Farne Islands in June

I’m not long back from a week solitary retreat on the shore opposite Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coast. Went there to write, to attempt to complete my current novel (A sequel to “Tom Fleck”. I need another 1,000 words). I go to the same spot each year, and each year have a day out on the nearby Farne Islands. This trip was to Staple Island with Billy Shiels’ boats. You should go – it is another world.


IMG_6264Staple Island takes its name from these rocks.

IMG_6222The Farnes belong to the National Trust. The bird colonies are cared for by wardens who monitor populations. Kittywakes on the right and Guillemots below. We had an hour on Staple Island.

IMG_6225Shag. Also called Green Cormorant. On this visit, birds were on eggs or nursing chicks.

IMG_6234Guillemots. (From French diminutive for William) There are about 40,000 on the Farnes – and increasing.

IMG_6237There are fewer Razorbills.

IMG_6242Female Eider duck sitting on eggs. Just a yard from my feet. The birds seem to treat the visitors as a drifting part of the landscape. St Cuthbert, who retreated to the Farnes, was fond of this bird. Its other name is St Cuthbert’s Duck, or Cuddy Duck.

IMG_6239A young couple from India. Honeymooners?

IMG_6254Puffin, just popped out of its burrow.

IMG_6251Guillemot town.

IMG_6233There are little freshwater pools – if you like green tea.

IMG_6262Longstone Lighthouse from where Grace Horsley Darling rowed out.

My mother was a Horsley . . .


Grace was born on 24th November 1815 at Bamburgh, Northumberland and spent her youth in two lighthouses (Brownsman and Longstone) where her father, William, was the keeper. In the early hours of the 7th September 1838, Grace, looking out from an upstairs window of the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands, spotted the wreck and survivors of the Forfarshire on Big Harcar, a low rocky outcrop. The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks and broken in half; one of the halves had sunk during the night.  Amidst tempestuous waves and gale force winds there followed an amazing rescue of the survivors.  Grace’s life would never be the same.  from http://www.GraceDarling.co.uk
Grace died 4 years later of consumption. She is buried at Bamburgh.

About Harry Nicholson

I once bred Beveren rabbits in all colours. Today, I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. On Amazon is my novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' Recently I published memoirs of my time in the Merchant Navy: 'The Best of Days' and 'You'll See Wonders" I've a blog of poems, stories and art at: https://1513fusion.wordpress.com/
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3 Responses to Farne Islands in June

  1. restlessjo says:

    Related to Grace? How exciting! 🙂 I love the lighthouse at Whitley Bay (St. Mary’s). I didn’t realise you were from my part of the world, Harry. Nice to meet you, even if in sad circumstances.

  2. PS I love your bird pictures – thank you for sharing them.

  3. Only 1000 to go? A doddle for you. I’m longing to read it. Tom Fleck was such an adventure for all of us on f to f.

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