The birds are back in town

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs at St Bees Head, Whitehaven

The birds at St Bees are back on the cliffs again for the summer, and we need your help once again to record whether they’re being disturbed.

The Colourful Coast Partnership is working with the RSPB, Natural England and Royal Yachting Association to recruit volunteers to take a walk up onto St Bees Head and observe the colonies for any disturbance, whether it comes from the air, the land or the sea.

Dave Blackledge, RSPB site manager, said ‘The bird numbers are increasing every year, which is great, but we need to understand if the birds are getting disturbed while they’re on the cliffs or on the water as this can affect their ability to raise healthy chicks or fish for food. We know that boats and climbers can sometimes unintentionally disturb the birds but we also want to know if there’s anything else, like birds of prey or drones, which could be having an effect’

Volunteers will be asked to go out once a fortnight and observe the seabirds from certain points along St Bees Head throughout the summer months, recording any interesting sightings. It’s not just skilled bird watchers who can get involved.   Sophie Badrick from the Colourful Coast Partnership says ‘Anyone who’s got a pair of binoculars and is happy to walk along the headland spending a few hours every fortnight viewing the birds and making notes can get involved.  We’ll be running a few training sessions in a couple of weeks to get volunteers up to speed and then it’s down to each individual to decide how often and when to go out surveying’.

The records will be collected by Natural England who can assess the levels of disturbance, whether this is an issue at the site and what kinds of activities are causing the issues. This will then allow Natural England working alongside the other Colourful Coast partners to focus on raising awareness to try and reduce the impacts of recreational activities on the breeding seabirds at St Bees Head so that the birds can continue to thrive.

Anyone who wants to get involved or would like more information should email Sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Basking shark spotted

Last week a basking shark was spotted just south of the Colourful Coast area around Seascale/Sellafield.

Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) are the second largest fish in the world and the largest shark we get in UK waters.  They can grow up to 11 feet or over 3 metres long.  They are regular visitors to the Irish Sea in the summer months, however these elusive creatures are rarely seen from the coast of Cumbria.

Don’t worry, there is no need to fear these gentle giants as they only eat plankton.  The warm, still weather and plentiful plankton could mean that now is a good time to spot our ocean giants such as basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust are running regular SeaWatch events throughout the summer sp please check their website if you’d like to join in one of these events – you never know what you might spot.

 

An extended Heritage Coast moves one step closer

As you can imagine, we are excited to hear that our proposals to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast further north towards Whitehaven have been unanimously approved by Copeland Borough Council at this week’s Full Council meeting.

We’ve written previously about why we think the St Bees Head Heritage Coast should be extended, and the benefits this extension could provide.  We’ve been championing this coastline, with it’s unique and special qualities, for many years and have worked closely with Copeland Borough Council and Natural England to put together the evidence base for the extension proposals.  The proposals put to Copeland Borough Council officers also included a change of the name to St Bees and Whitehaven Heritage Coast, reflecting the importance of the new areas.

fleswick bay (stbees)

Pat Graham, Chief Executive at Copeland Borough Council, said: “We’re delighted to support this proposal. We are very proud of our stunning and unique coastline and this quality mark not only promotes what we have, but enables enhancement.  We had an extremely positive response to the consultation with people in favour of the proposal. There were no objections received from any of the consultees and in fact, some of our respondents requested that more areas should be included, but unfortunately no additional areas met the criteria.  We will now be working with our partners to ensure that we maximise the benefits the proposed extension should bring.”

Copeland Borough Council will now submit the proposed extension to Natural England who will work with the Council to draw up a partnership agreement to re define and adopt the new St Bees and Whitehaven Heritage Coast.

We’ll keep you updated!

Two beach cleans in two days – what did we find

Last week we had our usual monthly beach clean in St Bees.  10 wonderful volunteers came along to help out and instead of heading towards Pow Beck and under the cliffs of Tomlin we set off with the aim of walking down to Seamill Lane and focussing our attentions on this end of the beach.

There was so much beach litter that we didn’t get very far!  The volunteers diligently cracked on with the task of collecting and recording all the litter they could find.  The results of the survey are below – as always lots of plastic but not as much sanitary waste as we find when we beach clean near Pow Beck, the results can be found here 190328 St Bees – Survey

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In amongst all of the litter there was one exciting find…a pipefish.  These sea creatures are related to seahorses.  Usually found in shallow water, camouflaged amongst seagrass and seaweed.  They’re found along the coast of Britain and eat tiny plankton which they suck up through their snout like noses.  Definitely an exciting find, and a little reward for beach cleaning!

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The next day we were lucky enough to host the North Lakes National Trust team’s start of season meeting.  Along with hearing about all of the exciting things the teams are up to across the whole property (which stretches from Borrowdale to Ennerdale and Buttermere to the coast) we also got 30 of the team out for a beach clean.

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Despite the large numbers of beach cleaners the rubbish we found didn’t pile up very highly – a testament to the fact that we find so much small plastic waste at St Bees.  One challenge we gave to the team was to try and fill a jar with cotton bud sticks to illustrate the issue we have at St Bees.  Well, the team didn’t disappoint!

Cotton buds

712!  712 cotton bud sticks found in one hour by our team.  That’s quite a shocking number.  We’re thinking about what we need to do try and tackle this issue.  If you’d like to see full results of what was found the full report can be seen here 190329 St Bees – Survey

 

 

Beach cleaning and mental health

Visiting the outdoors can have a hugely positive effect on peoples mood, wellbeing and mental health.  ‘Green prescriptions’ and ‘Walks for Health’ are becoming more and more common.  But does this change when people are beach cleaning?  Does the seemingly endless tide of debris and plastic that our intrepid beach cleaners pick up have a detrimental impact on their mood?  Or, does the act of doing something about the problem make people feel better?

The 2 minute beach clean team tried to get to the bottom of some of these questions recently and they’ve just released their findings on their website Beach Cleaning and Mental Health: Survey Results .  The article makes for very interesting reading with some wonderful quotes from beach cleaners about how the simple task of collecting litter has made improved their mental health.

So, does being outside help you feel better?  Does the coast boost your mood?  And what about beach cleaning?  Do you feel better if you know you’re part of a movement helping to tackle this issue?  We’d love to know how you feel.  Or, if you don’t know – then come along to one of our beach cleans and see if it has an effect.  You’ll get to meet likeminded people, have a chat, do something good and often there’s a cake or biscuit at the end too!  All the information on our beach clean cam be found on our events page.

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Honeycomb worms

After we’d finished our beach clean today we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to film some of the Honeycomb worm reefs that are exposed along our coastline at low tide.  Check out the video to see them in their natural habitat.

We’ve written a blog post before telling you all about the Honeycomb worms (Sabellaria alveolata) so have a read of that if you’d like to know more.

Look out for the Honeycomb worms when you next visit the Colourful Coast!

Heritage Coast extension proposals – last chance to have your say

For some time we have been working with Copeland Borough Council, Natural England and the Colourful Coast Partnership to put together a proposal to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast northwards towards Whitehaven. The extension proposals have been out for public consultation for the last few weeks and the consultation process closes tomorrow.  We urge you to use this opportunity to have your say on the proposals and the protection of this stretch of coast.  All the information about the proposals and details of how to submit your comments can be found here.

Heritage Coast – your chance to find out more…

Blue skies over head and sand blowing across the beach at St Bees

We’re really excited that the extension proposals for the St Bees head Heritage Coast are now out for public consultation and we’ve had some people asking us about them, wanting to know more.  So, we thought we’d invite you to drop in and look at the plans, find out more, have a cup of tea, chat to us about your thoughts and then feedback your opinions.

 

We’ll be upstairs at the Beacon Portal on Saturday 9th February from 11am until 2.30pm. Drop in any time and have a cuppa, have a chat and find out more about our coastline and what makes it so special.  It’s also a chance for you to find out more about the work of the Colourful Coast Partnership, National Trust and find out what events we’ve got planned for the area this year.

 

We hope to see you there.

A proposal to extend St Bees Head Heritage Coast northwards towards Whitehaven

For some time we have been working with Copeland Borough Council and Natural England to put together a proposal to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast northwards towards Whitehaven. Copeland Borough Council is now asking for your views on these proposals.  We encourage you to use this opportunity.  If you’re unsure what a Heritage Coast is, or why we think the boundary should change then read on…

 

What is a Heritage Coast?

Heritage Coasts were established to conserve the best stretches of undeveloped coast in England and are defined by agreement between the local authorities (in this case Copeland Borough Council) and Natural England.

Heritage coasts were established to:

  • conserve, protect and enhance:
    • the natural beauty of the coastline
    • their terrestrial, coastal and marine flora and fauna
    • their heritage features
  • encourage and help the public to enjoy, understand and appreciate these areas
  • maintain and improve the health of inshore waters affecting heritage coasts and their beaches through appropriate environmental management measures
  • take account of the needs of agriculture, forestry and fishing and the economic and social needs of the small communities on these coasts

 

St Bees Head Heritage Coast

The St Bees Head Heritage Coast was defined in 1992 and is currently 6km in length. It is the only stretch Heritage Coast between Wales and Scotland and is one of only 5 ‘orphan’ heritage coasts in the country, which means it does not fall within AONB or National Park boundaries.  The Heritage Coast definition sits alongside the existing designation of Marine Conservation Zone, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Ancient Monuments which recognise the unique qualities of this stretch of coast.

 

The proposal

The National Trust, Colourful Coast Partnership, Copeland Borough Council and Natural England have been working together to explore the options to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast northwards towards Whitehaven. They have put together an evidence base which evaluated the whole area against a set of heritage coast criteria. The whole document can be found here. This showed that the area marked on the map is of Heritage Coast quality, and the current boundary should be amended.

 

Proposed St Bees Head Heritage Coast extension

Map showing boundary of the proposed St Bees Head Heritage Coast extension

 

Opportunities and benefits

A northwards extension to the existing St Bees Head Heritage Coast boundary could:

  • Bring a wider recognition of the quality of the area
  • Increase tourism opportunities
  • Generate opportunities for grant funding which would contribute towards the further enhancement and ongoing management of the area.
  • Heritage Coasts are protected through the planning system. Local Authorities should ‘maintain the character of the undeveloped coast, protecting and enhancing its distinctive landscapes.’ This can also ensure that development is of a higher quality.
  • Opportunity to put together a steering group to create a Management Plan for the area. Legally every Heritage Coast should have a management plan incorporating targets, and a timetable for their implementation. St Bees Head Heritage Coast does not currently have a steering group or management plan in place.

 

What next?

Copeland Borough Council would like to know your views on our proposal to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast boundary towards Whitehaven and are running a public consultation on the plans until 15 February 2019. All the information on how to respond can be found on the Copeland Borough Council website https://www.copeland.gov.uk/content/st-bees-head-heritage-coast-proposed-extension , we encourage you to feed back any comments and thoughts on the proposals.  If you would like any more information on the evidence base or have any questions please email our Project Officer Sophie Badrick at  sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk and we will try and help you.