The Natural History of Lindisfarne

"Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy - I will give you rest." - Matthew 11-28
Unique Natural History Seals Natural History Abounds Quarry
"The Natural History of Holy Island is of considerable, if not unique, importance. Its restricted acreage certainly does not reflect the extent of its wildlife interest." - John Collins 1996
Sand Dunes cover the northern parts of Lindisfarne and these hold their own specific secrets. Rich findings, indeed, for those who will enjoy the search. This sandy wilderness is home to wealth of unusual and, largely, unexpected wild flowers and insects. Many plants of Arctic origin occur, here, at sea level and it is worth visiting the area in order to see these if nothing else. Other parts of the island have plants that have escaped from such diverse places as New Zealand, Kew and some which have probably been cultivated for medicinal purposes by the Monks of Medieval times, if not earlier.
Although the Island was originally designated as a Nature Reserve for its Flora, its bird life continues to draw keen ornithologists throughout the year, for there is always something of interest to be found around our shoreline. Visited briefly hundreds of birds during both the Spring and Autumn migration periods, the species visiting and remaining with us throughout the Winter are probably the most important. Those that come to the shoreline, geese, duck, waders and the occasional rare Northern Gull are largely from the Arctic and occur sometimes in numbers which are staggering. There is tightly controlled Wild-Fowling. Bird-watching is best at Lindisfarne outside the main tourist season of the Summer months, when accommodation is also more readily available.
The local Geology is complex but there are exposures of rock-types which are superb. Mainly sedimentary from the Lower Carboniferous Period, there are coal seams on the shore, the end of that time is dramatically seen at the South of Lindisfarne where the dolerite of the Whin Sill was intruded. Beblowe Crag upon which Lindisfarne castle stands, the Farnes and Hadrian's Wall are part of the same period of igneous activity. The much more recent Ice Ages have clearly left their mark too for many rocky outcrops throughout the Island are plastered with boulder clay. Lindisfarne is clearly a member of the Farne Island Group but may itself consist of two Islands linked by wind-blown sand.
Finally, the Marine Life is immensely rich. Seaweeds are represented by a surprisingly high number of forms and the Fauna of the inter-tidal zones is phenomenal and is, as yet, not adequately explored. Happily, the shore line is now being preserved, for we may still find the longest animal in Britain, Northern Octopus, Pipe Fish, Fifteen-Spined Stickleback and a considerable range of unexpected marine Shellfish. Offshore, we have large numbers of North Atlantic Grey Seals and, becoming more resident recently, several hundred Common Seals on the muddy waters between the island and the Mainland.
Visits for Natural History should be selected according to Seasons as well as for what it is intended to seek. In Summer one may discover some rare orchids. Autumn brings the vast numbers of wading birds, seeduck and geese. Many birds from the nearby Cheviot uplands come to the shores and grasslands of the Island to spend the Winter, returning to breed in the mountains with the return of Spring.
A stay on Lindisfarne will allow for both Painting or Photography. Should the latter option be selected, please bring a good supply of film and be prepared to use it. The wild life is a part of our Island's heritage and we hope you will share and enjoy what you find on your first and what almost certainly will become subsequent visits.
John Collins BSc(Hons) CBiol MIBiol (deceased)
(Former Warden of Castle Gresley and Litton
Mills Derbyshire Field Study Centres)
Webmaster: To get the best from the Island, John always used to suggest that you arrange to stay for a few days. There is so much to see which is best accomplished restfully - rushing belongs elsewhere!