We parked at the lower car park and stopped Indie, daughter’s portly Labrador, from beetling off up the road in search of a BBQ to snaffle – she often comes here for an evening walk with daughter and knows there are rich pickings to be had from kindly walkers.
As our guests ate their picnic and relaxed in a sheltered springy grass hollow off the path (they later fell asleep there – too much food!) Nick and I took the dogs for a walk.
A light north westerly breeze was ruffling the run of the tide off Ynys Meicel, the rocky outcrop the lighthouse is built on, and a single small boat made its way along the orange lobster pots strung just offshore.Warm in the sunshine we sat on the slippery slope of rabbit cropped grass above the sea and listened to the bird colony squabble overhead. I rolled onto my stomach and counted the lighthouse flash as I have counted it so many times before in so many ways – from shore, from sea, from sky – four white flashes.
I remember the horn at Strumble sounding through the fog on a long flat calm crossing from Ireland in our yacht Sirocco.
I remember the tick of the radio direction finder in my headphones as my Dad taught me how to use it to find Strumble, sending out her unique this is me code.
I remember the light across the sea, shining 26 nautical miles across the dark tides, almost home. Three white flashes, almost home. Dad plotted the course, brought us in right on the nose.
Sometimes I think the light at Strumble signals in my blood. I can feel it on transatlantic flights, calling me home.
We came here as children, when the storms came, to watch the waves break over the lighthouse, all foam and reaching energy. Never turn your back on the sea; the wave can overwhelm you, look and learn.
Strumble was still manned when I was a child. It wasn’t automated until 1980 although it was fully electrified in 1965. I have a nagging memory that Dad was somehow involved in that, but it was before I was born.
The original revolving lens system which weighed 4½ tons was supported in a bath of mercury to reduce friction. Rotated by an impression clockwork mechanism and driven by a quarter-ton weight that dropped gradually down through the tower it had to be re-wound every 12 hours.
In 1980 the metal bridge that crosses the narrow sea boiling gap between the Pembrokeshire mainland and the island was closed off and Ynys Meicel was left to the sea birds and the light. I swam through that rocky channel once, on a gentle tide, and the kelp stroked my bare legs with silken fingers and I was half terrified, half delighted as I raced through.
Now we hang over the edges of the stone walls to wave to the seals bobbing head high in the waves below – I still have to stand on tiptoe to look over, not quite grown up yet!
Funny how the memories all come back. Funny how these places stick in your mind. Funny how they become part of you, an immutable part of the Pembrokeshire home. Strumble Head, funny name really, but tattooed onto me, part of me. It is always good to see its light again.