I was really sad to see in the news yesterday that the lighthouse at Orford Ness in Suffolk has had to be demolished because of coastal erosion.
You can’t beat the sight of a lighthouse towering up out of the landscape – especially the red and white striped ones which are so iconic and photogenic. We have our own here in Norfolk at Happisburgh which I have taken many pictures of – both on family visits and for photo shoots.
Orford Ness is a pretty special place and is now a nature reserve owned by the National Trust. It is wild and beautiful and has a very diverse and interesting history. During the first world war large parts of it were acquired by the then War Department for use as airfields and from then on it had a long history of being used for a range of military purposes – from ballistics and rocket testing to the development of nuclear weapons during the cold war, to the disposal of munitions during the 80s.
In 1993 the site was sold by the MOD to the National Trust. By then the importance of the landscape and the diverse wildlife it supported were becoming apparent, in particular the internationally rare and extremely fragile coastal vegetated shingle. Since then the Trust has protected the site’s natural and historic features.
Seeing the story in the press I was prompted to look back on some photos taken when we visited Orford Ness as a family back in 2006. It was one of those lovely summer holiday outings when the kids were small and the sun shone for us! We were all taken in by the wild and breathtaking beauty of the site and also intrigued by the very bleak remnants of the stark MOD buildings. I have since learned today that when we were there the light house was still working – not having been finally decommissioned until 2013. Even though the “Old Lady”, as she was known in her twilight years, is now just a pile of rubble, Orford Ness Lighthouse Trust (OLT) hopes to recreate the top third of the 1792 structure as a permanent tribute built at a safe distance from the sea.
You can find out more on this story here on the BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-53735247