A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to our May edition of our 'stay-in-touch-ezine.

Somewhere in the UK they reported that storm 'Hanna' swept across us - but for us the fine weather seems to continue.. Perhaps you were amongst those who crowded onto the island over the Easter period. I hope you managed to find a place to park.

Our last edition cautioned on the need to check the causeway crossing times. Despite this, yet again a couple of visitors have been caught out. Please - please check and check again the causway open-times. But these tidal predictions are based mainly on variations in the moon's gravitational attraction which cannot take into account the significant diffences that local weather factors can produce. And if you are thinking of waiting to watch the tide close this might be far different to that predicted. Please park safely away from the bridge and turning circles or where you might impede drivers, perhaps with better local tidal-knowledge (coastguards and residents) attempting to cross. The causeway is the island's only access road and not a place to heedlessly wander. It is also a very remote area indeed - so if you feel there might be a problem developing do phone '999' and speak to the coastguard.

We normally respect and protect the privacy of residents. However, as well as being a popular member of the community Gary ('Island Store') became known to huge numbers of visitors who would have called in his shop. Having sought the permission of his family, it is with sadness I announce the death of this treasured member of our community who died on Thursday 18th April 2019. As well as warming to his natural friendly manner you may well have attended one of the special village services at St Mary's where he excelled as an organist. We offer our sympathy to his family and their many friends. Rest in peace dear Gary.

Thank you to Sr Margo Colman who writes:

You all must still be in shock. Gary was a very special person. Over the years that I've been coming to the island (since around 2001), Gary always had a warm greeting, always smiling. When there recently, in February, before I had to leave, I gave him a hug and told him how much he was loved by you all, and was he aware of that.

He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm just being me."

Please know you all are being held in our prayers every day.

Sr Margo
Community St John Baptist

Mendham, NJ   USA

On a happier note - we hear that a close friend of Gary's family, David O'Connor, has just been presented with the British Empire Medal for community and voluntary service. In addition to his key role in the development of our new village hall, David worked as English Nature's manager of the Lindisfarne Reserve for many years. Congratulations to David and thanks from all of us. ED: David will not welcome me mentioning this acclaim - but it really did need saying!

Thank you to David and all our contributors - this time particular to Sarah for supplying her lovely Easter pictures.

Enjoy our newsletter and we look forward to getting in touch again in June.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)

Stop Press (from our Natural Enland author)

Hi there Geoff,
Just a wee note to let you know that I will be leaving Lindisfarne NNR in a few weeks' time for a new role with the National Trust for Scotland. I've written up a handover for the new Reserve Manager who will I think be the new contact for the Reserve writing the zine updates. His name is Andy and I'm sure he'll be in touch to introduce himself soon. In the meantime, the contact for the update would be Senior Reserve Manager Andrew Craggs.
Best wishes,

ED: So sorry to hear that you're leaving.On behalf of us and our readers thank you so much for your monthly updates. You will certainly be a hard act to follow. The very best of luck in your new role over the border...


Hi Geoff,

I look forward to reading your newsletter each month, with pleasure.

I live in New Zealand, I remember going to Holy Island, many moons ago, with my parents and three brothers as a child in the 60's, I may have been 6 or 7.

I visited England in 2017. staying in North Yorkshire, that is where we come from. We visited other towns and villages and tried so hard to get to Holy Island. So close yet so far away.We just ran out of time, so much to see and do.  Or maybe we just didn't organize our travelling.

I loved your article with the 'Rolling of the Easter Eggs'. I remember painting our eggs and rolling them part way down Roseberry Topping in Yorkshire. We don't do things like that over here, this country can be so far behind.

So many memories. One day I will be back, hopefully to live.

Best wishes, can't wait to read the next one.



ED: Hello Julie and thank you for this nice email. Us Yorkshire-folk get do seem to turn up everywhere!

Hi Geoff was just up last week - when sadly there was the fire in Margy's cottage.

Took a couple of photos of useful to you.

Best Livia

ED: Hello Livia. Thank you for the pics and we are all reassured by the efforts of our local fire brigade. What a shame it became too 'red tape' for islanders to run our own engine. But while no longer on the island, Aunty Margaret is often remembered and her lovely jack-russel', 'Isla'.

A villager reminds us all



Hasn't April flown by! Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella had a very enjoyable week before school closed for the Easter holidays. Did you see them hopping home wearing their Easter bunny and chick masks and tails? We had great fun using our design and technology skills putting the masks together and the role play that followed was excellent! The girls made Easter nests with chocolate and corn-flakes and we worked scientifically to see how the chocolate changed when it was warm. 

We are reluctant to take down our lovely Easter display - so much work went into making three scenes from the Easter story which we are very proudly displaying in our windows. We also made and decorated an Easter tree using willow from the schoolhouse garden.

The children took part in our Easter service at St John the Baptist's Church, Lowick, led by Revd Sarah Hills where we welcomed parents and members of the community. The percussion instruments we used during the chorus of Sing Hosanna (Give Me Oil in My Lamp) were played with much enthusiasm!

We have been studying the life of St Cuthbert and we are delighted that there is a display of the children's work in St Mary's Church. The Lowick and Holy Island display features some super examples of art, geography and history along with biographies and re-telling of some of the stories about Cuthbert's connection with animals.

We are continuing to improve our outside area - we will be re-surfacing the playground shortly and will be adding a sand pit and a mud kitchen very soon. We have recently planted a meadow area along the side of the field which we hope will attract bees and butterflies.

You might have noticed our two new planters outside the school. They are the result of the hard work and dedication of Karen Ward, our teaching assistant and school caretaker - Karen and her husband, Richard, upcycled these from an old arbour that was no longer in use. Thank you Karen and Richard - we now have a home for our sweet peas. We are looking forward to seeing how tall our newly planted sunflowers get - Scarlett-Beau and Lily Ella will be measuring them every week and recording the results in their sunflower diaries.

We moved our wildlife camera to an interesting spot along Straight Lonnen and last week we were delighted to see that we have images of a very inquisitive Roe Deer. It came up very close to the camera!

We have lots to look forward to this term including a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and the Great North Museum in Newcastle to see the huge diplodocus skeleton. I'm sure there'll be lots to tell you about next time!

Heather Stiansen
Holy Island Church of England First School


The early part of the month was dedicated to maintenance and cleaning in readiness for a busy Easter Period and DL re-varnished the Tinko & Clive memorial seat and frightened the first crop of weeds.

The two Cherry Trees planted last year produced a fine floral display, but it wasn't until after min-month that the swallows became noticeable and terns were heard call in the dusk over the harbour.

Several Roe were grazing on the Snook Flats and a Hare was seen near the Snook Tower. At last spring has sprung! And Easter Weekend enjoyed warm weather.

There has been a fair volume of admin work to wade through, including sorting out the paperwork required to produce last year's accounts. Also working with our Webmaster to develop a new Crossman Hall website, that will be up and running soon! Time was spent working out the seating plan for a pre-nuptial feast and celebration held at the end of the month.

The Coffee Morning was a great success and without the huge support from Islanders who produced cakes and sticky buns, raffle prizes and quality bric-a-brac that would have graced the Antiques Roadshow tables.

The Coffee Morning raised c. 950.00 for our Hall Fund. Thanks to all providers of goods, helpers and spenders. A list of raffle prize winners is display in the Hall window adjacent to the front door. Again thank you all.

Finally, please don't forget James Douglas's charity run in the Berlin Marathon, 29 September 2019. James is fund raising for Cancer Research and his fund raising page on Cancer Research website is 593.

All sponsorship is welcome, if you are not internet user, cheques can be sent C/o Crossman Hall, Holy Island and we will pass them on to James.

The next Coffee Morning, in aid of St Mary's, our Parish Church, will be held in the Hall on Monday 27 May 2019.

Beal Shore Tide Tables - Who shares a Duty of Care - For this high risk zone?

Historically there has been a need for visitors to pull over and consult safe crossing times for Island visits. Recent developments that have reduced the road width have, as I predicted created a high risk situation for all Causeway users.

Easter saw a period of fine weather and that brought a high number of visitors. There was significant congestion around Beal Shore much of the time. For significant periods traffic was reduced to single file because vehicles were parked on both sides of the road. That combined with cyclist's, pedestrians and passengers milling about viewing and photographing the tide-tables significantly increased the accident risk.

I suggest that those responsible for increasing the foreseeable danger at this location, in event of an incident, will bear some culpability because of the introduction of restrictive barriers and the lack of negotiation to have the historic situation restored.

David -


One of the species I most look forward to seeing and hearing in May is the Arctic Tern, a bird with a spectacular and unique lifestyle.

Not only does it make the longest migration of any of our summer visitors, it also enjoys more hours of daylight and sunshine than any other creature on the planet.

Our local birds began returning in late April and have already taken up territory and started their breeding rituals on the small colony on the Black Law which they share with Common Terns and the internationally threatened Little Terns.

This means that from now on they'll be a very familiar sight off the island, particularly as they fly out on fishing expeditions and return carrying small and gleaming Sand Eels for their waiting partners.

With dazzling white and silver plumage, black caps and long tail streamers, they're among the most graceful of seabirds. They move with a buoyant and seemingly effortless bouncing flight and feed by plunging headlong into the sea.

Many travel over 22,000 miles on migration annually, a lifestyle that enables them to live most of their lives in perpetual daylight, although it has to be said that our local birds have to tolerate a few short hours summer darkness.

Although small, slender and seemingly delicate, they are also long-lived. The oldest recorded is 31 years old but many survive for 25 years or more.  In that quarter of a century, they'll have travelled well over 500,000 miles on migration alone. In addition, they'll have covered many more thousands of miles while fishing around their breeding colonies and in their Southern Ocean wintering areas.

For those who like statistics, that means that a bird which survives 25 years will have on migration alone flown the equivalent of going to the Moon and back.

These beautiful little seabirds have their migration timed to perfection. They arrive just as the hours of daylight are rapidly lengthening. They lay their eggs, raise their chicks and are off southwards during August and September, just as our days are shortening.  A few stragglers remain into October.

An Arctic Tern hovering to search for tiny fish in the shallows Photo: Mike S Hodgson

Our Lindisfarne colony is the smallest of four breeding sites in Northumberland. But this year for the first time, it will be continuously monitored by a camera system installed by my colleague Max Whitby. This will provide a live feed for Natural England, even at night when it will switch to infra-red. It will enable a close watch and help identify any threats from predators or weather.

There's another much bigger colony on Inner Farne with around 1,800 pairs. That's where many thousands of visitors who use the walkway from the pier on Inner Farne have every reason to be very familiar with Arctic Terns.

Although weighing just four ounces, they're the angry, chattering bundles of winged fury capable of drawing blood from any unguarded head in the defence of their eggs or chicks. Quite appropriately, their bills are blood red.

The island path runs straight through the colony which is why all visitors are strongly advised to cover their heads. It's also why island rangers use hard hats more familiar on building sites than on one of Britain's most famous nature reserves. First-time visitors always tell me that the aggressive welcome they receive if often, apart from perhaps the Puffins, the highlight of their day. It's certainly something they're unlikely to forget.

There's another colony on Coquet Island where they have a much more peaceful life as visitors aren't allowed. Last year it had 1,240 pairs. The fourth colony and Britain's largest mainland site, is at the Long Nanny Burn on Beadnell Bay and is home to around 1,100 pairs.  

As their name implies, Arctic Terns are a northern species. Our Northumberland colonies are their most southerly outposts.  Many more breed around Scotland and much further northwards on the Arctic coasts of Scandinavia, Russia and Canada. There they are truly inhabitants of the Lands of the Midnight Sun.

After breeding, the entire European population migrates down the coasts of Africa and on into the Southern Ocean right up to the edge of the pack ices of Antarctica. North American birds make a similar journey down the coasts of South America.

The terns arrive in their wintering areas just in time for the southern summer, again enjoying its perpetual daylight and a super abundance of small fish. 

Over the decades many thousands of Arctic Terns have been ringed, mainly on the Farnes where the species has bred since at least the 18th Century. Local birds have turned up in other breeding colonies in Scotland, Germany and Denmark. Other ringed birds have been recovered along the coasts of Africa and in the Indian Ocean.

One nestling marked on the Farnes was found aboard a ship in Antarctica just five months later. There are also recoveries from Australia, a four-year-old found dead in New South Wales and, even more amazing, one found in Melbourne only four months after being ringed. Other recoveries have come from New Zealand.

There are even a couple of recoveries from the Ural mountains in Russia, indicating that they were attempting to migrate northwards by taking an overland route, a fatal mistake for a seabird relying on small saltwater fish.

The breeding populations of our Northumberland terns seem to be stable at the moment, thanks to a continued presence in local waters of Sand Eels. But around northern Scotland populations have been decimated over the past couple of decades by a shortage or even complete absence of this vital food.

Both commercial overfishing of Sand Eels and the slight rise in sea temperatures as part of global warming have been implicated.  With threats like that, perhaps we'd best just enjoy our Arctic Terns while they are still with us.


First of all Happy Easter to you. I trust you have had a quiet and reflective weekend? The Castle was busy as usual; I suspect the lure of the chocolate eggs was partly responsible but the warm weather can't have hurt. People seem to be enjoying the new exhibition up here, and I know several island residents who came up for a private viewing earlier in the month enjoyed it too. Thank you to those of you who came up, it was so nice to have so many folk at such a gathering. The only downside was that I was expecting there to be more left-over scones... can't have everything I suppose. Incidentally I meant to have a load of resident's passes out that day and forgot - if you are an island resident and haven't collected your pass then do let me know; I can pop one in the post or leave it at the NT shop for collection.

Speaking of residents I wonder if anyone remembers David Ridley, the first NT custodian of Lindisfarne? I have recently been in touch with his now ex-wife Colleen (who may also be remembered by some). It has been fascinating getting her reminiscences of life here in the late 1960s/early 1970s - which was quite a significant time here in that the last private tenant Gladys de Stein had died in 1968 so the NT were opening the place up fully for the first time. Unfortunately Colleen told me that David passed away a few weeks ago down in Hexham, and so I said I would mention it to anyone who may have known him while he was here. I know he did a lot of good here at the Castle so it was sad to hear he had died.

Just after the Island Times went to print last month we had a fascinating oral history recording session with Collin Teago, Andrew Hodgson, and 96 year old Jack Hope. Jack was born at Snook House but moved out to the Goswick Fishery soon after. He went on to serve aboard the minesweepers in the war and later had a long career as a National Park Ranger. It really was a pleasure to sit in on the recording and hear some of the tales being told. The purpose of these sessions isn't necessarily to use them in visitor interpretation but that might happen down the line, mainly it is about securing these stories for posterity and we were fortunate enough to have the recording equipment and the help of Claire Newton to make this all happen. The recordings will all end up in the British Library which I'm sure you'll agree is a comforting thought.

Eagle-eyed passers-by on the headland may have noticed a post and rope fence has appeared just near the Lime Kilns. This is an attempt to secure a small nesting area for shorebirds such as Golden Plover and Oystercatchers, whose main difficulty in nesting comes with human disturbance. Although a trial this year, we are hoping that if successful it might be something we run more regularly to give these birds a good nesting option on Holy Island, on what is an ideal habitat for them on the shingle beach. We are still waiting on some signage to improve the message to the public, but it should make an interesting addition to what is on offer here as well as the core conservation basis the site has..

Nick Lewis
01289 389903

Ringed Plover Chick on Norfolk beach Kevin Simmonds

The sun came out for Easter, bringing with it many of our summer migrants. From the shore, the white shapes of sandwich terns can be seen fluttering high and then diving deep into the sea. The first wheatears have been spotted - few in number, so far, but a lovely sight. Swallows fly their long pennant tail feathers over the Lough.

In the dunes, skylarks and meadow pipits are nesting and the song of the skylark is the sound of a sunny day in duneland, as it once was for farms. The collective noun for skylarks is 'an exaltation', and it is easy to see - or hear - why they have inspired poets and musicians for centuries.

In the wet dune slacks, tapioca-like frogspawn has developed into merrily wriggling tadpoles. Roe deer are a frequent sight in the dunes and fields on Holy Island. We have been busy as ever with monitoring, with Wetland Bird Surveys, Breeding Bird Surveys and Farmland Bird Surveys giving ample opportunity to enjoy the developing season.

We continue also to monitor the spread of Corella eumyota, the Orange-tipped Sea Squirt, although no removal will be conducted in the summer months as this is when the invasive invertebrate is suspected to be most likely to reproduce.

Returning also to our shores are little terns - a delightful seabird that travels all the way from West Africa to breed on the NNR. Little terns are the second rarest nesting seabird in the UK. Along with the charismatic ringed plover, they have adapted to nest on sandy shores - a precarious environment where they have found their niche.

Unfortunately, the breeding success of both these species is in decline. The major factor in this decline is human and dog disturbance - it is so easy for a stray foot or paw to unknowingly crush an egg, or for human presence to scare the birds so that they abandon their eggs.

From May until the beginning of August, wardens will be protecting nesting areas across the Reserve - monitoring the birds and talking to members of the public. We ask people please to respect the signage and the restricted areas, to keep dogs on a short lead on the Reserve, and to walk on the wet sand where possible.

Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot the ringed plover chicks - beetling along quickly like pom-poms on stilts. Or glimpse a bright white little tern with a silver sand-eel in its mouth, returning to feed its mate. It's a special time of year, and we look forward to another shorebird season.

Finally, we are delighted to welcome some new members to the Lindisfarne NNR team - we have recruited a new Reserve Manager and two new Shorebird Wardens. We look forward to introducing our new colleagues in next month's update!

Best wishes,

Ceris Aston
Lindisfarne & Newham NNRs
Natural England
Beal Station

FROM FORD & ETAL Elspeth Gilliland

05-May Springtime with the Heavies, Hay Farm Heavy Horse Centre.

06-May/27-May Bank Holiday Bubble Trains, Heatherslaw Light Railway.

06-May/27 May Pop up Market, Etal Village Hall, 11am-3pm

12-May North Northumberland Bird Club Annual Dawn Chorus Walk.  Open to non-members for a small donation, this is a wonderful opportunity to get out and about in our beautiful countryside, and to learn something about the birds in the area. The walk is open to NNBC members, with non-members welcome for a small donation to  the Club.  Meeting point to be confirmed.  Please ensure that you wear suitable clothing/footwear.

27-29 May Kids Baking Sessions, Heatherslaw Cornmill at 11.30 and 2.30; pre-booking advisable.  Tel 01890 820338 or email

Details of all the above can be found at


The previous owner of The Open Gate, Alan Robertson, came across a framed copy of the original sale document dated from the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1568 while he was clearing out his house.  He has presented this to the Open Gate together with a typed list of some 25 transactions since then.

The document begins 'Henry Haggerston of Haggerston Gentilman standing seised in fee simple viz to hym and his haires for ever off and in burgage or tenemente with a garthe and there appurtinaunces in Hooly Islande etc and so seised did sell gyfe and graunte the sam burgaige or howse with the garth and thappurtinaunces unto Thomas Patterson and his haires... Dated the late of September in the X yeare of Quene Elizabeth.'

Last month I was invited to the Round Tower Hotel, Ardmore, Ireland. The organisers have created an Irish Camino, and a web site.  Five of its twelve Pilgrim Paths, each named after a local saint, are now fully signed and certificated and form the Camino. You can read all about this on

St. Declan's Path, from Cashel to Ardmore, where Declan had his monastery before St. Patrick and where a round tower beckons pilgrims to his cave and well, is the latest path to be completed. I met with a special group of St. Declan's Way Pilgrims. They don't just want to walk the path in five stages once a year, they want to walk the inner pilgrimage every day of their lives.  They wanted to learn from the story of the Community of Aidan and Hilda how they might embrace a rule of life that enables them to become inner pilgrims, and find soul friends and resources.

Following the Holy Week and the Walks around Holy Island retreats at The Open Gate we will have retreats on Looking at the Birds, Divine Mysticism and Saints and Seabirds.


FROM THE VICARAGE Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills

Dear friends

Happy Easter! I hope you have had a joyful and blessed time. Alleluia! Christ is risen!

We have had a wonderful Holy Week and Easter at St. Mary's. Thank you to all those who helped with the services in many different ways and to those who came and worshipped. A special thank you to the ladies who decorated the church so beautifully and made it look so festive! It was also a time tinged with sadness as Gary Watson passed away on Maundy Thursday. Our hearts are with Lynn and all his family and friends. It was a privilege to be able to dedicate the service on Maundy Thursday to Gary.

As I write, spring seems to be here, and we look forward to what the next months will bring. We will be welcoming Bishop Christine to the Island on Saturday May 25th for Evening prayer at 5pm as she completes the St Oswald's Way. Bishop Christine is also taking our Sunday 10.45am service for us that weekend.

We also have our church coffee morning on Bank Holiday Monday, May 27th. Do join us!

With blessings



  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 revision