In January 2011 I set off on a virtual blogging journey around the British coast, and this month I finally ran out of coast to blog about. “Why?” I hear you cry. Well, I have always had a fascination for the idea of travelling around the entire coast of Britain, preferably on foot, but for various reasons I have never had the time, money or energy to do it. I also enjoy writing, however, and one dark winter’s morning as I was lying in bed I suddenly had an idea: “I know, I’ll blog my way around the coast”. Added to which, the British coast has given me a huge amount of pleasure over the years, and I just wanted to give something back.
So what have I discovered about the British coast?
- There’s always something going on! Music festivals, food and drink festivals, sea shanty festivals, literary festivals, sailing events, surfing events, marathons and half marathons – the list is endless. Although I have stopped blogging, I will continue to list selected events for each week, so if you want to find out what’s going on, check in from time to time.
- Every single place, no matter how small, has a story to tell, and there is so much history everywhere. When I came to Charmouth on the Dorset coast, I wondered how much I would find to say about such a small place, and then I discovered that it was the scene of a succession of bloody battles against the Danes in the 9th century. Moreover, that Catherine of Aragon had once stayed there in a building later to become a pub, after which Charles II turned up in disguise after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
- Our coastline is one of the most varied of any country in the world. From the towering cliffs and pounding seas of Cornwall or Pembrokeshire, the islands of the Hebrides, some doing an imitation of the Caribbean with their pristine white sand beaches, interesting rock formations and sea stacks, dunes such as those at Camber, the marshes of North Norfolk, the rias of the South Cornwall and South Devon coasts, the risky mudflats of Morecambe Bay.
- There is one recurring theme which strikes me as particularly sad, and that is the amount of industry that has disappeared from our coasts. The most visible example of this is in Poldark country, my home county of Cornwall, where everywhere you go there are reminders of a long-lost tin and copper mining industry. In Combe Martin, Devon, it is lead and silver mining which have bitten the dust. Other places have lost their coal mines, and in North Yorkshire it was ironstone which ceased to be mined. Strontian in West Scotland lost its lead, zinc, tin and silver mines. Another disappearing industry in many places is shipbuilding, and numerous ports have become shadows of their former selves due to the decline in export activity. As for fishing, although it continues in many places, there are countless places where the fishing has given way to more leisurely pursuits.
- The amazing people who selflessly give of their time for the benefit of the coast and the people who enjoy it. First and foremost, the brave people of the RNLI who risk their lives to save others, and the folk who work for the Coastguard, doing their best in the face of brutal cuts. The people who give up their weekends for beach cleans, wildlife surveys and other activities. The people who organise the aforementioned events and festivals and who raise money for charity.
And finally, I would like to dedicate my blog to its biggest fan, my lovely mother Barbara, who will be 90 in a few weeks’ time. You can see some of her paintings in the Cornwall section of my blog.