|A BIT FROM ME
Welcome to our final newsletter for
2019 and after one of the wettest Novembers I
can recall, it seems strange to be preparing my editorial at
the beginning of Advent - almost a month ahead of Christmas Day.
The leaves I grumbled about last month
now lie strewn, flat and lifeless on our kerbs and
pavements. Despite poor weather forecasts, visitors continue to
arrive across an often hazardous causeway only to be greeted by showers and a quagmire-like car
park. In particular walkers will notice that, as I write, the southern
handrail on the bridge is now completely absent which must pose quite
a risk for those daring to venture across on
one of our notorious dark stormy nights. Apparently, our county's highway
department is 'doing its best' but claim restrictive budgets.... Nevertheless, we
thank the many visiting us and I apologise for you having
to experience the travel conditions which we endure on a daily basis.
Whilst picturesque, Lindisfarne Causeway is
a very remote part of the Great Britain. When the weather is fine
you will be sharing it with thousands of other road users. But on a
bitter night in the middle of winter you may well be totally
alone. To avoid having to call on emergency services we urge
you to check the causeway safe crossing times - HERE
Our country is in the midst of a general
election with a plethora of promises from
all political parties. The media is full of
it. However, whatever political persuasion may have, I urge that the thing that
we must all do on 12th December is vote.
Thank you to our authors who
have given their time throughout the year to produce our newsletters.
We really do hope that you have enjoyed the fruits of
their work. Wherever you may be we
wish you the joy and hope of Christmas and that your New
Year brings you the best of health and happiness
We look forward to getting in touch in February
|ANTIPHON WALK for ADVENT
WALK for ADVENT
on TUESDAY 17th DECEMBER
Walk across the Pilgrims Way to Holy Island
stops for the traditional Antiphon prayers
and sung verses
from 'O come, O come, Immanuel'.
Phone Anna + Andy
Raine on 01289 389351 or
07864266750 for details
(or to say you're coming, and
arrange for cars.)
Walk in wellies or crocs or brave bare
feet - [not walking boots]
Soup and sandwiches
Whatever the weather, but usually stunning
views. Always memorable.
Write it in the diary or
on your calendar: Tuesday 17th December
|HOLY ISLAND CofE FIRST SCHOOL
|Scarlett-Beau greets her
Winter has arrived! We certainly felt wintery on the school field
this morning as we finished planting our new hedge. Mrs Ward was
successful in her bid for hedging plants from the Woodland Trust's
'Big Climate Fightback' campaign. We are hoping this will help make
the field a little more sheltered and help it to be a haven for
birds and wildlife. Thank you to Mrs Ward, Richard and Connor who
spent a chilly Saturday planting and getting the ground ready for
Scarlett-Beau and Lily-Ella to do their bit.
On 11th November we were joined by Revd Canon Sarah Hills and our
children's families for our visit to the war memorial up on the
Heugh. The children laid hand painted stones saying 'we will
remember' at the base of the memorial and we gave thanks to our
brave servicemen and women. Thank you to Sarah and our families for
joining us on such a cold and windy day.
Our school field is looking very different - have you noticed our
new trim trail? The girls were delighted to see that it had been
built over the half term holidays. Thank you for putting up with the
disruption over the days of the build. The children helped with the
planning of the equipment and had been waiting eagerly for its
arrival. We have really enjoyed getting used to the different parts
of the trail. The wobbly bridge is a favourite and the swinging logs
are very tricky to traverse. But the challenge is there and we have
two keen and active pupils to put it to the test!
We would like to say a huge thank you to Holy Island Parish
Council for the generous donation towards the cost of the trail.
Thank you to John Bevan for organising the donation. When we heard
that the village had 'voted' for the money to come to the school, we
were absolutely delighted and so grateful. We have also had
substantial funding from the local council and would like to thank
Cllr Roderick Lawrie for his kind interest in Holy Island First
School. Our yard has also been re-surfaced and we are going to have
a think about the types of games we can get painted on to it.
We are very busy in school and our preparations for Christmas
have already begun. Our magnificent Christmas performance,'
Christmas with the Aliens', will be taking place at Lowick Village
Hall at 2pm on Friday 6th December and 5pm on Monday 9th December.
Please come along if you can. The children are enjoying their
rehearsals and are just beginning to get their costumes fitted and
ready for the show.
BIG NEWS! We are having a Christmas
coffee and cake afternoon in school on Friday 13th December at 2pm.
Please do join us. We want to celebrate the wonderful year we have
had at Holy Island First School and to say 'thank you' to you all
for your support. Come and see our Christmas tree and have a look at
our beautiful decorations. There might even be a couple of Christmas
carols. Christmas jumpers are more than welcome!
You may remember that in July we re-created our Viking Raid for a
BBC documentary. We have now heard that this is due to go out
regionally on BBC 1 on Monday Dec 9th at 7:30pm. Watch out for the
fearsome Lowick and Holy Island Vikings!
Finally, we were delighted to be asked to create a 'pocket' for
the advent calendar being made for the church. As you will see,
Lily-Ella and Scarlett-Beau have created a masterpiece. We
would like to wish you all a safe and merry Christmas and a happy
|THE CROSSMAN HALL
I have to begin with an apology.
Regular readers of the E-zine will recall that I reported on and
urged readers to support James Douglas who was running in the Berlin
Marathon on 29 September 2019. The little grey cells are on
the decline and I forgot to report back!
James was successful on two counts: First he completed the
marathon in a smidgen over four hours and secondly his sponsorship
raised more than 1,600GBPs for Cancer Research UK.
Well done James. Thanks to you and all who supported him.
As the year draws to a close the demand on the hall facilities
declines, but it gave opportunity for the Vicar to start up a sewing
club that has met on three occasions.
The County Council have booked the hall for the General Election
and a local political Party plan a meeting in December.
But the biggest job tackled this month has been checking and
sorting out our Christmas Lights, but they will all be up and ready
by mid-December. (I hope)
Finally, on behalf of the Trustees and all associated with
Crossman Hall I wish you all a Peaceful and joyous Christmas and a
Very Good New Year, an often heard sentiment at this time "Long may
your lumb reek"
David O' - Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
the new Crossman Hall website: email@example.com
|OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE
TOUGH TIMES FOR OUR BARN
With dusk coming these days by mid-afternoon, it's a great time
to catch a glimpse of one of the island's favourite birds, the Barn
Our resident pair are regularly out hunting in the hour or so
before darkness with recent sightings around Sanctuary Close,
the beach and Rocket Field and, of course, around St Coomb's Farm
and the hedges, fence lines and walls of the Straight and Crooked
When times are hard - and they are at the moment - they can also
hunt during daylight so could really turn up at any time. Our Barn
Owls have had a thoroughly miserable time this year with two pairs
using nest boxes but failing to produce any young.
The regular pair around the village first laid a clutch of four
eggs. These failed to hatch so they laid four more with, sadly, the
same result. The birds remained in residence and by the time I got
around to cleaning out the box in October most of the eggs were just
broken and pathetic shells.
Barn Owl at duskPhoto: Tim Dean|
A second pair elsewhere on the island occupied a box early in the
season but failed to produce any eggs and gradually seemed to
disappear from that particular area. The problem seems to have been
caused by a lack of their staple food, Short-tailed Voles.
This year's total failure compares sharply with seasons when vole
numbers have been high. For example, back in 2014 two pairs around
the village each produced two broods resulting in a total of 14
young owls successfully fledging.
That was by far the best year since Barn Owls resumed breeding on
the island in 2008 after a gap of over half a century after Robert
and I installed the first nest box at St Coomb's.
The problem this year seems to have been simply a lack of
food. Barn Owls are heavily dependent on small mammals,
particularly the voles. These small and plump creatures were once
very accurately described to me by Alison Brigham as "little chunks
of meat on legs."
Voles have a cyclical lifestyle. Numbers build up over a period
of three or four years and then suddenly crash before the pattern is
repeated. In years of vole shortages, such as we have had in
2019, owls really struggle. This has been widely recognised
for many years and results in owls of all species have "off
They either don't attempt to breed at all, like our second island
pair, or lay eggs which prove infertile, like the village owls. This
is probably because the female was in a poor physical condition at
the start of the nesting season.
When voles aren't available or are in very short supply, owls
have to turn to other species which are generally much poorer in
food value. Mice are taken but are pretty small and without much
meat. Small birds are also hunted but are much more difficult. They
are obviously wary when owls are about and even when caught, like
mice, don't provide much in the way of calories.
The lack of voles this year has shown in other ways. Several
people who walk their dogs regularly in the lonnens have told me
that their pets haven't been managing to sniff out or catch any
voles. Similarly, a couple of cats at St Coomb's, which are normally
good and wily hunters, have not had much success either.
Still further proof has come from another owl species.
Short-eared Owls which arrive from Scandinavia in October and
November usually stay around the island in winters when voles are
plentiful. They often provide a wonderful sight as they also hunt by
day and so are much more obvious. They patiently and slowly
quarter the rough fields, particularly those at the north end of the
Straight Lonnen, and the dunes and are a familiar sight throughout
the colder months. In some years up to a dozen can winter on the
This year I've noticed several arriving on the island and briefly
explored the fields. They don't seem to have found anything and have
quickly disappeared across to the mainland.
year on the island: three young owls take a look at the
outside world.- Photo: Darren
Short-eared Owls are migratory and highly nomadic and can wander
for hundreds of miles during winter, only settling down when they
find areas with abundant prey.
In direct contrast, Barn Owls are extremely sedentary, adults
remaining in small areas for their whole lives. Youngsters have to
move away to establish territories of their own and to find mates
but even then they seldom go more than a few miles.
This lack of nomadic instinct makes Barn Owls extremely
vulnerable to sudden changes in local conditions, such as any
prolonged periods of snow cover, happily a pretty rare occurrence on
the island these days. A thick covering of snow effectively cuts the
owls off from small mammals which are safely hidden underneath.
Even a few days with little or no food can prove fatal to Barn
Owls and large numbers of deaths have occurred right across Britain
during severe winters. During the visitation of the Beast from
the East - and who could forget it - one Barn Owl was picked up on
the island in such an emaciated state that it hadn't the strength to
After treatment by a vet at Berwick and a successful period of
recuperation, it was released back on the island and happily
survived to breed again.
Hopefully the failures of 2019 will quickly be forgotten as vole
numbers start to climb again. Roll on the 2020 breeding
Winter maintenance is well underway at the Castle with our
builders having been up to repair the area around the bridge on the
wagonway and the entrance to the lime kilns. The bridge was becoming
inaccessible to many folk as both ends had acquired
a step -
mainly through erosion and visitor footfall - so these are now being
levelled off. The entry to the kilns was becoming something of a
pond, again with footfall a small depression had appeared which
filled with water after even the slightest shower; hopefully the
repair should mean people can go inside without getting wet socks.
We are also fixing down the pumphouse roof properly - the tiles are
only really supported by their own weight and a small lip on the top
of each holding them together. A traditional approach would have
been to drill every other one at the top and fix down with a nail or
screw so that should keep the roof on during higher winds.
Speaking of the pumphouse I don't know if I ever shared the
pictures of the timbers on the inside? I was in there a few years
ago investigating a lack of water pressure and noticed some graffiti
inscribed on the inside of the door frame. There are some
recognisable names in there, who I guess must have been involved in
the building/repair of the pumphouse in 1913 - I think the pumphouse
was there before 1913 so perhaps they were repairing or maybe
servicing the pump? Anyway, I can make out Thomas Cromarty, George
Cromarty, and Stuart Kyle 28 June 1913 on there, and a bit more
investigation (and a better camera) might produce more.
Inside the Castle we are pressing on with the deep clean which is
an annual event traditionally but is now more often spread out
through the year. This is when we get the waxes out and make
everything shiny (within reason) and also carry out cleaning and
dusting of pretty much everything else. Its also a chance to have a
good sort out of storeroom and attic spaces having a good rummage
through at the same time. With most of the collection being in
storage offsite this job does get a little easier, but in some areas
that fact creates other tasks. For example, with the absence of
large beds and rugs, painted floor surfaces which are largely
untouched from Hudson's time are now exposed, and so need protection
in the form of microcrystalline wax. It also gave me the opportunity
to get hold of an upright floor buffer!
We are also well along with planning for next season's opening so
look forward to more interactive audio/visual displays along with
plenty of stories from the Castle's history. I am really excited
about the people we are working with and can't wait to see what they
come up with.
Although we aren't open over Christmas I am putting my decs up at
home this weekend (the perils of having a 3 year-old!) so in that
spirit I wish you all the very best for the festive season and will
speak to you in the New Year.
Nick Lewis, Lindisfarne Castle
@NTNorthd_Coast 01289 389903
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
Photo © John Dunn photographer and volunteer for
Just when you think the weather can't get any wetter... .it seems
too. It has been an exceptionally wet October/November with standing
water in most areas of the Reserve. Wellies are the footwear of
choice when out and about and in places even they can be overtopped!
Luckily, as they say, it's been nice weather for ducks and this
has been the case for Wigeon, with a count of 23,000 birds on the
Reserve! This is the highest count since the winter 2000/2001. With
so much doom and gloom around the world of nature it's nice that
here at Lindisfarne NNR we can report increasing numbers of certain
In terms of management on the Reserve we have been out with our
volunteers cutting back scub regeneration. This task is vital to
maintain the dune system on Holy Island. Without removal the dune
system would turn into a woodland, destroying the incredibly
biodiverse suite of habitats that the dunes create. We do leave a
certain amount of scrub, as part of a healthy duneland ecosystem
which is utilised by invertebrates and migrating birds.
This month wrapped up the last of our scheduled events for 2019.
With thousands of people engaged from 26 events throughout the year,
it has been a great year of sharing Natural England's passion for
nature and all the aspects of our work on Lindisfarne NNR that make
it such a special place for wildlife and visitors alike. Seal watch
events were always popular with crafts at the WoWL building and
volunteers showing passers-by the hauled out seals through
telescopes and binoculars from the Heugh. If you haven't had your
fill of craft events just yet we will be running some events with a
festive flavour at the WoWL building over the next few weeks. Keep
your eyes peeled on our social media accounts for more details.
This months species under the microscope is Wigeon. As you have
read earlier Wigeon have had an exceptional season with the highest
counts in nearly 20 years. Numbers have dropped back since then but
that is to be expected at this time of year.
UK conservation status: AMBER
Although highly gregarious in winter these medium-sized ducks
are surprisingly solitary on their breeding grounds.
Breed in Iceland and widely in Scandinavia with a few hundred
pairs breeding in Scotland and northern England
They are ground nesters, breeding in forest lakes,
marshes and tundra pools
Their call is a diagnostic loud whistling
Breeding males have a large creamy/buff patch on their
forehead as well as large white patches on their wings.
Wigeon come to Lindisfarne NNR due to the extensive feeding
grounds and safety that the wildlife refuge provides.
From all at Lindisfarne NNR and Natural England we wish you a
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Lindisfarne & Newham
|FROM THE COMMUNITY OF AIDAN AND HILDA
||Rev Ray Simpson|
We wish you all a very happy Christmas and New
Winter is a time for storing up and re-stocking. Our
Celtic Christianity Library is increasingly well used. We are
grateful to our librarian, Judith Line of Shilbottle. She has now
completed full cataloguing of over 3,000 volumes and many more
booklets on pilgrimage etc. The library has a new computer, which
allows users to search for any title under author, title or subject.
The library is usually open from 9.0 am to 6.0 pm daily and
residents are welcome to use it.
The latest title is The Naked Hermit: a journey to the
heart of Celtic Britain (SPCK 2019) by Nick Mayhew Smith, an
Anglican lay minister. He points out that The Life of Cuthbert by an
anonymous monk of Lindisfarne, Bede's Life and the hermit Guthlac's
hagiographer Felix all tell of hermits who enjoyed a special
relationship with the elements, birds and animals. The author argues
that the vision of the early Celtic church was to restore communion
with creation which they often pictured as restoring Eden.
Mayhew-Smith links the Celtic practice of open air baptisms and
regular prayer while submerged in water as a spiritual practice that
helped to restore this communion of our bodies and souls with God in
creation. He himself has done this all over the British Isles,
including on Lindisfarne, and thinks this attitude towards creation
can capture Extinction Rebellion campaigners.
I attended the church service after our new mayor was
inducted. She wants the theme of her year in office to be
'The Underdog'. After she was inducted we sang a locally
composed hymn which begins:
"Northmen from the Humber to beyond the
Chorus: Builders of the nation,
workers with our God, May our generation tread the path they
May our generation tread the path they trod.
Ray and team
|FROM OUR CHURCHES
||Rev Canon Dr Sarah
Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman |
I can't quite believe I am writing the Christmas letter
already. We have been here on Holy Island for almost a year... and it
has flown! It has been such a pleasure and a privilege starting to
get to know everyone - thanks for your great welcome and
generosity! We are of course coming towards the end of the year of
2019 - but the season of Advent (the 4 weeks leading to Christmas)
is in fact the start of the Church's year. Advent foretells the
birth of Jesus, and helps us to await his coming with anticipation,
searching our hearts, and with joy. And then Christmas is upon us!
I'm very much looking forward to our first Holy Island Christmas
celebrations. The birth of Jesus Christ lightens our world and
brings God's love into our day to day lives and realities. Even in
the darkness of those January afternoons to come, His light reminds
us that Christ brings hope out of darkness, and the brightness that
he gives us we can share with each other.
There are lots of special Christmas services coming up to join in
with as we celebrate together. By the time you are reading this, we
will have had the great Christmas lights turn on in the village.
Many of the island ladies and our school children have been making a
unique, beautiful and huge Advent calendar which will be hanging on
the wall in St Mary's. The pockets are currently empty - a sort of
reverse Advent calendar - so if you would like to add a small gift
or toy to one of the pockets as the days go on please do! After
Christmas we will be giving the presents to a local children's
charity. The craft/sewing/knitting group will continue to meet in
the village hall every fortnight - please do be in contact if you'd
like to come (plus tea and cake!) - everyone welcome! Jacqui Parkin
is kindly organising various trips and events (such as a trip to
Bamburgh to see the new St Aidan ossuary; a wine tasting; and
scrabble club - and many more) - again, do be in contact with us for
Throughout December, Mary and Joseph and their donkey will be
travelling round the island (knitted nativity figures) spending a
night on their journey to Bethlehem at homes, the school, cafes and
pubs and hotels - they hope! If you would like to give them
hospitality for a night , please be in touch. Let's give them room
at the inn or the hearth!
Sam Quilty is in the final year of her ordination training, and
will be doing a placement as part of this at Berwick Parish Church
until her ordination next July. We wish her every good wish and
prayers for this time (but we will miss her while she is
On Sunday, December 1st, we will have a special Advent service at
5.30pm to mark the beginning of Advent. On Sunday December 15th at
10.45am, we will have our Christingle service. Each element of a
Christingle has a special meaning - the orange represents the world,
the red ribbon symbolises the love and blood of Christ, the sweets
represent all of God's creation, and the lit candle represents
Jesus's light in the world, bringing hope to people living in
darkness. Do come and take part (along with your teddies who will be
having their Christingle Christmas party too!). This will be a more
informal and fun service for all ages - from 0 to 100!
On Sunday December 22nd at 6pm there will be a traditional Carol
Service by candlelight with special music and readings from Nine
Lessons and Carols.
On Christmas Eve at 1130pm, the first communion of Christmas,
Midnight Mass. And on Christmas Day, a family communion at 10.45am.
Come and celebrate!
We will celebrate the coming of the three kings at Epiphany on
January 5th, and Christmas will officially be over at Candlemas on
February 2nd. All at St Mary's Church.
Lots of time to come and see the church beautifully decorated and
to pray for our loved ones, our nation and our world. By then, we
will have had the general election, and I hope and pray that
reconciliation and unity will be higher on the agenda of our public
life, so that we can all work together for the common good.
So as the nights draw in, let's look after each other. Look out
for those who need some cheer. Share the good times. And be there
when our friends or neighbours need us. That is what Christmas is
about - the birth of Christ bringing love and light and hope into
Sunday 1 December: 5.30pm: Advent
Sunday 15 December: 10.45am: Christingle
service: informal service for all ages
Sunday 22 December:
Carol service: 6pm: traditional candlelit Nine Lessons and
Christmas Eve: Tues 24 December: 8am: Morning
5.30pm: Evening Prayer; and Midnight
Christmas Day: Wed 25 December: 8am: Holy
Communion, and 10.45am: Christmas Day Family Eucharist.
Other December service
8am: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
8am: Wednesday and Friday: Holy
5.30pm: Every day: Evening Prayer
8.00 am: Holy Communion
10.45 am: Parish Eucharist