A rock climber from is using his head for heights to paint a lighhouse in Talacre on the North wales coat.
A ROCK climber from Llanberis, in North Wales, is using his head for heights to renovate lighthouses, bridges and other tall buildings.
Dad of two Rob Pritchard, 34, learnt to climb in Snowdonia and took an Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) course which qualified him to work at heights.
His latest project is the 192-year-old lighthouse owned by the Talacre Beach Leisure Group, near Prestatyn, which needs around 450 litres of paint to protect it from the elements.
Rob said he has also filled in large holes near the base of the 60-foot lighthouse which are caused by storm damage.
“So far we’ve used nearly 400 litres of paint and it will be more than that by the time we’ve finished,” said Rob, who started the renovation on 13 April 2010.
“Most parts have had three coats but some have had four.
“The roof is difficult because that’s made of metal and it’s very thin in places,” he said.
Rob’s grandfather was a merchant seaman and he’s found Talacre Lighthouse mentioned in his sailors’ logbook.
Helping Rob is his climbing partner Ian Williams and the pair have rigged a steel hawser round the balcony which acts as an anchor belay.
Rob uses an abseil rope to lower himself from the top of the lighthouse and another to hold the paint tins.
He carries a metal piton with him which has been handed down to him from climbers in his family and this “lucky charm” is used to prise open the paint tins.
Rob said a lot of visitors have stopped to chat but his favourite was an elderly couple who asked if he would take their photo.
“There was a couple who came up to us and asked if they could have a photo taken beside the lighthouse,” recalls Rob.
“It was their fiftieth anniversary and they had their first kiss next to the lighthouse 55 years ago.
“They were so cheery it was unbelievable. The woman could hardly walk but fair play to them for making it back here,” he said.
In 1775 two ships ran aground near Talacre in “ferocious” storms and 200 passengers and crew perished together with a cargo of jewels, silks and spices believed to be worth £40,000.
Reports show that “beach ghouls” clubbed survivors to death and robbed their bodies which sent a shockwave through the local maritime community.
The original lighthouse was built at a cost of £349 and its first keeper Edward Price was paid 15 guineas per year “and one guinea more for Christmas”.
Today it is owned by local businessman James McAllister, 66, who bought it at auction in 1983 together with part of the beach and since then its preservation has become his passion.
“It was totally derelict, it was burned out and that’s been my folly for a number of years in restoring the lighthouse,” said Mr McAllister who has 13 grandchildren and a 14th the way.
“It is the oldest lighthouse in Wales, it was built in 1777 and it took an Act of parliament to build it.
“There is a great sense of history and I wanted to save it because it was falling down and it’s not only a listed building it’s a listing building.
“So my company bought it and two-and-a-half-acres of beach which is very unusual because it’s below mean high-water mark which means it belongs to the crown .
“The Crown wrote to me a few years ago and tried to take it but there was a special dispensation to overcome their natural right.
“During the Second World War the RAF commandeered it and all along the warren, although it was inhabited, they put a firing range to train young spitfire pilots.
“They put up signs saying “firing in progress” so school children coming to and from had to stop and so forth.
“And there were RAF chaps with a radio at the top of the lighthouse with binoculars and they could feed back to the pilots their hits.”