Lighthouses of the British Isles

Britain’s coastline is punctuated by over 300 lighthouses, built in some of the most inhospitable places. Illustrator Ben Langworthy embarked on a mission to draw every single one of them and tell their stories – we shine a light on three.

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Ardnamurchan Point

Ardnamurchan is the most westerly point of mainland UK. Local legends tell of premonitions, kings and great battles, and there may be a husk of truth in such tales – in 2011, archaeologists uncovered a Viking boat burial nearby. The lighthouse, built in an ‘Egyptian’ style, was designed by Alan Stevenson (one of the great Scottish engineers) and fi rst lit in 1849. Today you can call in for a cuppa at the keepers’ cottages.

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Trwyn Du

Trwyn Du, meaning ‘black point’ in Welsh, was first lit in 1838 and stands at around 96ft high, overlooking Puffin Island. Its engineer James Walker, keen to pioneer new innovations, installed an early example of a water closet with a drain at the base of the tower. This proved a bad idea during storms, when seawater had a tendency to surge up the drain, giving a nasty shock to any unsuspecting keeper using the facilities at the time.

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Bell Rock

The oldest lighthouse still in use in the world, Bell Rock is named after the rock on which it sits. How the rock gained its name is immortalised in the ballad ‘The Inchcape Rock’, written by Robert Southey in 1802. In the tale, the Abbot of Arbroath installs a bell on the rock to warn mariners of the reef, but a villainous pirate throws the bell into the sea. In a twist of fate, the pirate is himself later wrecked upon the rocks.

Follow Ben’s progress on Instagram @benlangworthyillustration or via his column at caughtbytheriver.net.

You can also buy signed A4 prints of Ben’s lighthouses on his etsy page.

Issue eight is here

We're thrilled to announce that issue eight is on sale now…and there’s a choice of covers, too!

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That's right, issue eight of Ernest Journal has been fully proofed, polished and printed - and we have to say, it's a bit of a belter.

As a result of our goat vs. tree cover discussion within the team and on Instagram, we're printing a special edition cover. 

The main cover (sold online and in shops across the land) features a wild goat on the slopes of Dinorwig Quarry, overlooking Llyn Peris. We are also releasing a limited run of 250 special editions featuring the lone tree of Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, on the cover. This special edition is only available to order online – and both covers options are now on sale, so make haste.   

Let’s have a peek inside…

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Shantyboat: an alternative American history

From 19th-century pioneers that charted adventurous courses through vast inland waterways to contemporary communities that now live in their backwateers and the margins of society, river people are America’s secret history, as C.C. O’Hanlon reveals.

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The strange world of bee etiquette

Delve into British folk culture and you soon realise there are an awful lot of ways to offend a bee.

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Snowdonia: the roof of Wales

Journey with us to Snowdonia as we trace its slate mining history, explore water’s unrelenting dominance in this landscape and follow a Welsh songline over the peaks that helped George Mallory and Edmund Hillary prepare for their Everest ascent.

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A bitter history

Trace the humble origins of bitters from the medicine cabinet to the cocktail bar. Negroni, anyone?

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The bison's return

European bison have been reintroduced to the wilds of southwest Romania after 200 years of extinction. Ruth Allen traces their musky scent in the high forests of the Carpathians.

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Immortal trees

A mystical being resides in the churchyards of Britain, capable of surviving across millennia, poisoning would-be foes and imbibing the vapours of the dead – Dan Cook explores the necrobotany of the yew.

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The far away

Immense, amorphous and otherworldly, sand dunes have enticed and beguiled travellers, artists and scientists for centuries. Nicholas Herrmann enters the dunescape of the imagination on the Grande Dune du Pilat in southwestern France.

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Adrift in the Atlantic

French biologist Alain Bombard was so convinced that castaways could survive purely on the sea’s natural provisions that he set out to prove it on a most extraordinary voyage.

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The Odysseum: Larry 'Lawnchair' Walters (1949-1993)

Fresh from our third book The Odysseum – meet Larry Walters, the truck-driver who flew away on his own lawn chair.

flickr/BrandonWalts

flickr/BrandonWalts

What do you do if your life’s ambition – to become a pilot with the US Air Force – gets shot down by poor eyesight? If you’re Larry Walters, you take matters into your own hands. In 1982 the California truck-driver, unperturbed by the stringent recruitment standards of the USAF, decided to take to the air in his own unique way: by attaching a large cluster of weather balloons to a lawn chair.

First, Larry and his girlfriend forged a requisition slip from his employer, Filmfair Studios, enabling them to purchase the 45 8-foot (2.4 m) weather balloons by saying they were to be used in a commercial. They then set about inflating the balloons and attaching them to Larry’s patio chair. He put on a parachute, strapped himself in and took off, carrying with him only the absolute essentials – a pellet gun (to shoot balloons if he went too high), a CB radio, a camera, sandwiches and, most essential
of all, a four-pack of beer.

The plan was to float 30 feet (9 m) above the Mojave Desert for a few hours, then effect a pleasant and gradual descent. To Larry’s horror, however, the chair rose from his yard in San Pedro much faster than expected – he was eventually to reach a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m) – and was soon drifting over Los Angeles and into the primary approach corridor for Long Beach Airport, where he was spotted by several commercial airliners.

By this point, Larry had achieved his primary aim – to fly – but now faced the problem of how not to fly. Floating in LA airspace was not, he knew, going to make him very popular. Initially, though, he was too scared to shoot any of the balloons in case he unbalanced and fell from his madcap contraption. He tried getting in touch with REACT – a citizen’s band radio monitoring organisation. As he put it to them:

‘… the difficulty is, ah, this was an unauthorised balloon launch and, uh, I’m sure my ground crew has alerted the proper authority. But, uh, just call them and tell them I’m okay.’

After 45 minutes of literally hanging around, he eventually plucked up the courage to shoot a few balloons – just before the gun went overboard. Fortunately, the cull, as far as it went, proved sufficient to get him moving in the right direction. The slow descent concluded among power cables, blacking out an entire Long Beach neighbourhood for 20 minutes.

Upon picking him up, the Long Beach Police Department made a decisive statement: ‘We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed.’ Walters was eventually charged with ‘operating a civil aircraft within an airport traffic area without establishing and maintaining 2-way communications with the control tower’. He was fined $4,000 – but his pilot’s licence couldn’t be suspended, since he didn’t have one.

Having achieved his dream, Larry spent a short period as a motivational speaker and appeared on both The David Letterman Show and The Late Show. Eventually, however, he went back to a simple life – working for the United States Forest Service and as a security guard. He died in 1993, but will always be remembered as ‘Lawnchair Larry’, inspiring a song, various copycat flights and the 2003 Australian film Danny Deckchair, starring Rhys Ifans.

Larry was by no means the only weather balloon pilot – there have been many cases of people putting thin bits of rubber between themselves and an unpleasant meeting with terra firma. One such case was the Brazilian priest Father Adelir Antônia de Carli, whose 2008 foray into the atmosphere left him both wet and headless.

Seemingly well prepared – he was an experienced skydiver, and he’d trained extensively in survival skills prior to his launch – there was one huge gap in his safety plan, quickly exposed when he caught a breeze and got blown out across the Atlantic. While floating over the ocean, he rang the authorities from his mobile phone to ask someone to explain how his GPS equipment worked. Not long after that he lost contact entirely. A few months later, some of his balloons, along with the lower half
of his body, were found floating in the sea.

On a happier note, Tom Morgan – a member of the Bristol-based League of Adventurists, reached a height of 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in October 2017 by tying 100 helium balloons to a camping chair and flying over the Sahara. He returned to Earth safe, dry and with all parts of his body intact.

Words: Jen Rowe

The Odysseum is available to pre-order via Amazon.

Introducing our Third Book: The Odysseum

The Odysseum explores fascinating stories behind some of the world’s most extraordinary and unexpected journeys. Expect adventures with stowaways, astronauts, psychedelic pilgrims, prisoners of war and the artist who created the world’s biggest treasure hunt.

Brought to you by Ernest editor Jo Tinsley and co-author David Bramwell, The Odysseum is the final edition in our trilogy of wonder and eccentricity.

Discover why artist Grayson Perry took his teddy bear on a trip to Bavaria and what horrors befell film-maker Werner Herzog when he attempted to drag a 320-ton steamboat over a hill through impenetrable jungle. Learn about attempted voyages to the centre of the earth and accidental journeys into storm clouds, and follow Dadaist filmmaker Andrew Kötting as he takes a 12-foot inflatable ‘deadad’ on a trip around the globe.

Restlessly exploring the psychology of what it means to embark upon a journey, The Odysseum is a celebration of human imagination, motivation and resolve – from micro-journeys around a prison cell to the story of how Einstein’s brain and the corpses of Gram Parsons and Eva Peron embarked on remarkable trips beyond the grave.

The Odysseum is on available to order on Amazon.

Pie glossary

From throwaway crusts to royal banquet centrepieces, our beloved pie has a weird and wonderful history stowed away behind its pantry door. 

Illustration by Sue Gent

Illustration by Sue Gent

Cow heel (Cumbria and Lancashire)
The fatty cartilage around a cow’s heel was used to make a sticky and sweet gravy in a pie.

Swan (Nottinghamshire) 
The finest pieces of swan meat, stewed with sugar and spices and served in a Budby pie.

Lambs tail (Cotswolds and Kent) 
After docking the tails from lambs, the wool would be removed, the tails joined and stewed with root veg. Two dozen tails would be required for a pie. 

Sparrow brains
In a courageous tart these were mixed with sweet potatoes and fruit.The name likely refers to the rumoured aphrodisiac qualities of the dish. 

Rook
When young rooks were ‘cleared’ in spring, the breast and legs would be simmered in milk before being baked in a pie.The rest of the bird was too bitter for eating.

Larks
Recommended by Mrs Beeton to be served as an entree, these birds would be baked whole in a pie, bones and all. 

Intestines (Cornwall) 
The appetising sounding muggety pie contained cow entrails, boiled, sliced and mixed with cream and parsley.

Testicles
You could be forgiven for not knowing that ‘stones’ referred to testicles in the 18h century. Blanched and sliced, they were the main ingredient of a lambstone pie, mixed with artichokes and sweetbreads.

Piglests (Cornwall)
Or to be more specific, prematurely born piglets, the main ingredient of a tiddago pie.

Udder
Boiled and sliced with tongue and mixed with raisins, an udder pie was apparently tasty hot or cold.

Words: Steph Wetherell; thelocavore.co.uk

This featured in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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