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Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership Annual Forum, 2017

Inner Farne from Bamburgh beach Inner Farne from Bamburgh beach Colin Adsley

This year’s event was held in the Pavilion at Bamburgh...

...which looks out over the lush sward of the cricket green and up to the imposing whinstone crags on which the castle is set.  On 29 September a packed hall was treated to a day of interest and fun as a succession of speakers brought the work of the Partnership and the many features of this fascinating part of our county to life.

The AONB team, led by David Feige, updated us on their progress over the past year before Mark Eaton, Principal Conservation Scientist with the RSPB, brought a series of statistics to back up his assessment of the rises and falls in bird populations as climate change has its ongoing impact on them. His talk managed the difficult task of turning a numbers-based study into a thoroughly interesting account, mainly by using a succession of images of the many different species that inhabit or visit our shores.

The Peregrini Landscape Partnership on Holy Island has been an outstanding example of how to involve a local community in exploring its historic heritage. Iain Robson outlined the work done recently, in various parts of the island, on encouraging the distinctive plant cover of the whin sill, involving schoolchildren in developing a nature trail, and the exciting archaeological discovery of an early church building.

The morning was rounded off in engaging style as Andrew Ayre introduced the Wilson’s Tales Project, a modern retelling of Border folk tales first collected by the 19th century Berwick newsman, John Wilson. Some of the tales have been dramatized by the Northumberland Theatre Company and we were treated to a lively story based on an incident at Lindisfarne Castle during the Jacobean uprising of 1715. The small but talented cast brought the house down with their entertaining performance.

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Winter sunset, Dunstanburgh Castle                                                                                 © Don Brownlow

After Laura Shearer had described a project on coastal conservation, Phil Dyke of the National trust gave an account of the Trust’s Neptune Campaign and how it has helped preserve cherished coastal landscapes not just in Northumberland but all around the UK. The importance of this campaign cannot be over-emphasized, both for what it has achieved over past years and what it is hoping to safeguard for the nation in the future. Many iconic pieces of coastline, including significant sections of the Northumberland Heritage Coast, have been bought to protect them from inappropriate development and we have much to be grateful for.

The last report was from Jessica Turner whose enthusiasm lit up her account of the archaeological project on the Heugh, Holy Island, that is rewriting the history of early Christianity in 7th century Northumbria. What started as an exploratory trench on a raised piece of ground near the shoreline south of the ruined Priory turned into the complete unearthing of the foundations of a building dating back, it is believed, to the 600s. It shows certain features that relate it to the Celtic church of that time, and may be one of two early church buildings written about in contemporary accounts. Until now, scholars believed the original church buildings probably lay beneath the Benedictine Priory built during the first half of the 12th Century. But this important new discovery, excavated as part of the Peregrini Lindisfarne Community Archaeology Project, opens up the possibility that the whinstone ridge known as the Heugh was the first site chosen for his church by Aidan when he came to Lindisfarne in 635.

Once again the Forum has shown that taking a pride in our landscape heritage can have a remarkable impact on both individuals and communities by giving them a focus that contributes positively to the quality of their lives.

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