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On the brink of disaster – Orfordness Lighthouse faces ‘real risk’ of significant storm damage this week

PUBLISHED: 06:00 05 January 2016 | UPDATED: 17:43 05 January 2016

The Lighthouse at Orfordness is coming under worsening threat of collapse as the sea is eroding the defences put in place to protect it.

The Lighthouse at Orfordness is coming under worsening threat of collapse as the sea is eroding the defences put in place to protect it.


One of Suffolk’s most iconic structures is today teetering on the brink of disaster.

Orfordness lighthouse owner Nicholas Gold in 2014 Orfordness lighthouse owner Nicholas Gold in 2014

Orfordness Lighthouse, which has stood guard over one of the most treacherous stretches of sea along the county’s coastline for 200 years, has seen the beach in front of it disappear rapidly in recent weeks.

Now it stands just one fierce storm – the combination of winds and tides from the wrong direction, heavy winter seas whipped up to pound its frontage – from being swept away altogether.

Campaigners have launched an urgent appeal to raise £10,000 for immediate repairs – with a team of 10 volunteers on standby to carry out the emergency protection work.

If the money can be raised for the project, it could keep the grade-II listed lighthouse standing while funds are raised for a long-term solution that could ensure its protection for another 20 years or more.

The Lighthouse at Orfordness could collapse The Lighthouse at Orfordness could collapse

Nicholas Gold, founding member of the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust, said: “Over the last few weeks the wind has turned to the south and south-east and has attacked the defences in front of the lighthouse and removed a quite severe amount of the beach.

“The lighthouse is now far more in peril than it was.

“We have a team of people and fishermen who are ready to help and rush round and carry out repairs to the shore.

“We are staying vigilant and hoping that everything will be all right, but we know that one storm of the wrong combination could bring the end and that could come any time.

Orfordness Lighthouse 2005 Orfordness Lighthouse 2005

“What we would really like to do is to put sheet piling in front of the lighthouse – similar to the work that was done around the Bawdsey Manor area and which has lasted 20 years.

“The lighthouse is one of the most fabulous and iconic features of the East Anglian coastline and people love it. We had 190 visit to see it on New Year’s Day.”

The trust believes that if repairs are not carried out to the in the next few weeks, then the lighthouse will in all likelihood not be standing in a year’s time.

Recent big seas and strong winds have ripped out the shingle covering the £15,000-worth of temporary defences the Orfordness Lighthouse Trust put down in spring 2014 and 2015 after 10 metres of shoreline was eroded.

Orfordness Lighthouse 2014 Orfordness Lighthouse 2014

Further south-easterly storms are predicted to hit the lighthouse head-on this week, with “a real risk of significant damage” to the defences.

The group says although the temporary defences have been exposed, the bags of shingle wrapped in “sausages” of high-performance geo-textile bonding are still there. The aim – if the money can be raised – is to enhance these by putting another two layers of wrapped shingle to shore up the beach below the lighthouse.

In a plea to its supporters, the trust said: “This work must be done immediately to keep the lighthouse safe to enter. The structure is very sound, but the sea can easily strip out the land on which it stands.

“However, these ‘soft defences’ are only a temporary sea defence – a long-term solution would be to put in ‘hard defences’ of sheet piling in front of the lighthouse. This will cost an estimated £190,000.”

Orfordness Lighthouse 2015 Orfordness Lighthouse 2015

To contribute to the appeal, people can post donations to Orfordness Lighthouse Trust, Quay Street, Orford, Woodbridge, IP12 2NU.

Alternatively donations can be made through bank transfer Sort Code: 20-47-34 Account: 73879364. The trust can claim Gift Aid if people send their name and address, either by email via the trust website or with a posted donation.


  • Whilst Mr Champion's remarks about the inevitability of the lighthouse succumbing to the sea eventually are of course quite correct, he ruins his argument with the successive remarks about the damage which he asserts would be caused by heavy equipment required moving across the Ness etc etc. There is an established track across the Ness to the lighthouse which no doubt was used in the building of the lighthouse and thereafter by the RFC, RAF, MoD, Trinity House, Environment agency and the NT themselves. I have heard the rest of the habitat destruction arguments being repeated regularly by National Trust staff but a few minutes reflection of the military and social history of the Ness and simple scientific and ecological facts reveal these arguments are simply self serving propaganda. have also noted recently the large number of heavy construction vehicles employed by the national trust to carry out sheet steel piling and replace a perfectly serviceable sluice on the ness at no doubt great expense, but with evidently no impact on the ecology of the site. I am sure the Lighthouse trustees contend that attempting to prolong the structures existence for a few more years will cause no significant damage and may well bring pleasure to a considerable number of human beings.

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    David Goldin

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

  • This is poor reporting from Mr Cornwell and is one sided, sensationalist and doesn't even look at the context from the landowners point of view. The Nstional TRust owns Orford Ness and the Orford Ness Lighthouse Trust is a recent organisation set up to try and save this iconic structure - a futile aim in its current position. The loss of the current lighthouse has been inevitable for years I'm afraid and is the fourth lighthouse on the Ness since the 18th century; all the others succumbing to the sea, the current owner is wrong to think hard defences on a cuspate foreland can ever change anything - like Canute trying to stop the inevitability of the waves. It IS an iconic landmark but is a sad and prescient reminder of coastal processes. What Mr Cornwell has failed even to notice, let alone report in an objective media is that to get heavy machinery to the site to do the piling they want to do would mean crossing the shingle of the Ness. The shingle ridges behind the lighthouse have been formed tens of tousands of years ago and are lije the surface of the moon - except these support fragile flora and fauna so rare that they are internationally protected. So, yes, the inevitable loss of the iconic welcoming lighthouse will be a sad loss to the area but is it worth the destruction of an area that emans one single footprint desecrates a timeless and fragile habitat?

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    Wednesday, January 6, 2016

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