It was a cold, clear day in November and for once I was wearing sensible shoes.
In fact, I was wearing wellies. Sheldon would have been proud of me. My friend Jess, who came with me on this adventure, joked that I looked like a Yummy Mummy from Kent. Just with more tattoos. I countered that there’s nothing wrong with being prepared for all weathers. But in fact – while it was very muddy where we were going, it was a beautiful, beautiful day. The kind of late autumn day that has orange sunshine, the kind you remember after winter sets in, and those days can’t be found anymore.
We had gone to the Point of Ayr, north Wales, and to Talacre Beach. To find an abandoned lighthouse.
I like to explore abandoned and derelict places. I don’t know why. There’s something about time leaving things behind that fascinates me, and I also like to see what the modern world does with such things after they’ve given up their original purpose. Graffiti walls and urban landscapes, or nature reclaiming that place for itself (think vines and ivy creeping over gravestones at Nunhead Cemetery, for example). When I went to visit Jess, who had recently moved to Abergele from Cardiff, and discovered that she lived less than half an hour by road away from two of my favourite things rolled into one – abandoned places and lighthouses – I pestered her to take me there until she relented. Which didn’t take long given that she loves adventures as much as I do, and also the music of Frank Turner – so a Frank Turner fuelled mini-road trip was on the cards.
I had wanted to visit Talacre Lighthouse ever since I had decided one day in a fit of nautical inspired boredom that I would one day go on a lighthouse tour of the UK. Talacre became one of my must-visit/must-photograph places after I saw a picture of it on Pinterest, of all places. It seemed like such an out of the way place and I was so busy with other things, that I assumed it would be a very long time before I made it there, if I ever did at all. But sometimes things fall into place – friends move from Cardiff to the middle of nowhere and invite you to stay, and they just happen to have plonked themselves down smack bang in the middle of so much natural beauty and interesting history.
Talacre Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Wales, although it is no longer in use. It was built in response to the storms of 1775, which sent 2 ships aground off the coast of North Wales and cost over 200 lives. It has stood disused since the 1840’s and is currently for sale. At high tide, it’s cut off from the shore by approximately 40 feet, and our first challenge was to get there when this wasn’t the case. I wanted to be able to walk right up to it. We looked up the tidal times and realised we would have to leave around 11am if we were to get there at low tide.
And so our lighthouse adventure turned into a slightly hungover lighthouse adventure.
We arrived at 12.30, at which point the sun was just beginning to nudge itself to the west of the sky, meaning that at the right angle and from the right location, I could make light shine from the lighthouse’s long neglected beacon again.
We climbed across sand dunes and waded through swampy mud and slightly frightening sinking sand before we emerged victorious on an open plain of windswept beach, to join dog walkers and family day trippers in trudging to the lighthouse and staring up at it in wonder. Jess wandered off to take photographs of the sea and I joined several children who were too young to be climbing on the lighthouse’s base, and tottered precariously there, taking photographs until it got too cold.
As with so many old and abandoned relics of history, there are ghost stories associated with Talacre Lighthouse. But that day, crouching there with 3 cameras hanging around my neck, I didn’t see any mystery lighthouse keepers or feel inexplicably unwell. I just wishes I could build a little tent and stay there forever. Looking out to sea in the shadow of a silent tower on a beach in the sun seems to make all problems and thoughts of the present or the future melt away.
Stay tuned for more of my North Wales mini-adventures, which mainly involve the history and geography of abandoned castles.
All photographs by Christina Owen, except for Christina on Lighthouse, taken by Jess Roberts.