Farewell to Old Stripey?

The new owner of a Suffolk lighthouse on Europe’s largest shingle spit now finds himself in dispute with the National Trust about its future. Nicholas Gold, who bought the Grade II – listed lighthouse on Orford Ness, a 10-mile shingle spit owned by the Trust, is trying to save it from toppling into the sea and wants to open it to the public. The Trust feels that nature should take its course.

The 98ft tower, which is still in pristine condition, has withstood hurricanes, German warplanes and bomb-testing, but coastal erosion now threatens to wash it away within two years. It’s barely 12 yards from the narrow beach, 90 yards of shore having vanished in the past two decades and four in December’s storms alone.

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In 2011 Trinity House, custodian of England’s lighthouses, offered the building to the Trust, but they decided to allow ‘natural forces’ to dictate its future. After decommissioning it last summer, Trinity House sold it instead to Mr Gold for £2,000.

He wants to ‘sandbag’ 40 yards of crumbling shore in front of it, but a statement from the Trust says: ‘As sad as it is, we feel that any attempts to defend the lighthouse would be unsuccessful or cause unacceptable damage to what is a fragile habitat of international importance.’ The Trust, which runs the ferry to the spit, also opposes Mr Gold’s request that it relax its daily limit of 156 visitors, saying that people value the spit’s ‘remoteness and isolation’.

Mr Gold has local support. Mike Pearce, the New Orford Town Trust chairman, comments: ‘The community is very much behind [Mr Gold] and it’s sad we’re likely to lose such an iconic landmark.’ And the writer Anthony Horowitz, who has a home in Orford, adds: ‘Anything that can be done to preserve the lighthouse should be done.’ He’s even composed a lament: ‘Farewell old friend, old stripey/ We don’t need you any more/A lighthouse/Ain’t the right house/To stand on Orford’s shore.’

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Image: www.orford.org.uk