Burning beacons connecting Northumberland and Scotland added their own drama on a big night of spectacular celebrations in the region.
The Fire of the North event saw flames leap into the night sky on an evening otherwise dominated by the spectacle of the Great North Run opening ceremony on the banks of the Tyne.
Beacons were lit on both sides of the Scottish Border on Thursday night to commemorate St Cuthbert’s role in caring for wildlife.
It being St Cuthbert’s Day - there are two a year - the clash could not be avoided but, despite the competition, the torches drew spectators to the great outdoors as fires linked National Nature Reserves at Lindisfarne, Inner Farne, and St Abb’s Head in Scotland in memory of the Saint who has been referred to as Northumbria’s first nature warden.
He also known as Fire of the North too, according to local historian and volunteer warden John Woodhurst who coordinated the event and was pleased to see around 50 people turn out at Lindisfarne.
He 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.”
Inner Farne was where a beacon was originally used by monks as a way to inform the Lindisfarne community of the Saint Cuthbert’s death and a fire was lit here at the same time as the one on St Abb’s to also mark the span of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, while other fires marked the current borders.
Spectators gathered at Holy Island to view the dramatic link-up while the event, which involved Natural England, National Trust, and National Trust for Scotland, also included a free series of walks and lectures.
Up at St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve, Liza Cole, property manager and senior ranger naturalist at National Trust for Scotland, reported “a great turn out”, despite some fog, as people enjoyed a walk with an archaeological who discussed the site visited by St Cuthbert.
She said: “We had about 12 on the walk and then 20-plus people for the beacon.
“Sadly the visibility was such that we couldn’t even see the Longstone lighthouse let along the beacon on the Farnes, but we had a great time anyway and it was fun looking!”
She afterwards talked to John Woodhurst, who was based at Lindisfarne, on the phone. “He said he could see the one on the Farnes but not ours so sadly there was nothing but the phone link between the other two.”