Berry Head

50° 23.974' N 003° 29.006' W (not for navigation purposes)


Image of Berry Head

Aerial view of Berry Head

History

Berry Head, designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, is an extensive limestone headland. 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 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.

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 against threatened invasion by French armies and strengthened with limestone in 1803, 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.

At the end of Berry Head, beyond the coastguard station, is the lighthouse, which forms part of the chain of south coast beacons. The lighthouse, which was built in 1906, was converted to unwatched acetylene operation in 1921 and modernised and converted to mains electricity in 1994. It came to be known as the smallest, highest and deepest light in the British Isles - the tower is diminutive, requiring no further elevation than that given by the headland itself, and the optic was originally turned by the action of a weight falling down a 45m deep shaft, now made redundant by a small motor.

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