Volunteering opportunity – we need you!

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs at St Bees Head, Whitehaven

As the seabirds begin to come back to nest on the cliffs at St Bees Head, a group of organisations are asking people to get involved with surveying the bird colonies this year.

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

We are recruiting!

Our Partners the National Trust have an exciting opportunity for a Ranger Trainee to join the teams working on the Whitehaven Coast and in Ennerdale.  The successful candidate for this 2.5 year post will be able to study for a Diploma in Countryside Management whilst gaining practical experience.  Details can be found at https://careers.nationaltrust.org.uk/OA_HTML/a/#/vacancy-detail/65103  Closing date is 7th May.  What’s stopping you??

Carpet sea-squirt – keep a look out

In March this year storm Emma hit Holyhead Marina, in North Wales, causing significant damage.  Despite efforts to contain debris from the damaged marina, some debris drifted out of the harbour area into the marine environment.  A consequence of this means there is potential for the carpet sea-squirt Didemnum vexillum (D. vex), a marine invasive non-native species, to spread to other areas.

The carpet sea-squirt us capable of forming large, flat colonies which reduce available habitat for other species.  As well as growing over rock, pebbles, boulders, cobbles and gravel, the carpet sea-squirt can also commonly be found on man-made structures such as boats, docks, moorings, ropes, chains, plastic and shellfish aquaculture gear.  More information can be found here.

Prior to Storm Emma the carpet sea-squirt was being contained within Holyhead marina after being fond on some of the floating pontoons and other artificial structures.  These structures were damaged during the storm and have floated some distance – a floating pontoon was found 37km away and polystyrene washed up in Wicklow is believed to have come from the marina.  So, there’s a chance we could find debris washing up on the Colourful Coast.

All sightings of possible debris in England should be reported to Natural England jan.maclennan@naturalengland.org.uk.   Where it is possible and safe to do so any debris found should be moved above the high tide line to prevent it from returning to the sea and help remove the risk of further spreading.

An advice note from Natural Resources Wales can be found below

Holyhead Marina Storm Emma Advice note Apr2018- D.vex 

Who lives in a house like this?

Along the Colourful Coast when the tide is out and the lower shore is exposed you can often find strange looking honeycomb like structures forming hummocks or sheets across the rocks and sand.

These fragile structures are the home of the aptly named honeycomb worm (or Sabellaria alveolata if you want to get technical).  The reefs are formed from the closely packed sandy tubes constructed by these colonial worms to live in.  The reef structures resemble honeycomb (hence the name honeycomb worm) and can extend for tens of metres across and up to a metre deep, constructed of thousands or even millions of individual tubes.  The worms are very specific in their requirements for forming reefs – as well as needing a hard substrate to attach to, they also need a supply of sand for tube-building so they are found on shores where there is sufficient water movement to bring a sand supply from nearby.  Their tubes are made by gluing sand and shell fragments together with mucus.  The worms head protrudes from the tubes to feed when the tide covers the reefs and then retreat into the protection of the tube as the tide goes out.  The reefs also provide habitats for a wide range of other animals including anemones, snails, shore crabs and seaweeds.

Honeycomb worm reefs are just one of the unique aspects of the Colourful Coastline, and one of the reasons why the area was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone, or MCZ.  The Cumbria Coast MCZ stretches for approximately 27 km along the coast of Cumbria, extending from south of Whitehaven, around the cliffs at St Bees Head, to the mouth of the Ravenglass Estuary.  More information about the MCZ can be found on the Natural England website.

Copeland Coastal Conference success

This year’s Copeland Coastal Conference was a great success with a variety of speakers and attendees having a great day at the new Beacon Portal.  Presentations covered a variety of topics from the new Lake District World Heritage Site to marine litter issues, a potential extension to the St Bees Head Heritage Coast and a pioneering food and energy positive community at Millom.


The rain also held off long enough for us to get outside to hear about an exciting new project which aims to tackle to litter issue in Whitehaven harbour with the Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project aiming to be one of the first places in Britain to purchase a SeaBin.


All the presentations from the day can be found below:

The Lake District – a new World Heritage Site, Eric Barker (Lake District National Park)

A tourism perspective on the world heritage site designation, Peter Frost-Pennington (Muncaster Castle)

Harmony presentation, Ashley Dobbs

Curating on the Coast Whitehaven, a heritage town, Elizabeth Kwasnik (The Beacon)

Seabins and the Whitehaven marina clean-up project, Steve Walter (Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project)

LOVEmyBEACH, Hannah Barnes (Morecambe Bay Partnership)

Marine designations along the Copeland Coast, Laurence Browning (Natural England)

We also heard from Neil Harnott of Cumbria Wildlife Trust about the Cumbria Coast Pollinator Project.  If you’re interested in filling in the pollinator survey all then information can be found in a previous ‘News’ post What do you know about pollinators?

Sophie Badrick, our project officer, organised the day and also gave an update on the Heritage Coast extension proposals.  A copy of the Heritage Coast report, produced by the Colourful Coast partnership and National Trust, can be downloaded from this page Heritage Coast extension

Finally, Steve Wilson from Surfers Against Sewage gave a great talk on his interest in the area.  Details of future beach clean events can be found on the Cumbria Coastline Clean up facebook page


What do you know about pollinators?

Can you spare a few minutes to help Cumbria’s pollinators?

The Cumbria Local Nature Partnership is hoping to secure Lottery funding that will help pollinating insects on the west coast of Cumbria, by creating and connecting suitable habitats.

To inform the application, it is important that we have more information about what people in Cumbria know about pollinating insects and the sorts of activities you might like to get involved with.

Please complete this very short questionnaire to help wildlife thrive on the Cumbrian coastline.


It should take just a couple of minutes. Thank you for your help!

Between the Tides

This week we came across a fantastic programme from Radio 4 called Between the Tides.  It’s an exciting soundscape following life between the tides on a sandy coastline.  Hear about tides, the strandline, why birds love the coast and why people do too!  It’s not quite the sheer rock faces and shingle beaches of the Colourful Coast, which have a unique attraction all of their own, but it’s well worth a listen.



Copeland Coastal Conference 2017

View over Fleswick Bay toward St Bees North Head with gorse in the foreground

The Copeland Coastal Conference is taking place at the Beacon Portal in Whitehaven on 17th October.  Organised by the Colourful Coast Partnership, with support from Copeland Borough Council,  the conference is open to anyone with an interest in the coast and is a great opportunity to hear about how other communities are tackling coastal issues, hear how the coast is used in a variety of ways, share knowledge and most importantly it is a chance celebrate Copeland’s beautiful coastline. 

This year we have a variety of speakers covering a number of topics including the new World Heritage Site, marine conservation designations, community action and an exciting and innovative marine litter project.  A copy of the full agenda can be found here –> Copeland Coastal Conference 2017

The conference will take place over a full day with a light lunch and refreshments provided.  There is no charge for the conference but tickets must be booked in advance.  If you would like to book a ticket, please use the Eventbrite site  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/copeland-coastal-conference-2017-tickets-37917300667