Lime from Lindisfarne
Inspired by Alistair Sinton presenting to our monthly meeting his intriguingly entitled talk
'Last Train to Lindisfarne'
our Industrial History group set about arranging a trip to find the site of the old railway and lime kilns on Holy Island.
The best day for the tides, and the windy rain forecast put off all but three of us, but what a reward! The weather improved while we had our coffee, safely warm in soft sofas of the Barn at Beal before the glistening road was far enough above the receding water for us to make the crossing.
Mr Sinton had explained that limestone was brought from the quarry at the north of the island along a curving track down to where the coal was landed beside the lime kilns. The lime they produced was shipped off some wooden staithes in the protected southern harbour.
Trudging along the curving path of the old rail track, looking for the place where the limestone was taken from the cliffs, we were completely distracted from our quest by a bright wedge of shimmering natural colours up a slight rise behind sturdy stone walls.
We had forgotten about this evidence of a completely different type of industry on the island -of the design and implementation of Gertrude Jekyll's garden.
So much time spent here, marvelling at the simplicity of her blocks of interwoven colours, and the rain beginning again, decided us to abandon following the railway, and head back down towards the Castle and the lime kilns.
National Trust posters helped us to follow what functions the structures used to perform and gave us an idea of the successful extent of the development in the 1860s of an old island industry.
Six huge brick-lined holes, POTs, built by a Dundee firm, showed where the feeder areas of the kilns had been, to drop a thin layer of coal, followed by a thicker layer of limestone, and so on, filling up the kiln.
Each kiln had a DRAW ARCH and at the bottom of each kiln an EYE, where the burnt lime was scraped out, and taken down to the staithes to be shipped to Dundee.
Hunger set in with more rain, so after investigating a recorded musical exhibition tracing the strata of Northumberland, hearing a live piper lamenting (the weather probably) and catching a glimpse of several heads of some curious grey seals in the bay, we called it a day and headed back to our coffee positions, this time to sup a most welcome and warming pea and mint soup on the mainland.
Thank you Alistair Sinton for sparking our interest and thank you Jim Benton, boss of the Industrial History group, for arranging the trip.
Maybe a repeat jaunt in the warmth of a spring day next year will be taken up by more of the group!