Met the lighthouse keeper, Mr Seaman up at Southwold with Susan and Caroline last Wednesday. He was full of fascinating information about the lighthouses and has looked after Lowestoft, Southwold and Orford Ness from 1989 until 2011. The government's cuts to the lighthouse service and the coastguard seem very short-sighted - they are going to cause a real loss of service and potential loss of lives. They are planning to de-commission the Orford Ness lighthouse by the end of this year and after that it will probably be only a matter of time before it falls into the sea, with the shifting shingle bank and coastal erosion. Last year there was 16m between the high water mark and the tap at Orford Ness, but on one night in December 2011 4m disappeared into the sea.
Mr Seaman spoke of the lighthouses being important not only for their light but also with their electronic aids and as a visible day mark - this is why they are painted different colours or have a different number of stripes to each other - Happisburgh having 3 red stripes, whereas Orford Ness has 2. Mr Seaman's grandfather was lighthouse keeper at Southwold in 1935 when the light was electrfied. In the late 1980's the 3 kw flashing lamp was replaced with 100 w halogen lamp which can run on batteries. It is ironic that that electricity that was originally a bonus for the lighthouse keeper and left him with very little work to do, has in the end made him redundant. Modern ships with their high tech navigation equipment no longer want to pay their light dues and smaller fishing vessel and sailing boats do not contribute for the service.
We are planning to go over to Orford Ness by boat in March to record the lighthouse and it will be interesting to spend time there and see it fully. Hopefully Peter West will take us over there in his motor boat The Regardless - we just need to clear the indemnity forms now with Paul Howe at Trinity House in Harwich.