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Ed Peppitt (aka The Beacon Bike)

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100 days 3,500 miles 327 lighthouses

Day 71: Lytham St Annes to Morecambe

by | Jan 21, 2023

Plover Scar

A missing tower?

The thirteen or so miles to Fleetwood the following morning were among the wettest of my journey so far. Other than weaving a path alongside a golf course before Blackpool, I followed the seafront the whole way.

I had been looking forward to cycling the length of Blackpool’s Golden Mile, the stretch of promenade between the town’s north and south piers. But the combination of the rain, which misted up my glasses, and a heavy fog, which reduced my visibility to just the few metres ahead of me, meant that I saw very little. Somehow, I missed the entrance to the South Pier altogether and despite hugging the promenade, I couldn’t see the sea at all. Even the famous Blackpool Tower, which on a clear day can be seen from as far away as Wales and the Lake District, only came in to view as I cycled almost underneath it.

Reaching Fleetwood, I was conscious that the rain had won the battle with my waterproofs and cycling kit. I was soaked through, cold as well as wet. The town was completely deserted, no one as daft as me tempted to test the streets. My AABook of the Seaside from the 1970s lists among the town’s attractions trampolines, outdoor band concerts and popular bathing-beauty contests, but none were in evidence today.

I made for the lighthouse on the seafront, where its covered seating provided ample shelter for me to strip, towel down and start afresh with clean, dry clothes. The shelter the lighthouse provided made me warm towards it, and I instantly ranked it among my favourites. It’s an elaborate building, with gothic columns and an octagonal lantern. A statement for Fleetwood’s Victorian visitors that this was a prosperous town.

When the rain let up a little, I walked with the bike into town to track down Fleetwood’s second lighthouse. Modelled on the ancient Pharos lighthouse, its elegant proportions make the beach front lighthouse seem almost pedestrian.


Fleetwood Upper

Fleetwood Upper

The Pharos Lighthouse (also known as the Upper Lighthouse) is a ninety-three-foot tall red sandstone circular tower, set back 350 yards from the sea in a residential part of the town. It was built in 1840, and named after the ancient lighthouse Pharos of Alexandria. It has a stone gallery, and shows a green flashing light, visible for thirteen miles, through a narrow vertical window.

The Pharos light was designed to work in conjunction with the lower, or Beach Lighthouse, and when the two are lined up, with the Pharos light above and the Beach light below, they guide shipping through the dangerous sandbanks of the Wyre estuary.

Fleetwood Low

Fleetwood Low

The low light is much shorter, at just forty-four feet tall. Like the Pharos light, it was built in 1840 and stands right on the seafront. It has a square stone shelter at its base, with covered seating behind gothic columns. Above the shelter there is a square tower, on top of which is an iron balcony and octagonal stone lantern with a domed roof. Like the Pharos light, it shows a green flashing light, visible for nine miles, through a lantern window.

The two shore lights were originally powered by the town’s gas supply, but were later converted to electricity. These days they are managed and maintained by the Port of Fleetwood, a part of Associated British Ports.

The town had already offered up two gems, but Fleetwood has a third important light. Offshore, there is a screw-pile lighthouse, known as the Wyre Pile Light. It dates to 1840, making it the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The challenge for me was that although the rain had subsided, the fog had not, and however long I stared out to sea from the comfort of my seafront shelter, I could make out nothing that resembled a lighthouse.

I noticed the lifeboat station, just a few hundred yards away, where a volunteer came to my aid. She pointed out to sea, with her arm outstretched, for a good couple of minutes while I peered first with my eyes, and then with the long lens of my camera, until I finally caught sight of it. It was in a bad way, and only the pile framework remained intact. In fact, I’ve learned that storms since my visit have caused the lighthouse to deteriorate further. It’s a tragic loss, such is the historical significance of this structure. It looks as though Fleetwood’s third lighthouse will soon be lost forever.

Wyre Pile Light



The pile light at Wyre, originally called Port Fleetwood Lighthouse, was built in 1840, about a mile offshore on the North Wharf Bank. Together with the Beach Lighthouse and the Pharos light at Fleetwood, the Wyre light served to guide shipping entering the Wyre estuary.

It was designed by Alexander Mitchell, an Irish engineer who developed the concept of screw-pile structures. In fact, this was the first screw-pile lighthouse in the world to be completed. Seven cast-iron legs were screwed into the sandbank, which supported a platform on which a wood and corrugated iron accommodation building stood. The lantern room was built on the roof of this building, displaying a fixed white light that was visible for ten miles.

The lighthouse was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1948, after which a simple, automatic navigation light was mounted on what was left of the structure. This lasted until 1979, when the light was replaced with a navigation buoy positioned nearby.

At certain low tides, it is possible to walk out to the structure, although since my visit the lighthouse has partially collapsed into the sea, and very little remains beyond a few sections of the cast-iron framework.

Crossing the River Wyre involves either a fourteen-mile round trip to the bridge near Hambleton, or a ten-minute, half-mile passenger ferry across the water to Knott End, directly opposite Fleetwood. It barely needs recording that I opted for the ferry.

Our captain, Tony, was a warm and jovial fellow, although the Wyre Estuary Ferry clearly served as his stage, and he was a confident performer. This might have been a damp and foggy Monday afternoon, but Tony had a quip for each of his regulars, and was only too happy to share his somewhat reactionary views on a broad range of topics, whether requested or not. It was, thankfully, just a ten-minute crossing, and I managed not to lose my temper, or enter the debate.

I was making for an interesting light near Cockerham, and although the only viable route involved stretches of the main A588 road, it was wide, unspoiled and barely used, presumably owing to the proximity of the M6 motorway. There were once a pair of range lights here, including a wooden-framed lighthouse, very close to Cockersand Abbey, which served as the rear range. Both the wooden light, and the steel tower that replaced it, are long gone. But the front range, known as Plover Scar, still marks the entrance to the River Lune today.

The little lane leading to the shore close to Plover Scar is barely wide enough for two bikes to pass, let alone two cars, which made the solitary and delightfully quirky cottage at the end of it all the more appealing. If I’d had a phone signal I would have logged onto Right Move without delay, hoping that it might be for rent or sale.

The lighthouse itself was also a surprise, because at low tide it was more than twice the height I had imagined from the photographs I had seen. What I had expected to be a modest octagonal tower, not much more than twice my own height, turned out to be a substantial stone tower, with a pair of galleries. I had pictured the lower of the galleries at ground level, but it was in fact halfway up the tower. 

Plover Scar

Plover Scar

Plover Scar

Plover Scar Lighthouse, also known locally as the Abbey Lighthouse, was built in 1847 at the entrance of the Lune estuary. Originally it was the front of a pair of leading lights which, together with a lighthouse at Cockersand, guided shipping into the estuary bound for Glasson Dock and the port of Lancaster.

It is a fifty-eight-foot tall, white conical stone tower, with a black lantern and twin galleries, built on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the deep-water channel into the estuary. It displays a flashing white light, every two seconds, that is visible for six miles.

Originally powered by paraffin lamps, the light at Plover Scar was electrified in the 1950s. In 1954, the wooden rear lighthouse at Cockermouth was demolished, having been replaced by a square, steel tower a year earlier. This remained in operation until 1985, when it, too, was demolished.

The lighthouse is owned and maintained by Lancaster Port Commission, based at Glasson Dock.

Three miles further north, on the south bank of the River Lune, the small town of Glasson is rather charming. Although there is evidence of modern industry here, with an active dock, nevertheless it feels more of a sleepy backwater. Even the docks share the waterfront with a village green, recreation ground and outdoor seating area for the Lantern Over Lune cafe. It’s hard to believe that this was once one of the country’s busiest ports. Even its modest lighthouse has the air of a tiny rural parish hall. Propping my bike against a somewhat neglected and improvised single goalpost, I walked through the dock entrance to locate and photograph the light.

Glasson Dock

Glasson Dock

Glasson Dock

In 1779, the Lancaster port commission chose Glasson, close to the entrance of the River Lune, as the site of a new dock to serve the town of Lancaster. The shallower water upriver made it difficult for shipping to navigate safely as far as Lancaster itself.

The port opened in 1787 and proved successful, growing to become one of the country’s busiest ports in the late eighteenth century. In fact, by 1830 more than 10,000 tons of goods passed through the dock each year.

A white-painted sandstone watch house, with slate roof, was built at the dock entrance in 1836. At one end of the roof, a small octagonal lantern was fitted, which displayed a fixed white light that was visible for two miles.

When a deep-water channel was dredged at Glasson as part of the construction of the Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal, the light became disused. Glasson’s importance as a port declined during the twentieth century, although it has witnessed a revival as a marina for pleasure craft. These days a series of modern, electric navigation lamps are displayed from a red-painted metal tower alongside the former lighthouse.

There was once a small passenger ferry service that crossed the river between Glasson and Overton, but today the cyclist must follow the south bank of the river as far as Lancaster before being able to cross. Although it added ten miles or so to my journey, today’s route followed the course of part of the Lancaster Canal, and then a section of disused railway that was once a branch line from the LNWR mainline through Lancaster. So it was no great hardship.

Nevertheless, the mist persisted even into Lancaster itself. It is said that from one turret of the castle you can see the peaks of the Isle of Man. Today, I could only really make out the peak of the roof of Sainsbury’s, fifty or so yards below me.

There are two lighthouses in Heysham, about five miles south-west of Lancaster. It’s a largely industrial town, which expanded throughout the last century such that there is now little distinction between where Heysham ends, and where the more genteel and upmarket Morecambe begins. I dare say the mist didn’t help, but the harbour and dock area at Heysham seemed gloomy and forbidding, and even the working lighthouse looked neglected and unloved.


Heysham South Pier

Heysham South Pier

In the late nineteenth century, the Midland Railway Company identified Heysham as an ideal location for a new port to service the growing marine traffic across the Irish Sea. Construction of a harbour began, enclosed by two breakwaters and piers, which officially opened in 1904. As well as freight traffic, the port continues to run regular ferry services to Belfast and the Isle of Man.

The lighthouse on the South Pier also dates to 1904. It is a twenty-foot-tall red cylindrical cast-iron tower, with a white lantern and gallery. It has an unusual light pattern, showing an occulting green light, six seconds on, followed by 1.5 seconds off.

Heysham Near Naze

Heysham Near Naze

A second lighthouse was built in Heysham, also in 1904, to help shipping to navigate safely past a dangerous set of rocks known as Near Naze. This light, appropriately called the Near Naze Light, is just outside the harbour entrance. It has a circular stone tower, thirty feet tall, with gallery on top. It was only active for a few years, before being replaced by a cast-iron tower built only a few feet further seaward.

There was a third lighthouse in Heysham early in the twentieth century. For a while, the South Pier light was the front of a pair of range lights, with a tall cast-iron tower, mounted on a stone base, serving as the rear. It was built at some time between 1904 and 1916, and effectively replaced the Near Naze Light. However, its tower has long since been removed, and only the stone base remains, just a few feet away from the tower of the Near Naze Light.

From Heysham, the lighthouse at the jetty in Morecambe was just a three-mile ride along the seafront. I was overjoyed to pass the bronze statue of Eric Morecambe by Graham Ibbeson on the Promenade which, like Another Place in Formby, I had long wanted to see. What I hadn’t realised was that alongside Eric himself, the steps and pavement are inscribed with many of the catchphrases and jokes from the Morecambe and Wise show. It’s hard not to smile when at your feet are the words:

‘What do you think of the show so far?





The Stone Jetty in Morecambe is all that remains of the former harbour, built by the North Western Railway in 1853 as a wharf and rail terminal for both passenger and cargo transport.

The sandstone building on the jetty was once a railway station terminus, where passengers could travel onwards by steamer to Peel on the Isle of Man or to the north of Ireland. Adjoining the seaward end of the station building is an octagonal sandstone tower, set on a square, stone base. On top of the tower is an octagonal gallery with white-painted lantern, which displays a white flashing light, visible for three miles.

The railway closed in 1932, and the importance of Morecambe as a port and harbour declined thereafter. However, the jetty underwent a major refurbishment programme in the 1990s, establishing it as a space for sculptures and creative art installations. The station building was restored and is now a cafe. The lighthouse, also restored, still displays a fixed light.

I hadn’t planned on stopping in Morecambe, but this was clearly the budget traveller’s Mecca. A clean and welcoming seafront hotel, close to the lighthouse, charged £30 for dinner, bed and breakfast. I must have been the only resident neither to be claiming a pension, nor to take part in the Bingo that evening in the hotel’s slightly soulless ballroom. I was certainly the first guest not to arrive by coach for many months, and the presence of my bike proved problematic for a while. But this was my cheapest night since Newquay, and nothing was going to spoil it now.


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