St Bees Head Fog Signal Station

We had a great day last week taking members of the public on a walk through the Colourful Coast to the St Bees Head Fog Signal Station as part of Heritage Open Days.

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The weather was kind which made it a pleasure to show off this stretch of coast.  Some of the people who joined us had travelled a few hours and some others had lived in Whitehaven all their lives but none of them had ever been inside the Fog Signal Station.  After talking to a few people on the walk we thought it would be good to share some of the information we have about this interesting and unusual building.

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The building has a long and interesting history, but fog warnings were set off long before the current building was built.

An explosive fog warning device was in use at the lighthouse from 1913.  This would have given an explosive blast at set intervals to warn shipping of low visibility.  The blast would have come from disposable tonite charges fixed to the pivoted arm, then set off by the lighthouse keepers after they had retreated as far as they could; the blasts are understood to have been extremely and uncomfortably loud.

The exact date of when the use of the explosive charge stopped and the Fog Signal Station came into use is unclear.   A set of drawings from Trinity House’s engineering section dated 1962 show the plans for the current fog signal station on the cliff’s edge, comprised of a bank of electronically-operated horns.  We know from talking to people locally that they remember the building being constructed in 1963 and 1964.

St Bees 058_006 copyright Trinity House

A drawing from 1971 shows the installation of automatic fog detectors, which typically ran calculations on mist density in the air and instigated the signal automatically if the water density in the air went over a certain figure and became a hazard to shipping.

It is unclear how long the electronic fog signal apparatus was in use for at St Bees, but it would not be unreasonable to assume that it was discontinued when the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation in 1987.

160526 St Bees Fog Horn Station (c) Sophie Badrick (26)

The fog signal apparatus was a Trinity House-type 3kw 30-unit stack. The ‘character’ of the fog signal itself (i.e. the pattern of sound/silence/sound/silence) was two ‘blasts’ every 45 seconds, being blast 4.0s, silent 2.0s, blast 4.0s, silent 35.0s. This blast had a nominal range of 16 nautical miles!

160526 St Bees Fog Horn Station (c) Ed Jagger (2)

If you have any memories, stories, photos or information about the Fog Signal Station that you’d like to share then please get in touch.  At the moment the building is currently closed to the public, but we’ll be running more guided walks to the Fog Signal Station in future so please keep checking the website for details.

Whitehaven’s Great British Beach Clean

Once again this autumn we organised a Great British Beach Clean at Whitehaven.  Now in it’s 25th year the Great British Beach Clean, coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society, is the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK.

The information volunteers have collected over the last 25 years has helped make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter ever – the plastic bag charge, microplastics banned in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and massive support for a tax on ‘on the go’ plastic single use items.

Trying to get used to the survey forms always takes a little while  so perhaps it was good that the beach at Whitehaven was surprisingly clean.  However, a few steps along the beach and looking amongst the rocks and we soon found enough litter to keep us going.  In total the four of us collected 269 pieces of litter in just one hour.  There was rope, cigarette butts, plastic cups, paper, plastic, glass, nails, lolly sticks and straws.  Joseph even collected some rope that was nearly as tall as he is!

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The rope’s nearly as tall as Joseph!

 

The full report from the beach clean can be found her 180915 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 15 Sep 2018.  It shows that most of the litter we collected was plastic or polystyrene with paper and cardboard a close second.  Most of this was rubbish we were collecting and disposing of before it reached the sea.  We had surprisingly little sanitary waste which is different from when we beach clean at St Bees.

As always a massive thank you to our dedicated volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning and came out to beach clean in some grey and windy weather!

Great British Beach Clean 2018

As part of the Great British Beach Clean we’ve added an extra beach clean to out usual monthly efforts.

We’ll be heading to Whitehaven’s North Shore on Saturday 15th September between 10.30am until lunchtime to record and remove all the litter we find.  We know from our last beach clean that there is a lot of rope caught in amongst the rocks so we’ll be hoping to tackle some of that and finally get it removed.

Give Sophie an email to let us know if you’re coming down so she can buy enough biscuits for afterwards sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk