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Ed Peppitt (aka The Beacon Bike)

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100 days 3,500 miles 327 lighthouses

Day 81: Scarborough to Aldbrough via Flamborough Head

by | Jan 26, 2023

Flamborough Head

I met George again at breakfast. He was just as charming as the previous evening, although I discovered that he was of an age and generation that is casually racist and sexist with every sentence he uttered. Suffice to say I can’t repeat here his opinions about foreigners, labour voters, the Welsh, Lancashire supporters or female commentators, but they weren’t pretty. I don’t even think he was aware of the awkward silence he had caused in the breakfast room, and it was a relief when he got up to leave. The embarrassment hadn’t gone unnoticed by our host, who swiftly glided from table to table apologising.

I had agreed to meet Rita at Flamborough Head at lunchtime, which left plenty of time to find a launderette, and take a good look at Yorkshire’s lovely cricket ground on North Marine Road. These days it is Yorkshire’s only venue for county cricket other than Headingly, and it is host to a popular end-of-season cricket festival each year.

What I hadn’t appreciated was how closely Rita was following my progress on my website map. As I was casually catching up with some reading in the launderette, she was worrying that my lack of progress might be an indication that I was unwell, or had decided not to travel any further today. Entirely oblivious, I set off at around eleven, reckoning that I’d cover the twenty odd miles to Flamborough in about an hour and a half.

For only the second time since the New Forest, I discovered just how accurately the GPS tracker was plotting my progress. As I was climbing a steep and persistent hill near Reighton, pouring with sweat, a Volvo overtook me and stopped a hundred yards or so ahead of me. My sunglasses were misted up from my efforts, so I didn’t immediately notice who it was that emerged from the car, roaring with laughter. For a split second, I wondered about turning around and trying to pedal very fast away from them. The moment I stopped, my glasses cleared, and Rita was standing right at my side.

She and Adrian had been following my every move, with Adrian driving and Rita as chief navigator. It was a joy to see another familiar face, despite my initial alarm, and we caught up at the side of the road. After several minutes, it occurred to Adrian that this conversation could be continued in a lot more comfort at the cafe at Flamborough, so we agreed to meet up there.

I first met Rita when she attended a book publishing workshop I ran in London in around 2008. For a while afterwards she was inspired to finish writing her book, with a view to getting it published, but then as so often happens, life had got in the way. After a gap of a few years, she decided to find new motivation by signing up for a publishing course run by the Guardian newspaper, only to discover that the person delivering the course that weekend was me. It was inevitable that we would remain friends, and I am pleased to report that not only did she complete and publish her book, but she has written and published another since.

I’ve always been envious of Rita because she has a better claim than me to be a fan of Antony Gormley’s work. In 2009 she was selected for One & Other, a public art project by Gormley, in which 2,400 members of the public occupied the usually vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, for an hour each, for 100 days. Rita had chosen to promote the work of WaterAid, by spending her hour on the plinth, sitting on a very convincing replica of a public lavatory. You can’t get much more public than that.

After lunch we walked to see the old light tower, and then on to the current lighthouse, where I discovered that despite having taken more than 150 lighthouse selfies to date, Rita was much more adept at framing them than I was. I didn’t say anything, but I wondered why she insisted on pointing her finger in the air as I took a photo of the two of us in front of the lighthouse tower. It was only when I looked at the photo afterwards that I realised she was pointing it out. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of doing that before now.

At the lighthouse entrance, my arrival was anticipated. Back in Fleetwood, I had planned to meet up with lighthouse enthusiast Michelle, who had seen the newspaper article about my journey, and had suggested that we walked together out to the Wyre pile light at low tide. Our paths didn’t quite cross in the end, but Michelle had got in touch with other members of her family who lived near Flamborough. Gareth gives guided tours at the lighthouse, and he and his nephew Ryan were waiting for me.

Rita and I were given the full VIP treatment, with a tour of the lighthouse, tea and cake, and even someone assigned to guard my bike. But I admit that the highlight of the day was when Ryan approached and asked me for my autograph. There’s a celebrity future for me yet.

Flamborough Head

Flambourough Old

Flambourough Old

The first lighthouse at Flamborough, built by Sir John Clayton and completed in 1674, is one of the oldest surviving light towers in England. Built from chalk, it has an octagonal tower nearly eighty feet tall. It was never actually lit, however, and served as a daymark only, something it continues to do to this day.

The tower failed to prevent a number of wrecks and losses during the eighteenth century, which led to the construction of the current lighthouse, first lit in 1806.

Flambourough Head

Flambourough Head

Designed by Samuel Wyatt, consulting engineer to Trinity House between 1776 and 1807, it has an elegantly proportioned brick tower, eighty-seven feet tall, and originally had a single gallery with oil-powered lantern. There is adjoining keepers’ accommodation.

It had an unusual and distinctive light characteristic of two white flashes followed by a red flash, in order to distinguish Flamborough’s lighthouse from the one at Cromer. The effect was achieved using red glass covered reflectors on each side, designed by George Robinson, the Chief Inspector of Lighthouses at Trinity House at the time. It was an innovation that was widely adopted thereafter.

In 1925 the lantern was made taller, to accommodate a new 15-foot lens, which also necessitated the construction of a second iron gallery. The light was converted from oil to electricity in 1940, and automated in 1996. The current light displays four white flashes, every fifteen seconds, which are visible for twenty-one miles.

I left Rita, Adrian, Gareth and Ryan reluctantly, my newly discovered fame having gone to my head. If Michael Portillo can make television about railways, and Julia Bradbury about canals, then surely I was a shoe in for a new series about lighthouses?

Five miles on, in Bridlington, the fun fair was in town. It was busy, noisy and colourful, and served as a reminder that it was now the school holidays, and I should probably be back at home with my own kids. Not having them with me, I realised, had saved me about £25 in fairground rides, so I had that to be thankful for that at least.


Bridlington is a small fishing port, renowned for its shellfish. In fact, it has earned the title of the ‘Lobster Capital of Europe’, landing 300 tonnes of them each year. There was a harbour here in medieval times, but the modern harbour dates to the mid-nineteenth century, when the current stone piers were built.

Bridlington North Pier

Bridlington North Pier

At the end of the North Pier, there is an attractive lighthouse that resembles an elegant Edwardian street light.

It has a fluted, white-painted cast-iron column, mounted to a black, tapered square base. It’s about thirty feet high, and displays a white flashing light, which is visible for nine miles. Mounted on the side of the column are harbour control lights, with a green light indicating that the depth of water is less than nine feet, and a red light indicating that it is more than nine feet.

Bridlington Harbour Wall

Bridlington Harbour Wall

There is a second, almost identical light on the north side of the harbour, close to the start of the North Pier. It is redundant, however, and seems a bit less ornate standing, as it does, in front of a waffle restaurant and public toilets.

Following lunch and tea at Flamborough, and a couple of ice creams in Bridlington, the twenty miles on to the guest house in Aldbrough felt as though I had added an extra pair of panniers to the bike. But I was pleased with my day’s work, had enjoyed the company I had kept, and the fact that, in Ryan’s eyes at least, I was now a minor celebrity.


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