Save the Stripes Beachy Head Lighthouse Adventure

Thursday 26th September 2013

What an amazing day!

Beachy Head Lighthouse at nightThe Beachy Head Lighthouse was automated on the 28th June 1983 which means that people haven’t stayed on the lighthouse for over 30 years – until now that is. The crew working on the lighthouse are staying on the lighthouse and sleeping in the same bunks that the keepers slept in all those years ago. I felt this was so symbolic that I took some long exposure photos of the lighthouse. I think they’ve come out really well.

The adventure begins.

Beachy Head LighthouseThis morning I set off at 7:10 to get to Birling Gap for 7:30. The plan was to walk underneath the cliffs so that I could see the great work of the Sussex Blast Cleaning team close-up.

Its very important to check the tide tables otherwise you could get cut off by tide, but being well prepared and well planned, with low tide at 10:10 I had enough time to get to the lighthouse and ensure I had enough time to take photos.

Beachy Head LighthouseThere have been a few cliff falls, one in particular on Birling Gap beach. This is why you shouldn’t sit under the cliffs and always walk as far out from the cliffs as you can as you just never know when that next fall is going to happen.

There are two other significant falls, one before Belle Tout and one after. It takes extra time to get around these and I could finally see the lighthouse in the distance after about 50 minutes.

Beachy Head Lighthouse if humans still exist send beerIt was a little misty and a little overcast although the weather wasn’t looking too bad initially. However, by the time I go to the lighthouse, the cloud had come over  a little thicker so I couldn’t get great photos unfortunately.

It took just under two hours to reach the lighthouse due to the terrain.

The abseiling painters had made their own mark on the lighthouse with comical graffiti written in primer. The initials RP, a happy face and the message ‘If any humans still exist send beer’.

Beachy Head Lighthouse Falling SandsUnfortunately there was very little activity at the lighthouse while I was there but it was really great to see the ‘old girl’ close up and with the saving of the stripes well and truly under way. I still find it quite awe inspiring at how big the lighthouse is up close. Its 141 feet (43m) tall.

I continued walking East and it wasn’t too long before I reached Falling Sands. Its name comes from the fact that sand is blown up on to the cliff and when its quiet you can hear a feint rushing sound which is the sand falling from the face of the cliff.

UK Power Networks power problems on the Beachy Head LighthouseWith my last glimpse of the Beachy Head Lighthouse in the distance, I walked around the corner to Cow Gap to get up onto the cliffs and then up to the top of Beachy Head.

Once at the top I could get some other great views of the lighthouse. At the top, near the cables that run down to the lighthouse from the top of the cliff were some UK Power Network vehicles. It turns out that they had had some electrical problems on the lighthouse. Perhaps this is why there had been such little activity when I was there earlier?

Beachy Head LighthouseWith the cloud beginning to break and the sun poking through the light was starting to get a little better. Great views down onto the patchwork lighthouse with the crew already showing signs of further activity. Including one crew member continuing to work on the front door frame.

Then an opportunity presented itself. I got in my car and headed to Newhaven where I was going to catch a boat to get out to the lighthouse and get another close-up view, this time from the sea.

Beachy Head Lighthouse lantern first coat of paintThe water was choppy coming out of Newhaven marina but it made for an exciting ride and even better still the clouds continued to break.

It was quicker getting to Beachy Head by sea that it is by car and it wasn’t long until we reached the lighthouse with the crew busy at work.

The lantern room has had its first coat of red paint. A dramatic contrast to what it looked like a few days earlier with paint stripped off and the rust treated.

Abseiling painter at the Beachy Head Lighthouse painting the stripesThere was one abseiler painting on the south and another on the north side. It was really exciting to see the fresh stripes starting to make an appearance. The guys certainly seem to be great fun and also hard workers.

All in all today was an amazing day, one that I will always remember. Thank you to the people who helped make that happen.

All photos link to Flickr where there are more shots of my great adventure.