New routes in Norfolk

Following a day visiting the lights of Suffolk on Sunday, it’s was Norfolk’s turn yesterday. It’s another area I’ve been to a few times but covered very few of them in detail on here.

Gorleston-on-Sea was first up and I was happy to return to this one. On my 2012 tour I was in the habit of parking in any old car park and then walking to the lighthouse rather than parking as close as I could to it. That meant I spent a little longer wandering the streets of Gorleston that time.

Gorleston lighthouse

This time I spent a little more time seeking different angles and approaches rather than just close-ups of the tower. This theme continued for much of the day, but more on that later. I made a point of walking around the back of the tower this time and then strolling out along the pier, noticing the beach on the other side, which I’d not realised was there before.

Gorleston lighthouse from behind

Joe the Drone had a bit of a fly around and captured some excellent pictures as usual.

Gorleston lighthouse with the beach in the distance
Gorleston harbour from above

Northwards we went to Winterton-on-Sea. Last time I was there I got the feeling that visitors weren’t massively welcome with lots of private road signs in the area. So I then settled for a view above the houses in nearby roads. This time though we went for a different approach, this time from the beach and sand dunes. 

Winterton-on-Sea lighthouse across the dunes

I’m glad we did as it’s a much more enjoyable approach. While Bob flew Joe about over me like I was in some sort of action film, I wandered as close as I could get to the lighthouse, which wasn’t that close, but I found some higher ground and got some nice views from there.

Winterton lighthouse from the coast

Joe had got some great views too.

Winterton lighthouse from above, looking north
Winterton lighthouse from above, looking south
Winterton lighthouse from the east

Bob then suggested we try approaching from the nearby holiday camp area so we set off back over the dunes. This turned out to be a good idea as, although we still couldn’t get close enough to touch the lighthouse we got much closer than I’d been before. So I was happy with that – and it was nice to see the tower behind the coloured little houses too! Winterton lighthouse is actually available as a holiday let and Lighthouse Accommodation can provide more details about this.

Winterton lighthouse from the neighbouring holiday accommodation

On the subject of Lighthouse Accommodation, which is written and compiled by my lovely friend Joy, our next stop was Happisburgh lighthouse where Joy is a very active volunteer. As we arrived at the lighthouse the clouds cleared and blue sky and sunshine came out. It’s always been nice weather when I’ve visited Happisburgh. 

Happisburgh lighthouse
Approaching Happisburgh lighthouse

It was also nice and calm there today so the walk along the track to the lighthouse was very enjoyable as was the stroll around the wall. The lighthouse is currently closed because of the pandemic, but I would highly recommend going there once it opens again. It’s such a special place and you can see why the community work so hard to keep it running.

Happisburgh lighthouse from the entrance
Happisburgh lighthouse from the east

One more stop of the day and that was Cromer. The lighthouse here is at the end of a private road and the cottages here are let out by Rural Retreats. On other occasions we may have been tempted to drive up the road, but with Bob wanting to be there long enough to fly the drone I suggested we take the coastal route by walking from the town centre. It’s a great walk, although initially we weaved our way through the people in the town to ensure we kept our distance. Once we started walking along the promenade it was a bit easier and the views opened up. We reached the row of beach huts and Bob, who was in his usual position in front of me, spotted the steps leading up the cliff.

The sign that marks the start of the steps

I knew there would be quite a few steps and they were pretty tiring, but thankfully they changed direction enough to keep them a bit more interesting. Once at the top we took a left turn and followed the various paths along the coast. It wasn’t long before the lighthouse came into view, which is always encouraging! Bob, off in front again, found a narrow track leading from the path up to the lighthouse which went from a fair little path to quite a steep final section, but once at the top I was there and could enjoy views all around. 

Cromer lighthouse comes into view

There was a perfectly positioned helipad for Joe the Drone to borrow for take off.

Cromer lighthouse
Cromer lighthouse from the north
Cromer lighthouse from the west

I imagine Cromer lighthouse would probably have been quite a popular station to serve at as it looks fairly spacious judging by the size of the associated buildings and the width of the lighthouse. It was great to see the light on too. That’s always an added bonus.

Cromer lighthouse in action

On the walk back I enjoyed the occasional look back to the lighthouse as I took a slightly different route along the paths. The views down to the beach and pier were wonderful too with people’s reflections in the water.

Cromer beach and pier

Rather than taking the steps back down to the beach huts we followed the path down and came out in the town. More weaving between people ensued and we were soon back at the car.

A great day and I’m so glad I took the opportunity of suggesting the alternative routes at both Winterton and Cromer. The coastal route is near enough always more enjoyable. 🙂

A fine ‘old lady’ in Happisburgh

I’ve often referred to lighthouses as ‘she’. It just seems right that they are female. I’ve also been known on more than one occasion to sing Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder during lighthouse visits. Well, I discovered that I am not alone in this during a visit to Happisburgh lighthouse on our way back home from the recent Isle of Wight trip. On my original lighthouse tour I’d obviously driven to Happisburgh and, as with a lot of the lighthouses on that trip, my timing was atrocious and I arrived about half an hour after it had closed. So, I’d not managed to get inside this frankly stunning structure. Well, last year, through the Association of Lighthouse Keepers, I met Joy and Patrick who are part of the team that have taken over the operation and maintenance of the lighthouse at Happisburgh (more on that in a minute). I knew we would be in Norfolk on our way home so got in touch with them and they very kindly agreed to show us around.

Happisburgh
Happisburgh lighthouse

During this tour, which I will describe in a moment, I discovered that Joy too believes that lighthouses are female and very fondly refers to Happisburgh lighthouse as their ‘old lady’. The lighthouse certainly is old, dating back to 1790 when it was built as one of a pair of leading lights, with this one being the high light. Joy informed us that there is very little to see of the old low light now, but occasionally it is possible to spot some small sections of the old curved wall on the beach. Although the remains are now on the beach, the lighthouse itself was located on the cliff. This is evidence of the amount of coastal erosion in the area. It’s frightening when you see how the coastline has changed in recent years.

Happisburgh view
The view from the top towards where the low light would have been

The tower, which is now so distinctive with its red bands, used to be white, but when the Low Light was removed the red bands were added to distinguish it from the other nearby white lighthouses in Winterton to the south and Cromer to the north. Although the old low light was demolished, it is great to see a section of the lens from the old tower  in the ground floor exhibition area in the lighthouse – it even lights up! After the lens had been removed from the low light it was used in Southwold, which has since been converted to a different type of light. When the lens was no longer required in Southwold, Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust approached Trinity House and asked if it could be brought back to Happisburgh and they now have this on loan, so part of it did make it back home!

Happisburgh low lens
Part of the old lens from Happisburgh low light

The inside of the tower is actually quite open-plan. As Joy pointed out, it is not until you are almost at the top that you have space/a room to stop and catch your breath! It’s fantastic though, looking down on the main space on the ground floor, which is just full of amazing things to look at. I was so busy chatting I didn’t get a chance to fully take it all in so I’ll just need to go back again some time – and probably end up just chatting some more!

Happisburgh light
The view inside the lens

There is one room near the top (aside from the lantern room, of course) which contains information about the history of the lighthouse, as well as a really lovely display of lamps of all shapes and sizes from various lighthouses. There is also information here about the community takeover of the lighthouse. It really is a unique arrangement. In 1987 Trinity House announced that Happisburgh lighthouse was to be discontinued. The community, understandably, fought against this decision and two years later everything was in place for the newly formed Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust to begin leasing the lighthouse and running it themselves. Of course that is an abridged version of events and it was much more involved. It’s a really inspiring story and a perfect example of just how important lighthouses can be to communities.

The Friends of Happisburgh Lighthouse are doing a great job of fundraising to keep the lighthouse going. It looks brilliant both inside and out, especially after the tower was re-painted last year. You can’t really go wrong with red and white stripes on a lighthouse, I don’t think, and Happisburgh is a perfect example of that. It is a fine place to spend some time and even those who aren’t necessarily into lighthouses would find it hard not to enjoy a visit. Joy and Patrick were such wonderful hosts, so a big thank you to them.

When Bob finally managed to drag me away from the lighthouse we continued our journey home – and what a long journey it was this time! Fortunately, we were going up the east coast for a change where it is fairly easy to stop off and see a few lighthouses.

River Nene East End
The River Nene East End lighthouse

Now, back in 2012 I saw the two lighthouses on the banks of the River Nene to the east of Sutton Bridge. I had only walked (still not sure why I walked it from Sutton Bridge, but never mind) to the Guys Head light and seen the East End lighthouse from across the river, so it seemed like a good place to stop as the sun was shining.  There aren’t many lighthouses surrounded by trees, but these two are, which makes it difficult to get pictures of them, but we did our best and our best wasn’t too bad. It’s just about getting the right angle – and at the right time of day too as the sun can really be in the wrong position sometimes!

River Nene Guys Head
River Nene Guys Head lighthouse

It was dark by the time we arrived in Newcastle, not far from our hotel. I’d not seen the old light on the Tyne Swing Bridge before so it seemed like a good opportunity while we were in the area. I wandered along the river bank and up onto the bridge. With the light no longer being operational it’s not so easy to see (or photograph – unless you are capable of fancy camera work). It was nice to see it though and it was a calm evening. I’m not used to being in cities visiting lighthouses, so it made a nice change.

Tyne Swing Bridge
Tyne Swing Bridge and its lighthouse

On the final day of our journey home we happened to be in the North Queensferry area around lunch time so stopped off to see the little lighthouse there. It was a really pleasant day which made for a nice visit, although the tower is currently closed for maintenance (normally you can get inside and sometimes even light the lamp). They are due to open again very soon.

North Queensferry
North Queensferry lighthouse and the Forth Rail Bridge

It was nice to break up what was a really long journey with some lighthouse visits. Time to have a break from lighthouse trips for a month or so now to recharge my batteries ready for the next adventure! 🙂