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Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership Annual Forum

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 20:11

Alnmouth beach Alnmouth beach © Shutterstock

This event gave a day packed with interest to the fifty or more guests and supporters...

...who assembled at the Westfield Park Community Centre in Longhoughton on Friday, 2 December. Cllr John Woodman, Chair of the Partnership, introduced the hand-picked team of professionals who described their current projects to us before a series of guest speakers from various spheres of life in the area spoke knowledgeably and enthusiastically about their work. Contributions came in from so many different disciplines and areas of expertise, and talk after talk was so peppered with fascinating facts and illuminating insights the mind simply boggled at the scale of it all.

Holy Island provided one focus of interest. Richard Carlton of the Peregrini Landscape Partnership described how the community on the island has been involved in an archaeology investigation trying to unravel and trace the relationships between buildings and people back into the past. Nick Lewis of the National Trust explained just why the iconic Lindisfarne Castle has had to be closed for essential and far-reaching repairs to its architectural fabric, and showed us the sheer scale of the task of remedying the problems.

shutterstock Northumberland arctic terns web

Arctic terns                                                                                        © Shutterstock

Research into sustainable tourism by Sam Isaac brought us face to face with the practicalities of an industry vital to the economy of north Northumberland, while a 'state of nature' report from Mark Eaton, Principal Conservation Scientist with the RSPB, reminded us of one of the key drivers of that tourism industry, the bird life of the Farne Islands.

A world away from this, the vital role of RAF Boulmer in its round-the-clock monitoring of the UK's global air security held the audience spellbound as Wing Co. Gareth Taylor seeded his talk with nuggets of insider understanding about the arcane mysteries of international military politics. Conflicts from a by-gone age were put in focus by Clive Hallam Taylor, who has been researching the Battle of Carham (on the Tweed, near Cornhill) in 1018 - or was it 1016? His experience taught us how unreliable contemporary accounts of mediaeval history can be.

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Bamburgh sunset                                                                                   © Don Brownlow

But for sheer gut-wrenching grip on the imagination Jessica Turner's talk on the Bamburgh Ossuary carried the day. It was billed as the appetiser before lunch and its images of the sad little piles of bones dug up from the soft earth at the foot of the huge lump of the whin sill on which the castle stands sent shivers through more than a few stomachs. The research on the bones and especially the teeth was fascinating. Through chemical analysis of dental material it was possible to trace when and where the living person had been brought up. For one male character the results suggested early 7th century and Iona, offering the stunning possibility these were the mortal remains of one of the sons of King Aethelfrith, Oswald and Oswy, who, after their father's death in battle, fled with their sister Aebbe to Iona in 618 AD. In all 105 skeletons were recovered and all were interred in special re-humation chests in a dignified ceremony in the Church of St Aidan at Bamburgh.

Our day brought together so many diverse lines of interest, all rooted in the life of just one corner of Northumberland, and gave a fine sense of what a civilised society also cares about alongside the day-to-day concerns we all expect of our local authorities. Northumberland County Council, the Partnership and all concerned have much to feel proud of in their stewardship of the Northumberland AONB, from the evidence of this day.





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