I took a trip up the coast to Whitley Bay, as I had it in mind to pay a visit to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Built in 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel, whose monks kept a lantern in the tower to warn passing ships of the dangerous rocks they were passing, this venerable old lady was in use for 86 years before being decommissioned in 1984, and was the last Trinity House (the official General Lighthouse Authority for England) lighthouse lit by oil.
The grade II listed lighthouse is situated on the tiny island of St Mary’s, which is also home to a small museum and visitor centre along with the one and only inhabited private property on the isle. During the 19th century there was an inn, known as the 'Square and Compass', on there, but in 1895, after complaints about rowdy customers trespassing on nearby land, the landlord had the publican and his family summarily chucked off the island.
The lighthouse is open to visitors, but not in winter, so there weren’t too many people about, partly also I would imagine, due to the blisteringly ferocious wind that was howling in from the North Sea. And which seemed to be on a relentless quest to snatch anything from about my person that wasn’t fastened down, meaning that any time I needed to retrieve something from my camera bag, it triggered a lengthy exercise in gusty frustration.
|It was quite the overcast day.|
|The wind may have been trying, but it knew how to whip up the sea nicely.|
After having a quick stroll around the island, it really is very small, I wandered onto the rocky shoreline and took a few pictures of the ocean as it distended and diminished under the surge of the powerful tides. The heavy, plumbous sky full of fitful clouds which were carried briskly overhead in the tropospheric zephyrs, along with the shadowy, preponderant ocean, manically boiling and churning over the rocks before me created quite a potent atmosphere. As I’m sure you can tell from my overwrought prose.
|This concrete pillar was originally built in 1914 as a rangefinder to calibrate coastal defence artillery guns |
at Tynemouth Castle during World War 1.
|More frothy ocean shenanigans.|
Once I’d tired of snapping away at the waves, and because the day was getting on, and the clouds were starting to take on a blush of late afternoon colour, I turned my attention to the lighthouse itself. I took a few pictures from its base before wandering back along the concrete pathway that links the island to the mainland, and which get completely covered at high tide.
|Standing at the base of the lighthouse really does give you an idea of how tall it is, whereas this photo really |
|The rocky island foreshore.|
|Thanks to the vigour of the waves, the tide was coming in at quite a pace. I had to |
vacate my spot whenever a particularly boisterous swell came calling.
Unfortunately high tide wasn't going to happen until after dark, which was a shame as I’d seen some very nice images of the lighthouse at high tide, but I had to make do with the messy rock strewn shore as my foreground interest. But at least the clouds were interesting. It never did turn into much of a sunset, it was too overcast, but those swirling clouds dancing over the towering structure made the pictures worth taking.
|Looking along the link path towards the island, which is not technically an island when the tide is out I guess.|
|Huge clouds dwarf the lighthouse.|
|The clouds here seem to be gathering over the structure, like something out of Ghostbusters.|
Once it had gotten too dark to do anything useful I headed back to the car, thankful to be out of the wind, which had not let up for a second the whole time I was there, and drove back down the coast to Sunderland.