church of
England which limited ordination services to 30 people. It meant I
could only invite 10 guests which was the hard part of being
ordained here and not having many of you there. I was ordained by
Bishop Stephen Platten who is a retired Bishop in Berwick who I had
worked with on placement. I was so happy to be ordained alongside
Tom Sample who I have trained with for 3 years and who is now one of
the Assistant Curates in Berwick. It was hard not having any of my
family there apart from my dear husband, Don, but the service was
recorded and so could be seen afterwards. I have attached the link
if you would like to see it. https://youtu.be/l32l8zyVs60
I would like to say a very big Thank You to this community for
all your support over the past few years and for the wonderful cards
and gifts that arrived on the day of my ordination. I was not able
to have any party but having gifts, cards and cakes arriving
throughout the day was just as special and meaningful to me. I am
very blessed to be the Assistant Curate here and to serve this
parish. Know that you are all very much in my heart and in my
prayers as we journey together especially through these unexpected
times that we find ourselves in.
|HOLY ISLAND C-of-E FIRST SCHOOL
|Picture from Sarlet-Beau
Our first half term seems to have flown
over! The children have really impressed me with their enthusiasm
and stamina over the last eight weeks. It's been wonderful to see
how well they have settled back into the school routine. Even though
it has been different in many ways, we have all got used to our new
ways of working. Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella have enjoyed being back
at school and on some days, have literally bounced their way into school!
This week we have spent some time decorating
our windows with Halloween art and crafts. We've left them all up so
if you're passing by, watch out for our spooky cats, bats and
pumpkins! We had a Halloween treasure hunt followed by a party at
Lowick and the children enjoyed a special lunch. It was a lovely way
to end the week. We are all now ready for a well-earned break over half term!
We have welcomed Commando Joe's
'Adventure Learning' into school this half term. Commando Joe's is a
character education programme based on the principles of respect,
building resilience, empathy, self-awareness, positivity,
excellence, communication and teamwork. The children are taking part
in activities based on missions that are active and engaging,
involving the use of lots of practical equipment. Each set of missions
is based around an inspiring person and focuses on developing
using positive character traits to grow their confidence and
problem-solving ability. Scarlett-Beau and Lily Ella are working on missions
linked to Steve Backshall the famous naturalist and explorer. We
chose him because the missions are based on surviving in the
rainforests of Borneo and photographing tigers in Bhutan. This works
very well with our curriculum theme of the natural world. Future
inspirational people planned for the year include Kira Salak, Nellie Bly, and Ibn Battuta.
Picture from Lilly-Ella
We have been researching our local natural
world and have been learning about some of the many birds visiting
the island at the moment. In addition to seeing so many birds as we
travel along the causeway each day, Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella used
books and the internet for their research. I hope you enjoy reading
their impressive work. It's good to see the girls so interested in
the wildlife on our beautiful island. This week we saw a murmuration
of golden plover as we were in the playground. The sky was a deep,
stormy grey and as the birds swooped and turned, their white bands
of feathers looked like a dazzling silver against the grey. We were
mesmerised by their beauty - a real 'wow' moment for us all.
We have lots to look forward to in the
coming weeks. We have two visits to the island from the Lowick
children planned. We are learning about pilgrimage in RE and will
walk along a small part of the Pilgrim's Way before exploring St
Cuthbert's Island. During the visit will also look for specimens of
seaweed, grasses, seed heads and ferns. We will be finding out about
the work of Victorian botanist and photographer Anna Atkins who used
cyanotype photography to record plant life around her. We will be
making our own cyanotype prints - I'll share them with you in the next few weeks.
|THE CROSSMAN HALL
As I type this note I'm nearing the end of my
period of quarantine. In September I was working away and on return
to UK, I completed the required documentation and went into
lock-down for 14 days. This process is not without difficulties, but
one good thing was, I've almost emptied the freezer and in doing so
ancient pheasant, it was tasty in a casserole, and
one or two ancient unknown parcels from which the labels
had disappeared! They were dispatched to the bin.
Mandatory Covid 19 restrictions continue to appear almost out of
the blue, loading us up with dos & don'ts. They're a bit of a
nightmare for Hall Trustees and hirers alike, we share legal
responsibility to ensure that the Regulations are complied with;
otherwise we can face an automatic fine.
Earlier this year, after bookings were withdrawn or cancelled, it
was decided to be prudent and hire the hall to Organisations with
experience and an understanding of managing health & safety and
producing 'risk assessments'.
As a consequence, our business declined. One of the few users of
the hall was DigVenturers in association with Durham University. The
Archaeologists took over and used the hall as their base for most of
September. Additional to meeting our Terms & Conditions their
safety paperwork was checked. DigVenturers also hold a
'We're Good to Go' certificate from HMG as a Covid 19 safety
HMG & Local Authority Rules are such that we will have little
or no business for the remainder of the year. However, because of
prudent financial management in the past, the hall will survive
until business picks up next year, providing the virus is brought
It is disappointing to announce that the Christmas/New
Year Gathering will not go ahead this year because of Covid 19
requirements. Currently, such a gathering would be illegal.
But the hall is still available for small community work or
business meetings provided attendees leave their contact details
using the NHS QR code or jot down their details in the notebook on
the bar counter.
Remember if using the hall, you must follow to follow the NHS
|HOLY ISLAND ARCHAEOLOGICAL
PROJECT - SUMMER 2020
I have pulled this note together to help
explain to those uncertain that all bone recovered from the
excavation site is
carefully handled. Archaeologists must follow very strict protocols when working with
human remains and the process can be independently inspected.
DigVentures in association with Durham University are work every
summer in the Sanctuary Close. One of the projects research
priorities is understand who was living on Lindisfarne during the
early mediaeval period; where they came from; what their health and
diet was; any medical conditions that may point to cause of death;
and whether or not the Island was deserted following the Viking
raids as history suggests.
As in other years they are based in the hall, where prior to
beginning work on site, the diggers were briefed on their role and
responsibilities. After opening up the site work progressed well
breaking into a new layer of unexplored ground and they continued
digging and documenting the Island past.
Remember Archaeologists are not treasure hunters, they work to
enhance and broaden our knowledge of yesterday and what use was made
of the land. Within 2/3 days of reopening the dig, several coins
dating from 840s were recovered and as work progressed more
significant finds and build features were revealed and some set
aside for identification and conservation. Among the finds was a
significant amount of animal and human bone.
In the past some people have expressed unease that human remains
regularly feature in the excavated material during the series of
Island digs. Much of that disquiet came from a lack of understanding
that the Project Team is guided by a strict professional Code of
Conduct set by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and over
seen by Historic England. At all times human remains are treated
carefully and with great respect.
The Island Team are overseen by Senior Archaeologists and ensure
the diggers follow that strict protocol when excavating, cleaning
and bagging material prior to being transported to Durham
University. Where bone specialist, an osteo-archaeologist, examines
and catalogues the bone.
Where human remains have been gathered with the approval of
Church Authorities, it is usual for the bones, after an agreed
period of time, be collected and reburied in consecrated ground.
This will be done by the Holy Island Archaeology Project, who will
ensure that the remains are reburied with some of the many quartz
pebbles that appeared to form part of the original interment.
When Covid 10 is controlled and the restrictions on our freedom
of movement are removed, DigVenturers will host an evening in the
hall to bring locals up to date with progress to-date.
|OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE
DOUBLE TROUBLE IN THE BARN OWL
If there's one species of bird which arouses
more interest than any
other on our island it's surely the Barn
It's a bird just about everyone tells me
about when they are lucky enough to see one silently ghosting across
the fields or quietly resting on fence posts
or walls as they go about their everyday
The owls are particularly noticeable at this
time of year as they are usually out hunting in the hour or so
before our early winter darkness. They always present a wonderful
sight as they patiently flap and glide low over the ground in the
search for food, mainly voles and other small
The history of Barn Owls on the island is
mixed. They were recorded as breeding in rock holes at the Castle
during the 1940s before fading out locally as populations fell
sharply right across Britain. The increasing use of poisons from
that period until the turn of the century to tackle rats and mice
was probably involved in this decline and they were absent from the
island and from many other areas for many
From the early 2000s one or two began to
appear in winter, presumably from the small but increasing
population on the mainland. This prompted Robert Brigham and I to
put up a nest box at St Coomb's Farm which was used for the first
time in 2008. Three young fledged becoming the first
island Barn Owls for at least half a
Since then breeding has continued in most
years at the farm or at another box later erected in the village.
the island, a third box has been used
In 2014 pairs occupied both village boxes and
successful fledged between them a total of 14 young
in what proved to be a totally exceptional
Since then fortunes have been mixed with
young fledging in some years but pairs failing in others. Barn Owls
are very dependent on voles, by far their most important prey items.
Vole populations are cyclical, usually rising to
a peak every three or four years before
In good vole years owls normally do well. In
lean years they don't and sometimes don't even attempt to breed.
Other problems have faced our owls. In at least two season young
were predated by Stoats. They are skilful climbers making them a
even to birds those nesting high off the
2020 has proved a very good vole year but
when it comes to Barn Owls on the island nothing
seems to be simple, as I'm about to relate.
Success - the two young owl growing well
Photo Thelma Dunne
It was July before I managed to check the
boxes after the coronavirus lockdown. At one box three owls flew out
as I climbed the ladder to open the hatch. I assumed, wrongly as it
turned out, that they were the
adult pair plus a fledged youngster from the
When I peered into the box, I was amazed
to find two clutches, each of eight clean and obviously fresh
eggs, laid side by side. It turned out that the three birds which flew
out were a male and two females. The females had both been
incubating as the eggs were warm to the
I'd never heard of two female Barn Owls using
the same box - and I had
an awful feeling that it would end in
I checked the literature made other enquiries
and it turns out that two females in one box seemed unprecedented in
the county. Going further, I contacted Colin Shawyer, founder and
co-ordinator of the Barn Owl Conservation
Network and among Britain's leading authority on the
Colin receives data annually on many of
Britain's 9,000 or so known breeding owl pairs. He said that two
sharing a box were extremely rare but not
He recalled one instance in Nottinghamshire
where female owls
each hatched broods of young in the same
A month after my initial discovery
I returned to check progress Could be possible that, like Colin, I'd
find two broods of young, in this case perhaps as many as 16
young? Or would my fears of disaster be
As I approached two adults flew out. Opening
the hatch, I found six naked, blind and obviously very recently
hatched young in one scrape alongside four un-hatched eggs. The
other eggs present on the first visit had
It seemed that things had sorted themselves
out and the second female had been evicted either by the male or
perhaps more likely by the other female. Colin's experience in
Nottinghamshire wasn't going to be repeated on the
A month later I returned intending to fit the
young with metal identity rings. I approached with some trepidation
and thoughts that the second female may not have given
up easily and could have returned and caused
Opening the box, I discovered that only two of
the six young had survived. The two youngsters were large and still
downy. They were obviously well fed and were developing their
heart-shaped owl faces with
feathers starting to emerge in their wings and
Brood depletion is fairly normal in owl
broods, smaller and weaker youngsters perishing because they can't
compete for food. At other times, when food is scarce,
cannibalism can occur. It sounds awful to us but its nature's way of
ensuring that at least some of the brood
I don't think food shortage could have been a
problem in this case. This summer there was there was an abundance
of voles on the island. Two uneaten voles were lying in the box.
Perhaps there had been some interference from the
evicted female which had affected the box's success
had occurred here the two young successfully
fledged during October which in the very unusual circumstances
has to be regarded as a good result. However, it would
have been nice to have more young
- so hopefully things might return to normal in
|THE BIRDS OF HOLY ISLAND - update
For the birding enthusiasts amongst you
'The Birds of Holy
Island' is available here:
In his introduction author IAN KERR mentions that a frustrating aspect
of his popular
guide is that no sooner has it been updated and published that new
species turn up. And so it has proved with seven newcomers since last
publication increasing the local list to 345 species.
The new species are:
GLOSSY IBIS Plegadis falcinellus. A sub-adult visited the Lough
on 29 May 2018.
LITTLE BITTERN Ixobrychus minutus A female was at Waren Mill on
Budle Bay, on 4-5 May 2018.
PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER Pluvialis fulva One was in the Crooked
Lonnen area from 21-29 July 2019 and was again present during
ASIAN DESERT WARBLER Sylvia nana Northumberland's first and
Britain's 13th was at the Snook from 15-19 June 2020.
TWO-BARRED WARBLER Phylloscopus plumbeitarus The county's first
was at the southern end of the reserve at Budle Point from 29 Sept-2
CETTI'S WARBLER Cettia cetti. A male sang at the Lough on 20-21
October 2018. Another was present from October 2019 into 2020.
BROWN SHRIKE Lanius cristatus. The first for Northumberland was
at Chare Ends for a week in October 2020.
Other additional rare or unusual sightings
Page 100 Gadwall: Female with single duckling at Lough in July
2018 was the first island breeding record.
Page 101 Black Scoter. The wintering drake of 2017-18 returned in
winters 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Page 101 Surf Scoter. A drake flew north at Emmanuel Head on 6
Page 106 Little Egret. New local peak of 23 on reserve in October
Page 107 Red Kite. One flew north across the island on 27
Page 103 White-billed Diver. In 2018, singles were off Ross Back
Sands on 10 November and Cheswick on 16 December.
Page 106 Slavonian Grebe. Winter 2019-20 produced gatherings of
over 30 off Ross.
Page 110. Stone Curlew. One was in Budle Bay on 29 October
Page 112 Broad-billed Sandpiper. One was on the North Shore from
18 May-5 June 2019.
Page 113 White-rumped Sandpiper. One was on the North Shore on
11-12 August 2019.
Page 119 Turtle Dove. One was in the strawberry field area during
Page 120 Tawny Owl. A bedraggled individual was in the Straight
Lonnen during an easterly gale and rain on 3 October 2020
Page 122 Hoopoe. One was at the Snook on 28 September 2018.
Page 123 Lesser Grey Shrike. One was on the island on 4 October
Page 124 Raven. A pair was resident on the island during
Page 126 Woodlark. One in the Crooked Lonnen/Rocket Field on
11-12 October 2018.
Page 127 Greenish Warbler. One in Vicarage garden until 10
October 2019 was the latest county record.
Page 127 Arctic Warbler. One was in the Captain's
Garden-Lindisfarne Hotel trees on 8-9 October 2020.
Page 127 Pallas's Warbler. One was in the Crooked Lonnen between
15-19 October 2020.
Page 128 Dusky Warbler. One was in village gardens between 15-19
October 2020 with two present by the latter date.
Page 129 Subalpine Warbler. One was at the Chare Ends willow
patch from 26-28 April 2019.
Page 130 Marsh Warbler. During May 2018, singles were in the
Vicarage garden and singing in the dunes north east of Straight
Lonnen on with probably same individual visiting the Lough. A male
then sang in potential breeding until late June.
Page 131 Rosy Starling. A juvenile was regularly with Common
Starling flock in Sandham Bay in October 2020.
Page 132 Spotted Flycatcher. One around the Vicarage until 11
November 2019, equalled the latest county records.
Page 133 Red-flanked Bluetail. At least two and perhaps as many
as four visited the island in October 2020 with sightings at the
Straight Lonnen, Snook, Greenshiel and in the village.
Page 133 Bluethroat. Three were on the island during an influx on
18 May 2019. One was at the Snook on 4 October 2020.
Page 133 Red-breasted Flycatcher. A female at the Snook on 26-27
May 2018 was the first spring record since 1998.
Page 136 Olive-backed Pipit. One was found just off the Straight
Lonnen on 7 October 2019.
Page 138 Bullfinch. A Northern race female was in the Straight
Lonnen from 9-12 April 2018, the first spring record for 23
Page 140 Ortolan Bunting. One flew calling over the Snook on 18
Well I'm still here, which sounds obvious but
given the changes in the National Trust recently it was by no means
a given. In fact, the castle and local properties have been spared
the worst of the redundancies, but things will be very different for
us in the future. Mainly this will be in our ways of working behind
the scenes, but I would imagine
things will look a little different for visitors too. As to how we manage opening
operations in the coming years, we need to get our heads
together in the coming months and work things out.
We are very keen to get open again and are looking forward to getting
a plan together. Colleagues who have been on furlough are returning in
the next few weeks (by beginning of November) although we will still be working from
home where possible.
Last month I briefly mentioned the capture of
the castle in October 1715 by the two Erringtons. Had I only waited
a few days I could have included the results of a phone call I
received out of the blue from a descendant of Lancelot
Errington. The gentleman had been doing some family research and discovered his link to the
notorious Jacobite but got in touch with me to see if
I could help with one or two bits and
pieces. I did explain to him that we did have a visit from a
relative of his a few years ago (Sir Lancelot Errington, the late
civil servant) and he was told by one of my colleagues that folk with that
surname weren't welcome!
It was I that learned more from him though;
even simple biographical details such as Lancelot's birthday, the
date he was married, the name of his wife, and the date he died. His
wife's name was useful, as I
have a copy of a letter from a Margaret Errington who I now know was
married to Lancelot in 1722. His death date is also interesting.
The story goes he died of a broken heart
after Culloden, which always sounded apocryphal. He died on the 20th April 1746 -
that is four days after the battle near Inverness, the news of
which would probably not have reached Newcastle by then - it apparently took four days
to reach Edinburgh.
Another military-related fact appeared when
looking for something else I thought I'd share too. A while back I
wrote about Master Gunner Charles Whyte, who died on the island in
1855 and is buried in the churchyard (he was the chap we can credit
with starting the castle garden). Anyway, it turns out that he
joined the Royal Artillery way back in 1795 and served in Flanders
and Holland with the Duke of York until 1800. This was part of the
war against Revolutionary France and was a disastrous campaign; immortalised
in the 'Grand Old Duke of York' nursery rhyme, my 2-year-old's current favourite. It is
quite something to think what Whyte would have witnessed in his
47-year military career and the stories he might have
told in the island's pubs. Being in the RA he would have been all
over the place; the Iberian Peninsula, America, maybe even Waterloo? Like Thomas
Philips last month, maybe Whyte is another character in the castle's story who is worthy
of more attention.
For the next few months, myself and
Daniel will continue to visit and carry out essential check and maintenance at the
castle. Hopefully as time goes on, we can be there more and
more and get more clarity on what the castle operation is going to look like
in the future.
/ 07918 335 471
Instagram @northumberlandcoastnt / Twitter
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
|Photo: Andy Denton
This time of year on the Reserve is the most spectacular as the
intertidal area becomes a moving mass of ducks, geese and waders.
Thousands of geese move to and from the site each day causing a
mesmerising audio and visual display at dawn and dusk and waders
form complex aerial acrobatics over the mudflats either disturbed by
predators or people. Numbers have now begun to peak with at least
25,000 Wigeon and over 5,000 Light-bellied Brent utilising the
This month we began our most extensive study into disturbance of
the internationally important numbers of wintering waterfowl and
waders on Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. The aim of the study
is to map bird species, numbers and disturbance incidences across
the Reserve to get a better understanding of the effect that this
has on the movements and redistribution of birds across the site and
whether repeated disturbance moves them off the Reserve entirely. To
get an overview of the whole area, 4 stations are dotted around the
Reserve and observed over a protracted period of time. These surveys
will be undertaken frequently through autumn and winter.
As part of our monitoring schedule we also count grey goose
roosts. The first nationally co-ordinated counts occurred this month
and showed that 7,000 birds were using the Reserve and an additional
4,000 present on additional freshwater sites next to the NNR.
In the last couple of weeks the Cattle have returned to the dunes
to graze. Over the next few months they will remove the rank grasses
that have grown up over the course of the year, reducing the height
and density of the sward. This, along with their hefty weight opens
up the sward and allows the flowers to bloom come spring. The Sheep
have also now arrived and will be grazing in the Snook focusing on
the dune slacks and grazing non-native species such as Michaelmas
daisy. In addition to grazing, we have also been out cutting some of
the more delicate dune slacks and hard to reach areas. We will be
out over the next couple of weeks doing some more cutting and raking
with our volunteers.
Reducing our carbon footprint while working on the Reserve is a
key priority to us and so this month we received our new electric
gator. This vehicle creates no emissions at point of use and is a
great mobile hide, allowing panoramic views of the spectacular
Reserve from behind the cab windows. We have also been switching
over our petrol machinery to battery operated where possible.
Finally, the Lough and Fenham-le-Moor bird hides have reopened in
the last week. Go and take a close look at the spectacular wildlife
from these buildings but please adhere to Covid-19 guidelines for
social distancing and remember to sanitise your hands before and
after using door and window latches. We also have NHS app QR codes
on the door for track and trace, so if you have downloaded the app
you can check-in when entering.
& Newham NNRs
Autumn is famously the best time of year for
finding rare migrant birds on Holy Island. Less well-known is
the fact that it is also the prime season for photographing some of
the most beautiful galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. This
month let me tell you about two spectacular targets
that are currently prominent in our night sky: the
Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades.
Many of the best astronomical objects were
catalogued by the French scientist Charles Messier in the late
Eighteenth Century. Messier included 110 items in his list,
each of which is now designated with an "M" number - not to be
confused with motorways! The Andromeda Galaxy is M31 and the Pleiades
open star cluster is M45.
M31 and M45 are among the brighter objects in
the Messier Catalogue, both just about visible to the naked eye
provided you allow your sight twenty minutes or so to
dark-adapt. Without optical assistance, the Andromeda Galaxy
appears as a faint elliptical smudge, occupying roughly four times
the diameter of the full Moon in the night sky. The Pleiades
are a brighter blur of blue luminosity occupying about the same area
as the full Moon. If you squint at the Pleiades you may just be able to make out
seven or so constituent stars.
M31 the Andromeda Galaxy photographed on Holy Island this autumn. The
light that was collected to make this image took
2.5 million years to reach Chare Ends.
I highly recommend taking a look at
M31 and particularly M45 through binoculars or
even better a telescope. With the assistance of
such optics, a wealth of detail immediately becomes visible.
Andromeda is revealed as a barred spiral galaxy, similar to
our own Milky Way, with darker dust lanes forming an attractive vortex
pattern not unlike cream being stirred into a cup of
coffee. In fact, astronomers believe that the physics driving both these processes is surprisingly similar,
albeit on radically different scales!
The Pleiades is a magnificent sight viewed
through binoculars. This open cluster includes seven
particularly bright blue stars: Alcyone, Atlas, Electra, Maia,
Merope, Taygeta and Pleione. These names which come from
Ancient Greek correspond with the Seven Sisters, an alternative name
for M45. However, there are far more than seven stars in the
open cluster that constitutes the Pleiades. At least 30 are
revealed by a small telescope and larger instruments show that there are over 1,000 stars
in this gravitationally entwined grouping.
M45 the Pleiades open star cluster, also
photographed from Chare Ends on Holy Island this autumn.
The fuzzy surrounding nebulosity, resembling
an artist's brush strokes, are clouds of gas and other
matter illuminated by intense blue light from the hot stars
of the Pleiades as they travel together in convoy
through this dusty region of our galaxy.
The Andromeda Galaxy may appear larger to us
in our sky than the Pleiades, but it is also much, much further
away. Consequently, M31 is much, much bigger than the M45:
approximately 22,000 times bigger! M31 is so distant that its
light has taken 2.5 million years to reach us. M45 on the
other hand is relatively speaking our close cosmic neighbour, being
"only" 400 or so light years away and therefore well within our own
galaxy the Milky Way. In fact, M45 is the closest
open star cluster to Earth.
M31 and M45 are
comparatively straightforward to photograph, requiring no special filters to
reveal their structures. An ordinary colour camera, coupled to
a modest 135mm telephoto lens, is adequate to produce the sort of pictures
accompanying this column. It is necessary though to use long
exposure times, so a special astronomical mount that moves the
camera at exactly the same rate as the Earth rotates on its axis is
indispensable to avoid blurring. Also, it is best to avoid
strong moonlight, which can easily wash out subtle details. So, timing photography around New Moon
is the way to go.
Returning in conclusion to the topic of bird
watching (another of my favourite pastimes) I am reminded by the
Pleiades of the beautiful Bee-eater. This ultra-rare visitor
to Northumberland is probably the most spectacularly colourful
creature ever to have graced our island. The Bee-eater seems
almost to have been painted by an artist. Look carefully at
the exquisite dust clouds surrounding the bright blue stars of M45
and perhaps you will detect something of the
same quality in the brush strokes apparent in this
splendid region of the heavens.
|LIVING IN A COMMUNITY
I have lived in the village of Holy Island
for almost 20 years during which time I have enjoyed living
alongside the community of
Holy "Islanders". During my lifetime I have lived in
many parts of the UK, in different kinds of communities. When we
came to settle here it was a pleasure to feel the sense
of community that is increasingly hard to find in today's world.
What is a "community"?
The word community has many meanings and can be used to
describe different groups. Some examples from The Cambridge Dictionary definitions are:
a group of people living in a particular area
a group of people who share a particular interest
an ethnic group within a community
with the development of technology there are newly emerging "virtual
communities", an example of which would be "The Community of Aidan &
Hilda" who have apparently established their "Mother House" on Holy Island.
I use the word "community" here in relation
to the village community of Holy Island. It is the "Holy Islanders"
who are at the heart of this village community and it is they that
retain a true "sense of
community", a precious and rare thing in today's world.
Many of those who refer to "community" or "community spirit" could learn
a great deal from the true "sense of community" that is found,
and is at the core of the way "things work" here.
Having been born and raised in my early years
among the close-knit mining communities of South Northumberland, I
felt a "sense of community" among those mining families. The miners
were hard working proud people who felt they had an important place
in society. Their labours were vital at that time, helping to
rebuild the country after the war. They certainly didn't live a life
of luxury; it was their community spirit and sense of worth that
kept them going. Sadly, following the inevitable though
unsympathetic mine closures, the mining communities have been
neglected and many
of those who were proud to be part of
those communities no longer feel a sense of worth or belonging. Communities
across the world seem to be suffering a similar fate as many
are losing their "sense of community" with the "march of progress".
A True "Sense of Community" on Holy
Holy Island has for many centuries been a
community of fisherfolk and farmers, and the "Islanders" today are
descendants of those people. It is fishing and farming that still
"grounds" this community and gives it a sense of "reality". While
the economy is largely dependent on tourism,
it is feared that the village could be taken
over by tourism and become nothing more than a living museum. Being
a very small village community, it is vulnerable to outside forces i.e.
those who wish to exploit it for its history and location.
Long before the causeway was built when the
safe way over the sands from the mainland was known only to the
Islanders, visitors have been welcomed. Coming for a variety
of reasons visitors have been attracted by the wildness and
wildlife, the amazing scenery, the sense of peace when the Island is
cut off by the tide, and the history. However, one of the greatest
attractions has been the Islanders' sense of community. For
centuries this has
been a close-knit community of families and extended families
who have been totally dependent on, and lived in harmony with, the
natural world around them. Largely cut off from the mainland, they have
had their own dialect, their own traditions, and their own stories.
Since I first began to visit Holy Island on a
regular basis, I have spent many happy hours listening to Islanders
telling stories and legends of people and times gone by. It has
always fascinated me to listen to those stories. When I recently
read the following quotes from the Scottish poet George
Mackay Brown who was born and raised on Orkney, voicing his thoughts
about community and his lament of the "march of progress" on Orkney,
the importance of the old stories rang true to me ...
"The old stories have vanished with the
horses and the tinkers; instead of the yarn at the pier-head or the
pub, you are increasingly troubled with bores who insist on telling
you about what they think ... and you may be sure it
isn't their own thought-out opinion at all, but some discussion they have
heard on TV the night before, or read in the [newspapers]"
"It is a word, blossoming as legend, poem, story,
secret, that holds a community together and gives a
meaning to its life". ... "I will attempt to get back to
the roots and sources of the community from which it draws its
continuing life, from which it cuts itself off at its peril."
Thankfully, the old stories are still told here and
a real "sense of community" still exists among the Holy Islanders.
When visitors have asked what it is like to
live here, I reply that I am not an "Islander", I am a village
resident and feel happy to be so. Whilst I have always felt
welcome in this community, I have at the
same time been aware, and respectful of the fact
that I can never be a true Islander as I cannot share
their history of "family" and "community" except by listening to the old
stories and feeling the sense of community that continues to exist.
Given that change is inevitable, I wonder
how this small and therefore vulnerable community of Islanders can ensure that
the "march of progress" will bring positive changes without losing their true
sense of community that has existed here for so many generations?
A Holy Island Village Resident
ED: Some Holy Island stories and local history can be found in
"Holy Island; Isle of Winds" by John Bevan
"The Story of
Holy Island" by Canon Rev Kate
|FROM THE COMMUNITY OF AIDAN AND HILDA
As days darken and Covid restrictions tighten I do hope you
will find some fresh comforts.
These days focus our minds on matters of life
and death. In November The Open Gate plans two retreats that reflect
on these: Dying Well (led by myself) and Advent (led by David
Cole) - each for just six socially-distanced retreatants. I am
suggesting that those who are unable to come to my retreat may like
to do a DIY retreat at home, using
my book Before We Say Goodbye: preparing
for a good death, copies of which are available from The Open
Gate and my web site.
We imagine we are about get on our departing
plane when an official informs us we have too much excess baggage to
board. So, we go back to the waiting area, dispose of excess baggage,
and visit several airport lounges. In the Memories Lounge we gather
the photos we want around us. We do something similar in the Flowers
and Scents Lounge and in the Music and Poetry Lounge. Finally, in
the Forgiveness Lounge we forgive everyone who has
hurt us and ask everyone we have
hurt to forgive us. Then, with lighter clothing and baggage, we enter
our departing plane - singing!
For a short period in late summer the car
park and island
became overcrowded again. Yet even then, one
thoughtful pilgrim went out to the empty dunes and wrote this poem,
which she sent to me:
Island of Light,
Island of beauty,
Island of Birthings.
seeds sown long ago ...
This moment as the world
Struggles in pain with fear and with
You are here in this place!
Hope is being re
Light is shining through the darkness.
is dancing in the shadows ready to reveal new ways,
New horizons of promise.
Seeds of prayers
sown long ago take root and grow,
A harvest yet to be
In Your time,
In your way,
In Your moments yet
|FROM OUR CHURCHES
||Rev Canon Dr Sarah
Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman |
For me, November is always a
month of facing the fact that we are heading into Winter. The clocks have gone
back, visitor numbers are going down, and the change of season
is very real.
In church terms, November is a
month dominated by Remembrance Sunday. There is something
sacred about remembering lives offered and lost in wars that have
never been wars to end all wars. When we honour those, who left
this small Island to fight, we also need to remember
all those left behind, who did their best to keep home fires
burning. And, as we think of ordinary folk making extraordinary efforts, we need to remember
those in our world today who are caught up in conflict, and who are
trying to do the right thing to enable their families and
communities to survive.
November 2020 sees us in a time of huge
uncertainty with regard to Coronavirus - a global pandemic, reaching
as far and wide as the twentieth century world wars. We are
struggling with our world today on lots of levels
this year, and yet in November, we make time to honour those
who lived with several years of global crisis. What links us, I think, is
the fact that we are ordinary people asked to do our best in strange
times - in the words of Jesus, 'love God, love your
neighbour, love yourself'.