Welcome, to our winter newsletter and for those who have joined us this year, the winter issue covers both December 2021 and January 2022.
Storm Arwen: bridge sides swept away and 4inch surface cracks
case reference number: 101007463066 at northumberland.gov.uk -
Those visiting over the weekend of 27th November will undoubtedly be acutely aware of the damage the village sustained from storm 'Arwen' and over 100mph wind gusts damaging several of our homes, flattening fences. As usual, it seems, there was widespread power failure throughout the north which continues, for some, even as I write. We are grateful to Scottish Power and their valiant maintenance staff that for us this lasted 'just' over a couple of days. I am sure that bitingly cold winds and electricity-dependant homes brought home the arrival of winter to all. I wonder if our readers in Norway and Alaska have similar power distribution issues. But, thank goodness I resisted the temptation of an electric car. And, I certainly rue the day Britain rejected its 1960s leadership in nuclear physics.
An African Covid variant has been announced reminding island visitors of the continued need to wear face masks. Whilst the council is aware of the damage, please keep speeds down on the bridge. When I crossed, the 4-inch cracks had sheer and sharp edges. Walkers: winds can be strong and currently nothing to prevent falling into the often very strong currents. As always, please avoid undue strain on our coastguard service by checking the safe CROSSING TIMES.
Toilets/Rubbish: Other than the removal of scaffolding, no further work has taken place and the temporary portable toilets remain in place. As the photo above reminds, if you notice someone leaving a rubbish bag alongside a bin, please encourage them to put inside the bin or simply take it home with them.
Thank you to all who supported Holy Island's facilities, attractions and businesses throughout the year. We are still hoping for more feedback so if you have time over the Christmas break do drop us a line.
We wish all readers the joy of Christmas and the best of health in the year ahead. We're looking forward to getting in touch again at the beginning of February.
The hall has hosted a variety of activities in November, with the Warm Hub events i.e. coffee and chat on a Tuesday morning and crafting on a Thursday afternoon, being our most regular user at this time of the year. The 2050 Committee and the Parish Council also use the hall for their meetings. The North East & Cumbrian National Lottery Community Fund held a team meeting in the hall and also had a 'guided tour' of the hall - they were one of our major funders for the hall build. They were naturally very impressed with the hall , interested in the activities we had started to offer the local community via the Warm Hub and hope to return in the future.
We have a birthday party booked for late November and hopefully the fitness area will be fully operational for the winter months. The side door key which is kept in the key safe is missing, this prevents any would-be users of the fitness and pool table area to enter. If anyone has any information about the whereabouts of the keys, please help to ensure their safe return. In December the hall is quiet as regards lettings, one group have hired the hall at the beginning of the month, but the Warm Hub events will continue and hopefully a senior citizens' Christmas lunch and a Christmas social evening will happen. I'm sure the Trustees will join me in wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
All the best
When work ended for the first time, I had some ideas and soon developed two paths. First and most important was acquiring Planning Consent to demolish the old hall, clear the site and build the replacement. Second was to go back to sea I headed back to sea. At that time I only had a few lengthy passages under my belt. The longest being a delivery passage to Bodrum, Turkey, spread over two years and leaving the boat in several locations for family use. The remainder sailing rarely left European Waters. Memorable trips included one owner wanting to visit the Alund Islands and the Stockholm Archipelago and another keen to tick off Hanseatic Ports. It was great fun and sights were seen.
I recall a 'Small World' experience when we were returning from Scandinavia via Lerwick, heading for the West of Scotland. After rounding Cape Wrath we had to put in to Kynlockbervie for fuel. I been into the Ice House to sort out diesel and was filling the tanks when a well-known voice shouted Hello and there was Caitlin + buggy, her Ma & Sister, enjoying their summer holiday. What a surprise.
You see how I ramble on, typical old man!!! Like a tap once I start. So what am I doing now. For much of October I was working in the house and now that much is done, I enjoy contemplating days gone-bye, good old days when we all knew each other and if you had an illness or injury in the house you had the bar the door to keep the Vicar out. Now I sit back and remember the small development group (Tinko, Clive & David) working on the hall Project, much supported by Lady Rose. Our philosophy; do it ourselves, don't pay consultants. It was hard word but we had fun and stretched the little grey cells.
I remember the first occasion Crossman Hall paid the initial insurance fee for the premises, £1M. I renewed the Hall Policy prior to retirement and now the rebuild costs, including fees, is in the region of £1.8M. That's a canny sum, so look after the place. One other thing I did before heading to Fiddler's Green, was acquire a cosy sum of £30K+ for hall funds. I know too well how some of you 'do gooders' like to spend. Gane Canny and don't forget to generate some dosh.
ROBINS - JEKYLL AND HYDE OF THE WINTER GARDEN
If you're doing a bit of winter tidying up in the garden, sweeping leaves or pulling out dead plants, there's a very good chance you'll quickly be joined by a local Robin, sharp-eyed for any tasty morsel you might uncover.
Winter is the season when Robins are most prominent, both in our gardens and in our lives. It's regularly there on the bird table or lawn with its bright red breast, beady dark eyes, jauntily manner and, most of all, amazing tameness.
It's therefore little wonder that in 2015 the Robin was voted Britain's favourite bird by the kind of overwhelming majority which would make any politician green with envy.
In that ballot, in which 225,000 people took part, it received 75,000 votes, way ahead of Barn Owl with 26,000 and Blackbird (which got my vote) in third place with 25,000 supporters.
It's just a hugely popular bird. I reckon if you check your Christmas cards as they drop through the letter box its picture will certainly rival those other perennial favourites, the fat Santa with his sack and the jolly snowman with his carrot nose.
A winter Robin in the snow, popular on so many cards. - picture: Mike S Hodgson
It certainly is a little charmer, beloved of most folk, and its attraction is further increased by it being one of the very few birds to sing in winter.
It's always a joy to watch as it brightens up the rather drab winter scene and it's usually among the first to appear if you throw out any food. If you have a bit of patience and arm yourself with something irresistible, such as a little pile of mealworms, you can easily get it to feed from your hand.
I've lost count of the folk who've told me that they've had the same Robin coming to their gardens year after year. I hate to disillusion them but, like most small birds, mortality rates are very high. Although there's a record of one Robin reaching the ripe old age of 12, the average lifespan is just over one year. Studies have shown that one in four doesn't even make it to its first birthday so the chance of a bird regularly returning to a particular spot is very slim.
When I watch winter Robins and enjoy their presence, I often wonder if those who put it on its national pedestal realise what a little Jekyll and Hyde character they'd chosen.
This is because there's a very different side to the Robin and it comes as a shock to many people. In short, the lovable little bird of our imagination is a fallacy because both males and females are really angry little thugs.
Even that sweet winter song isn't innocent. It's a clear warning to other robins: this spot is taken and they enter it at your peril.
Despite their great public image, they are extremely aggressive to each other and to other small birds who share their winter territories. When a strange Robin dares to enter an occupied territory the GBH can begin and feathers really can fly. The resident bird will angrily chase and attack the intruder, relentlessly flying after it around the area. Eventually the resident, having the advantage of possession, usually manages to drive the other off. But there have been recorded cases of murder being done.
Robins holding territories in gardens in our village and other coastal sites have particular problems. During autumn and early winter, thousands of hungry migrant Robins from Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe arrive along the coast seeking temporary shelter and food.
Fighting Robins then become an everyday sight for birdwatchers checking coastal gardens and similar patches of cover for the rarer migrants they also regularly attract. It's not just other Robins which come in for stick. In my own garden, humble Dunnocks are regularly chased off by the resident Robin as they attempt to scour the lawn and the soil of the flower beds
I also remember an occasion when a Red-flanked Bluetail, a rare migrant from Russia and Finland, turned up in the Vicarage garden which was large enough to provide territories for two Robins, one at each end, and living in a guarded truce.
The poor Bluetail was constantly attacked and harried by both Robins as it attempted to settle, first at one end of the garden and then the other.
The aggression continued all afternoon, robbing it of any chance to find food. Just before dusk it gave up and flew off. It was re-found the following day in the roadside trees opposite the Lindisfarne Hotel where it remained for several days, probably a site without a Robin in occupation.
A classic Robin showing that fine red breast.: - picture: Mike S Hodgson
Robins are presumable so aggressive, particularly to each-other and similar sized species, because they see them as competitors for limited winter food.
Bluetails are closely related to Robins and are a similar size and shape. They feed the same way, usually dropping briefly to the ground from a perch to snatch a morsel and return to feed in cover. That could be why this particular individual came in for so much violence.
Another possibility is that the two residents simply mistook it for another Robin. The term 'bird brain' does spring to mind!
Next time you watch a Robin in the garden look out for its reaction to other local small birds. You might be surprised.
Since we last spoke the castle has closed for the winter, the 2021 exhibition Limelight has been dismantled, and preparations for next year have begun. The winter is of course the time when some of the more complex jobs on the list can be attended to; so, at various points we'll have masons, joiners, steeplejacks, electricians, and conservators all here with us to get them done.
Most of these jobs are recurring tasks which we are committed to doing annually, but a few are more unusual. For example, I'm planning to get the ship model Henrietta looked at by a proper ship model conservator, which would be the first time since 1975 it has had that kind of attention. That time the model was sent to the conservator down in Derbyshire, in the back of an Austin 1300 Countryman. That was an option this time round (transporting it to the conservator, not the Austin 1300) but we've decided to get the conservator up here, primarily because we want to review the hanging system in the Ship Room, which dates from 1975 and incorporates a complex pulley arrangement and even padlocks. The original system from 1906 was much simpler, so I was thinking a return to that one might be appropriate. The Henrietta is the only ship model in the National Trust collection that hangs from a ceiling, as opposed to being in a cabinet, and there are 298 of them in total. I can only think of one other ship model which hung from a ceiling (although there are probably more) which is in the other Lutyens castle on an island; Lambay off the coast of Dublin ' although their model is now sitting sensibly on a cabinet ' so the Henrietta remains a hugely significant item in the castle, aside from the fact it gives the Ship Room its name.
Actually, that reminds me; a while ago I visited the V&A in London to see the letters of Sir Edwin Lutyens and managed to photograph a good few of those relevant to the island. However, a combination of lack of time and old Ned's dreadful handwriting, I never got around to transcribing them. That is at least, until now. I still have a load to go but most of his writing while here goes on not about the castle itself, but about the island more generally. I've often thought he was more of a tourist than an architect while here and that is probably unfair, but these letters seem to back that up! One thing that leapt out in the castle was the naming of rooms, and there seemed to have been a disagreement between Lutyens and Hudson about the Ship Room. One felt it could be the 'Boat Room' (not sure who, probably Hudson) because I guess of the similarity to the boat sheds at the harbour '" the three at the castle hadn't been installed by then '" while the other (probably Lutyens) thought 'Ship Room' was grander. Regardless of this little discussion, Lutyens was in his element on Holy Island, and wrote regularly of his pleasure at swimming in the sea and going for walks on the north shore, although the weather wasn't always kind to him:
'Oh the wind and the rough weather! How tiring and depressing! It is cold today. I keep all the Holy Island weather stories for after I have exhausted what I have to say on other things...'
I think we can probably all empathise with him there!
Nick Lewis - Collections and House Officer
Lindisfarne Castle firstname.lastname@example.org 07918 335 471
When the clocks go back and bonfire night is over it always feels as if the winter has set in and Christmas is looming on the horizon but the remarkably mild weather has meant that I have barely broke out the winter coat yet! This time of year is always so special with thousands of wintering wildfowl and waders utilising the expansive mudflats and eelgrass beds to feed and rest after migrating from the high arctic. Vast aerial displays of Golden Plover and Knot can regularly be viewed and the chattering of hundreds of Light-bellied Brent Geese feeding close into the causeway is always an amazing sight.
It is a tricky time of year to get essential practical works complete, fighting against the tides and the limited hours of daylight. However, this hasn't stopped us getting stuck in with some of our regular volunteers as we commenced our practical task days again for the first time in 2 years. First up was clearing patches of Montbretia '" a lovely garden plant but has escaped and become established in some parts of the dunes. This forms a monoculture and outcompetes native species resulting in it's quick spread. We have also been tackling areas of scrub regeneration which can take hold and spread across the floristically diverse dune slacks around the Snook. We will be holding several more task days in the run up to Christmas so if you would like to volunteer please email email@example.com for more information.
Events have been held throughout the Autumn providing wildlife experiences and educating people about the NNR and about best practice for viewing wildlife. Our last event '" Dawn chorus at Budle Bay was particularly memorable as thousands of Geese flew low right over our heads filling the air with their iconic 'wink wink' calls as the sun slowly rose above the horizon casting pink and orange hues across the sky. We will still be holding some pop-up events so keep your eyes peeled on our social media sites and blog website. We will also be putting together our full events programme for the 2022 season over the winter months. All events are free so please drop-by in and experience the amazing habitats and wildlife and learn more about the National Nature Reserve.
The data collected from the Trial Dog zonation Initiative in place during the summer, has now been sent away to be independently analysed. Once this report has been finalised it will be available for public viewing.
Natural England is now lead partner in an exciting new EU life project called WADER, aiming to address some of the biggest environmental issues on the North Northumberland Coast. This project will give us extra resource to deliver our management plan and add value to the National Nature Reserve. For more information follow @LifeWader on Twitter. A website will also be up and running soon.
We here at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Andy Denton - Reserve Manager
Lindisfarne & Newham NNRs
I can postpone no longer: the time has come to tell you all about Polar Alignment. 'PA' is guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any novice astronomer. But with help from some clever technology, I have eventually come around to enjoy it.
Polar Alignment is the process of precisely aligning your telescope with the Earth's axis of rotation. It needs to be done every time you install your system in a new location. It was an immediate priority in October as soon as I set up the equipment in my new Observatory Greenhouse on Chare Ends.
Loyal readers of Heavens Above will recall that the key to taking high-quality astro-photographs is to track the stars very accurately, so they appear sharp and round in the captured image' the Holy Grail of astrophotography. This is accomplished by placing your telescope on a motorised mount that turns at exactly the same speed as the Earth. For this to work, the mount must be carefully aligned with either the north or the south Celestial Pole.
Examine the first picture accompanying this column. It shows an eight-hour time-lapse exposure looking north at the Pole Star (aka Polaris) acquired using a 135mm camera lens from my observatory. This image was taken with tracking turned off so that the stars form long trails revealing the rotation of the Earth.
The track of Polaris through the night sky is the brightest of the rings. You will see that the Pole Star is not precisely located at the Celestial Pole, but rather is positioned just under a degree away from it. That's sufficient for approximate navigation, but nothing like good enough for astrophotography. So you cannot simply point your mount at Polaris. Instead you must find the exact Celestial Pole, which is slightly up and to the left in the picture.
Finding this invisible point in the sky is challenging enough in the northern hemisphere. At least we have Polaris to get you reasonably close. Pity unfortunate astronomers in Australia and Chile. They have no bright star to guide them near their Celestial Pole.
PA can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Most of them sound straightforward in theory. But they can swiftly become a form of torture when carried out in the freezing dark of a December evening.
I cheat and use a clever gizmo called a Polemaster that is shown in another of the pictures accompanying this article. It is essentially a small, sensitive camera that allows you to see Polaris and the surrounding dimmer stars. Critically the Polemaster attaches to your mount at its centre of rotation, so that the camera can be spun around its optical axis to measure the alignment with the Celestial Pole. You can think of it as way of taking a version of the concentric star trails image, but without having to wait eight hours.
To cut a very long story short, the Polemaster allows you to fine tune the alignment of your telescope so that the centre of the mount's rotation co-incides exactly with the centre of the concentric star trails. This is accomplished using several fine adjustment knobs on the mount, as shown in the third accompanying picture.
The degree of accuracy required is breath-taking. As little as a one-eight turn of an adjustment knob is enough to throw things out. When everything is perfectly aligned, you have to be extremely carefully locking the mechanism '" lest locking itself alters Polar Alignment. Many is the time I have accidentally brushed against the telescope while moving about the observatory. This is often sufficient disturbance to require a fresh PA.
I suppose nobody ever claimed that astrophotography is easy. Before signing-off let me update you on the discarded mask tally. 51.
Indulge me, if you're sitting down, stand up. Raise one arm as far above your head as you can make it and extend your fingers. Ok, take the arm down and look at your longest finger. See that white rim on the edge of the fingernail? Well, if the whole of your outstretched body length represents the age of the Earth (4.54 billion, or 4,540,000,000 years), then that little white rim is the age of the Quaternary. That's our most recent geological era, the 2.6-million-year-old period of cycles of ice sheet expansion and shrinkage we live in today.
The Quaternary is what I'm planning to write about in this piece, but before I leave the fingernail metaphor, take a look at the last little edge of your fingernail, a bit a lot less thick than you filed off the other day. That sub-millimetric shaving is how long we humans have been on the planet, around 200,000 years. Puts into rational context the brief narrative and significance of humankind doesn't it?
Ok, enough philosophizing, back to the Quaternary, and an explanation of the title. Not so long ago, in fact when I started out on my career as a geologist in the 1970s, the Quaternary was sneered at by 'real' geologists, aka hardrock men. Who would want to spend their time looking at softy sediments that weren't even solidified when they could be wandering across the rock-hard granite of Cheviot, or the gabbros of Skye? Devoting time to insubstantial peat, sand and pebbles was no more than gardening.
But that was then. Through the 70s and 80s there was a dawning realization across most geologists that Quaternary deposits may not have been fertile ground for traditional academic research but understanding it is pretty crucial to society. After all it's Quaternary deposits most of us live on '" be that the ubiquitous stony glacial clay that makes digging the veg plot a pain, or the sands and gravels of coastal and flood plains. So we need to know all about the Quaternary, because we build on houses and roads on it, extract our building materials and often water from it, we sometimes pollute it in landfill, and as it's the stuff that slips down cliffs and road cuttings, it's critical we know how it behaves. And I haven't mentioned its role in understanding climate change, but I will.
Lindisfarne, has Quaternary deposits. On top of the 330-million-year-old Carboniferous rocks there's a layer of stony, sandy clay of glacial origin, you can see it capping the cliffs on the north and east side of the island. Geologists and many others used to call such clays 'boulder clay' , but it didn't always have boulders so it became 'till' ; but now the preferred term is 'diamicton' , because diamicton doesn't presume origin. It's an unsorted sediment, that may have boulders, clay and sand. Needless to say, the word diamicton rarely makes an appearance outside erudite research papers '" science sometimes makes communication with society hard.
Like stony glacial clays across the rest of Northumberland, the ones on Lindisfarne were once sediment carried on, in and beneath an ice sheet that extended down to York and Wales only 20,000 years ago. When it melted around 15,000 years ago these sediments were left like a veneer of discontinuous icing on a cake. The glacial clays are topped by even more recent Quaternary deposits '" the sand of the dunes and beaches. The dunes are less than 6000 years old and are so recent they even cover over early human settlements and, in some places along the coast, ancient tree stumps. The trees were once part of an extensive forest and land area that went all the way across the North Sea to the Netherlands; you could have walked across from the continent and ancient humans did! The beaches are constantly moving and changing. Every day, with each tide, they have a different shape, profile and composition and so the sands, pebbles and cobbles are the youngest and most dynamic bits of geology on the island. (While we are talking pebbles and cobbles, and as you might expect of a geologist, I prefer my coastline naturally beautiful, not anthropogenically augmented by hundreds of little stone towers.)
Enough grumpy geologist, I'd like to finish with something that sounds philosophical but isn't. All this Quaternary stuff may sound a bit esoteric but it is ironclad scientific evidence that our planet is currently in a warm period '" an interglacial '" between glacial episodes and were it not for human impact on our climate, in a few tens of thousands of years the ice sheets would have certainly returned. We may have deferred the next ice age but there is a price to pay - very different and more immediate climate extremes.
On November 17 (Saint Hilda's Day) I received the vows of Bryan Knox of Cramlington at The Starbank Meeting Room, in the presence of locals and 'The gang' '" ten people who have been committed friends for forty years. This was followed by the renewal of vows of Northumberland members and lunch together on the island.
That evening I gave a lecture to Berwick Historical Society on 'The Influence of the 7th c Irish Mission on Northern Britain and Beyond.' The glimpses of this influence never cease to surprise me. The Vikings invaded in 793 yet within a decade a new Lindisfarne Bishop was consecrated. Although this could not yet be on the island, it took place at Byewell-on-Tyne in the presence of the Bishops of York, Hexham and Candida Casa.
During the same following period that monks carried Cuthbert's shrine through many inland places, recent archeological and DNA research suggests that western Norway adopted the gentle ways of Christ through young monk slaves and Christian women deported by Vikings. Now Mission Centres around Stavanger include Celtic studies in their syllabus.
Black Lives Matter supporters see in Aidan a model of Christianity they can embrace wholeheartedly since he set slaves free, and Australians see in the 7th c Mission a model of Christianity they can adopt of 'colonisation in reverse', where people are kind to all, and respect what reflects God in each person, including indigenous peoples.
My Christmas best wishes are inspired by a local performance of Handel's Messiah at the time of COP 26:
Comfort ye ,comfort ye my earthlings, amid the darkness of sinking islands, uninhabitable deserts and mass migrations.
The glory of the rejected Birther shall be revealed. Rejoice! The Source of Life shall be born again among us.
A HAPPY HERMIT
Today we write about a monk called John Whiterig. He lived much later than our Island saints, probably born about 1320 and died in 1371. He joined the Benedictines of Durham, the biggest and most powerful community of community of monks in the north of England. He had probably taken a degree at Oxford first, and then lived for a number of years at Durham, working as novice master. Then he began to feel a desire for a different life.
He visited Lindisfarne at least once, and then felt drawn to the little island called the Inner Farne, the site of Cuthbert's hermitage, where Durham had established a permanent centre for 2 hermits. Here John lived as a hermit for the rest of his life.
We know about him now because he wrote a book of meditations, which has survived and been translated from Latin into English. They are addressed to Biblical characters and show that he had a very good knowledge of the Bible, since he would hardly have had a copy of it on the Farne. There is also one directed to St. Cuthbert.
In his writings he stresses the virtue of cheerfulness, which is fairly unusual in such a book at that time. But on one occasion he seems to have been in doubt about his own salvation. But then he was given a most unusual vision of Jesus himself, in which he asked how he could be saved. Jesus' reply was spoken 'merrily'. He said to John 'Love, and thou shalt be saved'.Jesus spoke to him, says John 'as though laughing'. John then wrote 'Cheerfulness is a sign of a loving heart'.
The hermitage on the inner Farne of course came to an end when all monasteries were dissolved in the reign of Henry VIII.
Editor: Revd Canon Kate Tristram MA (Oxford) MSC (Edinburgh) and honorary Canon of Newcastle (emerita)
One of the many blessings of living here on Holy Island is the vast skies above us with no light pollution. On a clear night, the stars are so bright, and you cannot help but look up. And stand still, in the peace and the quiet and the awesomeness that is in front of you. God's creation in all its glory. It is in the gathering of these stars that make them shine so much brighter even millions of miles away.
The Christmas story calls us to look up and see one another as those who God entered into the world to embrace, to love and to save. With the birth of Jesus our Saviour into the world, we encounter God every day in the Christ among us, in our neighbours as well as the face of the stranger and how we respond, how we reflect the light of Christ through our acts of love and kindness, our compassion, our hospitality matters. It is often when we are at our most vulnerable that how we are shown love and kindness within the community we live in or unexpectedly find ourselves in makes a big difference through difficult and challenging times. This is a glimmer of light in what can be a time of darkness. These liminal places, places of transition where we did not expect to be, stuck on a threshold where we may feel abandoned, weary, and very tired, where emotions of loss, grief and lament can overwhelm us, we are held very much in God's love and we also hold this space for each other unconditionally, with love which is expressed not always in words and doing but in being, in the silent, the waiting, the hope.
God bless us all during this journey of Advent towards the light of Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us, as we journey around our village looking at Advent Windows and singing carols, as we gather in the hall for Christmas lunches and parties, as we gather in church for the lighting of Advent candles, Christingles and the first moments of Christmas morning, the first moment of a New Year, as we gather around dining tables, zoom cameras and the television. And in all this celebrating, festivities, the stories, the memories, the fun, the laughter, our tears as we miss our loved ones may we go outside in the dark even just for a moment and stand in the stillness and peace and look up at those dazzling stars, the light that shines in the darkness and know that Emmanuel, God is with us.
Revd. Sam Quilty
ST. MARY'S NOTICES