Haunted Lighthouses of Britain by Roger O’Reilly

There can be few lighthouses that do not have a ghost story or some tale of the ethereal attached to them. Often isolated and watching over vessels of all stripes slipping into an out of port under cover of darkness, they are witness to a shadowy world that often leaves more unexplained than illuminated.

At Whitby, in this most famously eerie of all towns, the west pier has its own tall tale. One stormy night the keeper, having temporarily left the tower (some say he was engaged in the local game of knurr and spell), looked over his shoulder and noticed that the light had gone out. Hurrying back and soaked to the skin, he sped up the steps to reignite the lantern. Having rekindled the lamp he attempted to go back down, but slipped and fell headlong into the void departing this mortal coil. Some folk say that on a black blustery night, a lonesome figure can be seen making his way with a covered lantern towards the lighthouse before his disappears through the locked and bolted door.

On the Pembrokeshire in coast in 1801, an altogether more unsettling tale unfolded when one of the two keepers died and his colleague went slowly mad, waiting almost four months for rescue while his deceased partner who had been fastened to the outside rail in an attempt keep the stench of death outside the cramped quarters, stared through the window at him accusingly swaying in the howling wind and knocking incessantly on the storm battered pane. Until that time, two keepers had been deemed sufficient, but from then on, three were always posted on offshore stations.

Sometimes the spirits can seem a little more benign, such as at the Souter Lighthouse on the Sunderland coast where it is reputed to be haunted by Grace Darling’s niece Isabella, who lived here in the late 1880s. Staff have reported spoons floating in mid-air, unexplained temperature drops, and some have even reported having been clutched by unseen hands.

Probably the most famous story strange goings on concerns the Eilean Mór lighthouse on the Flannan Isles about 115km off the Scottish mainland in the Outer Hebrides. The steamer Archtor noted that the light had gone out one stormy evening in December 1900 and the alarm was raised. When a relief ship came to investigate, the keepers were nowhere to be seen. The report stated that the doors were closed, the clocks had ominously stopped, the beds were unmade and that two of the keeper’s oilskins were missing, but the third set was still in place. No trace of the men could be found. The disappearance of the three men, coupled with the death of an assistant keeper a few years later gave Eilean Mòr a sinister reputation. The popular poem, “Flannan Isle” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson took a number of liberties with the truth and made the story familiar to the wider public, sealing the episode’s fate as a suspense mystery worthy of Edgar Allen Poe.

Roger O’Reilly is a lighthouse expert, artist and founder of Lighthouse Editions. O’Reilly’s incredible book Legendary Lighthouses of Britain is available to pre-order now and is releasing April 9th 2024.

A Brief History of British Lighthouses by Roger O’Reilly

The earliest lighthouses in Britain used whatever materials were available locally; wood, brick and stone. The life of these structures was predictably short, especially if they were offshore.

The rebuilding of the Eddystone Rocks lighthouse off Plymouth Sound by the engineer John Smeaton set a milestone in the progression of lighthouse design. This, coupled with the developing technology of projecting light across vast distances, would revolutionise the lighthouse service around the country.

In England and Wales, Trinity House was empowered since 1836 to compulsorily buy out any remaining private lighthouses and they were soon fully engaged on an ambitious programme of expansion that included stations such as Beachy Head, Wolf Rock and the North Foreland in Kent.

In Scotland, meanwhile, Robert Stevenson was busy building a mini empire of lighthouse builders. Between them, the Stevenson dynasty was responsible for designing and building over 80 lighthouses in Scotland and the Isle of Man during the years 1811 to 1937.

As an island nation, the safety of Britain’s coastline is of immense importance to the shipping plying its waters. The proliferation of lights that dot the north Atlantic shores, the Irish sea, the English Channel or the eastern lights that welcome shipping returning across the North Sea, bear testimony to this dedication to the safe passage of vessels into and out of home waters and the wider oceans beyond.

Roger O’Reilly is a lighthouse expert, artist and founder of Lighthouse Editions. O’Reilly’s incredible book Legendary Lighthouses of Britain is available to pre-order now and is releasing April 9th 2024.

Forest School Wild Play: How Foraging for Food Can Bring Kids Closer to Nature

Foraging for food is so exciting – a fantastic opportunity to tap back into our ancient hunter-gatherer past. As you hunt for tasty morsels, you become fully focused, your eyes scanning the natural world in a totally new way and discovering all sorts of unpredictable things, from caterpillars rolled up in their leaf houses to intricate spider webs and glistening, busy beetles. And then there is the anticipation and curiosity around tasting something new or revisiting a favourite flavour! All connect us deeply to the natural world around us.

This healthy, active pastime encourages us to think about where our food comes from and the amount of time, space and energy needed for its production. It can inspire a desire to cook and find out about nutrition. Apart from learning how to identify a particular plant, it can also trigger an interest in how that plant links to its native habitat and the other species that rely on it. This activity opens up a world of learning, which leads to curiosity, communication and focus, and to feelings of self-esteem and confidence. Finding and making delicious natural food, and knowing its benefits, can also foster a sense of independence as well as food to share!

Try your hand at a fun, foraging adventure this summer with Birch Twig Tea.

The graceful birch used in this tea is one of the first trees to unfurl its leaves after a winter sleep and as such embodies spring and new beginnings. Its bright green leaves radiate the freshness of that season – but you can make this brew all year round.

Get ready

  • There are over 50 species of birch tree around the world, so before you head out make sure you are familiar with which one you are foraging for. Here we will be using either silver birch (Betula pendula), which is native to Europe and parts of Asia, or black birch (Betula lenta), which is native to eastern North America.
  • Once at your chosen site, use real examples of the tree species or a guide to show everyone what they will be looking for. Explain how they should only take what they need and why it is important not to damage the trees by tearing branches, so they can continue to grow and be available for other creatures to use as food and shelter.

Get set

  • You are looking for a tree with plenty of of fresh, thin twigs with buds on. You can tell if the twigs are dead as they will be brittle and snap off. Fresh twigs will flex and can smell of wintergreen (a mild mint). They will also be green under the outer bark, which you can check by gently scraping the outer bark away.
  • Once you’ve found a suitable tree, demonstrate how to use secateurs to prune the twigs. Keep the sharp blade on top and cut down through the twig onto the blunt part of the blade. Branches that are larger than the diameter of your thumb should not be cut with secateurs. Assist younger children but allow capable older kids to have a go at cutting and collecting the birch in a container. In terms of quantity, a strong tea will require more twigs – but start with enough twigs to quarter-fill each cup
  • After each pruning session, wipe down your secateurs at home with warm, soapy water. This will prevent gummy build-up, keep them clean and prevent the spreading of any potential disease


  • Once you have harvested your twigs, cut them into small sections that are roughly 2.5–5cm (1–2in) long – small enough to fit in a cup. Rinse the twigs clean with water and take this opportunity to also clean your own hands before making the tea.
  • There are various ways you can make the birch tea – here are a few suggestions for you to experiment with. If you have brought some sweetener along, don’t forget to add this to your tea.
  • If you don’t have a campfire, quarter-fill each cup with the rinsed birch twigs and pour over the hot water from your thermos. Allow to steep for 10 minutes (or up to 30 minutes for a stronger flavour), then strain the brew into a clean cup and drink. If you have a second thermos, you can add more hot water to warm up the steeped tea.
  • Boiling your twigs over an open fire is great fun. Quarter-fill your kettle or cooking pot with twigs, then cover with water. Bring to the boil, then leave to cool before straining and drinking the tea. Alternatively, you can heat the water until it is not quite boiling and then pour over the twigs in a cup, cover and steep as desired, before straining and enjoying. This is the preferred method for some, as boiling the twigs can evaporate the oils that give the tea its flavour and herbal qualities.
  • You could also process some of your gathered twigs to steep overnight. Choose twigs with up to an average thickness of a pencil. Cut them into pieces that are roughly 15cm (6in) long. Fill a quart Mason jar (or equivalent) with the twigs, then cover with warm (not boiling) water and leave to steep overnight. The water will turn amber or pink in colour and will have a strong flavour. Serve it cold or gently warmed.

Aimed at parents, teachers and Forest School leaders, this new book from Jane Worroll & Peter Houghton is packed full of fantastic new Forest School activities. It has a special focus on the elements and on making children feel connected to the natural world through imagination and storytelling. 

Get your copy here.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping