• A bit from me...
  • Our next Vicar of Holy Island
  • Holy Island CofE first school
  • On behalf of HM Coastguard
  • Reflections on remembrance
  • Crossman Hall
  • Lindisfarne Castle
  • "Snow-Flake" birds brighten up a Winter's day
  • Natural England - Monthly Update
  • Northumberland Coast AONB - Risk Register launched
  • Northumberland Coast AONB - Beach Litter
  • From the Community of Aidan and Hilda
  • From our United Reformed Church Minister
  • St Mary's notices
"From us all"
A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the last issue of our 2018 newsletter! And we remind established readers that we give our writers a break during both the Christmas and the Summer holiday periods. All being well (!) your next copy of 'Sitezine' should be coming to you at the beginning of February 2019...

The return of the Northumberland County Council work party to maintain the causeway trenches has not happened. The ebbing tide frequently litters both lanes of the road with very hard sand ruts and as well as being filled with sea water, make for a bumpy ride. The severity of this salt water puddling worsens as the strength of the wind increases. And salt water is a threat to the longevity of the underside of any vehicle.


Accommodation Pages: Our 2019 advertising period begins on 1st January. We will try to keep any disruption minimal if customer revisions are necessary.

2019 Event Calendar: We await notifications on local events and will append as relevant information becomes available.

Tide Table (crossing times): thank you to James and David at English Heritage for providing updates to the Lindisfarne Priory 2018 opening times. We hope that these will continue during 2019.

Thank you to all our regular writers for your consistently hard work throughout the year in helping our readers 'Stay in Touch' with our historic island And, so far as this month's additional contents are concerned: 

  • We are grateful to Alex at Coventry Cathedral for her resume of our new vicar. We are very much looking forward welcoming our new Vicar at the Parish Church on January 27th at 2.00 p.m..
  • We are delighted to welcome an introductory article from Heather, our new teacher at Holy Island CofE First School.

We hope you enjoy our newsletter, wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year and look forward to getting in touch again in February 2019.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

PS: Our thoughts and wishes are with our relatives and friends living away from their island home this Christmas - particularly those serving throughout the world in the protection of this great nation.

Note: I am grateful to whosoever supplied the above cartoon which I am sure will be appreciated by many ladies - including my wife! 

Rev. Canon Dr. Sarah Hills

Rev. Canon Dr. Sarah Hills

Rev. Canon Dr. Sarah Hills recently announced to her team at Coventry Cathedral that she has been called to the post of Vicar of Holy Island; 'I am happy and excited to be following what has been a very strong calling to Lindisfarne. I hope I can bring many of the experiences and gifts that being in Coventry has given me. Although I am really sad to be leaving my team, this wonderful cathedral and this reconciliation ministry, I know that I'm leaving it in good hands and am thrilled to be moving to Holy  island in the New Year".

Canon Sarah was born in South Africa, brought up in Northern Ireland, and lived in Sheffield since the mid 1980's. She qualified in medicine and worked as a psychiatrist, specialising in psychotherapy. She was ordained in 2007, and before moving to Coventry in 2014, held the post of the Bishop of Sheffield's Adviser in Pastoral Care and Reconciliation. As Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, Sarah focused on building local, national and international networks and relationships; training new and existing reconcilers; developing a theology of reconciliation; and engaging in direct intervention both within the UK and internationally. Based at St Michael's House, Sarah used the reconciliation story of Coventry and her own experiences of reconciliation from across the globe to bring people together in learning, prayer and dialogue.

She attained her PhD in the theology of reconciliation at Durham University, and is a Visiting Fellow of St John's College, Durham. Sarah is also an Honorary Canon of Inverness Cathedral. She is married to Richard, a GP, and they have two teenage sons, Matt and Jack, and a Labrador, Roxy. Her other passions include music, hiking and sailing, on the sailing boat 'Esme'.

ED: Thank you to Alex at Coventry Cathedral for sending this very welcome 'Advent-Message'.


Thank you for the warm welcome and good wishes I have received since taking up the post as teacher here on Holy Island. It's a joy to be here and to be part of the re-opening of our school on the island. I would like to welcome Mrs Karen Ward who has joined us as caretaker and teaching assistant.  As you may know, we work in partnership with Lowick C of E First School and when the tide allows, our children join their friends in Lowick as we 'journey together' with our learning.

We've certainly had a busy Autumn term. September saw us welcoming the archaeologists from Dig Nation to our school. We were invited to join the team at the dig - the children were very excited to be up so close to 'the action' and I don't think they'll ever forget seeing an Anglo-Saxon skeleton just a metre away from them! The education team took lots of time to answer the children's questions and to listen to their ideas about what might have happened all those years ago. The dig brought our science topic of rocks, soils and fossils to life and deepened the learning for our children. The visit was a rich experience giving a great focus for writing as Callum, Year 2, shows.

On Friday we went to Holy Island to see the archaeologists digging. Lucy the archaeologist told us about the Priory. The excavation was dusty. We went in groups to see a skeleton. It was dirty but the teeth were still white. It was hard for the archaeologists because it was so dusty. They were using trowels and brushes. Lucy told us it was an infirmary. We played on the field before the bus came.

Were you around the village on Thursday 11th October? If you were you may have seen a fierce and raucous horde of Vikings raiding Lindisfarne Priory! As a grand finale to our Viking topic, the children dressed as Vikings and designed and made weapons and brooches; they certainly looked the part. Thank you to the Heritage Centre and to Lindisfarne Priory who made us very welcome. The children had spent time researching the history and geography of the Viking raid in AD792 and being on the island in costume and re-enacting the raid greatly extended their understanding of events. You might like to read about it in a report from 'The Dane Times' by Amelie, Year 3.

Lowick and Holy Island School invaded Holy Island and terrified the locals because they were dressed as horrible Vikings. They shouted and screamed as they ran up the beach to the Priory. They had shields, swords and axes and one even had a double-sided spear.  An eyewitness, Mrs. Brown, trembled as she told us "They scared the children! I hate Vikings!"

November saw us busy making poppies for the 100 years remembrance display in St Mary's. We recycled plastic bottles (thank you for your donations) and made beautiful poppies which look magnificent. This artwork was a trigger to our learning about remembrance and the children discovered why the poppy is significant. The children wrote poems, messages and shared their thoughts showing a deep respect for the brave service men, women and animals. The Holy Island children visited the memorial on the Heugh along with their families and Sam Quilty, and laid handmade poppies in remembrance.

As the festive season approaches, we are busy preparing for our Christmas Performances which will take place in Lowick on Friday 14th and Monday 17th December.  I'm sure the children will be ready for a well-earned break over Christmas and New Year! May we send our warmest wishes to you all.


On the 11th of November 2018 HM Coastguard honoured the brave and selfless men and women, many of whom were Coastguards, who died in the service for their country.

During World War One, Coastguards could be called upon by the Royal Navy as reservists and posted to ships due to their expertise in signalling.

HM Coastguard itself suffered considerable losses in the early months of the war, and following this, the Admiralty decided to return the majority of Coastguard personnel back to their stations.

photo: Laurence Donkin

For the remainder of the war, shore-based Coastguards continued with their duties as well as manning War Signal Stations, undertaking dangerous and highly specialised disposal of mines and keeping a watch for spies or saboteurs who may have tried to land. They also provided early warning of raids by German warships and assisted the police and army in rounding up suspects and escaped POWs.

Each year HM Coastguard sends a contingent of twelve Coastguards from around the UK to the national service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London. These twelve men and women represent full-time and volunteer coastguards, both maritime and coastal, and join many other emergency services representatives at the Cenotaph service.

We stood shoulder to shoulder with those serving in uniform reflecting as 'The Last Post' echoed across the country for those who gave their today so that we could have our tomorrow.

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

On behalf of HM Coastguard, we will remember them.
#Armistice100 #Remembrance2018


Were you moved by the way our country responded to the centenary of the Armistice over the recent Remembrance Sunday weekend? I was. It wasn't just the solemn annual rituals: it was something much more, much deeper.

It made a significant difference that the actual moment of the centenary fell precisely at 11am on Sunday 11 November as we gathered round our war memorials. You could almost hear the guns falling silent. On Holy Island, there was a large gathering round the memorial on the Heugh as the wreaths of red poppies were laid reverently around its base. The peace and beauty of the scene, as sun reflected off the water, contrasted with our internal thoughts about the horrors of war (and the trenches of the First World War in particular) and the magnitude of the sacrifice and loss.

At short notice, I had been asked to represent Holy Island at the Royal British Legion's Armistice Centenary Service and Vigil in Berwick Parish Church the evening before. (The organiser couldn't find somebody living on the island to do so because of a very unhelpful tide.) It was a special privilege to lay a wreath in the church together with all the parishes of North Northumberland. Then, after the service, local cadets mounted a vigil over the wreaths whilst, in very slow time, the names of every WWI name on all the war memorials of the area were read out (I read the Holy Island names). This was very powerful. The list of the fallen from some small places was heart-wrenchingly long: Kirknewton, for instance, now a small collection of isolated farmsteads and cottages, had a list which just went on and on.

At the Remembrance Sunday service in St Mary's on Holy Island, Kate Tristram's address reminded us that over 60 from the island served in the armed forces during the First World War, and helped us to reflect how these experiences must have changed everybody's lives - the bereaved, the survivors, everyone.

At this time of national identity crisis and uncertainty about our future, I find it really encouraging that the whole country was able to come together in this great and solemn act of remembrance, putting aside our differences as we reflected on the sacrifice and loss of so many who gave their todays for our tomorrows. We will remember them.

Let me leave you with a further sobering story about another island. In the early hours of the morning on New Year's Day 1919 (just a few short weeks after the Armistice), many servicemen from the Western Front were eagerly returning home to Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides for Hogmanay onboard HMY Iolaire. The vessel had sailed, badly overloaded, from Kyle of Lochalsh and foundered on the rocks outside Stornoway harbour. Due to a succession of bad judgements and misfortune, the death toll was over 200 (nearly all of them the returning servicemen). Just imagine how the families of those men must have felt that black morning: their loved ones had gone off to a terrible war, peace had returned, and they were so very nearly home - yet totally lost. This coming Hogmanay will be a painful time of remembrance for many families in the Hebrides. We need to remember them too - and remember to be thankful each day for the blessings we enjoy and for the sacrifices of those who made these blessings possible.


That's another month flown by and soon we will be looking to that area of the sky where we usually see the Northern Lights, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus as he begins his dash around the world depositing peace and goodwill. And boy do we need it.

Yoga Sessions After a pause there are three proposed sessions to be held in December:

Monday 3rd at 3p.m.
Monday 10th at 11a.m.
Monday 17th at 2:30p.m.

The cost for each class will be approximately 8.00 per person depending on numbers attending. For more information phone Lesley on 389047.

This month my news is brief and I have used the Hall Newsletter space to consider WW1 and how we remember.

Reflections - Armistice Sunday 11 November 2018

This year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, a conflict that reaped a deadly harvest of men and boys, friend and foe, as well as civilians. Leaving wounded with physical and mental damage struggling to survive; 'yes, we will remember them'.

It's coming up to 10:30 on Sunday and I'm sitting in the Fisherman's Aisle viewing the Fisherman's Alter dressed overall so lovingly by the Ladies as a tribute to those local and others who fell. This year the railings around the Old Market Cross in the centre of the village have also been dressed with poppies and red ribbon.

On a number of occasions I have visited many of the WW1 battlefields, once sites of savage devastation and despair implanted in our minds eye by old film clips and photographs. Visiting war grave cemeteries, some large like Thiepval and others with just a handful of Portland Stone markers, some identifying the casualty, others noting that this is the last resting place of an un-named soldier of the 1st WW.

When seeking comfort from the memories of such savage destruction and desolation. I have to say that the battlefield areas are now quite beautiful stretches of undulating well looked after farmland scattered with pockets woodland, suggesting that those who fell now have quiet and peaceful resting places.

But it is still possible to be shocked. Earlier I mentioned Thiepval the Lutein's designed Memorial commemorating the unknown fallen. This huge edifice is marked with more than 72,000 names of those who have no known resting place. Like all war graves, well-kept. At the entrance to most Cemeteries large and small, is a locker holding a detailed record of where those identified rest, helpful when looking for a relative or a family friend. 

As I scan the congregation, I am becoming increasingly aware that those of us who have served since the last major conflict are now a bit thin on the ground, my count of suggests that we are down into single figures. But never the less there is a good turnout for this special occasion with the congregation boosted by visitors.

Following the Service, most churchgoers will follow the British Legion Standard as it is borne passed the Cross, through the Sanctuary Close to the Island War Memorial sitting high above the village on the Heugh, overlooking the mainland and North Sea and remember those from WW1 & WW2 and pay our tribute.

In 1901 Edward Hudson, owner of The Country Life magazine and other journals bought Holy Island Castle and later appointed Sir Edwin Lutyens, Architect, to transform the property in to a comfortable County House. So, began Lutyens association with the Island.

Following WW1, Lutyens was commissioned to design a number of memorial focal points, the most prominent being the Cenotaph in Whitehall where the great and the good are gathering this morning. Here on the Island our Lutyens designed memorial is more modest but no less emotional or meaningful. On the East side of the stone are the names of the fallen from WW1 and on the West face are those remembered from WW2.

A short dedication is made at both sides of the memorial and on occasions when a Bugler is present the Last Post is played.


David O'


The north easterlies have started which means winter is upon us. Work at the Castle is largely indoor at the moment - which is just as well - but we do have a good few outdoor jobs deferred from the major project to crack on with. It is perhaps typical that the most significant of these is on the east facing-Lower Battery, so as I type the builders have left the island to go off to another job. Can't say I blame them.

The job on the Lower Battery is to shore up the structure of the underground tanks, which during the closure were found to be slightly unstable. Steelwork has been installed - almost like a pair of railway lines - which take the weight of the drain stones above the tanks and the lines in turn take a bearing from more solid ground nearby. The openings in the drains have been measured to allow the Fire Service to access the water in the tanks should the worst ever happen here, and the 2000 or so gallons contained inside should give us a good chance of containing a big fire.

Away from the building works we are in the process of planning next year's opening and have a number of plates spinning in that regard. One of them relates to the open evening up at the Castle in August 2018, and we're now able to get things moving on this Living Memories project. We would like to work in partnership with the community of Holy Island to document and record oral histories and stories relating to a set of unique themes.

Freelance Engagement Consultant Claire Newton is working with Jane Anderson and John Bevan from the village to create a set of invites and opportunities for the recording of stories. We hope some of the stories will impact in a set of new creations at Lindisfarne Castle in 2019 and will serve as an official archive for cherished and poignant memories of Holy Island. 

Should you wish to find out more about being involved please email Claire; or call Lindisfarne Castle; 01289 389902 or 389244 (press 6).

We have arranged a Christmas Celebration on Wed 19 December from 1 - 3pm at Crossman Hall and would be delighted if you are able to attend. There will be mince pies and merriment and a chance to contribute to the living memories project too.

Please RSVP to me (Nick Lewis); (number above or 389903) by Wed 5 December if you would like to come along and get involved.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

Nick Lewis
Lindisfarne Castle
01289 389903


The North Shore and Sandham Bay can be very inhospitable places at this time of year when freezing winds swirl along clouds of stinging sand at eye level.

On such days, I'm usually glad to get up into the dunes away from the constant battle against that fine battering of tiny but troublesome particles. But one small bird from the Arctic doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by these conditions.

In their breeding areas, the Inuit, Greenlanders, Sami and and the various northerly tribes of both North America and Siberia know them as "snow flake birds."  With their hesitant fluttering flight they often look entirely white. 

We know them rather less romantically as Snow Buntings. They have the distinction of being the world's most northerly breeding songbird, raising their young in hidden rock crevices in locations ranging from high and bleak Arctic mountains down to coastal tundra.  Where human habitations exist they can behave like our own house sparrows and nest in walls and roof spaces.

Much closer to home, there's a very small breeding population in the highest areas of the Cairngorms where the climate and terrain is one of the few places in Britain that replicates their preferred Arctic homeland.

Across the top of Europe, North America and Asia as the dark winter approaches, the entire population migrates southwards, a survival strategy for a species dependent on insects and various seeds which will soon be unavailable and covered by ice and snow.

Flocks of these attractive little birds spend the winter in the more temperate climes of Europe and America. In our case most seem to prefer coastal habitats, including those windy open beaches, with others gleaning the dunes and coastal fields in an endless quest for weed seeds. However, some also venture into our uplands where they generally seem to go un-noticed.

Snowflake birds: This superb male was found on a local beach.
Photo: Mike S Hodgson

They are extremely attractive little birds in buff and white. When disturbed by walkers or other birds which could present a threat, they rise in a cloud of flashing white-patched wings and tails with wonderful high trilling calls. They usually circle and quickly settle back once any threat has passed.

On the ground they feed in leap-frog style, birds from the back of flocks constantly flitting forward over the heads of leaders. This causes the whole flocks to constantly roll forward along the high water line with its tangles of weed and other debris.

Most flocks are recorded on the coast, simply I think because that's where most birdwatchers are during winter. During October, for at least ten days, a single young male Snow Bunting became a huge attraction for birders and non-birders alike, on the track near the white cottage in the Crooked Lonnen. This incredibly tame individual would feed literally at the feet of passers-by. E ven when finally disturbed, it would simply flit on to the local walls or fence lines.

I think it's true to say that it became the world's most photographed Snow Bunting, featuring widely on social media, during its stay. It was often so close that a mobile phone proved as good as the most sophisticated camera to snap its likeness.   

Away from the coast, inland areas, particularly the higher ground which these hardy little birds seem to favour, are generally unrewarding for birders and consequently are neglected during winter. But Snow Buntings can be present. 

A decade ago a colleague and I spend long and very cold days surveying winter birds on the Otterburn Training Area and there aren't many places as bleak as that in mid-winter. We were surprised to find little groups of Snow Buntings surviving on heather and weed seeds.  In fact, in most areas they were the only small birds we recorded.  Field guides and atlases which indicate that most are on the coast may be a little misleading.

One thing that is certain is that the numbers visiting Britain are in steep decline. This could involve either a fall in the Arctic population or simply less severe winters in northern Europe making it unnecessary for them to move so far southwards.

The much-photographed juvenile male Snow Bunting
in the Crooked Lonnen in October :
Photo; Kevin Burdis

Because they are such attractive birds they are generally noticed and carefully recorded by naturalists so we have very good information about the situation in the past. For example, George Bolam writing in 1912, considered them abundant and said that during severe weather flocks involving thousands could be found around Berwick.

Numbers seemed to remain high until the late 1940s, particularly during the severe winter of late 1948, when during November and December, the largest gathering ever recorded in the county involved up to 5,000 here on the island.

These birds were recorded by the island's resident naturalist, Richard Perry, who a couple of years earlier had published his renowned work A Naturalist on Lindisfarne.

In these days of instant messaging such a flock would bring birders rushing from throughout the country, not because of their rarity but simply to experience the spectacle. But those were very different days and Perry's sighting was reported in a much more humble fashion on a postcard to the county bird recorder at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle.

Large numbers continued to be found, although not quite on that scale. These included 1,000 on the island in 1962, 300 on Hedgehope in the Cheviots in 1972 and 200 at Bamburgh in 1998.

Since then numbers have been much lower and these days a flock of even 100 would be considered exceptional. During work for the Northumbria breeding atlas from 2007-11 the largest flock recorded involved 70 inland at Fulhope while coastal flocks, even in former prime areas s such as the island, seldom exceeded 30 individuals.

Even since the atlas was published I suspect that numbers have fallen further. In January 2016 I was impressed to find a group of 35 on the North Shore, the largest group I'd seen for a decade or so. I wonder what Richard Perry would have made of that? Nevertheless, it turned out to be the largest group recorded in Northumberland that year.

Perversely, the present comparative scarcity of Snow Buntings makes them all the more challenging and exciting to find. It's certainly a good day when even a small flock suddenly rises ahead on a local beach and that lovely trilling call fills the air once more.


The end of the year fast approaches, hastened by the strong winds which have been buffeting birds and wardens alike. On our daily trek up the Straight Lonnen to check the cattle, we are many-layered and braced against the wind. A grey heron tries and fails and tries again to take off in a strong southwesterly, watched placidly by a chestnut and white cow, who chews her cud and seems unfazed by the weather. The cattle continue their good work grazing the dunes, while on the Snook twenty-two sheep graze the slacks a half hectare to a hectare at a time. We carry water and a small amount of top-up feed for the sheep in a yellow bucket which, when rattled, brings them trotting quickly into view. The sheep are grazing the vegetation intensively to create a nutrient-poor habitat in which amazing flora will flourish next year.

We must work around the light and the tides, meaning some early starts - crossing the causeway to the cries of a handful of whooper swans and the rolling call of the hundreds of light-bellied Brent geese who feed on zostera eelgrass. We spot fewer grey seals hauled out than we did earlier in the year, with many off to pup at the Farne Islands, and we miss their eerie crooning on misty mornings. Young seals hauled out on beaches are often a cause for concern for kindly walkers - yet unless obviously injured or entangled in plastic pollution or ghost fishing, they are likely to simply be resting and should be left alone to enjoy their snooze.

Strong winds and winter storms leave in their wake a slew of plastic debris. Reserve staff and volunteers, and volunteers from the local CoastCare initiative, have been hard at work on beach cleans, preserving the beauty of our shoreline and protecting wildlife from suffocating or entangling litter. Unfortunately it becomes increasingly clear that without changes in consumer habits plastic pollution will continue to drown our seas and our wildlife.

Peak counts to date include 3600 light-bellied Brent geese in mid-October, with 2500 still on the Reserve. Wigeon, who came late to our shores this year, are lingering longer, with a peak count of 16138 in October, and 12000 still remaining. Pink-footed geese peaked at 6500 in the first week of October, Barnacle geese at 4500 in October, and Greylag at 425 in mid-November. Low tide counts at the end of November showed strong numbers of lapwing (2200) and golden plover (1750).

Warmest wishes to all for the season. Wrap up in your best bobble hats and enjoy a December stroll - and spare a moment's thought, if you can, for wildlife: from putting out bird feeders to providing drinking water, to cutting back on plastic consumption, to volunteering some of your time to care for our amazing nature and habitats.

Merry Christmas from the Lindisfarne NNR team.


'Heritage at Risk' Register launched

Historic England, the government adviser on the Historic Environment, launched their annual 'Heritage at Risk' register. The register gives an annual snapshot of England's historic places.

The Heritage at Risk register is now in its 20th year and to mark this, Historic England have published their top 20 picks of sites rescued over the last two decades. The medieval chapel on St Cuthbert's Island, one of the most iconic and historically significant archaeological sites on the Northumberland Coast, has been highlighted as one of those conservation successes.

Conservation work to St, Cuthbert's Island was undertaken in 2017 as part of the National Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership scheme. Supported by 1.4m of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the scheme enabled the conservation of eight significant built heritage assets on Holy Island and was supported by additional funds from Northumberland County Council, the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership and the War Memorial Trust.

The significance of St Cuthbert's Island, the small tombolo off to the west of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, can not be underestimated. The wealth of national designations illustrates the immense value of the delicate environment and heritage. Sited by Bede as the location for St Cuthbert's first island refuge in 676 means the island also has huge spiritual significance and draws many visitors.

Whilst very high tides have always had the potential to impact on the west end of the Scheduled chapel, more extreme weather events in recent years have taken an evident toll on the historic fabric. This has resulted in the loss of historic fabric and an increasing risk to the integrity of the buried archaeology.

The National Lottery funded Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership project was a remarkable and timely opportunity to address the increasing erosion in an innovative way. The project's conservation architect, Tristan Spicer of Doonan Architects and the conservation builder Heritage Consolidation, developed a suite of conservation options for the variety of sites across the Peregrini area of which St Cuthbert's Island was the most important. The small bespoke gabions, filled with stones from the foreshore, were moulded to the site and have established a subtle, sustainable and clearly definable intervention which has proved incredibly successful in arresting the erosion of the site.

The other sites that benefited from conservation work were the Bark Pots, Popple Well, Osborne's Fort, the Palace, the War Memorial and Market Cross. Sara Rushton, Northumberland County Council Conservation Manager said "Thanks to players of the National Lottery, we've been able to secure the future of a range of remarkable heritage sites across Holy Island and ensure that generations to come are able to experience the tranquility and isolation of the chapel remains on St. Cuthbert's Island."

Catherine Gray
Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership
01670 622644,


Turning the tide on beach litter

A report on a year-long beach litter survey on the Northumberland coast reveals that our beaches are some of the cleanest in the country but plastic waste is still a big issue.

More than 800 volunteers have spent over 5,000 hours out on the beaches of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) over the last year counting and collecting the litter they find. The coordinated litter-counts were organised by the volunteering initiative Coast Care and took place in winter, spring, summer and autumn on nearly every beach in the AONB. The data has been analysed and a report on the amount and type of litter on our beaches has been issued today.

Volunteers recording beach litter at Berwick
Coast Care

The Marine Conservation Society have also released the data from their national survey today which shows that, in comparison to the national picture, the beaches in the AONB are some of the cleanest in the country with an average of 59 litter items per 100 metres compared to a national figure of 600 items.

The 2019/20 survey attempted to replicate a similar survey carried out in 2007 using the same methodology. In 2007 there was an average of 8.17 items per metre compared to 5.9 items today. Although there were differences in effort, the actual beaches surveyed and the categorisation of litter items, this is still a significant decrease. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that more volunteers are collecting litter, there is greater public awareness of the issues, the plastic bag tax and investment in sewage treatment facilities have all helped. 

Cllr Jeff Watson, Chair of the Northumberland Coast AONB said "Firstly, I must thank the hundreds of volunteers who have contributed to the survey and the many more who collect litter from our beaches every day.

"Although there has been a reduction in the amount of litter on the beach since 2007, we mustn't think we've solved the problem. Collecting litter on the beach has become an increasingly popular activity that makes our beaches appear cleaner than would otherwise be. We must all work together to stop litter, especially plastics, from getting into the sea and onto our beaches in the first place.

"We need to continue to raise awareness of the problems caused by litter to our environment and not just at the coast. During 2019, the AONB Partnership we will work with our tourism businesses, the statutory organisations and our volunteers on campaigns and activities to reduce the amount of litter ending up in the sea."

Andrew Davison OBE, Partner at Muckle LLP, said: "It's fantastic to hear the beaches of Northumberland are some of the cleanest in the country, but any amount of litter on the beach is too much. Muckle is incredibly passionate about the North East environment in particular, so we are delighted to have supported this project, which is not only tackling the causes of coastal litter in our region, but also challenges all of us to question our approach to recycling, single-use plastics and waste in general."

Katie Wellstead, Principal Advisor at Community Foundation said "We are delighted to have been able to support this project through the Local Environmental Action Fund. The Community Foundation matches generous people to important causes. The data that has been collected by volunteers on marine litter on the Northumberland Coast is fascinating, but also provides vital information which will assist in tackling the important issue of marine litter in our area in the longer term."

The report includes an action plan for 2019 to try to tackle litter at source, before it gets into the sea. Actions include:

  • A social-media campaign in the summer of 2019
  • Information about how to reduce use of single-use plastics in the AONB Visitor Guide
  • Provide information about beach litter for bedroom browsers/welcome packs in hotels, B&Bs, caravan parks and self-catering premises
  • Encourage the operators of self-catering accommodation premises to provide reusable mugs for use whilst people are staying, to reduce the use of single-use cups
  • Work with Northumbrian Water, on a coast-themed campaign, to encourage the '3P's' message
  • Work with Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (NIFCA) to scope out a 'fishing for litter' type project to include awareness raising with fishers and an audit of port/harbour waste reception facilities
  • Encourage volunteer beach-cleaners to report pot-tags to NIFCA
  • Provide funding and support for community litter groups
  • Maintain beach-litter hubs at five locations in the AONB
  • Promote opportunities to volunteer with Coast Care to local people and visitors

The report breaks down the litter by type and by source as well as providing the figures for each of the individual beaches surveys. Seasonal variations and a comparison with the 2007 survey are discussed. The report can be downloaded from (Ed: sorry AONB has removed webpage)

Iain Robson
Tel.  01670 622660


In November the Northumberland members of The Community of Aidan and Hilda met overnight  on Holy Island with our three Open Gate  staff to share their life stories, break bread together and renew their vows ahead of Saint Hilda's Day. One member, Maureen, was busy making many poppies for an event to  Remember the end of World War 1 in her town one hundred years ago.

In addition to each of our Sunday Remembrance services at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, parishes throughout north Northumberland gathered for a vigil the evening before, at Berwick Parish Church, in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant and our M.P.  with a rotating fifteen minutes guard by young people in uniform until midnight. The war dead of a different parish were read aloud every 15 minutes.

At 8.15 pm a Holy Island representative read out these names from Holy Island: Morley Crossman, George Cromarty, James Patterson, William Wilson, Joseph Touch, Adam Shell, James Markwell, Thomas Markwell - 'to the glory of God and in grateful memory of our glorious dead'.

A German city also displays a multitude of poppies to remember those on all sides who died in the world wars.

Throughout UK and other countries special ceremonies are held to commemorate the end of the First World War one hundred years ago.  In my town, as in countless others, the names of every local combatant who died will be read out during a civic vigil.

Ray Simpson
Founding Guardian, The international Community of Aidan and Hilda


This issue of the Holy Island Times covers not only the period of Advent and Christmas, but also the shortest day of the year, the ending of 2018, and the beginning of 2019.  These dates are coupled with the change in season; there are fewer visitors on the Island, and the days are shorter.  It still remains to be seen what surprises the weather will have for us as one year ends and another begins.

We cannot help but be attentive to the change in physical season, and this may also be a time when we are aware of the personal seasons of life.  On one level, the demands of winter may make us aware of our age, on another level, the celebrations at this time of year are a time for reminiscence about years gone by, a reminder of how children have grown, and of how treasured loved ones are no longer around our table.

It is important to acknowledge and to share the times of light and shade in our lives just as we accept that we have to live through autumn and winter as well as spring and summer.  Christmas festivities and their anticipation bring great joy, and are a bright light at a dark time of year, but they can be hard if you feel under pressure to be continuously jolly, even though there are difficulties and worries in life.

A precious part of the Christmas story is the image of the baby Jesus lying safe and warm in a manger, whilst Mary and Joseph look on with joy, and shepherds and wise men worship him with awe and wonder.  Heaven and earth are united as an angel choir sings, and a star shines brightly over the stable.  Here is good news, that God is with us in Jesus.  Through the centuries, and throughout the world Christians have celebrated God entering the story of humanity in a newborn child.

Right from the beginning though, the story of the infant Jesus is infiltrated by darkness and difficulty - Mary would probably say that there was nothing glamourous about having to give birth in a barn ! The new family have to flee persecution, and the gospel of Matthew records the horrific slaughter of new born infants as Herod seeks to hunt Jesus down.  The adult Jesus is recorded as experiencing family difficulties and bereavement, and relates, with love, to people suffering all sorts of heartache and worry.  This does not take away from God's life-changing presence, but rather deepens its meaning, Jesus is fully human and he comes to us in times of darkness and of light, and in all the shades of life in between.

In the opening verses of John's gospel we read of Jesus:

"What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

May you and your household know light and love in this season.


St Cuthbert's Centre news

The United Reformed Church is committed to taking care of our building built in 1891 by Islanders, for Islanders.  The building has always been cherished one way or another but none of the previous generations probably anticipated the challenges of woodworm !
Part of the beauty of the building lies in its wood beams and panelling - it will be a major task to eradicate our hungry visitors.  The infestation is straightforward enough to treat in bare wood, but multiple layers of varnish in St Cuthbert's will have to be sanded down before that can happen.
The United Reformed Church is meeting the cost, but, at the time of writing, it seems that the building will be closed during December, January and February.  No doubt there will be skips and contractors going to and fro - please let me know if there is any inconvenience caused to our neighbours.
99.9% of visitors are welcome in our building, but I won't be sorry to say goodbye to the woodworm !

Berwick Foodbank

Thank you to all those who have left donations at St Cuthbert's Centre, they are much appreciated.  During the time our building is closed donations can be left at St Aidan's Church - thank you Sr Tessa !
By the time January comes around most of us are conscious of rising fuel bills.  There are many living in our communities, of all ages, who will be trying to choose between keeping warm and keeping fed, this is where the food bank comes in.  They say "Donations are always welcome.  We are always on the look out for non perishable food items, adult and children's toiletries and we also try to keep a stock of cat and dog food as well."  Thanks for your support !

Rev Rachel Poolman
01589 289254
facebook:  st cuthbert's centre holy island



  Churchwardens Notices  

ARMISTICE DAY: A huge thank-you to all who contributed to making our Centenary Remembrance so moving.

Thank you to those who prepared the Church; the decorations were thoughtful and evocative.

Thank you to all who contributed to the worship in Church and on the Heugh at the War Memorial.

CAROL SINGING ROUND THE VILLAGE: This will take place on Monday, December 17th, beginning at St. Cuthbert's Centre at 5.00 p.m. More details from Andy Raine, who is organising this activity.

HELP NEEDED: St. Mary's Church has a committed team of volunteers who work hard to care for its building, churchyard and its parishioners. Unfortunately that team is dwindling and we need more volunteers to be part of it, carrying out such tasks as church cleaning, delivering the Holy Island Times on a monthly basis, and also helping at times such as Christmas and other festivals.

Our NEW VICAR: The Revd. Dr. Sarah Hills will be licensed in St. Mary's Church on Sunday Jan.27th 2019 at 2.00 p.m. All are welcome to be present at this service.

From the Ministry Team


  Pattern of worship for Sundays
8am    Holy Communion (BCP) 
10.45am    Parish Eucharist 
5.30pm    Evensong
Pattern of worship (Monday - Saturday)
   8 am Morning Prayer Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
   8 am Eucharist Wednesday and Friday
   5.30 pm Evening Prayer every day

please check notice board in church porch in the event of a revision



"Light up a Life"
In Belford and Berwick

meet our hospice team


"From all of us on Holy Island"