If that wasn’t enough, it now faces perhaps the biggest battle of all – against the sea itself. The shingle beach is eroding. The ocean has crept so close it’s barely ten metres from its door. The lighthouse is at risk of tumbling into the North Sea.
I’ve been fascinated by this place ever since my first visit in 2004. I was very lucky to see the lamp while it was still working and run by Trinity House, the organisation that runs 69 lighthouses around our coast. It fired my imagination … Although Jack’s lighthouse sits on its own rocky island in a fictional location, it’s fair to say that the building was inspired by Orfordness.
Rugged and remote, it’s a big adventure just getting there. The village of Orford lies hidden away at the end of a country lane that leads to a tiny quay on the River Ore. It’s a short ferry ride to the other side and then a forty-minute hike across an eerie landscape that’s dotted with strange derelict buildings.
In days gone by you’d have found yourself in big trouble if you tried going there. The land used to be owned by the Ministry of Defence. It was one of the few sites in the UK with facilities for secretly testing the components of nuclear bombs.
These days it’s a National Trust nature reserve. Even so, you have to keep on the tarmac road. And not just to avoid disturbing the fragile wildlife habitat. There are signs warning of unexploded shells!