A somewhat delayed post from three months ago, concluding the Berwickshire-based bagging series.
After a few good days of lighthouse-related antics, it all went a bit pear-shaped with my knee-related incident. Any plans I’d had for walking to lighthouses from that point had to be cast aside. However, there was still some fun to be had after I got past the initial painful days.
In terms of lighthouses, there were a couple more days of discovery around St Abbs. I’d found a fantastic company based in Eyemouth who ran boat trips around St Abbs. Even better, the boat they used was ‘accessible’ so I could go along without having to worry about whether or not I would be able to get aboard.
In Our Nature is run by Liza Cole who used to be a Ranger for St Abbs so knows a considerable amount about the geology and wildlife all along the coastline. I learnt a lot more during the trip than I feel I have done during previous trips in any other area – or maybe it’s just Liza’s style of presentation. Learning that a collection of shags is called a ‘hangout’ was rather fun. Liza and I were actually equally delighted to learn that she owns a copy of my book and loves it. It goes without saying that she shares my passion for lighthouses!
As we sailed up the coast we passed multitudes of tiny coves and pebbly beaches, each of which had little sloping pathways leading down to them. Liza informed us that this was to enable local people to access the beaches, although I’ve managed to forget during the last three months exactly what the purpose of this was.
Reaching St Abbs in the boat, this was where the dramatic rocky coastal scenery really kicked in. I’d seen a lot of it from the landward side, but to see it from the sea and experiment the sheer scale of some of the jutting out headlands and sea stacks was marvellous. Although it was late in the season there still seemed to be a fair few seabirds about, both young and old. We were also able to spot my mum sitting just outside the wall of the lighthouse complex and happily waved away to each other as we passed.
Once we had rounded the headland we were edging closer to the little Pettico Wick harbour which we’d explored a bit a couple of days before. The large pinnacles of rock just to the north of the harbour had looked so impressive from the shore, but were now dwarfed in comparison to the big stacks and cliffs that surrounded them.
For days I’d also been admiring the wonderful rocks to the west of the cove and it was fantastic to see them from this different view. The amazing folding effect which Liza explained was a result of two different types of rock meeting, was just as prominent from the sea and, of course, there was a better view of the geology even further to the west.
After just the right amount of time to study the cliffs or birds, we set off back for Eyemouth. Liza uses local fishing boats for her trips and the seals are very used to receiving titbits when the boats return from trips so it was great to see them following us back into the harbour, even if they were slightly disappointed at the lack of food on this occasion.
Having spent a few days being able to do very little, it was great to be back out in the proper fresh air, enjoying a boat trip once again. There’s nothing quite like a sea breeze to bring you around after a difficult few days.
The following day we visited North Berwick again and this time visited the Coastal Communities Museum which I’d been wanting to get to for some time. The main reason for this was to see the old Bass Rock Lighthouse lens. As with so many of these lenses it was a real pleasure to see.
There I was then thinking the holiday was over and we’d be leaving St Abbs behind on that Friday morning, but little did I know that there was one last surprise in store! As we were packing up the car, a couple of people arrived, one of which was the Planning Engineer for the Northern Lighthouse Board, Craig, who was undertaking the annual inspection of St Abbs Lighthouse. Seizing the opportunity for a peek inside the lighthouse, he very willingly agreed to show us around and I hobbled on down the steps to the lantern. It was fortunate that we were at St Abbs really as the majority of lighthouses would have been inaccessible for me and my crutches.
Unsurprisingly, the lighthouse isn’t very big inside. You enter into a small hallway which leads straight into the lantern with the light mechanism. There is also a separate room off to the right. There is only then one set of ladder-type steps to get up inside the lantern. I decided to pass on this opportunity and stayed on the ground floor level, but I was happy enough with that. The others went up and I was still able to join in their conversations with them above the lattice flooring and me below.
While we were inside the lighthouse Craig managed to prise the old hatch open in the steps that would have allowed access to the weight mechanism when the lighthouse was operated by the clockwork system. Due to the lantern being near enough at ground level it was necessary for them to dig into the ground to accommodate the mechanism.
Craig has worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board for a number of years and has seen the majority of their lighthouses with very few left unvisited. For him lighthouses are his work, but I got a sense that he takes more enjoyment from being around them than most people do their workplace. 🙂