SITEZINE: Holy Island's E-Mail Newsletter: September 2021

September 2021

Max Whitby

An astronomical observatory needs to provide at least three and sometimes four essential facilities.  The first one is particularly important on Holy Island: protection from the weather.  Modern telescopes and their associated paraphernalia include sensitive optics and electronics that are highly susceptible to water damage.  So reliable shelter from the elements when the weather is unsuitable for observing is vital.  In my case, the roof rolls away on horizontal rails to reveal the sky.  Waterproofing the various gaps that allow this sliding to occur is going to be a challenge.  My design must withstand the worst Holy Island winter storms.

The second essential feature of any observatory is to provide rock-steady support for the telescope.  And not just the telescope, but also its heavy motorised mount that keeps the camera precisely pointed at a chosen star, galaxy or nebula proceeding through the sky in the course of a night. Even the slightest vibration (for example caused by gusts of wind) can ruin an astro-photograph.  The solution is to bolt one’s apparatus to a stout steel column, known as a “pier” (no relation to Steel End), which is in turn anchored firmly to the ground. Readers of this column may remember the extra-thick concrete foundations poured in the Spring for this exact purpose.

The Observatory Greenhouse at Skylark taking shape behind a Cardoon that seem to be going all out for World Domination.

The third requirement is automated weather monitoring.  If an un-forecast shower should occur when the roof is open (and while I am sound asleep) then the system must be able to park the telescope in a safe configuration and activate the motors to close the roof.  To this end I have adapted some exquisitely sensitive sensors from the automatic windscreen wiper controllers of high-end motor vehicles! These are capable of detecting just a few drops of precipitation.

Max’s observatory at E-Eye remote hosting facility in the mountains above Seville in Spain. The blue object is the rock-solid pier prior to equipment installation. The facility is shared with other astronomers and my neighbour’s red and black reflector telescope can be seen in the background.

Finally, some observatories feature a moveable dome with a viewing slit.  This must be precisely rotated to synchronise with the spin of the Earth on its axis, thereby allowing the telescope an unobstructed view of the same patch of sky throughout the night.  This design brings the advantage of added weather protection, but it also adds a layer of complexity (and therefore more things to go wrong) which fortunately I have been able to avoid.  My roll-off roof is a simpler solution.  The compromise is that my telescope is unable to target objects lower than about 30 degrees above the horizon.  But for me this is perfectly acceptable, since below that altitude the“seeing” tends to be poor, resulting in unsatisfactory photographs.

All being well, by the time October arrives – with exciting migrant birds and properly dark night skies – my Observatory Greenhouse should be swinging into operation.

Ian Jackson

Lindisfarne Geologys

2021 is the 50th anniversary of Northumberland Wildlife Trust. A whole range of events will take place, from Big Wild Walks, to spotting 50 birds in a day; in there too is a Rock Festival. It is a celebration of 50 extraordinary rock sites across the old county of Northumberland, showcasing these special places through web pages, trail guides, video hikes and podcasts.

Why is a Wildlife Trust covering geology you might ask? Well biodiversity absolutely depends on geodiversity and so the conservation and promotion of geology was wisely included in the Trust’s legal articles. In any case, it’s not easy to ignore rocks in a place like Northumberland, they make a massive contribution to its tourist industry and previously to its economy and culture. Without the Whin Sill Lindisfarne and its hermitage and castle wouldn’t be, and Hadrian would have had nowhere to build his Wall. And it is a fact that few, if any, counties have a heritage with a closer association with coal and mining than this one.

Saltpan Rocks
Saltpan Rocks

This Rock Festival is, unashamedly, targeting the lay person. The aim is to engage and encourage the general public to look at their county through different eyes and better understand its origins and its habitats. And perhaps, just as importantly, appreciate how changing climates and environments over time have created this precious landscape….. and are still changing it.

Jupiter NASA_Juno_pia23803

Each of the 50 sites has a very special story to tell. From rocky connections with our landscape and wildlife, to the history and the origins of our heritage and culture. Some you will know well, some less so – but all 50 of them has something that is guaranteed to surprise you!  You can see where earthquakes have bent solid rock, or visit a 400 million year-old volcano, or walk over a border mire that started when the last ice sheet left 15000 years ago. The information provided is an eclectic, and hopefully attractive, blend of geology, biology and history.

Curious? Here is the link to the Rock Festival web site.

Should you like a virtual taster of the Northumberland landscape there are 11 videos available: you could try a hike around Holy Island, or along Hadrian’s Wall, or even listen to a history of Northumberland told through 10 stones!

Ray Simpson

31 August is a big day in the calendar of Community of Aidan and Hilda members.  It is the day when  Aidan of Lindisfarne (whose name means Flame) died at Bamburgh.  It is the day for Aidan and Action when CAH members around the world take an action for justice.

In 2021 Faith Brennan was due to make her vows on August 31 in Whitehouse Garden, received by Deputy Guardian David Cole, and witnessed by Graham Booth and myself in person – and many others on zoom.  Graham returned for this and a committee to re-launch our library for the 21st century.

It was also the day when in USA three new guardians were commissioned in a ‘Pass on the Flame’ ceremony.  This meant that those of us this end were present on zoom at 1.30am in the morning! 

It was good to welcome back our friend Donna Worthington, who brought a retreat group.  Following a You Tube of Pope Francis on the life of Francis of Assissi they invited me to tell them about – you’ve guessed – Aidan of Lindisfarne, who loved God in both the poor and creation.

Revd Canon Kate Tristram

Last month we met Aelfflaed, Abbess of Whitby, consulting St. Cuthbert on Coquet Island.  She is worth knowing more about.

Her father was Oswiu, King of Northumbria.  As his way of giving thanks for the entirely unexpected victory over Penda, warlike king of the Mercians, in 655 Oswiu decided to dedicate his baby daughter to life as a nun. (In those days fathers could do that.)S she was sent to St. Hild, who was later to become Abbess of the greatest monastery in the North at Whitby. Undoubtedly Aelfflaed was ‘groomed’ to succeed Hild, as she did in 680.

Her main interest for our historical sources was her friendship with Cuthbert. Two further stories may be quoted.  Once Aelfflaed was very ill and thought she might die    She wished for any contact with Cuthbert.  Then to her surprise an unexpected messenger arrived with a gift     him.  It was a girdle, which healed her when she put it on. It then healed another sick member of her community, bur later when she looked for it again the box was empty.  On another occasion Cuthbert was able to know, by second sight, of a workman from her community who had fallen and was fatally injured. Both these stories are to remind the reader that Cuthbert was a saint, endowed with spiritual gifts.

The reader will be interested to know that many Anglo- Saxon monesteries were ‘double’ i.e. monks and nuns in the same community, and in newly-Christian England always headed by an Abbess, not an Abbot.  Why were the women so prominent at that time? One historian has suggested that there was then a lucky gap for them. The fighting men (kings and nobles) had indeed become Christian but were too busy in the early days of the church (fightng) to give time to church growth and church affairs.  So the women, meaning the ladies, stepped in, and having position, money and inclination, founded many monasteries, which were the main Christian centres before there were any parishes. Of course they took the leadership role of Abbess and although they could not be priests they had great inflence and power.

Aelfflaed was clearly very widely respected.  Stephen of Ripon, the biographer of St. Wilfred, wrote of her that ‘she was always the source of consolation for the entire kingdom, and the best of advisors’.

Editor: Revd Canon Kate Tristram MA (Oxford) MSC (Edinburgh) and honorary Canon of Newcastle (emerita)

Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills


Dear friends

I can’t believe the summer is nearly over! It seems like yesterday that the schools broke up for the ‘long holidays’. A lot has been happening here on Holy Island this summer. At the beginning of July we were delighted to celebrate with Revd Sam Quilty, our curate, as she was ordained priest, followed by a lovely party in the Crossman Hall. We have celebrated with the Patterson and Darby family as Eleanor was baptised, and with Ian and Hazel on their diamond wedding anniversary. We were thankful to be able to hold a memorial service for Richard Binns, and we look ahead to one for Rita Douglas on Friday September 3rd here at 11am. We received the sad news of the death of Sue Rylance’s partner, Ken. And we mourn with all who have lost loved ones, giving thanks for their life and the memories we treasure. We have been pleased to welcome two ‘trainee Vicar’s on placement with us here for a month and thank them for all their hard work while they were with us, and we wish Sally and Jason every blessing on their continuing training for ordination. We are also very grateful to Chris Hudson of ‘Lindisfarne Tales’ who has led informal walks on the island about the lives of our saints Aidan and Cuthbert..lots of fun, and Chris has generously donated us all the proceeds. It is lovely to be able to again open the church during the day for visitors and those wanting to pray, and to hold Evening Prayer some days of the week. In order for us to move to daily Evening Prayer, we are looking for volunteers to sit at the back of church during the time of prayer and help to welcome people in. If you would like to help, please do let me know. And we have enjoyed welcoming pilgrim groups back to the church and the island, as well as of course the thousands of visitors now that the covid restrictions have lifted.

Lots to look forward to as well – our first coffee morning since covid, St Aidan’s celebrations, a pet service on St Cuthbert’s beach on Sunday 12th September at 2pm – do come with your pet! – and a ‘fishing Harvest’ and fish supper on Sunday October 3rd. Also, more ‘warm hub’ and Holy Island 2050 events in the Crossman Hall. More details to follow…

If you would like to be involved in the life of St Mary’s church in any way, or if we can help you with anything, please just come or let me know. It will be lovely to welcome you!

With prayers, love and every blessing.

Sarah Hills

Current Worship Times

Worship Times
(Please wear face Mask in church)

1045am Sunday Parish Eucharist
8am BCP Sunday Eucharist - first Sunday of the month
5pm Evening prayer - Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday

(Updates or changes will be posted in the church porch and online)

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