Aerial Photo by Marinas.com more images are available
The smallest, highest and deepest lighthouse in the British Isles
Photo from Geograph
Berry Head is said to be the shortest lighthouse in Great Britain, but also one of the highest, being only five metres tall, but 58 metres above mean sea level. It sits on top of limestone cliffs on Berry Head, a coastal headland at the southern end of Torbay, to the southeast of Brixham in Devon.
It is also said to be the deepest lighthouse in the British Isles. Originally the optic was turned by a weight driven mechanism. The weights dropped 45m down a shaft. An electric motor is now used. The lighthouse was built in 1906 and automated in 1921. The station was converted to mains electricity in 1994.
Although the histories I have read make no mention of it running on oil or gas, I think this is likely as at some point there are large tanks shown next to it, in an old postcard photo (below). One account does mention acetylene, which would have been stored in tanks.
The lighthouse is at the end of the headland, pasta coastguard station, and is a part of a chain of south coast beacons.
Photo by David Stowell
Berry Head, designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, is an extensive limestone headland. Its shape is the result of a vast amount of quarrying carried out in the past. The near perpendicular cliffs rise 60m and the constant action of the waves has gouged out huge caverns. The plateau is green with plants, some of which are rare, pink thrift, white sea campion, autumn squill, wild rock rose, goldilocks and honewort. The rocks and cliffs are abound with jackdaws, pigeons, kestrels, kittiwakes, gulls and guillemots. Fine views are to be had and it is possible on a clear day to see Portland Bill, over thirty-five miles away.
Semaphore signalling apparatus was on Berry Head before 1875 and acted as the Lloyds' Signal Station for Torbay.
Berry Head is the site of an Iron Age hill fort, which was mostly destroyed by the construction between 1794 and 1804 of extensive fortifications to protect the Torbay naval anchorage against threatened invasion by French armies. Torbay and Brixham roads have long been sheltered anchorages, surrounded as they are by high hills and cliffs. Fortifications were erected on the headland in 1793/4 against threatened invasion by French armies and strengthened with limestone in 1803/4, when gun batteries were added to protect the anchorages. They were dismantled by 1820 and returned to civilian use, but the ramparts remain, overgrown with ivy. The former artillery house now houses a public display, featuring details about the history of the area, its wildlife and how it became an important strategic point.
Berry Head fortifications Photo by Paul Hutchinson
Two forts were built on the pre-existing Iron Age Hill fort site overlooking Torbay naval anchorage.
Fortifications were erected on the headland in 1793 against threatened invasion by French armies
and strengthened with limestone in 1803, when gun batteries were added to protect the anchorages.
They were abandoned after two years when the War of American Independence finished, and
the armaments were moved to Plymouth, but the ramparts remain.
Access to Berry Head is through
the remains of the fort, the coastguard lookout
Wildlife and Plants
Berry Head to Sharkham Point is a haven for several nationally rare and threatened species which are dependent upon the thin limestone soils, mild climate and exposed conditions of the headland.
The coastal cliffs here are home to a seabird colony, including Guillemots, Razorbills and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Several rare vagrant birds have occurred here, including a long-staying Gyrfalcon in 1986.
The guillemot colony on the cliffs below the Southern Fort is one of the largest on England's south coast and can be closely watched live on CCTV in the Visitor Centre. Berry Head also acts as an important staging post for migrant birds and is home to a significant number of Cirl Buntings.
The site is one of only two locations in Great Britain at which the white rock-rose, small hare’s ear and small restharrow occurs. Spring gentian, honewort, and goldilocks aster are also dependent upon the thin soils, mild climate and exposed conditions of the headland.
Caves at Berry Head are home to the endangered Greater Horseshoe Bat. A small herd of North Devon cattle has been introduced to the headland to produce the cow pats that attract dung beetles on which young bats are particularly dependent for food.
The view on the way back down through the fort
Photo by Chris Downer
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