A major scheme to protect, enhance and celebrate the natural and historic features of one of the North East’s most precious landscapes has been given the green light after overcoming funding hurdles.
Match funding will bring the value of the Peregrini Lindisfarne scheme to £1.8m and work is expected to start on the three-year programme in January.
Peregrini is Latin for hermits and devout travellers and is the origin of the word pilgrim.
The revised scheme is the product of years of collaborative working between the community and a variety of agencies.
The funding will pay for a range of projects covering the long history of the area and its important natural habitats, including Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.
Holy Island is known as the Cradle of Christianity with connections to St Aidan, St Cuthbert and the associated monasteries, cells and hermitages, and the island’s association with The Golden Age of Northumbria and the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The landscape is also rich in biodiversity, including rare plant species such as the Lindisfarne helleborine, rich wildlife habitats particularly for migratory and breeding birds, and geological interest.
There is also the legacy of the fishing, quarrying and lime-producing activities and the military history, including the use of the island as a garrison and the remains of Second World War defences on the mainland coast.
The Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership Scheme involves the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, representatives of the Holy Island Community from the parish council and development trust, Belford and Lowick parish councils, Natural England, Northumberland County Council, English Heritage, the National Trust and Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives.
A £2.2m scheme was planned last year but the economic climate meant that the 25% match funding requirement was no longer possible and it is a reworked programme which will now proceed.
The aim is to ensure the protection and enhancement of Lindisfarne and surrounding areas by reconnecting the community’s relationship with the land and seascapes, heritage and history, managing it as “one environment” to make the area a better place to work, live and visit.
John Woodman, chairman of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, said: “This is an excellent project and it will be good for Holy Island and the surrounding shore side areas as well as much of the wider community of Northumberland.
“The success of this re-submission is testament of all the hard work done by the Peregrini board and many others over the last three years. We are really looking forward to getting started and seeing positive things happen on the ground.”
Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council, and executive member for the AONB, said: “It’s great news that this project has secured lottery funding. The cultural and natural heritage of the area is very significant to the local communities who live, work and enjoy this part of Northumberland.
“It’s also an area which is renowned internationally and anything which can be done to preserve and protect our history has to be welcomed.”
The scheme will repair and conserve buildings and features which are part of the industrial, social and cultural heritage of the landscape.
The military defences at Cheswick, Budle Bay and Goswick will be conserved and enhanced and alternatives uses for the structures will be investigated. These include anti tank defences, pill boxes, Cheswick and Goswick observation towers, and gun emplacements at Budle Bay and Scremerston.
Holy Island Lifeboat House, now used for storage, is the sole remaining physical reminder of the island’s lifeboat heritage.
The intention is to repair and conserve the building for use in the telling of the story of the island’s lifeboats.
At Budle Bay are the remains of a crushing plant and pier built to service local whinstone quarries and the project will research, and interpret the structures.
Five scheduled ancient monuments will be conserved - the Tudor “palace “and palace garden site, the site of St Cuthbert’s Chapel off Lindisfarne, the island’s Greenshiel Anglo-Saxon archaeological site, the Osborne Fort ruin and Fenham Grange, a farm area which supported the Lindisfarne monks.
Features relating to the fishing heritage of the area will also be restored.
In terms of natural heritage, the Peregrini Lindisfarne landscape is special for its range of wildlife and habitats.
Thousands of pale-bellied brent geese, ducks such as teal and wigeon, and waders including golden plover and bar-tailed godwit overwinter. Grey seals are offshore in large numbers. Breeding birds include little terns, ringed plover and oystercatcher.
The island’s Lough Pond bird hide will be restored or rebuilt including disabled access, viewing areas and new interpretation material.
This location is a key destination on the island’s nature trail, where visitors can rest, take shelter, see birds and find out more about the natural environment.
The salt and mudflat habitats for shore nesting birds will be expanded and improved to safeguard their future. This initiative also seeks to establish new areas for shore bird breeding
Rare whin grassland will undergo a programme of restoration and improved management, while sand dunes management will benefit key species such as the Lindisfarne helleborine.
Reintroducing a shepherd with a flock of hardy native breed sheep will allow both intensive management of key locations targeting invasive species.
There are also plans to satellite tag pale bellied brent geese so people will be able to track the birds as they travel from Lindisfarne to Denmark and the Arctic.
The data will be analysed by Newcastle University and used to improve the management of the national nature reserve and adjacent farmland.