Whitehaven beach clean – the results are in!

Yesterday we had a whopping 22 volunteers joining us at our regular Whitehaven beach clean, which is fantastic!  We decided to make use of the big numbers and do a Beach Watch survey of the beach alongside collecting all the litter we could find.

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Together we collected and recorded 623 pieces of litter with over 60% of what we collected being plastic or polystyrene.  The majority of what we found was sourced from the public, which means it was litter dropped by people – we found a lot of fast food waste, plastic bottles, cigarette butts and sweet wrappers.  All of which was picked up by our dedicated volunteers before it was washed out to sea to become part of the global marine litter crisis.

The results from the survey can be found here 181017 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 17 Oct 2018

Its fantastic to see so many people coming along to help us tackle the marine litter problem.  In total we collected 25 bags of litter, lobster pots, a deck chair and part of a sofa! As always a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came along to help out – especially little Archie who missed a morning at nursery to come down but had a great time.

Chinese mitten crab

Recently the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority issued an advisory notice for the presence of the Chinese Mitten Crab in the Walney Channel.

NWIFCA CMC leaflet October 18

This is an invasive non-native species and are listed as a Species of Union Concern under EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation.  For more information on how to identify the Chinese Mitten Crab, and what you do if you suspect the presence of Chinese Mitten Crab please see this page on the NW IFCA website.  They haven’t been seen in the area of the Colourful Coast but if you have any worries please contact the NW IFCA.

Not so fantastic microplastic

Microplastics on St Bees beach

On a visit to St Bees Beach after the recent storms we were shocked by the amount of plastic we found.  There was the usual waste of rope, bags, fishing line, food wrappers, bottles, cotton bud sticks, balloon strings.  But it was the micro plastics which were really evident on this occasion.

This is possibly because it was a neap tide, meaning that even though it was had been stormy, the tide wasn’t coming as far up the beach as it sometimes does.  This meant that the smallest of marine debris, which is usually washed up to the back of the beach and lost in amongst the shingle, was instead being left on the sand for all to see.

You might be asking what are micro plastics?  The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration defines microplastics as less than 5mm in diameter.  However, this can include primary microplastics (which are much smaller and usually come from plastic used in exfoliating face and body products or industrial processes) and secondary microplastics (which are made when larger plastic products break down into smaller pieces).  Micro plastics are known to harm marine life, which mistake them for food, and can be consumed by humans too via seafood, tap water and other food.

Most of the microplastics we found were nurdles.  Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil. Countless billion are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products but many end up washing up on our shores.  Spills and mishandling by industry can mean nurdles end up at sea.  Unlike large pieces of plastic marine litter, nurdles are so small that they go largely unnoticed.

A handful of plastic nurdles

Nurdles found at St Bees beach

We’d like to know more about how bad this problem is so we’ll be buying some sieves, getting on our hands and knees and doing a Nurdle Hunt at St Bees around the next neap tide.  Details are still being finalised but we will be asking for volunteers to come and help soon.

In the meantime how can you help reduce this problem?  You can avoid microplastics by:

  • ensuring any products you buy don’t contain them (microplastics are banned in the UK but are still used in other countries)
  • recycle plastic products where possible
  • recycling anything you do need to throw away
  • not flushing anything other than the three P’s (pee, poo and paper) down the toilet
  • joining a beach clean and help clean up our beaches – we have regular beach cleans at Whitehaven and St Bees, see our events page for all the info you need

St Bees Head Fog Signal Station

We had a great day last week taking members of the public on a walk through the Colourful Coast to the St Bees Head Fog Signal Station as part of Heritage Open Days.

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The weather was kind which made it a pleasure to show off this stretch of coast.  Some of the people who joined us had travelled a few hours and some others had lived in Whitehaven all their lives but none of them had ever been inside the Fog Signal Station.  After talking to a few people on the walk we thought it would be good to share some of the information we have about this interesting and unusual building.

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The building has a long and interesting history, but fog warnings were set off long before the current building was built.

An explosive fog warning device was in use at the lighthouse from 1913.  This would have given an explosive blast at set intervals to warn shipping of low visibility.  The blast would have come from disposable tonite charges fixed to the pivoted arm, then set off by the lighthouse keepers after they had retreated as far as they could; the blasts are understood to have been extremely and uncomfortably loud.

The exact date of when the use of the explosive charge stopped and the Fog Signal Station came into use is unclear.   A set of drawings from Trinity House’s engineering section dated 1962 show the plans for the current fog signal station on the cliff’s edge, comprised of a bank of electronically-operated horns.  We know from talking to people locally that they remember the building being constructed in 1963 and 1964.

St Bees 058_006 copyright Trinity House

A drawing from 1971 shows the installation of automatic fog detectors, which typically ran calculations on mist density in the air and instigated the signal automatically if the water density in the air went over a certain figure and became a hazard to shipping.

It is unclear how long the electronic fog signal apparatus was in use for at St Bees, but it would not be unreasonable to assume that it was discontinued when the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation in 1987.

160526 St Bees Fog Horn Station (c) Sophie Badrick (26)

The fog signal apparatus was a Trinity House-type 3kw 30-unit stack. The ‘character’ of the fog signal itself (i.e. the pattern of sound/silence/sound/silence) was two ‘blasts’ every 45 seconds, being blast 4.0s, silent 2.0s, blast 4.0s, silent 35.0s. This blast had a nominal range of 16 nautical miles!

160526 St Bees Fog Horn Station (c) Ed Jagger (2)

If you have any memories, stories, photos or information about the Fog Signal Station that you’d like to share then please get in touch.  At the moment the building is currently closed to the public, but we’ll be running more guided walks to the Fog Signal Station in future so please keep checking the website for details.

Whitehaven’s Great British Beach Clean

Once again this autumn we organised a Great British Beach Clean at Whitehaven.  Now in it’s 25th year the Great British Beach Clean, coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society, is the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK.

The information volunteers have collected over the last 25 years has helped make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter ever – the plastic bag charge, microplastics banned in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and massive support for a tax on ‘on the go’ plastic single use items.

Trying to get used to the survey forms always takes a little while  so perhaps it was good that the beach at Whitehaven was surprisingly clean.  However, a few steps along the beach and looking amongst the rocks and we soon found enough litter to keep us going.  In total the four of us collected 269 pieces of litter in just one hour.  There was rope, cigarette butts, plastic cups, paper, plastic, glass, nails, lolly sticks and straws.  Joseph even collected some rope that was nearly as tall as he is!

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The rope’s nearly as tall as Joseph!

 

The full report from the beach clean can be found her 180915 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 15 Sep 2018.  It shows that most of the litter we collected was plastic or polystyrene with paper and cardboard a close second.  Most of this was rubbish we were collecting and disposing of before it reached the sea.  We had surprisingly little sanitary waste which is different from when we beach clean at St Bees.

As always a massive thank you to our dedicated volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning and came out to beach clean in some grey and windy weather!

Great British Beach Clean 2018

As part of the Great British Beach Clean we’ve added an extra beach clean to out usual monthly efforts.

We’ll be heading to Whitehaven’s North Shore on Saturday 15th September between 10.30am until lunchtime to record and remove all the litter we find.  We know from our last beach clean that there is a lot of rope caught in amongst the rocks so we’ll be hoping to tackle some of that and finally get it removed.

Give Sophie an email to let us know if you’re coming down so she can buy enough biscuits for afterwards sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

Heritage Open Days Fog Signal Station walk

*** This event is now FULLY BOOKED please contact sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk to be added to the reserve list ***

This year we’re again taking part in Heritage Open Days and opening up the St Bees Head Fog Signal Station for a select few people.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers. Every year in September, places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it’s all free.

On Sunday 16th September we’re organising an 8 mile guided walk from Whitehaven to St Bees Head as part of Heritage Open Days.  As we walk past the site of the old Haig mining museum along the 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 to Whitehaven.  It’s a great chance to hear a little bit more about this stunning stretch of Heritage Coast.  Places are limited so please contact our project officer Sophie if you’d like to book a place or find out more information sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

160526 St Bees Fog Horn Station (c) Sophie Badrick (19)

Blooming jellyfish!

Last week at as the tide went out at St Bees it left behind a large number of small jellyfish, marooned on the sand.  This jellyfish bloom was probably caused by suitable conditions of warmth, sunshine and calm seas meaning that numbers of jellyfish build up.  Jellyfish aren’t strong swimmers and, while they can pulse their bell shaped bodies, they can’t move quickly which means if the tide turns and rushes out they often get left on the sand.

Most of the jellyfish seen at St Bees were moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), which is one of the commonest jellyfish in UK waters.  The Marine Conservation Society have more information on all the jellyfish we commonly see in the UK, and a few more exotic visitors.

Some UK jellyfish do sting so we definitely don’t recommend touching any jellies you see washed up on the beach, but have a good look – these beautiful and delicate creatures will be washed back out to sea with the next tide.

Walk and work – behind the scenes at Birkhams Quarry

Join us next week (Wednesday 8th August) for this unique opportunity to carry out some practical conservation work in a working quarry.  We will walk from the old Haig Mining Museum, passing signs of Whitehaven’s mining past up to Birkhams Quarry where we will get a chance get a behind the scenes view of this sandstone quarry. When we’re there well spend a short time carrying out some conservation work on an area of restored wildflower grassland and record what species we find. For more information or to let us know you’re coming along email sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk