Not an average evening on Plymouth Hoe. Faithless blasting out from a music festival and a beacon lit for the Queens Jubilee.
A lovely evening walk, ripe for a good old ponder. How effective was the beacon system as an early warning system. There is a good bit of theorising on the internet hampered by not a huge amount of recorded data. It is said that when the Armada was spotted of the coast of Lands End the beacon system alerted London about 6 hours later. Beacons were located about 5-15 miles apart depending on the geographical features of the land. Each beacon would have had a watcher and a beacon lighting team, their efficiency would have had an impact on the transmission time. Beacons were dotted along the south coast of England as far as Portsmouth and then turned inland and spread the news to London and the rest of the country. It is said that the news reached York in the north of the country in under ten hours. This is all vague because at the time no-one kept the time. The specificity of the news would have been carried by a messenger on a horse, the horse and probably the rider would have changed regularly between the start point of Lands End to the end point London. The news would then have then been spread far wider by horses and messengers being sent in all directions from London.
Tonight however the Queen touched a symbolic globe and without any horses or messengers, the beacon lit up in Plymouth and many other locations , just like magic. Although not exactly magic, we were close enough to the beacon to hear the gas being turned on several moments before the Queen placed her gloved hand anywhere near the globe. A moment made all the more memorable by ceremonial bagpipes adding unexpected notes to very well known Faithless anthems. Its been a day of anthems.
P.s. here is a proper photograph from a proper photographer.