Work is taking place to give a new lease of life to the old Coastguard Lookout Tower on Holy Island in Northumberland and create a stunning new ‘room with a view’ for Lindisfarne.
The Lookout Tower, a familiar landmark perched above Holy Island village on an outcrop of volcanic rock known as the Heugh, was built for use by the coastguard in the 1940s but has been disused for many years. Now the Holy Island of Lindisfarne Community Development Trust (HILCDT) is working with Natural England to transform the building into a new observation point that can be used by the local community and visitors to the Holy Island.
Work to be carried out on the Tower includes a complete makeover of the interior of the building to make it weatherproof and bring it up to modern safety standards. The ladder between the ground floor and the first-floor gallery will be replaced by a staircase to provide easier access. The most noticeable alteration will be to the top tier of the Tower, where the dilapidated coastguard lookout room is to be turned into a fully glazed 360 degree observatory that will give people a unique view of the Island and its surroundings.
From its position on top of the heugh, the Lookout Tower’s ‘glass-room’ should not only provide a stunning panorama of Holy Island itself but also a vantage point to see as far afield as The Farne Islands, the Cheviot Hills and the Berwickshire coast. For the first time it will also be possible for people on the Island to get a bird’s eye view of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR).
The Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve covers more than 3,500 ha (36 km2) of sand dunes, coastal grassland, saltmarsh and tidal mudflats along the Northumberland coast from Cheswick Black Rocks to Budle Point and is managed by Natural England. The area is important throughout the year for its rare plants and birdlife but many visitors are unaware that Holy Island is at the heart of an internationally significant wildlife site.
The restoration and refurbishment of the Tower to provide a prominent viewpoint will offer a new view across the entire NNR, and with new interpretation, the building will also inform people and encourage them to discover the accessible areas of the reserve.
A second project due to start soon will create another ‘Window on Wild Lindisfarne’ with the Island’s Community Development Trust working with Natural England to provide a high quality viewing area and environmental education point overlooking the Rocket Field.
The Rocket Field, adjacent to Harbour Road between the village and Lindisfarne Castle, is noted for its variety of wildlife all year round and particularly in autumn and winter when large numbers of wildfowl and waders use the flooded fields. A sympathetically designed building of natural stone with a living turf roof that will merge with the surrounding landscape is planned for the site. It will be a small-scale and multi-use building appropriate to the island that can be used by visitors and the local community.
The work at the Lookout Tower and the Rocket Field is being managed by The Holy Island of Lindisfarne Community Development Trust with funding through a Natural England Environmental Stewardship agreement.
The two sites are closely associated in the history of Holy Island and local people remember that, as youngsters, they were sometimes asked to run from the Lookout Tower to the Rocket House to raise the alarm to prepare the rockets that would launch a breeches buoy to a stricken vessel.
Dick Patterson, an Island resident and now Chair of HILCDT, can recall running messages between the two sites. He said: “As a lad, I well remember sprinting between the Lookout Tower and the Rocket House to raise the alarm after the coastguard had spotted a ship in trouble. I’m delighted that Trust is now leading on exciting projects at both sites that will benefit local people and visitors. The Trust sees it as an excellent chance to safeguard an important part of the Island’s history and also a great opportunity to open the eyes of visitors to the wonderful natural environment here. We’re grateful to Natural England for their support in funding this work and delighted to be working alongside them to highlight their role as managers and custodians of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.”
Adrian Vass, Natural England Area Manager, added: “Its extraordinary history and unique setting makes Holy Island a very special place. It is home for the islanders who live there, a popular destination for visitors, and internationally important for wildlife throughout the year. Natural England is delighted to be helping the Community Development Trust to carry out these two exciting projects on the Island. We hope they will benefit the local community and visitors alike by providing facilities for the community to use and a window for visitors into the wilder side of Lindisfarne.”
Work at the Rocket Field is due to start this spring and both projects are expected to be completed by September this year. DP Builders Ltd of Amble in Northumberland has been appointed by HILCDT to undertake the work.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a unique natural asset and is internationally important for its impressive biodiversity, which has afforded it the highest levels of conservation protection, including Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site status.
Read more about Holy Island and the coast.