Northumberland island curio goes on show in London

Festival will showcase Coquet Island wardens' 6ft by 6ft eccentric hide creation

Richard Gibbs Coquet hide
The Coquet Island hide and the lighthouse in the background

After months of relative solitude on an island off Northumberland, Wesley Davies has just set off for London.

He is delivering a hide with character, which shelters wardens on the RSPB reserve of Coquet Island off Amble during 24-hour watches to guard against egg thieves.

The hide, which will be re-erected as part of a London festival, mimics the appearance of the lighthouse on Coquet Island.

It was made by award-winning blacksmith Stephen Lunn, from Red Row in Northumberland.

The 6ft by 6ft structure includes a metal wood-burning stove in the shape of a clam shell, also made by Stephen, who is a volunteer on the island.

It replaced a stove in the shape of a puffin, called the puffin puffin.

The disco ball in the hide roof
The disco ball in the hide roof
 

Since it was built in 2005, the hide has gathered eccentricities, such as a lighthouse top and a glass disco ball.

This reflects the light at dusk and dawn to signal the start and end of the overnight watching shifts.

An old paraffin lamp completes the decor.

The 24-hour watches during the seabird breeding season are necessary because the island is home to the only roseate tern colony in the UK.

The hide, which was erected after roseate eggs were stolen nine years ago, is taken down in the autumn and stored until next spring.

But for 11 days it will be a feature of the Migration Festival at The Forge arts and music venue in Camden in London.

One of the festival events will see 11 artists producing work on the theme of extinct birds.

Visitors will be invited to sit in the hide to observe the artists as they create in the Ghosts of Gone Birds event.

Wesley, assistant warden on Coquet Island, said: “What began life as a basic shelter has gradually developed its own unique character and evolved into a work of art. I think it will look very at home in the Forge.

A view of the lighthouse from inside the hide
A view of the lighthouse from inside the hide
 

“It’s a miniature version of the lighthouse and its character had grown.

“Going to London is a wonderful journey for the hide to go on. It is going to be fascinating for people in London to see it, and hopefully they will love it.”

Chris Aldhous, curator of Ghost of Gone Birds, said: ‘“The Live Art Studio at the Forge offers visitors the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in the Coquet Island experience, while watching the Ghosts artists in their natural habitat, breathing life back into Gone Birds.”

Charlotte Caird, artistic director of the Forge Venue, said: “The Camden Migration Festival is an exploration into the migration of birds and people through the arts, celebrating cultural expansion but also considering its environmental impact, particularly on bird extinction.

“The bird hide represents the positive impact that man can have on bird populations, as well as being an interesting and rather beautiful piece of furniture, full of weather-beaten stories and a real-life connection to migratory birds and those who choose to protect them.”

The hide’s journey from Coquet Island to Camden has been partly funded by Northumberland Tourism.

Earlier this year The Journal reported how the staff on Coquet Island had provided an electronic piano for puffins, which they “played” by jumping on the keys.

A film clip of the puffin players attracted 4,000 hits on YouTube.

It has been a good season for the breeding birds of Coquet Island. The 93 pairs of roseate terns was a 19% increase on last year.

Arctic terns with 1,464 pairs were also 19% up, and the common terns total of 1.196 pairs was an increase of almost 15%.

“It’s been a very good season, with good food supplies and weather, and no disturbance,” said Wesley.

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