Saturday, 7 February 2015

Thank you Seahouses

Glad Tidings One legends; Bobby (left) and the late Billy (right)

Archie and Ian

William with his son Oliver

Lads working hard; (from left to right) Micky, Craig and James

John 'Findus' 

Peter and Adam

Happy times; Bobby, Steely and Billy

The late Billy Shiel
Saturday 7th February comments: As I continue to say goodbye to the Farne Islands, I’m reflecting on the 14 years I have spent living and breathing ‘Planet Farnes’. During that period many people have helped and supported myself and the teams and this is the start of the many thanks I owe to the people involved.

Seahouses is the gateway to the Farne Island and for me it’s the people of the village which make it. Without the close friendship and loyalty of the boatmen, the job would not have been the same. In there own unique way, they made me feel part of community as I got to know the lads and their families very well over the years.

The boatmen have been the real stars of the show as they have educated and showed me the ‘ways of the sea’ whilst helping in many ways from lifts in rough seas to bringing out post and water when needed most.   

The Glad Tidings fleet, run by the late Billy Shiel and then his son William have been supportive over the years and it was his crews which made life on the islands that bit more enjoyable. Whether it was Bobby talking footy (he still remains a hardened Newcastle United fan despite my best efforts to convert) or the late Billy chatting about his latest camera woes, it was all good crack. Craig (GT6 skipper) and Micky (GT 7 skipper) have been there with me throughout the 14 years and I’ve enjoyed the banter throughout and we’ve had a good few Wardens vs Boatmen footy matches over the years.

Archie the ‘grumpiest’ well loved boatmen of them all is a real character of the village whilst his son Ian skippered Glad Tidings 4 with great crewman Martin. Others to mention include Robert (St.Cuthberts Skipper) with his top class commentary, Andy (Serenity Skipper) with all his wildlife sightings and enthusiasm and George (Golden Gate Skipper) who attended the lighthouses on behalf of Trinity House.
Other thanks go to Marta in the harbour booking offices, Gloria, Jade and Keith in the National Trust shop, all the girls at the Co-op, the guys at the Fruit and Veg shop, the good crack at the The Ship (and to the wonderful Jane who works there) and the Bamburgh Inn. I can’t mention Seahouses without their fish and chip shops or all the others who have offered friendship over the years from the RNLI team to the local fisherman. I thank each and every one of you.

It’s been a great pleasure to know all these people and many more and I thank you all. I’ll not be a stranger to the place as I hope to extend my friendships for many more years to come. Seahouses thank you for being a part of the Farne Islands success story and thank you for letting me be a part of you.   

Next stop ….time to thank the rangers over the last 14 years!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Twitter Storm

Friday 6th february comments: Yesterday I broke the news that I was leaving the Farne Island after 14 years and I was overwhelmed by the support and kind words which were sent over the course of the day. Thank you to everyone who sent messages and with over 190 direct messages received on twitter alone, here is a flavour of them:

Garry McWilliams: absolute legend, enthusiasm, exuberance, energy, a great legacy though, best of luck David, cheers

Stef McElwee: So the irrepressible Steely is calling it a day after 14 years. A man who opened the fab Farnes to many. Miss you mate #Farnes legend
Aletta: oh my goodness has the NT fallen? You leaving the Farnes is like the Ravens leaving the Tower of London!

Northumberland Coast AONB: Best of luck David, you will be greatly missed by everyone associated with wildlife and tourism on the Northumberland coast

Robson Green: End of an era! Wishing TV star and all-round great bloke David Steel the best of luck with his new island adventures

Tales From Northumberland: Great memories of our Farnes odyssey in 2013 “I couldn’t think of a better place to get a bad night’s sleep!”

John Aitchison: It’s the end of an era: after 14 years David Steel is leaving the Farne Islands. Few have done so much. Thank you.

Mike Dilger: We salute you Steely! Bon voyage and see you on the May #island legend

Laura Shearer: Today's support for @NTsteely shows how important he has been for @nationaltrust the Farnes and local businesses. Huge loss for the region!

Richard Taylor-Jones: Some of the most memorable TV has been down to Steely, respect. See you on the next lump of rock

Danny Savage: I hope your replacement is as good at PR as you. The place wont be the same without you! Good luck

Victoria Gill: All the very very best David. Well done on the wonderful work over the years. Must be an emotional time.

North Northumberland: Thanks for all you’ve done on this coast over many years. Always been a great ambassador. You’re a loss to tourism and wildlife

Andrew Durham: Best of luck on the Isle of May mate. Working with you over the years has been a genuine pleasure. All the Glad Tidings crews will miss you.

Dean Wilkinson: On behalf of @HeartofNland many thanks for all your hard work which has helped boost tourism across our region.

Samanthha Bell: ‏What the HELL!? You're leaving?! NO! Who authorised this...?!

Doddington Dairy: Sending you our best wishes for your new job! You have represented the region so well, & will be missed!

Cottages In Northumberland: we wish you all the best in your new job. You will be a big miss on the Farne Islands

Bevan: Good luck with your new adventure the Farnes loss is the Isle of Mays gain Thanks for making the Farnes a welcoming place to visit

Julie Aiston: not liking what I'm reading tonight. You'll be a great miss in Seahouses and on the Farnes. Good luck in your new post.

Hail to the King: you've done a hell of a job there both conservation wise and in raising the profile of the Farnes and the NT!

Carolyn Todd: Isle of May has seriously lucked out! Hope you'll Tweet from up there. As for the Farnes, your successor has very big boots to fill.

J Cook: ‏You let Mr Steel leave the Farne Islands? But who will take care of all the birds and seals??

Alan Tilmouth: Nooooo, that's like salt without vinegar or Morecambe and no Wise

Save Druridge: All the people from @SaveDruridge would like to wish Mr Steel all the best in his new role in #Scotland GoodLuck! #YOU WILL BE MISSED

Ben Burville: Gentleman, leader & my buddy @NTsteely A sad loss for @nationaltrust but a great gain for Scottish Natural Heritage

Teresa Weatherall: ‏Good luck in your new role. You are a legend and leave a fantastic legacy on The Farnes. Gone but not forgotten

Jo Horsley: hope you still tweet & blog, you have really brought the #Farnes to life for me & many others #goodluck

Jamie coleman: ‏Very sad news, you should be proud of everything you've achieved on the Farnes

St.Cuthburts House: We join those in thanking you for all you’ve done on the coast and wishing you well in the next chapter. Come back often…

Carole Ratcliffe: sorry to hear you are leaving the Farnes after 14 years. You have done a brilliant job. Wishing you well in your new venture

Liz Fenn: His name is synonymous with the Farne Islands, never think of one without the other. Good luck on May!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Goodbye Planet Farnes

After fourteen years living and working on the wonderful Farne Islands National Nature Reserve, its time to say goodbye.

The Farne Islands are an incredible place; arguably the best seabird reserve in the UK not just for the sights, sounds and smells but also the intensity of the place with so much wildlife crammed into one small area. Over 85,000 pairs of birds, 6,000 Grey Seals and a lot more besides share those 18 islands totalling only 80 acres and don’t I know it!

I feel I’ve achieved a lot on the Farnes ensuring it remains an important national nature reserve for some of Britain’s rarest wildlife whilst also making it a great place to visit and work. In my time I’ve raised the islands profile, improved living conditions tremendously and improved the day-to-day job immeasurably, something which I am very proud of.

However my own and the Farnes success could not have been achieved without the teams who supported me over the years; from the wardens and rangers on the islands to my wider colleagues in the National Trust, not forgetting the local community and all those others who have been involved over the course of time.

It has been a truly remarkable fourteen years, each one as different as the last and it is a life experience I will never forget. Living and working on the Farne Islands has been a privilege and I have worked and lived with some fantastic people during that time. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I salute you Planet Farnes.

However it’s not over yet as I’ll be bringing you lots of highlights and photographs from those years on the blog over the next few days…you have been warned.

And on a final note, it’s not all sad news…could I really live without an island or Puffins to work with? Of course not! I’m moving up the coast to the ‘Jewel of the Forth’; the impressive Isle of May to become the islands new Reserve Manager which boasts even more Puffins and Seals than the Farnes so I’m not finished yet.

Bring on the Puffins.

David Steel, Farne Islands 2001-2014

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Its been a slow start to the New Year although over the next week or two I'll be bringing you all the highlights from the 2014 Farnes season (just to get you in the mood for 2015!). There is plenty to tell so watch this space....

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick word to wish everyone a very.....


....and hope everyone enjoys the festive period. Thank-you to all those who read, follow and comment on the blog; you inspire us to write as we know it brings a little bit of the Farnes magic to all those who read it.

Best wishes from me and all the Farnes team! Merry Christmas

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Seal season!

Bye bye Farnes team

Second coat pup

Staple Island colony now the biggest

Brownsman seal family

Mating season!

And fighting season.

Thursday 11th December comments: The dust has settled and we are off the islands! The team made a successful escape last Saturday and celebrated another successful season on Planet Farnes. However more of that to follow…

Back to the islands and we said goodbye to the Grey Seal colonies of the islands for one last time. It’s been a very productive autumn with an even more impressive total as the islands boasted 1,651 seal pups; the highest pup total since 1971! However it’s not just the Farnes as other east coast seal colonies are reporting record numbers as Blakeney Point (Norfolk) have a staggering 2,126 pups and Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) have 1,760 pups.

Interestingly there has been a huge shift in recent years in the Farne colonies as Staple Island has become ‘number one’ nursery whilst Brownsman claimed second spot this year for the first in the modern era. The top island pup totals include;

Staple Island 492
Brownsman 408
South Wamses 389
North Wamses 227
West Wideopens 51
Northern Hares 39
Knoxes Reef 32

Over the next few weeks I’ll be bringing you a round-up of the season, from seabirds to escaping the island and much, much more so keep checking the blog!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Tis the Seal-son to be Jolly!

Reflecting on seals

Young pup on the Farne Islands

'Second coat' pup

The important seal kit!

Colonies looking empty

Wednesday 3rd December comments: Another day and another count. We’ve been on the Seal colonies again today across the Farne Islands and some big news! Staple Island has maintained itself as the number one colony but for the first time in several decades, Brownsman has now become the second largest Grey Seal colony on the Farnes.

Staple Island now boasts 489 pups whilst adjacent Brownsman has 398 pups. Overall the Farnes total has reached 1,625 pups and that’s already fifty above last years total and we’re not finished.

Its now back to the packing as we enter the final few days on the Farnes and plenty still to do…