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.

Cumbria Coastal Strategy

Cumbria County Council are currently consulting on their Coastal Strategy and they want to know what you think!  Everyone living, visiting or working on or near the coast is invited to take part in determining how their local coastline should be managed.  Comments and feedback are welcomed but need to be in by the 14th December 2018.  More information can be found below.

Cumbria Coastal Strategy

Cumbria Coastal Strategy

The Cumbria Coastal Strategy (CCS) will be a plan to evaluate and manage the risks related to coastal flooding and erosion along the Cumbrian coastline on a long-term scale.  Following on from the North West Shoreline Management Plan (SMP2) which covered the coastline from the Great Orme in North Wales to the Scottish Border, the need for a more focused Strategy was identified.  The CCS will assess the existing condition of land and flood defences along the coastline and build on the existing proposals set out in the SMP2, identifying potential future interventions required. So, if you love, work or visit the coast, or just have some opinions on how you’d like to see it managed in the future then now’s your chance to speak up and let your thoughts be heard.  You can feedback online or by post, check the website for details.

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

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.

An unfortunate discovery

While beach cleaning last week our Project Officer discovered a porpoise washed up on Whitehaven’s North Shore.  While the creature had clearly been dead for some time, so there was no question that it could be a live stranding, we still reported the individual to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).  They confirmed the individual as a female harbour porpoise due to the spade shaped teeth (dolphins have needle shaped teeth).  Due to the level of decomposition there was no way to determine cause of death.

cof

cof

The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (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 publics 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

Nature recorders wanted!

Visitors looks for wildflowers

The Colourful Coast Partnership and Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre are launching a new programme of events aimed at getting people out recording the nature the find in their local area.

The Nature Recorders programme will encourage local people to map, identify and record the habitats and species of the Copeland coast.  Stuart Colgate, Recoding Officer for the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre says ‘We have good records of some species but there are still gaps in our knowledge.  We hope these sessions will encourage people to get out, records what they see and upload their results.  This will provide valuable information about the plants and animals of the area that haven’t been well recorded like plants, fungi and most invertebrates.’

To start this process there will be a series of free events, starting next Thursday (24th May) with an ‘Introduction to Biological Recording’ workshop in Whitehaven.  This will cover how to turn random sightings of wild plants and animals into valuable biological records.  These sessions will help volunteers find out more about the habitats and species we find in the area and learn how to submit their records to the Data Centre which can potentially be used for generations to come.

We really want to get people out spotting, identifying and recording wildlife so whether you’re a complete novice or already know the names of plants and animals you see while you’re out and about there will be an opportunity for you to be involved. If you want to gain some new skills, discover more about your local area or contribute to our knowledge and understanding of this amazing area then we’d love for you to be involved.

The free training is open to anyone, if you would like to get involved or would like more information please email Sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk or phone 07342088015