|John Walton (right hand side)|
At 11.45 on Tuesday 27th March 1979 I set sail for the Farnes, aboard a ‘Glad Tidings’, for my first stint as a seasonal warden. My intention was to get a couple of years experience and see where it led – 35 years later and I’m still here! Then, as now, the weather ruled our lives as I should have sailed on the 26th…………………..
|Meal time for the team of 1979 on Inner Farne|
|John Walton sitting down (on right hand side)|
I had abandoned an eight year career with Lloyds Bank for £25/week, no running water, no electricity, limited communication with the outside world, and an uncertain future – and I loved every minute of it. Island living is the ultimate Marmite experience, love it or hate it - boy, was I in the former camp! Five seasons passed in a flash and in 1983 I said my farewells. Contracts on Brownsea Island, Sandwich Bay, two seasons with the RSPB on Stone Curlew research – and still the Farnes, as I came back each autumn to manage the seal team. Blakeney Point in 1988 was my final contract – as the Bible should have said ‘Man cannot live on contract salary alone’. A full time job as a Ranger on Cannock Chase was my choice and that, I thought, was that.
Two years into the job an envelope arrived through the post from a Farnes team-mate of the 1982/83 seasons. In it was a single sheet of paper: the National Trust internal job sheet, and ringed in red felt-tip ‘Head Warden, Farne Islands’. To save his blushes I won’t reveal the sender’s name – but he changed my life.
Maureen and I came up to Seahouses in October 1990 and I started as Head Warden, then promoted to Property Manager. I added the 12 miles of Trust-owned Northumberland coast a few years later and, for one year only, ‘baby-sat’ Lindisfarne Castle. A couple of years ago I moved away from the ‘business’ side of things back into conservation as the Coastal & Marine Officer – those who know me will appreciate my first-love is/was/always will be the Islands, coastline, and seas (oh – and Maureen!)
|Maureen, without whom………………|
Highlights: seen some great birds/missed some great birds – don’t mention the Aleutian Tern of 1979! Brilliant cetacean sightings – yes, the Killer Whales were genuine. Being hospitalised by an angry cow seal – I could go on. But the one thing that has really made my life fun have been the teams of people it’s been my pleasure to work with – all memorable in their own inimitable way. Islands attract ‘characters’ and, believe me, the Farnes has had its fair share. No names, no pack drill – you know who you are! You all made my job the brilliant experience it’s been – even the instigators of the ‘Great 1992 Lifeboat Fiasco’ (don’t ask!). Thanks for the memories.
|Happy the Man.........|
Oh, and 14 years ago, I appointed a fresh-faced, dark-haired, youngster called David Steel – I always wondered what became of him?