Coquet Island RSPB reserve
Lying approximately 1 mile (0.8km) from the mouth of the River Coquet at Amble, lies a small flat-topped island measuring around 16 acres surrounded by low sand stone cliffs and a broad rock platform at tide level. Coquet Island was purchased as Cockett Island in 1753 by the Duke of Northumberland from a certain John Widdrington together with ' all that Chappell within the said island being formerly parcel of the lords and possessions of the late dissolved monastery of Tynemouth'. History of the island goes back to Saxon times, being the dawn of Christianity in Northern England. Bede speaks of 'the Eland of Cockett' as home to monks during the conversion of Northumbrians from barbarism to the light of faith.
By 1730 it was said to be 'uninhabited' but in 1747 it had huts occupied by diggers of seacoal. Later stone was quarried for repairs to the Duke of Northumberland's Syon House in Brentford. In 1823 a book of lithographs by Charlotte Florentia, third duchess of Northumberland, described the island as 'containing about sixteen acres of land occupied chiefly as a rabbit warren although it is occasionally depastured by sheep'. By the late 1800's the island became a popular resort for day trips, not only from the mainland but from steamboat trips which landed crowds from Tyneside. As this became unfashionable the island once again was to fall deserted apart from the lighthouse crew. By the middle of the Twentieth century keen naturalists could obtain visiting permits from the Duke's office or the Natural history society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. However it soon became apparent that because of disturbance from the ever increasing use of small boats Coquet Island was in desperate need of protection. Accordingly in 1968 negotiations were started with various conservation bodies, culminating in the RSPB being granted a lease and it is now a protected bird reserve designated an SSSI.
The peaty soil of the plateau gives support to a grassland dominated by Yorkshire-fug and Fescues, which is closely cropped by the island's rabbit population. Grazing resistant plants such as common Ragwort and various species of Dock are plentiful giving cover to the many thousands of ground nesting birds and although maritime plants such as Thrift and Sea Campion have all but disappeared, there are dense stands of Nettle providing the birds with additional cover. Seals can be viewed on the northern side of the island.
Coquet Island presently supports internationally important numbers of breeding Sandwich Tern and the rarer Roseate Tern, with nationally important numbers of breeding Eider, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern and Puffin. Although no landings are allowed on the island, the boat trip that circumnavigates during late spring and summer is well worthwhile. Approaching from the river mouth on a glorious summer's day soon reveals the island under a ' snowstorm' of gulls and terns and should not be missed. If however you do not get the chance of a visit, the waters between the mainland and the island can be viewed from the dunes on the minor road between Amble and Hauxley.
There is no public access or landing on Coquet Island because of the risk of disturbance to nesting birds, but boat trips sail from Amble harbour around the island.Contact David Gray 'Puffin Cruises' on 01665 711975
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