Fire of the North set to light up our skies

Inner Farne

Inner Farne

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Memorial beacons will be lit on the Farne Islands and St Abb’s Head on Thursday night to mark St Cuthbert’s Day and celebrate his links to the area.

St Cuthbert was known as the ‘fire of the north’ and a series of events have been held under that banner over the past fortnight.

The venture has been organised by three iconic national nature reserves - Lindisfarne NNR (Natural England), Farne Islands NNR (National Trust) and St Abb’s Head NNR (National Trust for Scotland).

As night falls, around 8.30pm, they will re-enact the moment when monks on Inner Farne announced the death of Cuthbert - who spent much of his life on Lindisfarne and, as a hermit, retreated to the Farne Islands - by lighting a signal flame.

The Venerable Bede recounts that a monk on the Inner Farne “lit two torches and holding one in each hand went onto some higher ground to show the Lindisfarne monastery, for this was the sign they had agreed upon among themselves”. That was on March 20, 687, a date now celebrated as Cuthbert’s feast day.

National Trust rangers will repeat the beacon/fire from last year near the lighthouse on Inner Farne.

The St Abb’s Head beacon/fire will be on a hill close to the lighthouse, with a linked walk from Kirk Hill to the site led by Daniel Rhodes, National Trust for Scotland archaeologist (meet foot of Kirk Hill – Grid Ref NT914687 at 7.30pm).

On Holy Island, there will be a walk out to view the two beacons. Volunteer warden John Woodhurst will lead a group from the Window on Wild Lindisfarne building (meet 7.30pm) to the Watchtower on the Heugh to view them. Along the way he will give a shortened version of his First Nature Warden talk.

John, who is co-ordinating the event, said: “Cuthbert is the heartbeat of our region and we are reminded of his love of the animal kingdom and the natural world, along with his deep spirituality, whenever we visit our nature reserves today.”

The event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Lindisfarne NNR in 1964. The site is the most important over-wintering site in the north-east for migratory wildfowl and waders with up to 50,000 birds finding refuge there.

On Sunday, August 31, which is St Aidan’s Day, on Holy Island, warden Laura Scott will talk about the NNR and John will do his regular walk/talk, Cuthbert – Lindisfarne’s First Nature Warden?

Meet at Window on Wild Lindisfarne building at 12.30 pm to walk around the Harbour, along the Heugh, across to St Cuthbert’s Island, and back via the Sacred Corridor to St Mary’s Church.

All walks/talks are free.

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