2019’s beach cleans – our efforts to help the Copeland coast

Volunteers and litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Throughout 2019 we have run beach cleans at Whitehaven and St Bees. With the help of nearly 400 volunteers, over 100 bags of litter have been removed from the Copeland coastline this year and we want to say a big thank you to all those people who have helped.

It’s great that so many people want to do something to tackle the marine litter crisis. There’s such an interest in the marine environment and coastal pollution that we have no shortage of volunteers whatever the weather.  We’ve had lots of interesting finds this year.  Plastic Smartie lids are a regular find and they often look like new, but in fact Smarties began to use cardboard caps in 2005 so when we find a plastic lid it illustrates how long plastic might be in the oceans for before it washes up and can be removed.

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Alongside the fun finds there are also some saddening finds too. Dead sea birds have been seen on some occasions.  None of them have been tangled in litter, so it’s more likely that have died in rough seas or bad weather.  In November there was also a sad sight when a harbour porpoise washed up St Bees beach.  However, it did give a rare opportunity to get close to one of the marine mammals we know are out there, using our coastline but normally only catch glimpses of.

Alongside the time that people give us by coming along to help out, our beach cleans wouldn’t be as successful without the help of Carvetii Coffee in Threlkeld who donate hessian coffee sacks so we have less plastic going to landfill. A huge thanks must also go to the waste team from Copeland Borough Council who collect all the non-recyclable litter that we find.

We will be holding our last beach clean of the year on Thursday 19th December at Whitehaven North Shore and everyone is welcome to come down and join in, there will be mince pies and chocolates to help celebrate a successful year of beach cleaning.

The results are in…

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

The results of this year’s Great British Beach Clean weekend have just been released by the Marine Conservation Society.  Over 10,000 volunteers took part in beach cleans across the UK, from Scotland down to the Channel Islands.

We organised a beach clean at Whitehaven’s North Shore as part of the GBBC activities and were lucky enough to have 8 volunteers coming along to help us collect and record all of the litter we found on the day.  While the majority of what we found was plastic (almost 53%) a lot of what we were collecting was fast food rubbish and waste which we were removing from the shoreline before it had the chance to make it into the sea and become part of the marine litter crisis.

We may have only found 1.7 pieces of litter per metre of beach, which is a lot less than the national picture of 5.5 pieces of litter per metre, but that doesn’t make our efforts any less worthwhile.  As always, we want to say a big THANK YOU to all the volunteers who give up their time to help us remove plastic, wellies, buckets, glass, paper, rope, food wrappers, trolleys, cotton bud sticks, tyres and everything else we find while we’re beach cleaning.  Our last beach clean of 2019 will be back in Whitehaven on the 19th December – come along and join in, there may even be mince pies!

Copeland coast boasts safe, clean waters

Winter sun over St Bees beach

St Bees beach is one of four managed beaches in Copeland which have once again been recognised for their clean, safe swimming water.

In DEFRA’s annual figures, Silecroft and St Bees were found to have ‘excellent’ water quality, Seascale has ‘good’ and Haverigg’s is ‘sufficient.’

The results mean locals and visitors to these picturesque areas can enjoy swimming and other activities in confidence.

The Environment Agency tests water at specific sites every week from May to September, to ensure the water is safe and clean for swimming and other activities.

These results lead to a rating of excellent, good, sufficient or poor from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The annual rating is based on an average over four years.

Copeland’s Chief Executive, Pat Graham, said: “It is great news that we have maintained these levels of cleanliness at our managed beaches.  I hope it will encourage people to come and enjoy our beaches – even in winter, they provide fresh air, open space and spectacular views.  Maintaining the highest-possible level of water cleanliness for St Bees and Silecroft is fantastic, and is part of our growing attractiveness to tourists. This stunning coastline is one of Cumbria’s hidden gems and we are proud to celebrate it.”

More information about designated bathing waters and how they are tested can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bathing-waters.

The grand opening of a bin…..

Seabin in Whitehaven marina

Earlier this week we had the pleasure of going to the grand opening a bin!  But it’s not just any old bin.  It’s a very special Seabin, keep reading to find out more…

A few years ago we were involved in some of the initial conversations with the Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project about getting a Seabin in Whitehaven marina.  Since then the WHYP have been working tirelessly to monitor the water quality of the marina and work out where the Seabin should be placed.  They also had to raise enough funds not only for buying the Seabin, but also installation and running costs.

The Whitehaven Seabin in situ in Whitehaven marina

The Whitehaven Seabin in situ in Whitehaven marina

So, why are Seabins so special and why is a Seabin perfect for Whitehaven marina?  With no huge open ocean swells or storms inside the marina, the relatively controlled environment and water level provides the perfect location.  There’s also already a regular programme of maintenance throughout the marina which includes removing litter.  Plus, there are power sources and people on site.  The Seabin acts as a floating rubbish bin skimming the surface of the water by pumping water into the device. It can collect floating debris, macro and micro plastics, organic material (leaves, seaweed, etc…).

This is the first Seabin in Cumbria and one of only 20 in the UK.  It’s great to see it already working and skimming the water of the marina.  At their presentation in the WHYP offices before we went on site to have a look at the new bin the WHYP team told us that the Seabin team visited the marina and have recommended that the marina needs about 6 Seabins in order to tackle the pollution that comes into it from drains, dropped litter, through the sea lock, through accidental spills and many other sources.  The WHYP are continuing to raise fund to try and achieve this.

Presentation about Whitehaven Seabin from the Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project

Presentation about Whitehaven Seabin from the Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project

So, while going to the grand opening of a bin might sound a little boring it’s actually a ground breaking, exciting, world leading, ocean friendly bin funded by the local community (through the Cleator Moor Coop) which is taking positive action against marine pollution.  Phew!  Take a look when you’re next in Whitehaven.

The results of yet another beach clean

As it was the last Thursday in the month we had our regular Colourful Coast beach clean.  32 wonderful people came along to Whitehaven’s North Shore in the bright and chilly winter sunshine.

 

With this many people we decided to do a litter survey as well as a beach clean.  We use the Marine Conservation Society survey methodology so that we can add all of our data to the national picture of marine litter around the UK.  Our project officer, Sophie, has spent the afternoon adding all the results together and loading them onto the MCS website.  The results can be found her – 191031 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey.

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What the results don’t show is the massive amount of net that a few hardy volunteers spent all their time trying to remove.  This involves sitting on cold rocks and using a hacksaw to cut through all of the tangled net and then dragging it back up the rocks.  Along with 12 bags of rubbish, 3 large pieces of metal and some fencing today was a very good day and we left the beach a lot cleaner.

 

As always, a massive thank you to our volunteers.  See you at St Bees in November??

Will you help us to ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing’?

Duncan, trainee Ranger, gets stuck in to bulb planting

A few weeks ago we wrote about the ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing‘ project, which we’re excited to be involved with. This project aims to create more habitat for pollinators across key routes in Cumbria.  On the Whitehaven Coast we’re concentrating on planting bulbs at key areas around the Haig grasslands.  We started this process last week along Solway Road and with the help of some lovely members of the public we planted about 750 bulbs.  We’ve chosen lots of native species that will bloom in the springtime.

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Most of the bulbs are daffodils, snowdrops and snakes head fritillaries.  We also planted a small number of bluebells which ideally should have shady spots (like under tree cover) but we’ve spread a few through the trenches to see if they survive. When we’d finished planting the bulbs and had put the turf back over to protect them over the winter we sprinkled some yellow rattle seed over the whole area.  We inverted the turn to try and kill off some of the thick grasses that are currently thriving in the areas we are planning to plant bulbs.

Yellow rattle is a semi-parasitic grassland annual.  This means that it weakens grasses by feeding off the nutrients in their roots.  Some of the areas we are planting bulbs in are very grassy and haven’t been cur much in the last few years.  So we hope that by planting yellow rattle alongside the bulbs we will weaken the grass which will inevitably come back and be giving the bulbs the best chance of thriving.

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We have lots more bulbs we need to plant this autumn so we’ve organised another planting day on Saturday 9 November from 12pm until 3pm.  We’ll be on the Solway Road verge again and will have all the bulbs, tools and equipment needed (this includes biscuits!) so just come down and give us a hand.  Whether you can make it for 3 hours or 10 minutes everyone is welcome to help out or just come for a chat about what we’re up to.

Fascinating and saddening

Yesterday (Thursday 24th October) we had members of the public reporting one, or possibly two, beached cetaceans at St Bees beach.  When we headed down there we realised there was only one animal that had been moved by the tides so it had been mistaken for two different animals.  Unfortunately it was dead, and possibly had been for some time and it was likely that the sea had washed the carcass ashore.

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While it’s always sad to see such a thing, it also gives us a fascinating chance to get close to a creature we know is out there but never normally see.  This was an adult harbour porpoise, probably a female.  We are unsure of the cause of death.  There were a lot of injuries to the face/beak but these could have occurred after death in the sea or on land.  There were marks around the tail which could have been inflicted by a boat but, again, we have no way of telling if this was pre or post death.

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As with any stranding we reported this to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).  CSIP has been running since 1990 and is funded by Defra and the Devolved Administrations. They coordinate the investigation of all whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans), marine turtles and basking sharks that strand around the UK coastline.   As well as documenting each individual stranding, they also retrieve a proportion for investigation at post-mortem to allow them to establish a cause of death.  Strandings that undergo post-mortem examination provide valuable information on causes of death, disease, contaminants, reproductive patterns, diet and also useful pointers to the general health of the populations living in the seas around our coasts.  This provides useful baseline data to help detect outbreaks of disease or unusual increases in mortality. The CSIP depends on the public’s help in the reporting of strandings around the UK.

More information about the CSIP and what to do if you find a stranded animal can be found on their website or by reading their strandings leaflet which they have kindly let us share CSIP_leaflet

Due to the fact that the animal had been washed quite far up the beach by the recent high tides we also notified Copeland Borough Council (the beach owners) as they may decide to remove or dispose of the body.

Get Cumbria Buzzing!

North West Cumbria is home to an amazing variety of wild pollinators including bumblebees, hoverflies, solitary bees, butterflies and moths.  These pollinators may be tiny but their impact is huge. Pollinators help provide one third of the food we eat, pollinate more than 80% of our flowering plants and contribute around £690 million a year to the UK economy.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly basking in the sunshine

But, our wild pollinators are in trouble. More than half of UK bee, butterfly and moth species have declined in the past 50 years, and 30 species of bees face extinction. Over the last 75 years we’ve lost 97% of our flower rich meadows, 50% of our hedgerows, and 60% of flowering plants are in decline.

We’re working with Cumbria Wildlife Trust on the ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing’ project which aims to try and take action to halt this loss.  The aim is to provide vital stepping stones of a network of flower rich habitat. These stepping stones will enable our wild pollinators to move freely along the network across North West Cumbria.

A short video about the project can be found here.

We’re planning lots of events for you to get involved in so look out for details on the website and social media and lets #getcumbriabuzzing

Heritage Open Days 2019

Once again we’re running the ever popular Fog Signal Station Guided Walk as part of Heritage Open Days.  This year we’re running the walk on Sunday 15th September.  We’ve written about this fascinating building before St Bees Head Fog Signal Station

As we walk along the Whitehaven coast to the Fog Signal Station you’ll see and hear about the industrial history that has shaped this coastline and continues to do so today. We’ll stop for a break at St Bees Head Fog Signal Station with a chance to look inside this normally closed building which perches precipitously on St Bees Head. Then we’ll return along the coast towards Whitehaven. It’s approximately 8 miles along clifftop rights of way.

This is a free event but booking is essential – email our Project Officer Sophie to find out more or to book a place sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk