Sunday, June 15, 2008


I am still zooming randomly around my Cornish memories ...

When we stayed in St. Just Manse with my Aunt and Uncle I had a small bedroom at the front of the house with a large low south-west facing window. This meant I could lie in bed with the curtains open and watch the lighthouses as I fell asleep ... counting the reassuring flashes of those great lights beats counting sheep any day.

This stretch of Cornish coast must be almost unique as a lighthouse-spotting point, positioned as it is on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic and marking the northern edge of the English Channel. On a clear night I could see five or six (memory fails me on the exact number); two were almost always visible; and on the rare nights that they were blanketed in fog, there was the sound of the Pendeen foghorn. This interactive map from Trinity House (the Crown corporation that adminsters the major lights in the UK) shows the five lighthouses and one lightship in my line of sight. The lights were distinguishable by their different rhythms, and occasionally colours:

  • Longships (Lands End) - red light 5 seconds on, 5 seconds off (this was my view, from other vantage points it could be a white light with the same phasing)
  • Wolf Rock - white flash every 15 seconds
  • Bishops Rock - two white flashes every 15 seconds
  • Seven Stones Lightship - 3 white flashes, 5 seconds apart, every 30 seconds
  • Peninnis, St.Mary's, Scilly Isles - white flash every 20 seconds
  • Round Island, Scilly Isles (possibly, I'm not sure whether I could see this one or not) - white flash every 10 seconds

This website gives brief details and history of these and all the other South Coast lighthouses. Clicking through from the interactive map finds more detailed descriptions. Today they are all automated and lighthouse keepers are a thing of the past. Even the lightship is unmanned.

Longships and Wolf Rock were "my" lighthouses, and many nights I fell asleep to their soothing rhythm ... white flash / red glow, count, red glow / white flash, count, red glow, count, white flash / red glow ... and so on.

Pictures: Bishop Rock Light, Creative Commons photo by Jeremy Pearson; Longships Lighthouse, Creative Commons photo by Stuart100

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

LOL! I was just thinking that counting such flashes would have driven me bonkers, when I remembered that it was listening to V bombers screech off the nearby runways at RAF stations that soothed me to sleep as a child. Each to her own, I guess!