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Lighting Coastal Gardens in Cornwall

Lighting Coastal Gardens in Cornwall

Lighting Coastal Gardens in Cornwall

Lighting Coastal Gardens Cornwall

I’ve worked as a designer in Cornwall for over 25 years and have learned from experience (sometimes bitter!) how harsh the maritime climate can be when it comes to lighting coastal gardens.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid pitfalls when it comes to lighting your garden near the sea.

Salt and Corrosion Resistance

Just because a fitting looks nautical doesn’t mean the material it’s made of is robust enough to withstand the harsh maritime conditions. The best metals to go for are bronze, brass, copper, marine grade stainless steel or even hot-dipped galvanised steel.

Bear in mind that where you place the fittings will also have an effect on corrosion. I’ve known the best marine grade stainless steel to ‘tea stain’ when placed beneath an overhang. This was with one of my lighting design projects in St Mawes, Cornwall. The reason for this is that the fitting wasn’t being washed by the rain yet was still subject to the salty corrosive air. If you’re concerned about this, make sure you wash and grease the fitting from time to time.

Check out my core selection of brass wall lights suitable for coastal gardens


Go for good IP ratings although it’s worth bearing in mind that many EU products aren’t always tested to such a high spec as in the UK. I’ve bought some fabulous exterior fittings from Scandinavia which have lasted years – in reality they would be IP65 quality in the UK but only come with an IP44 testing certificate. So you can use your judgement provided the exterior light meets safety regulations and you consider where it’s going to be placed, But always be super-vigilant if you’re anywhere near the sea spray.

When using drivers or transformers I like to be extra cautious so, to be on the safe side, it’s best to specify water-proof versions and place these in a water-tight box. That way you have double protection,

Wind Resistance

Choose sturdy fittings that will withstand the high winds that can occur near the sea. Make sure that bollards have extra strong fixings or are cemented in situ. A fitting that will work in a city garden will get much more of a hammering near the coast!

Water Tight Connections

It’s always true when lighting any garden that you should think of any joints as the ‘weakest link’ and try and cut down on under-earth connections as much as possible. If you have no choice but to connect beneath the soil then use a joint kit, using crimp sleeves and an adhesive heat shrink. This should help avoid any ingress of moisture into the light fitting. Be firm about this with your electrician.

Also where possible specify longer leads that will reach the driver or mains supply.  This is usually only possible with high spec fittings but if you have the option if would be best to pay that little bit extra for a longer lead.

Glare Control

It’s always important to consider any glare that light fittings emit and try to minimise this by the light fittings you select, and where you place them. This can be even more relevant in coastal gardens that are sloping or terraced. Low level lighting works well when lighting pathways and steps but, if you have a lot of steps, it can often be more cost effective to choose slightly larger fittings (hooded) that give a wider spread of light.

Check out this core selection of outdoor step lights 

Position of Fixtures

I’ve designed several cliffside gardens in Cornwall and have learnt that you always need to consider how you will maintain the fitting without risking life and limb. Even LED fittings may need maintenance at some stage and LED bulbs on mains fittings will need to be changed – not that often hopefully,  but it’s always worth bearing in mind.

Environmental Impact

Try to consider the effect that the selected light fittings will have on the wildlife and any neighbours. It’s tragic to see a coastline punctuated with bright glary lights that affect the enjoyment of people living in the vicinity. Even the largest, most beautiful gardens can be lit discreetly and sympathetically. Remember the adage Less is More.

In summary, provided you consider all the elements above, then lighting coastal gardens is pretty much the same as landscape lighting in any part of the country.