|A BIT FROM ME
Welcome to the March issue of Sitezine our
Whatever the reasons behind the changing
weather pattern, many parts of our nation are certainly learning
some very harsh lessons. Our thoughts are with those whose worlds
are collapsing about them with rivers that have burst their
banks and news of further major cyclones. In one of the
driest parts of Britain conditions have been bad enough with
seemingly weeks of non-stop gales. But thank goodness we have
not yet been deluged by flooding and so far, the power lines are
If my ears have not deceived me, government
conservation/planning experts are currently permitting 34,000
'affordable homes' to be built on land known to be prone to
flooding. And lost in all the news hoo-hah and government mumbo
jumbo, the words of a solitary victim struck a chord: "why-oh-why have they stopped dredging the
I had asked that same question 20 years
ago at a county council meeting in our old village hall
which gave an opportunity to query the worsening condition
of the Holy Island causeway. I sited that between the world
wars a fishing boat could sail around the island at low water and
mussel beds thrived on the island's north side. Islanders noticed
the mussel beds beginning to silt up after WW2, concrete
tank-traps were sited along the west side of the river Low. By the
time the bridge was built (1950s) it was no longer possible
to circumnavigate the island at low water. And now not at any
state of the tide. You might imagine the council's answer.
Too expensive. Yet they went on and paid £110k for a study and
then millions more - to tarmac and raise the road by 6 inches.
Whether it worked is there for the world to see.
I had asked that same question 18 years
ago at a meeting with English Nature (now Natural England). We,
the Community Trust, on behalf of our fishermen, were
investigating the development of the native mussel beds. 'Western
Fisheries' and Welsh mussel fishermen had recommended the dredging
technique be adopted. They had found that the subsequent
scraping of the beds even improved mussel yield. English Nature
strongly objected to any disturbance to the conservation of the river bed. Our community development opportunity was
Perhaps the time has come to recognise that
'we' are at the top of the conservation tree. Today's status
quo exists not because of folk buying houses near rivers and on
flood plains and developers growing rich through the proceeds.
It arises because those government authorities, who wield power on
our behalf, have permitted such developments to take place. Such
authorities must bear responsibility and costs for their failed
judgement - not the homeowners. They should solve the environmental
problems before allowing these developments to take
place. We continue to be a growing population. We must make
safe space for their homes. Expensive? It certainly will be -
ask the Dutch! Taking on nature has a huge and ongoing cost.
But the government's cost will be far less than paying compensation
for failed actions. And can you put a cost on the misery these poor folk have
Nevertheless, despite some horrendous weather scenarios the island has been visited by a
myriad of half-term visitors. They will have experienced the condition of the
causeway and coast road. Maybe now they understand those with no alternative
than to face such conditions daily. We caution all visitors
to: check the safe crossing
despair over the waterlogged state of our main car park
and the rubble and pot holes in our coach and disabled car
Being a dog-walker myself (see the
morning-walk pictures above) I find my dog attracted to rubbish. There are an ample number
of bins around the village for litter. Added to my mention of a
�1000 fine for dog-fouling last time, if you bring animals, please
take care over dog control in our public places.
Thank you to all our writers -
particularly to those who sent tributes to David Adam whose death we
reported last month. A few of these are reported below. Not only for
those who were privileged to know him will his memory live on but also for those who discovered him through his poetry and
We hope that you enjoy this month's newsletter and look
forward to getting in touch in April.
|IN MEMORIAM OF A VICAR OF HOLY ISLAND - DAVID
|Rev Canon David Adam|
Vicar of Holy
Very many people, both those connected with the Island and those
from a much wider world, will have been saddened by the news of the
death of David Adam. He was very widely known through his
books, which had reached far-flung places like Australia and
everything in-between. I think that he may have considered his
main form of ministry to be his writings, and while he was Vicar
here, when I as Curate stood with him at the end of a Sunday service
to say good-bye, I remember that many visitors thanked him as they
went for the help they had got from his books. I remember also
that one major publisher considered him to be their best selling
There is a memory of his kindness that I would like to
record. He joined us at the time when the ordination or women
to the priesthood was a hot topic in the church.
David would have preferred the decision to be 'No'. But here I
was as the curate, already a deacon and certainly hoping to be a
priest. David accepted this and at the time of my ordination
was very kind to me, and made sure that I was confident and knew how
to do things. I asked him to preach at my first Eucharist,
which he did. Then he gave me a very fair share of the work of
the parish, and we managed a good working relationship. I was
his curate for the rest of his time here.
I did not see much of him after he left the Island, but I know
that his ministry of writing and speaking continued, as well as
helping with services at several local churches. So we pray:
may he now rest in peace and rise in glory.
Rev Canon Kate Tristram
David Adam RIP
I owe this ex coal miner, who became a brilliantly succinct
writer, so much. When the church recognised I was called to be a
'monk in the market-place' I hoped to live on Lindisfarne, but only
if its vicar invited me. David Adam told me he had dreamed of
starting an S.A.S. (Britain's Special Air Service, whose motto is
Who Dares Wins, helped Britain win World War 11, about whose pilots
Churchill said 'Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so
much to so few'). David's SAS was a St. Aidan Society.
Since he had not in fact started this he welcomed a Community of
Aidan and Hilda presence on the island and gave us advice.
When donors enabled us to rent and then buy the Guest House on
the cross-roads as a retreat house, we named it after the title of
one of his books - The Open Gate. In this book he points out that in
Celtic folk-lore the worst fate that can befall anyone is to be shut
into a field with a locked gate. He writes: 'The open
gate is the call to explore new areas of yourself and the world
around you. It is a challenge to come and discover that the
world and ourselves are filled with mystery and with the glory of
God.... We should look upon the open gate as a way to extend
ourselves and our vision.' He donated the original picture
which formed the cover of his book to the house.
He wrote an inspiring article on A Vision for Mission on Holy
Island which was printed in the second issue of our community
From the Editor: At this point Ray included three
extracts from David's writing, which we are not able to
include. Ray concludes his letter:
David wrote a host of books and we aim to include every one of
them in our library. Our greatest way of honouring him is to make
these a reality.
Rev Ray Simpson
The Community of Aidan and Hilda
I first met David whilst we were staying on Holy Island.
which would be around 1990. My wife mentioned to him that I
was an organist and it happened that he had not got anyone to play
for the services on the two Sundays we were there, so I was
"conscripted" to play for him! On subsequent holidays on the island
I again played for David.
In later holidays we spent time on the Isle of Arran and I
eventually lost touch with David. After a break of three or four
years we decided to again stay in Northumberland, and booked to stay
at Cove Cottage, a self catering cottage in Waren Mill. The
following morning I was out with our chocolate Labrador and coming
out of the next-door-but-one house was David!
Unbeknown to us David had retired, and he and Denise had moved to
Waren Mill. We have kept in touch since then, and each year when we
have visited Northumberland I have made a point in calling in to see
him and purchase his latest book. He was an inspiration to many,
both through his example as Vicar of Holy island and also through
Malcolm S Bentley
Organist & Director of
All Saints Bingley
Our family first visited Holy Island in the mid-1970s, at that
time we lived near Middlesbrough. We instantly fell in love
with the peace and tranquillity of the island, visiting and
holidaying on the island many times over the years.
In 2001 my beautiful best friend lost her 3 year fight with
cancer. I and my daughter, who is named after her, made our way to
Holy Island from Derbyshire where we lived then.
As we stood in the church David Adam entered, although there were
lots of other visitors he came straight to us. He listened to our
story, held our hands and led us to the altar, where he spoke with
us about her. I will never forget that day and the calm he brought
to us, or his kindness and compassion.
A very special man, he leaves an empty space, which cannot be
filled, in the world.
We feel ourselves so blessed that we were able to meet You on the
So blessed that we had the opportunity to sing to
and with You the prayers You wrote,
Prayers that are translated
into Finnish and are arranged into ancient Celtic liturgical
We would like to express our deepest condolences to David's
With love and gratitude on behalf of the chanting pilgrims from
Hilkka-Liisa Vuori, music educator, D.Mus.
Tuomo Pulkkinen, music arranger
Hakkarainen, tour leader.
|HOLY ISLAND CofE FIRST SCHOOL
What a windy few weeks! Our new greenhouse is still safely tucked
away in the shed awaiting some calmer days. Let's hope it won't be
We welcomed Lowick School here on the island two weeks ago. Our
focus for the day was to think about the lives of people who have to
leave their homes, sometimes at very short notice, because of
natural disasters such as flooding or drought or because of war and
The children took part in activities which helped them to imagine
what this must be like for children around the world. We walked
around the village role-playing events to mirror a family being
evacuated from their home. This led to some deep thinking
where the children had to decide which items they would 'grab' as
they left their homes. This is leading up to our work about
Christian Aid and the work that they do to help people around the
world. A coffee afternoon was held at Lowick last week raising
over �140 for this very worthwhile charity and we were generously
supported by our Holy Island families. We are planning a new display
of the children's work in St Mary's church which will reflect the
learning focused on Christian Aid.
Our spaceship in school has been a success. The 'out of this
world' topic was a great way to get the children thinking about
space travel, the planets and our moon & constellations.
Scarlett-Beau and Lily Ella have been having a go at using chalk to
recreate some of the constellations.
Our next topic is 'war and peace' and we are already having a
think about what we can build to replace our spaceship in the
classroom. This is a fascinating topic for the children as many of
them have links or memories of war in their own families. If you
have any stories or memories that you'd like to share with us,
please do get in touch. We will be finding out what it must have
been like for children who were evacuated which links very well with
the children's previous learning in our Christian Aid workshops.
We plan that the topic will end with a magnificent street party
to commemorate 75 years since VE Day in 1945. Now that will be a
|THE CROSSMAN HALL
February News, maybe that should
read, 'no news'. Apart from too much wind and big tides, the hall
survived the bad weather, but the wind helped coat the windows with
a layer of salt & silt. The Ladies sewing circle was the only
event in the hall apart from a couple of strolling players popping
in to rehearse.
The admin work has continued with a range of bookings made by off
Island Groups and two planning visits from a local mainland family
planning Golden Wedding in April.
Dates to remember:
Village Hall Coffee Morning - Monday 13
Village Hall Friday 17 April 2020 - at 18:45 - Free
Archaeologist's from DigVenturers and Durham University, will
brief residents on their work and finds to date, including the blue
glass gaming piece that recently hit the media headlines.
David O' - Contact email@example.com
the new Crossman Hall website: firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this year the Government took the first step to withdraw
from the European Union.
I paused to consider my most remembered event during our years of
cruising in and around Europe; it was an evening in Tournai,
Belgium, a quiet modest City near the Border with France.
My seaborne travels began on retirement and this trip was to move
the boat from Le Harve to overwinter in Sixhaven Marina in
Amsterdam, a great spot just across the waterway from Amsterdam
As we travelled along the French coast the weather let us down
and the forecast was poor, rather than lie in Calais waiting for the
weather, we decided to use the canals to progress north to the
On the second night, having crossed into Belgium, we birthed in
Tournai, it was chilly and wet, and so we decided to go ashore for a
beer and food. Having had a drink in the Grand Square we headed
towards the Cathedral de Notre Dame and noticed a small restaurant
with steamed up windows. Outside the posted menu looked good and it
had a fair number of customers. In we went; the atmosphere was warm
and friendly and the food and drink good.
So why do I remember this night above many; we had finished our
food and sat chatting, when on aged Lady, aided with a stick came to
our table and in English said; "Oh it is so good to hear English
voices in our Town, your Country brought great hope to many
Belgium's during the war with the BBC and clearing out the Nazi's
when you came back" By then we had become the focus of those sitting
around us and the Old Lady with tears in her eyes told us of some of
her experiences and was joined by others with stories of how the
British Services helped Belgium Citizens in their time of need.
A truly humbling encounter.
|OLD YEAR'S NIGHT - NEW YEAR'S DAY - HOGMANAY
Mention was made in a recent Newsletter that Christmas was very
much a time for the young ones here on the Island, and on the 31
December the adults said good bye to the Old Year and welcomed in
the New Year with gusto.
Tradition has it that First Footers had to be dark haired, it was
always suggested that a fair haired man at the door maybe a Norseman
up to no good! The First Footer, the first man in the New Year
to cross the thresh after midnight carried a bottle of whisky and a
lump of coal; 'warmth and succour' for the household for the coming
This tradition is similar to that of Hogmanay enjoyed in
Scotland. And there are still many New Year events across the
Border, up along the East coast to the Shetlands were special events
are held. On Shetland 'Up Helly Yy' is celebrated and down along
east coast fishing villages Guizers burn barrels of tar cleansing
the towns before the new fishing begins and sharing many a nip with
Family and friends.
Many who read of the role that the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
played in the development of early Christianity in Britain often
become confused and consider that those living here today are deeply
religious and devout souls. But no, we are just a close knit society
working to make a living in the shadow of the Island's early
Christian heritage. For decades life has centred on the sea, the
land and developing tourism opportunities. But change began some
time ago. Modern religious groups began to seek a foothold on
Lindisfarne and exploit the islands association with the development
of Christianity in England. However, Islanders continued to enjoy
and celebrate life gathering at such events as the Legion Supper,
the Pigeon Dinner and the Duck Supper and dances and other family
celebrations in the old hall.
Back to Hogmanay; Old Year's Night was enjoyed and New Year
welcomed in the Pubs where all Landlords provided a spread of food
and the merriment continued around the village as some of the
community went First Footing.
On the First, after a good breakfast some men visited family and
good friends to wish them all the best. Later small groups and
Guizers in fancy dress, set off around the town. It was usual that
all houses had to be visited. Entering a house you'd see a table set
with nip glasses, a bottle of whisky, sherry and ginger wine. There
would also be a plate or two of nibbles, nuts, mini-sausage rolls,
and mussels for the visitors to pick at.
It was usual to walk around the town in small groups and enjoy
the crack. We usually started at the 'Rails' about 2ish then up the
Front St. and along the Little Loanin, down Paly Hill, back up to
the Square, aiming to be at the Vicarage by 5 to sing a carol or two
and then off along Fiddlers Green aiming to be at the Lindisfarne or
elsewhere for supper. It was unlikely that we would finish the
circuit before Pub time and any missed house to be visited the next
day and trying to get round before the First Footing Ladies caught
The second of January, was known as 'Ladies Day' when the men
stayed home to 'baby sit' and the Women went round the Town First
Essentially days and nights of great fun and games, spiced with
One well remembered New Year's night,
standing in a crowded Crown & Anchor, the door opened wide and
in came Tinko and Wee Raff dressed in long boots, doppa's &
seawestas not a word spoken, sat down on the floor, started to mimic
rowing and began singing that favoured hymn/chanty:
"Light in the darkness sailor, day is at hand!
See o'er the
foaming billows, fair heaven's land.
Drear was the voyage,
sailor, now almost o'er;
Safe within the lifeboat
Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore
not the rolling waves, but bend the oar;
Safe in the lifeboat,
Sailor, cling to self no more
Leave the poor old wreck and pull
for the shore."
And we all joined in...
Sadly, most of the boys are no longer with us. But there are
those of us who walk through the Churchyard from time to time and
wish them all the Best and remember the fine memories and fun times
The essence of the Island is much changing. However, long may
Islanders retain a strong foothold on their Island
|OUR NATURALIST ON LINDISFARNE
SPRING THRUSHES CHEER UP THE
The days are really lengthening now with spring just around the
corner and in the village we're being treated to early singing from
Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, Collared Doves and the
other common resident species.
I heard my first glorious burst of singing from a cock Song
Thrush as long ago as February 9th when he put on a superb
performance at dusk in the Whitebeam behind the cottage in
Crossgates. The sun was just setting and there he was in the bare
uppermost branches, bill angled upwards towards the reddening sky
and throat feathers quivering with the effort.
Unfortunately, next day Storm Ciara arrived followed a week later
by Storm Dennis and I didn't hear him again until later in the
month. But that ten-minute outpouring of exuberant song really was a
sign that spring was coming even if we had to put up with the odd
westerly gales and lashings of rain while we impatiently waited.
Song Thrushes, as their name implies, really are wonderful
musical birds and their ringing, far-carrying songs are always a
signal of early spring. We're very lucky in the village and around
the island in general to still have a good healthy population as
their numbers have crashed nationally in recent decades.
A juvenile Song Thrush enjoys a shower on a hot day
under a sprinkler in the Vicarage garden
They are early breeders. Very soon they'll be building nests in
thick cover, particularly in the gardens, and giving them a tough
lining of mud. Their eggs are a wonderful bright shade of blue,
lightly speckled with black or dark brown. Young birds fledge at
around three weeks old, emerging as pale imitations of the adults.
Pairs often then go on to raise second families.
Sadly, Song Thrushes are now officially Red Listed in Britain as
birds of serious conservation concern as numbers have fallen by half
over the past 25 years even through there is still a population of
around 1.1 million pairs. While numbers in the countryside,
including the island, have held up well they are now far less
plentiful than previously in urban and suburban localities. There
they are no longer an everyday sight in green spaces such as sports
fields, parks and gardens showing that their problems lie in those
areas rather than across the country in general.
A clue to their decline could lie in their diet. Like our very
familiar Blackbirds, whose numbers haven't gone down, they rely
heavily for food on earthworms and over invertebrates when
conditions are wet. But unlike Blackbirds, they switch to snails
during periods of dry or cold weather when worms go deeper and out
Here on the island we have an abundance of snails. They seem to
be in every damp nook and dark cranny in every stone wall and I'm
continually coming across them hiding under the curved lips of
flower pots and tubs in the gardens. Their presence is almost
certainly to thank for our thriving thrush population.
Song Thrush shows off his speckled breast|
Song Thrushes have their favourite places to hammer open snail
shells and reach the soft food inside. These thrush "anvils" usually
consist of large flat stones which are often surrounded by the
white, grey and silver pieces of hundreds of smashed shells. There's
a very big and long-established "anvil" on the west side of the
Straight Lonnen under the cover of the Hawthorns which must have
been used by generations of thrushes.
Many birders now believe that this heavy reliance for much of the
year on molluscs could be at least partially responsible for their
decline. You only have to look around garden centres to see the
arsenal of pellets, sprays and liquids with which gardeners are
urged to wage relentless warfare on these admittedly destructive
This has had two effects: it has dramatically reduced the numbers
of snails and slugs available as food and may also be responsible
for the secondary poisoning of thrushes when they eat contaminated
molluscs. This can either kill the birds outright or interfere
with their fertility leading to failure.
Secondary poisoning is a term generally used when the substances
used affects creatures other than the intended targets. Secondary
poisoning of a different type is also a growing problem for
carnivorous species, including Barn Owls, which are being affected
by poisoning picked up when they find or catch rats, mice and others
left dead or dying from various rodenticides.
An old friend of mine has a city allotment where he tries to stay
organic. He tells me he despairs of the quantities of pellets being
liberally scattered around by his fellow gardeners. The use - or
perhaps overuse - of these substances could be playing a part in the
catastrophic decline in another former garden favourite, the
Hedgehog, which also relies heavily on slugs and snails.
I don't know whether it's just our sheer abundance of snails
which keep the Song Thrushes going or whether those of us who are
gardeners are just doing it in kinder way and not splashing the cash
on chemicals. Perhaps it's a bit of both. The result is that Song
Thrushes are thankfully still a common bird to delight us around the
The castle is now back open for the
2020 season, and yet another winter is behind us - although as I
type there has been a flurry of snow on the Upper Battery. Getting
the place ready for an open season is never straightforward, however
the 2019/20 version has been particularly challenging.
First of all, as ever, there are the ongoing maintenance jobs.
The castle needs a lot of care and attention and following the
restoration work it is vital to maintain the place to the standards
set during that project. There have been masons, joiners, plumbers,
painters, rock technicians and conservators here over the last
couple of months, all doing their bit to get the castle ready. Even
something as simple as a coat of paint in the Loo with a View has
made a huge difference, whilst elsewhere we have put paint on some
internal walls to see how it reacts to another year on the Island.
This will be especially useful ahead of the planned painting work
throughout the castle this coming winter.
We also had a van-load of collections return from the store with
notable returnees being the Lutyens Dining Room table, the Kitchen
table, a Dutch wall clock and a couple of bedrooms-worth of
furniture. We have also begun the process of reviewing our
collections which is a process where each individual object (all
1,300 of them) is considered against set parameters. This has been a
fascinating process so far especially when we have been able to give
strong provenance to objects that were previously thought to be
relatively mundane items. For example, a set of ceramic bon-bon
dishes were found to be in a 1906 photograph of the Long Gallery and
even better than that, some objects can be identified in photographs
of the Deanery Garden, Edward Hudson's home prior to Lindisfarne
down in Berkshire (now inhabited by another eminent 20th century
figure, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin). Knowing he brought those
objects with him to the castle gives them that little extra boost in
terms of significance.
From the end of March, we have a new installation going in -
Limelight, by artists Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer - which through
the planning stage looks very exciting. They are using LIDAR scans
taken ahead of the project to create spectacular lighting, video,
and audio projections in the Ship Room, while there will be
additional projections in other spaces all based around the castle's
wild and exposed location. While this is going to be really
impressive in itself, we have re-dressed some of the other rooms
where they aren't installing their work. Having said that, their
work does heavily involve the castle collections so it will be
interesting to see how that cross-over looks.
The installation will open on Thursday 26th March so will be well
worth a visit.
Nick Lewis, Lindisfarne Castle
@NTNorthd_Coast 01289 389903
|NATURAL ENGLAND LINDISFARNE NNR
It seems that the weather is on repeat as increasingly
strong and frequent low pressure systems keep battering the British
Isles. With the storms coming from the west we seem to have escaped
the worst of the rain but the severe wind has been an ever present
It is important to note that during this period of
stormy weather many of the wintering wildfowl hunker down. This is a
critical time for them as they are constantly feeding, preparing for
the long migration back to their northern breeding grounds.
We have also been out with our volunteers continuing
to remove hawthorn regeneration from within the dune system. This is
important to keep the dune system from turning into woodland scrub,
losing this valuable habitat. Larger more mature trees are left as
refuges for migrating birds to use on their epic journeys
Our new events leaflet is hot off the press and can be
found on our blog website (lindisfarnennr.blogspot.com) and also
displayed in the pagoda at Chare Ends Car Park.
Our first event took place on the 17th of February at
the WoWL building and was a success with a steady stream of visitors
on their half-term holidays. Love Birds was the theme of the day as
we tested visitor's knowledge of matching male and female ducks.
Some found it surprisingly difficult as the subtlety of female
plumage can be quite confusing!
Looking further ahead we are organising two
'Celebration of Nature' festivals. The first is approaching fast and
will take place on Saturday 11th April with the second occurring on
23rd August. The idea is to raise awareness of the NNR and showcase
the islands rich biodiversity through a series of events and
activities over the course of the day. We will bring you more
details in next months edition.
February and March are transitionary months as many
wintering birds on the Reserve make the journey north to their
frigid breeding grounds. Meanwhile Terns are making their mammoth
journey from Africa or (as for the Arctic Tern) all the way from
Antarctica. By the end of next month the first Sandwich Terns will
be able to be heard along the coast.
Currently Skylarks can be heard occasionally singing
in the dune system as they begin to establish territory and Snow
Buntings have been seen in small flocks on the beaches.
Peak counts of birds on the Reserve include over 2000
Pink-footed geese at the start of the month, up to 1500 Barnacle
geese seen around Budle Bay with 1000 still present on 20th
February. Light-bellied Brent geese can still be observed on the
Reserve with 900 seen on 14th February.
Holy Island is rightly famed for its constantly changing coastal
landscape, its vibrant natural history and its rich Celtic
past. The island also offers another special attraction that
is less celebrated, but none the less remarkable for that. I
am referring to the spectacular quality of our night sky.
I have come to appreciate just how good the night sky can be in
this part of Northumberland as a consequence of building an
astronomical observatory here in 2018. Looking East from my
home on Chare Ends after dusk, the only visible lights are slowly
flashing navigation beacons on the Farnes and on a couple of small
buoys warning of rocks closer to our shore. Otherwise there is
no source of light pollution looking out in that direction until
Denmark! When obscuring clouds and the Moon are both absent
(sadly something that occurs much less frequently that I might
wish), myriad stars are revealed on a velvety black background. This
pristine darkness is exactly what is needed for taking the very best
pictures of the heavens.
We are enormously fortunate still to enjoy this precious natural
spectacle, that has been lost now from almost all populated parts of
the world. It is so sad to consider that the majority of
people alive today in the world have never seen the Milky Way.
This is the great galaxy towards the edge of which our own Sun is
situated. On Holy Island on a clear dark night, the Milky Way
can be seen as a great pale wash of densely scattered stars
stretching right across the sky.
Astrophotography, as the esoteric activity of taking pictures of
objects in the night sky is properly known, is a relatively recent
development. It is made possible, like so much else in the modern
world, thanks to the rapid advance of digital technology especially
computing power. The telescope that I use in my observatory is not
designed to be looked through. Instead it brings light from
the stars to focus on the sensor of powerful digital camera, cooled
to -25C to achieve exquisite sensitivity to the faintest
The heavens above us are filled with a rich and wondrous
menagerie of nebulae, galaxies and star clusters hiding in plain
sight in the night sky. The equipment that I use reveals these
spectacular deep space objects that are impossible to see with our
unaided eye. The Andromeda Galaxy (as pictured) is just one example
of the sort of target it is possible to image from Holy Island when
conditions are favourable.
To take such pictures of a galaxy or nebula, a number of feats
must be accomplished. First the light that has travelled in
some cases for literally billions of years to Holy Island, must be
carefully and perfectly focussed onto the sensor of the astronomical
camera. Secondly it must be allowed to build up a signal in
the camera over many minutes per exposure, while keeping the image
perfectly stationary. This is made complicated by the constant
spinning of the Earth, so the camera is attached to a high-precision
mechanical mount that exactly rotates to cancel out this sidereal
motion of our planet relative to the rest of the universe. Finally
many individual frames, often taken over multiple nights, must be
combined together using a powerful computer to create a single
In fact the process is more complicated than I have so far
described! For example the astronomical cameras that I use capture
black-and-white images. To generate colour photographs,
special coloured filters must be placed in turn in between the
telescope and camera. This allows multiple images showing the
pattern of light at different wavelengths to be gathered. Then
these can be carefully registered and combined using sophisticated
software to create a final colour picture.
What you might ask is the point of scanning the starry heavens
and gathering pictures of the strange and wonderful objects that can
be revealed in the night sky? For me there are several answers to
that question. First there is the opportunity to better
understand our position in the universe: on a planet orbiting an
ageing star (the Sun) on the outskirts of the Milky Way, one galaxy
containing hundreds of billions of stars among hundreds of billions
of galaxies that we know to exist.
Then there is sheer visual delight in photographing some of the
exquisite structures that a telescope can reveal.
More sublime though than either of these reasons is the sense of
appreciation that studying the heavens brings. How fortunate
we are to be alive and conscious of the Universe in which we exist.
How precious is this bubble of awareness - our Earth - hurtling
through the void.
|FROM FORD & ETAL
12th March - NTC presents "Angels of the North"
at Etal Village Hall www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events/event/1394-angels-of-the-north
14th & 15th March - Sled Dog Association of
Scotland - races, Ford Westwood www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events/event/1360-sled-dog-racing
23rd March - 23rd March - Lady Waterford Hall
& Heatherslaw Cornmill site open daily up to and including 1st
28th March - Heatherslaw Light Railway opens for
28th March - Berwick Wheelers Reivers Road Race,
starting at Etal Village Hall season www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events/
|FROM OUR CHURCHES
||Rev Canon Dr Sarah
Hills & Rev Rachel Poolman |
As I write the Island has enjoyed some beautiful, but very windy
weather - with occasional hints of Spring.
As usual in the UK climate, there is nothing predictable or
consistent in our weather at this season of the year.
Throughout March the Christian church walks through the season of
Lent, with Easter Sunday falling on April 12th. The great message of
Easter is of God in Christ, with us in death and always pointing us
to new life and new hope. It is a great over-arching theme for all
creation and humanity, and for all time, an ultimate hope which
offers, in the words of Jesus, 'a peace that passes all
understanding'. However, belief in ultimate truths does not mean
that we can avoid living through the seasons of life, and we are
constantly reminded that they can be as unpredictable as the
At this time of year, there are reminders in our gardens, of how
shrubs that have been cut to the quick will produce new growth once
more, and of how bulbs that inhabit darkness have stored energy to
flower again when the time is right. We cannot predict, or control
the seasons of life, but the strength stored up from good
relationships and memories can sustain us when we are forced to live
through times of uncertainty in our lives, and in the wider
We are holding a number of Lenten services, quiet mornings and
events over the next few weeks...please do come along.
They are listed below. You will be most welcome!