by John | May 6, 2016 |

Last Light: Final Summer of Orfordness Lighthouse Visits


Since 1792 Orfordness Lighthouse has stood on the Suffolk coast, vermilion and white striped, watching over and guiding ships and fishing boats to safety with its beacon of golden light. Seen from miles around, it is one of the most iconic buildings in this region’s AONB (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Sketched by J. M. W. Turner, silent witness of secret military testing, home to many keepers and their families, nature now has advanced too far and is no longer match for our sentinel of the sea. The Orfordness Lighthouse Trust has announced this summer the final season in which the lighthouse will be open to visitors.


"The function of a lighthouse, of course, is to offer safe passage through hazardous or treacherous waters, and highlights man’s limited ability to control or master the seas"  (Jaques, 2015, 163)

The lighthouse stands on Orford Ness, a "rare natural phenomenon", 12 miles in length, Europe’s longest vegetated shingle spit, that, over the past 10,000 years, has been pulled and tugged about. Robert Macfarlane labels the Ness a "dynamic structure": "Created and shaped by tide, current, shore-drift and weather, it is in continual slow migration, forming and reforming over time". Coupled with coastal erosion, the lighthouse has forever been edging all the closer to the sea. The Trust put sea defences in place in 2014 and 2015, but in January this year, due to this winter’s particularly wild storms, were damaged. £10k was raised and extra defences were put in, but unable to stall the shifting shingle: the lighthouse now stands on its own promontory, with the beach line to the north and south now inland of the structure.

The Trust is now investigating means of extracting and preserving part of the lighthouse, and is hopeful that funds may be raised to reassemble it on another part of the Ness or elsewhere on the Suffolk coast. In the meantime, summer dates have been announced to visit the lighthouse in its entirety:

Sunday 22th May

Sunday 26th June

Sunday 24th July

Sunday 7th August

Sunday 21st August

Sunday 4th September

Sunday 2nd October

Boats will depart Orford Quay for the Orford Ness landing stage at 1:30 pm and return at 4:00 pm. Please email to reserve a place and visit the Trust website for full visit details.

Make a weekend of it and stay in Orford with Suffolk Cottage Holidays.

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