HOLY ISLAND: A VISITOR’S GUIDE, by Ian Kerr. Published by the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership (www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org). £7.95. Softback.

IN his introduction, Ian Kerr – The Northumbrian’s expert ornithologist – asserts that Holy Island is one of the jewels of the Northumberland coast and one of the most popular, attracting up to 700,000 visitors annually.

Although famed for its saints and the Lindisfarne Gospels, evidence of much earlier ‘visitors’ are pieces of worked flint recovered around the old limestone quarry at Nessend dating back to the earliest days of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers around 8,500 BC.

The first known island map, made in 1611 by John Speed, showed features familiar today. The priory was depicted as the ‘abbey’, the village was rather grandly described as the ‘towne’, and the Market Place with its medieval cross was included.

The most spectacular religious ruin in Northumberland, Lindisfarne Priory, was established by the Benedictines who arrived around 1120, while Lindisfarne Castle only began life in the 16th century when the island was an important Tudor harbour.

The guide takes readers on walks to less busy parts of the island, including The Lough, which every winter is the scene of one of nature’s greatest spectacles, a huge roost of starlings; in some years up to 40,000 fly in at dusk. Other locations include Emmanuel Head, an area which was the scene of numerous shipwrecks, and the North Shore, where the remains of an 8th century Anglo-Saxon farming settlement have been excavated.

The author argues that the creation of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve in 1964 was the most important decision ever made to preserve one of the region’s most beautiful areas and to protect its wildlife.

Covering today more than 8,500 acres, the reserve stretches from Budle Bay northwards to Cheswick Black Rocks, and includes the rich tidal zones of mud, sand and saltmarsh, island dunes and Holy Island Lough. Today the reserve provides a winter home for around 50,000 Arctic wildfowl and waders, making it by far the most important wetland site in north-east England.

THE LIFEBOAT SERVICE IN ENGLAND: THE NORTH EAST COAST, STATION BY STATION, by Nicholas Leach. Published by Amberley Publishing (www.amberley-books.com). £17.99. Softback.

SOME of the oldest and most famous lifeboat stations can be found in the north-east of England. While the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was established in 1824, many lifeboats were operating on the north-east coast before the 1820s. It was on the Tyne that the first proper design of lifeboat originates – Henry Greathead’s ‘Original’ lifeboat built in 1789.

Today the volunteer lifeboat crews of England’s east cost operate high-tech state-of-the-art lifeboats saving lives at sea in and around some of the busiest sea lanes in the world.

The RNLI currently operates 16 lifeboat stations between Berwick and Skegness in Lincolnshire, and this comprehensive book has details of every one, with information about histories, rescues and current lifeboats. It also includes details and outline histories of old stations that have been closed.

Active lifeboat stations in Northumberland which are featured include Berwick (first opened in 1835), Seahouses (first opened in 1827), Craster, Amble, Newbiggin, Blyth, Cullercoats and Tynemouth.

Old stations now closed include Holy Island, Bamburgh, Boulmer, Alnmouth, Hauxley, Cresswell, Cambois, North Shields and South Shields.

Many dramatic, courageous and daring rescues have been performed by the lifeboat crews and these are brought to life in the historical introduction which traces the history and development of the lifeboat service in the region, looking at the early pioneers of lifesaving.

SAPLINGS AND SPADES: A WOODLAND RETURNS, by David Parkins. Published by Grosvenor House, available from Amazon and bookshops. £9.99. Softback. For a signed copy, contact the author (saplingsandspades@gmail.com): copies, priced £10, will be posted to UK addresses.

AS a young boy, the author witnessed bulldozers obliterating a forest to build a bypass. Decades later he resolved to replace those annihilated trees with another wood.

After taking early retirement from the police force due to a knee injury, David Parkins worked as a volunteer gardener at Wallington. This experience rekindled his love of trees and he resolved to replace those lost trees of his childhood by creating a new wood in Northumberland.

After a lengthy search for a suitable site that he could afford, he bought a 6½-acre field on Gorfenletch Farm north of Morpeth, and over the next decade acquired a further three acres of adjoining land. He soon discovered that there was vastly more to woodland establishment than just planting saplings.

Firstly he mapped out the streams, culverts and ponds vital to drainage of the site, which had originally been a pine plantation before being cleared to create pasture, and used an old shipping container as a works cabin and tool store.

After failing to qualify for a Forestry Commission woodland establishment grant, he ploughed his own money into buying saplings, stakes and deer protection shelters. His initial plan was to plant 1,200 trees per acre every year for six years. Between 2002 and 2016 he planted over double that number of trees and spent eight years replacing sapling casualties from assorted causes, including damage to 400 saplings which had bark gnawed by a vole ‘plague’, ash die-back and oak fungus. But David was undeterred, claiming: “I am stoical in the face of tree diseases”.

His self-admitted ‘madcap notion’ was a mixture of triumphs and disasters. In total more than 20 tree species were successfully raised – some to be sold when mature as saw logs, others planted for their contribution to wildlife sustainability. His tree-planting skills improved year by year and now the wood, containing hedgerows, wildflower meadows and three restored ponds, attracts a variety of wildlife including barn owls, herons, oystercatchers, ducks, geese and roe deer.

Illustrated with aerial photographs, this is a must-read book for those wanting – or wondering what it is like – to plant a new wood of their own.