The best bit about volunteering is giving something back; I’m helping others to come and find out about this wonderful place.Volunteer Lighthouse Keeper
Lin Sunderland is 70 but walks up and down the 144 stairs at Spurn Point’s lighthouse with the speed of someone much younger.
“All the stairs require dusting and sweeping. Now it’s lunchtime and since 9.30 this morning I’ve been up and down them six times already!” she says, beaming.
Calling herself the Lighthouse Witch because of a lifelong love of these coastal giants, Lin is delighted to finally fulfil a childhood dream through her volunteering role. “I can now, finally, say I am a lighthouse keeper!” She saw her first lighthouse aged about four and was terrified, thinking the people who worked in them were 20 feet tall. “I could not even look in case I saw these huge monsters.” Soon, though, she visited a lighthouse lamp room and fell in love. That feeling has never gone away.”
The 128-ft tall lighthouse that is Lin’s ‘office’ now is decommissioned but beautifully restored and along with a few other volunteers, she helps to look after the building and explain its history to visitors, passing on the stories of how these engineering monuments saved countless lives.
“The best bit about volunteering is giving something back; I’m helping others to come and find out about this wonderful place. The whole area is very special and it’s really enjoyable to be part of a team helping to protect it for the future. Being inside a lighthouse is going back in time. Mariners could not have managed without them, lighthouses saved lives.”.
Lin also loves volunteering at Spurn as she sees a lot of wildlife including deer, birds and seals, and even whales on occasion. She’s certainly no stranger to beautiful locations and their lighthouses, having been to more than 150 around the world. However, the one at Spurn, about 30 miles from Hull, is one of her favourites. Each month she travels more than 100 miles each way to volunteer for a few days, sleeping in a YWT cottage a few metres from the sea.
Lin emphasises the importance of all YWT volunteers. “We all help to keep wildlife safe. Without more volunteers caring for nature, there’ll be nothing left for future generations. Many here know a lot about it and can explain and help with questions; we have some very knowledgeable members. For me, volunteering is about being in a lighthouse, for others it’s more about wanting to be outside. But I even spent a couple of days helping to move sheep which was also fun!”
Working with other volunteers and staff is another aspect of volunteering Lin enjoys. “The people are diverse but we get on; I feel part of a team and I’m comfortable here. If you have never volunteered and would like to, don’t let age put you off. You will get a lot out of it and make new friends.”
Lin, who lived in Australia for many years, only returned to the UK to see more of her elderly parents and intended to go back Down Under. But that plan fell apart when she fell in love - meeting her future husband when they both volunteered together and decided to stay in Britain.
Australia’s loss, however, is definitely Yorkshire’s gain. Lin has done a wide variety of jobs over the years and the YWT really benefits from the breadth of experience, motivation and friendliness the Lighthouse Witch brings to Spurn.
Written by Helen Leavey, writer and journalist.