|A BIT FROM ME
Spring is on the way...
After our winter break, a belated 'Happy New
Year' and welcome to our first newsletter of 2021.
Having so many readers It is always difficult to imagine the
individual circumstances it is entering into. I do hope that we find
you and your loved ones well as this Covid-19 continues in pandemic
On Holy Island and in most parts of the UK
lockdown continues. We are all affected and weary
from its many pressures and look forward to a world free
of covid-horrors. For all of us, vaccines promise light at the
end of the tunnel. Whilst it might be interesting to contemplate
what sort of world will emerge, let us hope that we all make
THANK YOU again and again to those who look after us during
these 'darkest hours'.
Lockdown restrictions will permit few visitors
at the moment. Those who come will find the causeway
is as dire as ever; several sections of concrete balustrade remain missing
at the bridge; much of the car park waterlogged and the
toilet block closed for much-needed restoration. And those wanting to get to the castle during February
will be inconvenienced by road closure for a few days to permit vital
land drain repairs. And, above all, always check the ' safe '
In contemplating how I might celebrate
Candlemas on February 2nd I checked our Parish Church
website and was delighted to see
some fabulous pictures recording the 'Journey of the Angels' through the village during advent.
My thanks to Andy, David, Ian, Lesley, Max, Nick,
Ray and Sarah who have written for us this
month. We hope you enjoy the fruit of our works and
look forward to getting in touch again in
God Bless and Stay Safe,
|THE CROSSMAN HALL
I hope you all had a safe Christmas &
New Year and eventually we will have a good 2021.
I've been tempted to use a local saying
"Good riddance to bad rubbish" as we leave 2020 and enter 2021.
During the last days of the month data presented in the media
indicates that we are in an alarming situation with numbers of Covid
19 deaths and infections climbing rapidly. Let us hope that the
vaccines developed by the scientific community will begin to impact
as the immunisation programme rolls out.
Covid 19 had, and is continuing to have a
huge impact on our small Island Charity. We rely on lettings to
cover our annual costs. When the virus appeared early in 2020 our
bookings were good and growing, then as the virus bloomed and
Trustees actioned NHS guidelines to make Crossman Hall a safe venue.
We also began to cancel bookings and as we did, a number of the
larger events like weddings, family celebrations and an international
meeting, withdrew, all understandable.
Then HMG imposed a National Lock-down this
then began a stream of Government instructions often amended as sets
of Regulations. The requirements and amendments to Regulations were
confusing and open to interpretation. The result, a reduction of our
freedom of movement, reminding me of that great book 'George Orwell's 1984'.
In December we had several mini skirmishes
with our insurance provider. The issue our 'Christmas Lights'. Our
Insurer did not approve of lighting the hall as part of the village
celebration because the Hall was closed, despite their requirement
that the premises were regularly inspected. Supported by our Broker
who informed them that they were being unreasonable, the lights went up.
As 2021 approached, two vaccines were
approved for use and we hope the Hall will pick up customers as
Covid 19 is brought under control. A new strain of the virus is
currently rampaging across the Country and we are now Tier 4,
Lock-down. Because there is no other building on the Island that can
offer a secure and safe venue for up to six (6) 'socially
distancing' people, the Trustees can approve a special meeting. The
hall, regardless of Covid, continues to be available for any major
Island or Maritime emergencies.
As the year ended I applied for grant
support, distributed by Northumberland CC on behalf of HMG.
All of Northumberland and the Borders are in
lock-down, with no unnecessary travel. The Border between England
& Scotland 'closed'. Yet during the Holiday Period day visitors
were seen on the Island. Considerably fewer than is usual but why!
On my way to the hall on New Year's Day for
my weekly inspection, I've never seen the town so deserted. This was
the impact of Covid 19 and it brought about a further loss of
traditional local society; the Island's culture is fast disappearing,
every year incomers arrive but few try to fit into the old-fashioned
core of the village? I've never seen the Island so deserted whether
on 'Old Years Night' or today. Usually the place is hooching with
folk travelling around the Town wishing friends a 'Guid New Year'
and sharing a nip with them and now to see the majority of my pals
I to stroll through the Churchyard.
The visit to the hall was worthwhile because
the air sourced heat pumped had failed and the hall was cold.
Usually, when not in use, the heating ticks-over (16/17c).
Checking the system one of the circuit
breakers had popped and a failure code was showing on the control
computer. I checked the external pump, it appeared ok. I reset the
system, but no go. A heating engineer arrived after the holidays and
the job is done.
Towards the end of the first week an e-mail
arrived from Northumberland CC our grant applications had been successful.
As the month progressed, three vaccines
became available and hopefully as they roll out, control of the
virus will begin and maybe by late spring or so the hall will be
able to provide for Islanders and others.
It is interesting to note that although last
year business was severely curtailed, there were two well used
areas; the pool table and exercise area.
The health and wellbeing of hall users is a
priority and when we reopen we will re-introduce a strict cleaning regime.
All users will have to comply with NHS Rules
and use hand gel, clean down any surfaces used, respect 'social
distancing' and wear a face covering etcetera.
As soon as the restrictions are removed or
reduced, the pool room & exercise areas will be cleaned, risk
assessed and re-opened. The Trustees will continue to risk assess
and set a full opening date. However, the current status of Covid 19
suggests full opening is a fair distance off.
I wish all our readers a better and healthier 2021.
Secretary/Trustee - firstname.lastname@example.org
Who would think standing on the height of the
beach watching the boats come in that the Shellfish industry was
nearing dire straits. Wasn't Brexit going to return the Golden
Fleece to the Fishermen!!!
The crabs & lobster that come up the
pier are usually taken by the merchants and shipped off to Europe.
But trucking shellfish to Europe Markets is strangled in red tape
and loads are turned back at the Ferry Ports.
That's why those of you who watch the News
mid-January will have seen several shellfish trucks from
Northumberland & The Borders protesting at Westminster. Will it
help; I hope so because it can have an impact on the Islands economy.
|OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE
A SUNNY MORNING ON THE FLATS
After the long dark days of mid- winter,
February is always a month of hope of better things to come. This
year we all certainly need it. While we've been preoccupied with the
coronavirus lockdown and getting our vaccines we
tend to forget that in the natural world it's been business as
That includes daylight lengthening by a
couple of minutes each day, the welcome appearance of the first
Snowdrops in gardens, Daffodil heads rising higher, particularly
along the sunny south walls of the church, and
the first yellow of Wallflowers on the sunny seaward side of the
In the village on sunny and milder days
there are also the first delightful
bursts of singing, particularly from Song Thrushes closely followed by Blackbirds and
But, of course, the threat remains of winter
making an unwelcome return. We should remember that the infamous
Beast from the East of 2018
arrived in late February so we're not exactly out of the woods
At this time of year island wildlife is
rather limited to waders, particularly Curlew, Lapwing and
Golden Plover feeding in the fields and at the beach and, of course,
hundreds of lively Teal at the Rocket Field along
with a scattering of
other ducks, including Mallard, Shoveler and the occasional
A superb Long-tailed drake - a lively winter visitor from the Arctic.
Photo: Mike S Hodgson
It's the time when most interest remains
centred on the flats and its channels stretching west and south from
the island and which remain untouched by those other early hints of
Most of our wintering waders and wildfowl
remain although by now numbers of the wildfowlers' old favourite, Wigeon, which always
peak these days in late October and early November, have dropped away
They'll soon be followed by the Brent Geese
making their first tentative moves back to Denmark and then
northwards to the Arctic Ocean fastness of Svalbard. Wader numbers will also
begin to decrease as it they simply can't wait to get back
But for now the geese and waders are present
in their thousands to enliven the late winter scene. I used to spend
time roaming the edges of the flats and even, occasionally, being
dropped off at the Causeway when
Hazel was going shopping to Berwick and walking back along the Pilgrims'
That was always a wonderful experience on a
bright winter's day passed through massed flocks of Brent Geese and
waders, but these days, getting on
a bit, I don't do that sort of more adventurous and energetic
Instead, when I'm lucky enough to be on the
island most of my viewing of the flats and channels is done from the
comfort of the island, mainly the end of Tripping Chare or, more
often, from Jenny Bell's or the elevated seats on the Heugh, particularly the bench
against the Lantern Tower wall or the lower sunny seats towards Osborne's
These seats have the great advantage of
facing southwards and catching the sun and provide shelter from the
colder northerly and north westerly winds. They also provide
panoramic views to the Black Law, Ross Links, the Farne Islands
and south westwards towards Elwick, taking in a wide expanse of the
I find there's nothing better on a fine and
cold day than to set up my telescope and enjoy an hour or so scanning the sandbars for geese
and waders and the channels for more uncommon species, including divers and
My favourite conditions are mornings when
there's been a hard frost which usually means clear sunny air and
lack of wind. Visibility can be perfect right across to
Cheviot, hopefully capped in snow, while the water is left still and glassy. The lack
of wind on such days means that sound travels well, important for
There is the constant chuntering of the
geese as they run, feed and squabble on the sandbanks. One thing you can say about the
Brents is that they're always active and never seem to simple lounge
There is often another typical sound on such
mornings: the gentle crooning from flocks of Eiders as the drakes
try to impress the females. I'm also always on alert for yet another
sound, the much faster and higher
yodel of long-tailed ducks, another of our winter visitors from the high
Half the size of our Eiders, these little
black and white ducks are extremely vocal and their far-carrying
calls on still air is often the first indication of their distant
presence. Long-tailed ducks are extremely active, continually
flying, chasing and splashing down when they are not actively diving to
I always hope on such days to come across
other northern species, including the diminutive grey and white
Slavonian Grebes and, if I'm lucky these days, their slightly larger
cousin, Red-necked Grebes. Slavonian Grebes still occur in small
numbers, but Red-necks have declined in recent years
and now we're lucky if one or two put in an annual
Eiders - our most plentiful sea ducks, resting on the rocks.
Photo: Mike S Hodgson
The channels also regularly attract
Red-throated Divers, at this stage looking slim in grey and white
winter plumage, as well as the occasional Great Northern and
Black-throated divers. The latter two species usually appear
when sea conditions have been bad and the channels offer sheltered and
At low water most of the waders are feeding
far out on the flats but occasionally rise in massed panic, swirling
flocks flashing in the sunlight. On such occasions I try
scanning over or beyond the flocks for the cause of the
commotion. Often there's nothing to be seen but occasionally the dark anchor-shape of
a Peregrine races across the flats, always the highlight of any wader-watching
I had hoped to be writing this month about
our preparations for opening but since the latest restrictions were
imposed, we find ourselves back in a period of uncertainty. Thinking
about how the castle could open safely while observing social
distancing and a strict hygiene strategy has been a challenge .It
has though also been an interesting exercise and I would imagine
some of the initiatives we need to bring in while a risk of
infection remains will be of use to us in a normal future. You will
all have some familiarity with the castle layout and applying a
two-metre social distancing policy throughout makes it very tricky
for visitors to make their way around the building as they have done
in the past. We have had to look again at the visitor route and think how
it can be planned - despite the obvious limitations - and made workable. Hopefully
once we are open this set-up won't be for too long, but
we want to make sure it is not only safe but still provides an entertaining
and enjoyable visit.
Away from opening-up plans we have been
continuing with essential checks and tasks as with the first
lockdown, minimising our time on site and working from home as much
as possible. I have taken the opportunity to clean the ship model
Henrietta - which is an annual task at most - and this takes
three or four days to do. With me only visiting once a week this
has drawn out the process a little, but a tissue paper cover
hung over the ship at the end of a day's cleaning keeps it dust-free until
my next visit.
We are also keeping an eye on the building
itself, something which is particularly important at this time of
year. The stormy weather over Christmas and New Year have caused
some damage to the harling on the north elevation, and some fences
needed to be repaired after windy weather earlier this month. Inside
it has been important to keep conditions in the castle as
stable as possible, something I can at least monitor
from home. When onsite it is a regular job to vacuum salt which has
leached out of the moisture in the walls and crystallised on the
painted surfaces inside, while there is also the likelihood of outbreaks of black mould to
take care of.
For now though, we will
continue to plan for opening to the public and look forward to resuming some sort
of normal service.
Nick Lewis - Collections and House
Lindisfarne Castle email@example.com 07918 335 471
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
Well its 2021 and we are into another lockdown. It is especially
at times like these when we feel extremely fortunate and privileged
to work at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. Working outdoors on
an incredible site, getting a hit of nature when many others are
In the weeks before Christmas a number of birds were found
showing signs of sickness or dead. They were collected and sent away
for testing. Analysis showed that they were suffering from the H5N8
Avian Influenza. The virus appeared to have mainly manifested itself
in the Brent Goose population. Thankfully over the last month no
dead or sick birds have been seen on the Reserve. If you see any
please do not approach them and keep dogs on a short lead to prevent
them coming into contact with infected birds. Please report any dead
or sick birds to the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve Office on
Over Christmas and into the New Year the weather became very
seasonal and cold with ice seen on the causeway and the Cheviots
snow-capped away in the distance. During these cold snaps it is even
more important to not access the shoreline and cause unnecessary
disturbance. Constant disturbance by people and dogs leads wintering
birds to waste valuable energy supplies which are vital for survival
during the arduous migration. As our hides are currently locked due
to Covid, the platform at Budle Bay is an ideal spot to see the
visual majesty of winter migration from a safe distance.
The Cattle and Sheep have now left the Reserve after doing a
fantastic job over autumn and winter grazing the Links and Snook.
This is important to enhance the botanically rich dune slacks and
ensure they don't end up becoming dominated by rank grasses. The
sheep also do a good job of nibbling their way through some of the
invasives such as Michaelmas Daisy.
With the vaccine rollout there is light at the end of this long
tunnel and brighter days on the horizon where we can engage with the
public and welcome visitors back to the Reserve.
Lindisfarne & Newham
Raise your eyes to gaze up into the sky
above Holy Island on most nights of the year and what do you see? More often than not:
absolutely nothing! Clouds are the great enemy of astronomers.
Shortly after I began to photograph the heavens, I tore up my Cloud
Appreciation Society membership card.
Average cloud cover for Berwick-upon-Tweed throughout the year. November, December and January are the cloudiest months. Chart from weatherspark.com
Here on the East Coast we experience less
rainfall that most parts of the UK. By the time prevailing
westerlies have blown moisture-laden air from the Atlantic across the country, much of
the water vapour it contains has condensed and fallen
as rain (or sometimes snow of course). Nevertheless cloudy skies are still frequent
on the Northumberland coast.
The first chart accompanying this article
show how the probability of cloud cover and the probability of rain
varies for Berwick-upon-Tweed on average through the year. You
will not be surprised to see that winter is the cloudiest period. My
impression is that sometimes the skies over Holy Island can be a little clearer
than over the mainland due to our location a
few miles out in the slightly warmer North Sea. Even so we have
no shortage of clouds!
Hourly cloud cover forecast for Holy Island (left), E-Eye Observatory in Spain (centre) and Deep Sky Chile Observatory in the southern Andes for the same week in January 2021. The darkest square colour means overcast, medium colour means broken clouds and light colour means clear skies are forecast. Charts from clearoutside.com
The sad fact is the chances of a completely
clear night on Holy Island fall to less than 10% during the winter
months, just when the nights are longest and therefore best for
astrophotography. The chance of a mostly cloud-free night for observing the stars is only one in five.
As an astronomer in the UK you simply have
to accept that most nights your observatory roof is likely to remain closed
and your telescope idle.
Diligent followers of this column may
remember that in addition to my observatory here, I am fortunate to
have telescopes also installed in Spain and in Chile. All
three of my systems - including the one here on the island - are designed for
remote operation. This means I can stay comfortably warm
inside while controlling every aspect of the night's astronomical activities outside in the
cold and dark observatory.
At least that is the theory. In
practice something regularly goes awry and I am obliged to venture
outside, dressed only in pajamas and Wellington boots, to make adjustments. When problems occur in Spain
or in Chile I have to message the noble
souls who tend the telescope farms there and ask them to sort out
whatever has gone wrong.
Despite the challenges of maintaining
hardware in distant lands, there is much to be gained from locating
my telescopes in Spain and Chile. The second set of charts
accompanying this column vividly demonstrates why. It compares
the weather forecast for Holy Island (on the left) with the corresponding forecasts for Spain (centre) and Chile (right). You
will see that for the week commencing 11th January
this year I enjoyed an uninterrupted run of seven completely clear nights in
both these far-flung locations.
Of course this also
resulted in seven nights with insufficient sleep... but that
is a small price to pay for being able to carry out astrophotography
under such superb conditions.
when the clouds do infrequently part above us on
Holy Island it somehow makes the pictures I am then able to capture
all the more special.
Next month I will tell you
about the most recent heavenly object that I have targeted from my observatory
here: The Dark Shark.
|LIVING IN A COMMUNITY
Since I came to live here with my husband almost 20 years ago
there have been huge changes, and the pace of change has
accelerated. Change is taking place globally. It is inevitable and
must be embraced. At the same time, it is advisable to recognise and
address any threats that Change might bring. Could the ever-growing
numbers of visitors that come here each year be a threat, as well as
a promise, to this village community?
Having visited Venice a few years ago, I recently watched with
interest "Francesco's Venice" on BBC TV. Francesco da Mosto, a
descendant of an old and distinguished Venetian family, describes
how life in Venice has been attractive in many ways, and to many
people across the centuries. In the final part entitled "Death" he
describes how the rapid rise of tourism in recent years is now
killing the "soul" of the city. More and more of their families and
friends have left to live elsewhere because of the growing number of
tourists in the city which affects their every-day life. While he
and his family remain in their Venetian family home, they lament the
fact that they are losing their close-knit community as a result of
the overwhelming rise of tourism. What might be learned from the
experience of Venice?
The rapidly increasing number of visitors to Holy Island is now
likely to be approaching one million, mostly during the summer
months and mainly day visitors who probably stay no longer than a
few hours. It is almost impossible for the vast majority of visitors
to experience the sense of community here. The visitor experience
these days is certainly not what it was in the past. How can we
sustain these huge numbers of visitors, and how can visitors be
offered a meaningful experience, as they have enjoyed in the past
when regular guests would return again and again to feel a sense of
belonging in the village community?
Tourists have always been welcomed on Holy Island, and tourism is
essential to the Island economy today. Could there be a danger that
the huge and growing influx of daily visitors could now threaten to
"kill the goose that lays the golden egg"?
How do we gain the right balance?
|FROM THE COMMUNITY OF AIDAN AND HILDA
Covid has dealt us a hefty blow and many retreat houses are being forced to close.
The bank requires us to sell a property and provide proof that income will cover expenditure
in the future.
We have just begun a formal process of consultation with the Open
Gate staff team, an important part of which is exploring whether
there are any other options. We have committed ourselves to do the
very best we can for them, recognising how hard they have worked in
the last four years.
No final decisions have yet been made. Whatever the final
decision we shall continue to welcome guests to our other
properties, sustain our study library and daily prayer, and
encourage groups to book in to local guest facilities. Larger groups
visiting the island may, of course, hire the excellent facilities at
St. Cuthbert's Centre and the Village Hall. The Community now has
increasing numbers of people who follow a Way of Life across the
world, and we have a pool of people who can lead retreats upon
request or which we plan ourselves.
At midnight on New Year's Eve I climbed a high place that
overlooks the island and recited this prayer from 'Liturgies from
Lindisfarne': 'As tides recede we make fresh steps in the sand; as
white flakes settle we make fresh marks in the snow; as a an old
year fades we plant fresh endeavours in our lands'.
I have now had my vaccine along with other readers. So I wish you
all light at the end of the tunnel.
|FROM OUR CHURCHES
||Rev Canon Dr Sarah
Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman |
Well, here we are in another lockdown. I wonder how you are
feeling? I must say that It is sometimes hard to feel upbeat about
what is going on. And that is OK. At the moment we are in the middle
of a crisis, a pandemic. Its fine not to feel too happy about it.
Many people across our communities are struggling with loneliness,
disappointment, fear and loss. From the church's perspective, we are
about to enter Lent. Ash Wednesday the start of Lent is on February
17th. And Lent is a time for reflection, for self-examination, for
penitence. But it is not meant to be a gloomy time. It is a time of
preparation, of weighing up how we live our lives, of being quiet.
This lockdown in a way is a time of Lent for us. A time when, yes,
we are sitting with some really difficult things. But also a time
for thinking, for re examining our lives and the way we live, for
preparing to come out of the pandemic. Because we will come out of
it. The vaccines are here and many of us are in the midst of
receiving them. We of course don't yet know when restrictions
may be lifted and how life will be then. But if we are currently
feeling anxious or a bit lost with it all, we can also feel hope for
a better future which will come. Lent helps us to look forward with
hope to Easter - to the resurrection of Jesus. Christ who lived
among us, died for us, and rose again for us. That Easter joy and
celebration will come. That is why we hope. In the knowledge that
all will be well.
I want to share with you a story of a peace walk I did a few
years ago during Holy week and Easter in Northern Iraq. It is a
story of despair, hope and joy. About 20 of us from Europe and
others walked with local Christians, Muslims and Yazidis. A quarter
of people living in Northern Iraq live in Refugee camps, people
internally displaced from their own country due to ISIS attacks
.Many refugees and aliens in their own land. We walked for peace, to
proclaim the possibility of peace in that fought over land.
On Good Friday we visited a village about 30km from Mosul -
Mosul, incidentally is the ancient city of Nineveh - a village that
had been destroyed by ISIS, the villagers having all fled or worse.
It was a place of destruction, completely devoid of life. Houses
were rubble, shops damaged, and the church though still standing had
been desecrated, the altar broken and lying in rubble. We could hear
Mosul being shelled. So I held a Good Friday service in the
desecrated church. A service of lament. We laid candles that we had
brought with us in the shape of a cross in front of the destroyed
altar and prayed the prayers of Good Friday, the pain and lament for
Jesus, and for healing, for the end to that conflict, for peace.
On Easter Day we returned to that deserted village and desecrated
church. But this time, the bleakness in the Church was transformed.
The same rubble was there, the same bullet holes in the walls, the
same broken crosses and hacked memorials. But there were people from
the surrounding villages, flowers on the altar, children dressed in
white, and a packed church there to proclaim the hope of the
resurrection, the hope of peace and the possibility of rebuilding.
There we found the Easter joy that had been so hoped for.
Friends, let us then live together in hope as we enter Lent and
look towards the Easter joy to come.