A busy year on the Northumberland coast for AONB team

Tourism, nature, history and archaeology, as well as the RAF, were all discussed at the Northumberland Coast AONB annual forum.

Sunday, 8th January 2017, 07:54 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:42 am
Local walkers Rory Straker and Robert Turner are the first to claim their free half-pints from Curfew owner Gemma Cook

The area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) partnership hosts the event each year, offering a chance for attendees from a range of sectors to hear updates from the AONB team as well as from a varied selection of guest speakers.

Chairman, Cllr John Woodman, said: “Many, many things make the AONB a special place and we try to shine a light on some of them. Second, it’s a chance to network. Thirdly, it’s a chance to hear from our team; it’s a small team, but they do such valuable work.”

Given the large amount which is going on along the Northumberland coast, it would be nigh on impossible to cover it all, but the AONB team members each reflected on some of the key achievements and issues during the previous 12 months.

David Feige focused on a study being carried out by Newcastle University – and supported by the AONB – to look at the impacts of walkers and dogs on wintering birds, specifically the turnstone and purple sandpiper.

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The former lives in the high Arctic, while the latter is from Scandinavia, but both come to Northumberland to escape the harsher winters and both are experiencing population declines.

It may be that the Farne Islands will play a crucial role for the birds, offering a sanctuary which is largely undisturbed by humans, unlike most of the shoreline.

Iain Robson said his highlight of the year was the 10th anniversary of the Northumberland Coast Path.

A passport scheme for businesses along the route has also been launched with 39 recruited so far, while anyone arriving in Berwick having completed the trek can have a free half-pint at the Curfew micro-pub.

Iain did admit that he ‘borrowed’ this last idea from the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm, which offers a free pint to those finishing the Pennine Way.

Jessica Turner talked about the Peregrini Lindisfarne project, now entering its third year and which will be picking up the pace as it goes into its final year of the initial funding period; £1.8million was received from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

One of the guest speakers was Richard Carlton, who is leading the scheme’s community archaeology project, while Peregrini reared its head in the update from Catherine Gray, who is responsible for the AONB’s sustainable development fund.

Each year, £20,000 is allocated to small-scale projects and Catherine chose to focus on two, the first being the Peregrini loan boxes, which can be used by schools to provide pupils with hands-on history.

Meanwhile, the Lindisfarne Inn at Beal received a grant to become cycle-friendly and there are now a wide range of facilities there with bike riders in mind, with good practice being shared at a special business event.

Even Brexit reared its head as David returned to point out that the team is beginning to look at the new AONB management plan, which will run from 2019.

“For the next few years, we are going to be struggling to know which funding and options are going to stay and which are going to go and over which period of time,” he said.

Richard Carlton, Peregrini Community Archaeology

Volunteers have been getting involved in a number of archaeological activities, thanks to Peregrini Lindisfarne’s community archaeology project.

The project has or will involved guide walks, training workshops, walkover surveys, archaeological earthworks surveys, test-pitting, historic buildings and archaeological research excavations.

In terms of the buildings on Holy Island, a general overview of the village architecture has been completed, while a survey of the outlying buildings is under way as is a detailed record of St Mary’s Church.

On the archaeological fieldwork front, projects have taken place at the Kennedy limekiln cottages, Fenham Common Slap, Cocklawburn and The Heugh.

Jessica Turner, The Bamburgh Ossuary

Last summer, after years of research by the Bamburgh Research Project and Durham University in partnership with Bamburgh Castle Estate, 110 skeletons were committed to their final resting place in the crypt of the St Aidan’s Church.

Dating evidence suggests the Bowl Hole was in use around 650 to 700AD, meaning that these people were some of the earliest Christian converts in Northumberland.

Clive Hallam-Baker, Carham – Start of the Border Story

Preparations are under way to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Carham.

When research began, they didn’t know when the battle took place, where it took place or who took part. Significant efforts have been to track down the details, with 1018 the most likely date and plenty of evidence pointing to a battlefield at an old river crossing at Carham itself.

The importance of the battle lies in the fact that it may have been the point at which the Anglo-Scottish border was set, as previously the Kingdom of Northumbria stretched all the way to the Firth of Forth.

Nick Lewis, Lindisfarne Castle

The castle closed its doors at the start of November and will not open again until April 2018 for a £3million restoration. Works include the repointing windows through which rainwater leaks and filling hollows in the walls which undermine the integrity of the structure.