Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve celebrates 50th anniversary

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve - a "coastal hotel" for VIP wildlife has celebrated its 50th birthday

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve

A “coastal hotel” frequented by “VIPs” has celebrated its 50th birthday.

But an inn with sea view this is not and the VIPs are not of the A-list variety.

It is in fact the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve in Northumberland, which is marking exactly five decades since it was established.

For VIPs, read Light-bellied Brent geese, barnacle geese and pink-footed geese as well as wigeon, grey plovers and bar-tailed godwits.

The site was declared a National Nature Reserve (NNR) on September 15, 1964, a status awarded by the now defunct Nature Conservancy which had the role of designating sites following the introduction of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

And the reserve serves to protect a long stretch of the North East’s coastline.

The first phase of NNR declaration covered 1,665 acres (673 hectares) and included parts of Holy Island dunes and inter-tidal areas around the island.

Since then, the area has grown in size to be one of the largest NNRs in the country extending to 3,541 hectares, stretching from Cheswick Black Rocks in the North to Budle Bay in the south, including the dune land and rocky shore of Holy Island.

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve

Andrew Craggs, senior reserve manager, said: “This is a very special place and one that is cherished by people and is of international importance for wildlife.

“Back in 1964, the impetus for the declaration of the NNR was to better manage the wildfowling activity that took place over the intertidal flats around Lindisfarne.

“Today we continue to work with a very wide range of people and organisations that have an interest in the area; including the local people who live and work here and the many visitors who are attracted by the history and natural beauty.

“They all have a vital role to play in maintaining the reserve’s status.”

Natural England, which succeeded the Nature Conservancy and has responsibility for NNRs in England, works with many individual landowners and organisations to ensure that the biodiversity of the area is protected and can be enjoyed by the people who live there or visit the site.

Andrew added: “On the occasion of the NNR’s Golden Jubilee we would like to say a huge thanks to all the volunteers, local people and our many partners at Lindisfarne, for all their practical help, support and hard work in helping us manage the special features of the NNR over the past 50 years.

“We’ll be having plenty of events in our anniversary year for people to find out more about the NNR so watch out for information on some special activities taking place in the coming months.”

Tidal mudflats, saltmarshes and dunes combine to create a place which is home to rare plants and to a food supply that attracts bird visitors from thousands of miles away.

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve

The site is now the most important over-wintering site in the North East for migratory wildfowl and waders, with up to 50,000 birds arriving on the reserve during autumn and winter.

The reserve’s other accolades are many and include a unique orchid, the Lindisfarne helleborine, and the most extensive sea grass beds in the North East.

These provide nutritious food for half of the world population of East Atlantic light-bellied Brent geese who travel from Svalbard - a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean - with their young families to feed on the rich mudflats at this, their only regular wintering site in Britain.

Andrew continued: “We are heading towards a busy time of year. Six internationally important species of wildfowl and wading birds overwinter here.

“Light-bellied Brent geese, barnacle geese and pink-footed geese are joined by wigeon, grey plovers and bar-tailed godwits as the other VIPs at this coastal ‘hotel’, where all their favourite food is laid on!”

It’s not just about the birds. During autumn and winter, cattle and sheep perform an essential function in keeping rank grasses and scrub well-grazed.

This allows many rarer plants to flourish, including orchids like the marsh helleborine which flowers by the thousand in July, forming spectacular white, floral carpets.

Andrew concluded: “Natural England, with the continued support of its partners, works hard to manage the special features of the NNR for people to enjoy and experience all year round. Roll on the next 50 years!”


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