Ghost of Lindisfarne
Hunting of Lindisfarne mudflats

The haunting of Lindisfarne mudflats

Speak to any wildfowler and they all have a favourite memory, but if you dig a little deeper, there could be another experience, one which they are a little less inclined to discuss, says BASC’s Lindisfarne warden, Shaun McWilliams.

Out of your comfort zone

Wildfowling is a sport that takes us out of our comfort zones. To be successful, you must be prepared to place yourself in cold, damp, and muddy conditions. You’ll be out and about before dawn, and walking off the marsh after dusk, in all weather conditions imaginable. But most of all, you must always respect the tides.

It is a sport where nature is always in control, and a successful outcome is never certain. Some would say that “it’s not for the faint-hearted”! However, the rewards are well worth the effort; spectacular sunrises and sunsets, the glimpse of a first star, the calls of waders and wildfowl far off, heard against the roar of surf or wind. All your senses are alert for the chance of a shot, should you be in the right place at the right time! 

Lindisfarne mudflats

Incredible tales to share

Wildfowlers have many stories worth sharing. It may be of that one flight when all the planning and preparation came together, or that time when the sky was full of geese, their calls filling the air as they gathered in their skeins and hoist themselves off the flats climbing high and away over the seawall. It’s a truly magical moment to witness. 

However, there are other stories they’ll be far less eager to share. It could be a strange feeling of not being alone on the marsh, a peculiar sixth sense as they walked off in the half light, stopping to look over their shoulder because they thought they heard someone coming off behind them. Some wildfowlers would swear they even heard a voice in the distance, in a place where they are sure no one was. 

I would normally just laugh this off, give myself a good talking to and continue walking off the marsh, albeit a little quicker! That was until I had an experience which I still find hard to explain even to this day…

Haunting of Lindisfarne mudflats

A real goosebumps experience

I don’t share this story of the haunting of Lindisfarne mudflats often but now seems like a good time. I’m quite a reasoned person with a scientific background but I struggle to explain the events of an incident that I have experienced.

Some years ago, I was wildfowling far out on the mud flats of Lindisfarne waiting for a November full moon to rise. It was a cold evening with a light blanket of high cloud when I set off, but once I got settled in my chosen location, a heavy sea fret (fog) came quickly in and reduced visibility to a few yards. 

Not wanting to take any chances, I decide to walk off the muds and head back to the car. I had with me my trustworthy spaniel, a grand little dog, who loved being out on the muds, and walked back the way we had come. 

The haunting of Lindisfarne mudflats

I was confident of where I was going, but I also had a small compass in my kit that I used to take a bearing, so I knew where to go in such a situation. However, as we walked on, I heard what I thought was a shout, the dog also stopped and looked in the direction of the call. Visibility was very poor but as we listened I was sure the shout came again. Thinking someone was lost in the fog, I called back and changed direction to walk where I thought I had heard the call come from. 

Walking and calling for a few minutes, I saw someone in the far distance with their right hand raised high above their head. When my spaniel ran towards the figure, I called out but the figure was lost again in the swirling mist. Walking on through patchy fog and calling the dog, who unusually would not come back, the figure kept mysteriously appearing and disappearing. No matter how fast I walked, I could not close the gap or get any closer. I was now also getting thoroughly frustrated with the dog as he would not come back to me and kept searching for the figure in the distance. 

Lost in the fog

I was worried that I had lost my location, a scary situation on any tidal mudflats. But just then I heard a car to my left and then definitely saw car headlights, I knew I was safely back at the causeway. I watched the car headlights to fix my location and then the spaniel was back at my feet. 

Turning to my right, I saw the figure again, his hand was still raised high as if in a wave. I shouted to say that I had found the causeway, I reached down to put the dog on the lead, and when I looked back… the figure was gone. I decided to wait a little longer and shouted for a short while but never heard or saw anything or anyone again.

Haunting of Lindisfarne mudflats

A close call

As I got back to the car and checked my kit, I realised then that the compass glass was cracked and the needle fixed in a single direction, had I followed my initial compass bearing I would have walked off in the wrong direction in thick fog. This spooked me!

I’m not sure who or what the apparition was, but I knew that without following it, I may have been lost in the mudflats.

On my way home I checked in with the local police who told me no one was missing but they would check anyway. Nothing unusual was ever reported… 

So here it is, my story of the haunting of Lindisfarne mudflats.