Exploring Hodbarrow Lighthouse at Millom Ironworks

Finding A Derelict Lighthouse on Hodbarrow RSPB Nature Reserve.

The derelict lighthouse at Hodbarrow mines and Millom ironworks
The abandoned cast iron lighthouse on Hodbarrow RSPB nature reserve.

I stumbled upon this derelict iron lighthouse at Hodbarrow RSPB nature reserve in Cumbria quite by accident.

I had decided to get back to nature and take a quiet evening stroll along the sea wall surrounding Hodbarrow Lagoon while staying near Haverigg. What I hadn’t realised was that it was previously the site of mines supplying Millom ironworks. Seeing abandoned engineering and remnants of industry on my peaceful walk through the nature reserve was a rather unexpected bonus!

Hodbarrow nature reserve is managed by the RSPB who have owned the site since 1986. It spans a large area of the former mines on the north side of the Duddon Estuary. The reserve is part of the Duddon Estuary site of special scientific interest and visited by a large number of birds including breeding terns, great crested grebes, redshanks, oystercatchers and other waterfowl. These can be quietly observed from the various hides dotted around the reserve.

How To Find The Mines At Hodbarrow.

The RSPB site is easily accessible from nearby Millom or from the start of the sea defences where they meet the beachfront in Haverigg, which is where I began my walk.

There is a small car park here if you want to walk around the reserve like I did or you can drive or cycle along a rough track that runs around the reserve with various parking spots along the way.

There are no facilities in Hodbarrow reserve, the nearest toilets, shops and restaurants are at Haverigg or Millom.

Hodbarrow Outer Barrier Sea Defences.

The sea facing side of the Hoddbarrow outer barrier sea wall is lined with thousands of concrete blocks. They are all individually numbered and dated and have holes in them for moving and positioning them.

Set into the wall in places are long seized-up winches and the rusty fastenings for old machinery from the days of the ironworks.

The outer barrier sea defence wall stones. The sea wall protecting Hodbarrow mines at Millom iron works near Haverigg
Hodbarrow outer barrier sea defence stones near Haverigg.
The numbered and dated stones of Hodbarrow iron mine's sea wall defences at Millom ironworks
The numbered stones of Hodbarrow’s sea defences.

Millom Ironworks and Hodbarrow Mines.

The mines and ironworks were in operation from 1856 until their closure in 1968 where they mined the haematite found in the area and processed it to extract iron ore. The construction of sea defences to protect the mines at Hodbarrow took five years and cost almost £600,000 before finally being completed in 1905. The defences included a new lighthouse part of the way along the inside of the sea wall.

I followed the path that runs along the wall between the sea defences and Hodbarrow Lagoon towards the lighthouse in the distance, unaware of whether it was still in use or not.

Apart from trying to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that followed me, it was a pleasant walk. The immediate landscape is fairly barren but there’s the view of Duddon estuary and watching the water skiers on the lagoon to make the hike more interesting. Scattered all around the area are decaying pieces of iron and the reinforced concrete sleepers and rails from the tracks of the mine’s former railway.

Broken railway sleepers at former iron mines on Hodbarrow RSPB nature reserve
Broken and rusted reinforced concrete railway sleepers at Hodbarrow iron mines.

Hodbarrow Cast Iron Lighthouse.

As I finally reached the lighthouse it became apparent that it hadn’t been used for quite some time and had clearly seen better days. Reading an information board, I found that it had actually been restored by the local community in 2004 and even had a new light fitted and working but at the time of my visit it was in a sorry state again.

I love exploring derelict and decaying old buildings but I find it really sad that people took the time and energy to bring this lighthouse back to life after half a century of abandonment only for it to become a rotting shell again within 15 years.

Despite this I was intrigued by this lighthouse as it wasn’t one of the usually brick or stone built ones that I’d visited many times before. The red and white painted lighthouse has a 9 metre cast iron tower with the top housing what was once a lantern surrounded on the outside by an iron walkway.

When I visited, the lighthouse’s iron door had been removed and was lying on the ground several feet away making access to the tower possible. Time for a spot of exploration!

Hodbarrow RSPB reserve rusted derelict iron lighthouse
The derelict rusty iron lighthouse near Haverigg.

Inside The Abandoned Lighthouse.

Inside there were the usual signs of vandalism with graffiti on the walls and beer cans and other rubbish strewn across all three floors of the lighthouse.

The structure itself is still nice and sturdy and perfectly safe to enter, although climbing the tower can pose a few hazards. The signs of corrosion are all around, particularly on the ladders and around the windows, which are unglazed and leaves the inside of the tower exposed to the elements.

After making the short climb to the top of the tower I found it in much the same condition as the bottom level with the added mess from its use as a perching place for birds!

I spent some time taking in the views of the estuary and the eerie ambience of the place as the sun started to set before leaving the lighthouse behind and continuing on my stroll.

Inside the abandoned Hodbarrow iron lighthouse at Millom
Inside the disused cast iron lighthouse on Hodbarrow mines.
Second floor of Hodbarrow iron lighthouse at Millom iron works
The second floor of the abandoned Hodbarrow lighthouse.

Hodbarrow Lagoon.

The path follows the sea wall as it curves around to join Millom on the other side of the lagoon. The lagoon itself is a fairly modern creation, formed by the subsidence and flooding of land where part of the mine once was. It’s now managed by the RSPB and as well as being a haven for waterfowl and wildlife, it is also used for various watersport activities.

The scenery is nice enough but there’s not much to see after that in the way of buildings until the remains of an old stone based windmill and the original ironworks’ lighthouse come into view on the hills above.

Looking through the porthole window of Hodbarrow lighthouse Millom
View across Hodbarrow mines from the window of the iron lighthouse.

The Victorian Stone Lighthouse.

This lighthouse known as Hodbarrow Beacon is a scheduled monument built in 1866 at the time when the ironworks first became operational. It’s an 18 metre stone tower with a round window at the top, which would have shone a light out into the estuary to guide ships into dock so they could load up with iron ore.

It was decommissioned in 1905 when the sea defences were constructed and the iron lighthouse built to take over its role. The tower is still standing but the interior is mostly empty except for a stone staircase. Access inside the tower is currently blocked by a locked metal gate.

The cast iron lighthouse that replaced it was itself decommissioned in 1949.

A Timeline of Hodbarrow Mines And Millom Ironworks.

  • 1856 – Hodbarrow Minining Company sinks first mine shafts to extract haematite for iron ore.
  • 1866 – Millom and Askam Iron Company open Millom Ironworks. Millom new town founded. Stone lighthouse built to guide ships into harbour.
  • 1905 – Hodbarrow Outer Barrier sea defences constructed. Cast iron lighthouse built to replace first lighthouse.
  • 1949 – Iron lighthouse decommissioned.
  • 1968 – Hodbarrow mines and Millom ironworks close.

Hodbarrow At Sunset.

I didn’t continue much further towards Millom as it was getting dark and I still had a long walk back to Haverigg. The sun was setting as I retraced my steps back along the sea wall, past the iron lighthouse.

It was a beautiful sight glowing in the evening sun. I only wish I could have seen it in its heyday, lighting up the estuary for the ships coming in to dock and load up with a precious cargo of iron ore.

I said farewell to Haverigg and Millom but I do plan to come back and complete the 6 mile walk around Hodbarrow nature reserve sometime in the future.

Hodbarrow lighthouse at sunset. The abandoned lighthouse at Millom iron works photographed at dusk
Hodbarrow lighthouse photographed at dusk.

The Old And New Hodbarrow Lighthouses Compared.

LighthouseYear
Built
Decom
Year
HeightTower DesignLight Source
First1866190518m (59ft)Stone round towerFrom Window
Second190519499m (30ft)Cast iron round towerLantern

More information on Millom’s industrial heritage can be found at the Millom Discovery Centre including original machinery and artifacts from the ironworks and the Hodbarrow mines.

A Nightmare On Elm Street. Freddy And The Dreamers

A Nightmare On Elm Street – A Horror Classic.

A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD collectors edition front
A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD collectors edition. Box front

A Nightmare On Elm Street is easily one of the most important horror film of the 1980s. It totally redefined the slasher genre and introduced us to Freddy Krueger, probably the most iconic horror movie character ever created.

The Elm Street series lost some of its lustre after the first few films and fell into a tried and tested formula of its own as other horror movies took over its creative mantle but the first film still remains a must see for all horror aficionados.

As Seen In The 1980s.

I was just a kid when A Nightmare On Elm Street was first released in the UK during the summer of 1985, so I never got to see it at the pictures. Yet, I still vividly remember being fascinated by the posters for it, which I’d see hanging outside the entrance to our local three screen cinema every time I walked past while it was showing there.

My first viewing of the film eventually came a few years later during the weekly movie night with my brother.  We rented the video from our local video store*, sat down in the living room with a bag of pick ‘n’ mix in front of our new TV, turned the lights off for that cinema experience and had our minds blown!

I don’t remember being particularly scared, I’d heard all about Freddy from school mates that had already seen the film(s), so I partly knew what I was in for, which looking back, probably spoilt it a bit for me – I would’ve loved to have watched it not knowing where it was taking me.

I have said the film didn’t frighten me, and it didn’t at the time, but I’m pretty sure in the following weeks I had nights where I lay awake in bed worried about falling asleep thanks to Freddy Krueger!

The Nightmare On Elm Street. The ultimate collectors edition DVD box set.
The Nightmare On Elm Street. The ultimate collector’s edition DVD 7 disc set. Box sleeve.

Production notes from the original theatrical press kit for A Nightmare On Elm Street.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS.

“Nancy Thompson is a typical American kid growing up in a clean, middle-class California suburb. She’s a good student, outgoing and well liked.

Her idyllic existence is abruptly shattered by a series of horrible nightmares – the monstrous stalking by a fierce cold-blooded killer.

That night one of her friends is brutally murdered in her sleep. The police suspect the girl’s boyfriend. Nancy, however, begins to suspect something far more sinister; she fears that the walls separating fantasy from reality are crumbling and the nocturnal monsters of their unconscious minds are hunting them down.

When describing her haunted, sleepless nights to her closest friends, they suddenly realized that they too have been jolted awake by screams and cold sweats; they too have been plagued by the same hallucination – the same awful madman.

Their only defence, she claims, is to stay awake. Her family fears that her sanity is slipping away, even as her friends are systematically slaughtered in their sleep.

After many sleepless nights of fighting off well-meaning adults armed with pills, warm baths, hot milk and calming lies, Nancy resigns herself to the fact that she must give in to her exhaustion and face the terror of her nightmares in a life-and-death battle for control. In an exciting and startling climax, Nancy confronts her tormentor and discovers the dark, decade-old secret of Elm Street and the heinous events that triggered the creation of the nightmare.

A Nightmare On Elm Street is the story of the courage and resourcefulness of one extraordinary girl – a psychological fantasy / thriller that rips apart the barrier between dreams and reality. It will make us all think twice before settling onto our pillows for a night of sweet dreams.”

Official trailer for A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Is it a horror classic?

I’ve re-watched The Nightmare On Elm Streets many times over the years and to be honest they haven’t aged that well! The gory effects that amazed me as a kid, well I have to say they do look pretty pathetic these days. They’re not going to cut the mustard with today’s generation used to ultra realistic CGI effects. Things that had the audience squirming in revulsion back in the ’80s are more likely to have them in fits of giggles now.

The first film was produced in 1984 and cost $1.2 million so it wasn’t a big budget film to start with and is now over 30 years old so for the money and technology available when it was made you’d have to say that what they achieved is actually very impressive. Especially considering the film was heavily reliant on prosthetic make-up, puppets and animatronics to create its nightmarish world.

As well as the in your face goriness and freakishly gruesome death scenes that put A Nightmare On Elm Street firmly in the horror genre, Wes Craven also delivered a psychological drama. The teenagers being terrorised are attacked through their unconscious minds, the only escape is to stay awake but they know that sleep is inevitable. The constant fear, anxiety and helplessness combined with the sleep deprivation makes for an extremely disturbed psychological state. Meanwhile the adults become concerned for their kids’ sanity amid their paranoid behaviour and talk of being stalked by a hideous monster in their dreams.

The Man Of Your Nightmares

Freddy could have been another in a line of psychopathic killers intent on slaughtering a bunch of teenagers in gruesome ways if it wasn’t for Wes Craven’s unique spin on the slasher flick. An evil being who exists only in your dreams doesn’t sound that scary at first. But when he can attack you in your sleep when you’re at your most vulnerable, that’s a bit frightening. When you discover that he can physically hurt you through your dreams and if he kills you in your dream, you’ll die in real life, now that’s enough to give you nightmares!

Freddy Krueger screen shot
Freddy Krueger

Heroes And Victims.

The unlikely hero of the film is Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), your typical suburban teen girl who you’ve seen in countless movies before becoming another victim or being saved by a brave male. There’s nothing about her that strikes you as hero material at the beginning of the film and she gradually looks more and more like the helpless victim as the film goes on. However, she turns out to be an incredibly powerful female character. Not by being a kick-ass martial arts expert or gun toting assassin, no, just by sticking up for herself when no one else will. She says “enough is enough. I’m not going to be a victim” and subsequently gives Freddy a taste of her own medicine and ends her nightmare – for now.

The film also gave us our first glimpse on the big screen of a certain Johnny Depp in a very memorable role (you won’t quickly forget his last scene), although not one of his most lauded ones!

Towards the end when we finally find out who Freddy really is and why he’s intent on killing the local teenage population, suddenly the psychological trauma is turned on to the adults. They come to the devastating realisation that it was their actions in the past that have created this man monster and have now sentenced their children to die by his glove.

A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD collectors edition booklet
A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD collectors edition. Booklet

Should I watch A Nightmare On Elm Street?

Yes, yes and yes!

If you’ve never seen the film before or haven’t watched it in years, then you do need to go into it without your expectations too high or it might not be the classic you were hoping for.

For anyone watching A Nightmare On Elm Street for the first time, it probably won’t knock your socks off. The fact is, like anything that was once remotely original, it’s been ripped off so many times since. All the clever or shocking bits that got us talking about the films in the ‘80s, you’ll no doubt have seen copied, tweaked or parodied in countless films and TV shows so the impact they had at the time is now sadly lost.

Even Freddy Krueger, played so well by Robert Englund, has become somewhat of a pantomime villain rather than the stuff of your nightmares.

Don’t let this put you off though, you NEED to see A Nightmare On Elm Street and possibly the next two or three films in the series. Many of the horror films we love simply wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for Wes Craven and his vision with A Nightmare On Elm Street.

It paved the way for films such as Child’s Play and SAW by adding a theatrical, often humorous element to the genre that was often missing from traditional horror films and merged the real world with the surreal where anything is possible.

Finally, the reason you should watch it, above all else, is it’s just a very enjoyable film. And if you want to laugh at the excruciatingly bad silicone monsters and severed body parts, that’s fine too!

The Grave †

A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD collectors edition back
A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD. Back of box.
IMDb.com rating: 7.5 / 10

* Video stores.

If you’re too young to remember video rental stores I’ll give you a brief idea of what they were like.  Back in the day if we wanted to watch a film that wasn’t on TV or out at the cinema we had to pop down to our local video rental and pay to borrow a tape for the night then take it back the next day, rewound of course.

You’d go in, browse the shelves looking at the cases to decide what video to rent (which was still quite limited in the mid ’80s) and go up to the desk with your membership card to get your tape. New and popular films cost more to rent but the cheap ones were usually pretty awful from my experience! Often the film we wanted would’ve already been taken out by someone else so we’d have to reserve it for next time or later if there was a queue for it.

With films now available at your fingertips it all seems like a chore these days, but in a way this weekly routine added to the excitement of our movie nights!