Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

Nearly half a century ago the National Trust launched Enterprise Neptune, with a mission to save our coastline from insensitive building projects. Since then the project, which was renamed the Neptune Coastline Campaign, has raised more than £65million and the Trust now manages 720 miles of coastline in total.

Howard Bristol is one of the most recent recruits to the Media & External Affairs team and the first intern to be working on the Neptune Coastline Campaign, engaging people with the coast as the campaign approaches its 50th anniversary in 2015. In this series of blog posts, he’ll be asking different members of the team what the coast means to them – starting with himself.

Howard Bristol at the seaside

National Trust intern Howard Bristol gives a taste of what the coast means to him

Since I got involved with the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign, I’ve been thinking a lot about the seaside – as you’d expect. Whether it was holidays there when I was younger, or more recent trips with friends, my memories related to the seaside are all surprisingly poignant. A holiday in Anglesey when I was four felt like a journey to another world. At home, I had seen my Dad using sand to mix concrete – but on holiday it became the building material to fashion elaborate castles, forts and moats. And after building sandcastles all day, in the evening we would sit by the sea with a cone of fish and chips.

In fact, even though we only went to the sea for a day or two at a time, school holidays have become synonymous with trips to the seaside. And this got me thinking. Is there something particular about the seaside that causes strong memories which last? After all, even though no one in the UK lives more than 75 miles away from the sea, for many the seaside continues to hold a special place in their imagination.

Perhaps it’s because for me – and my parents when I was younger – it was a departure from routine, a way to completely forget about the world of work. Unless you’re at a bustling coastal resort, there’s something fundamentally natural about the seaside. The sights and sounds of the sea help us get back to nature and give us a space away from home to reflect. This certainly explains why so many great artists, writers, and musicians have been inspired by our coasts over the centuries.

Coastline in North Devon Copyright National Trust Image by Steve Mulberry

Coastline in North Devon (Picture by Steve Mulberry)

But the coast is also a reminder that things are constantly changing. When I revisit the places I went when I was younger, the changes are uncanny. Over a year or two, the sea can reshape the coast, corroding the coast or retreating centimetre by centimetre. And this is not to mention the shops which come and go, the seemingly timeless fishing boats which have changed year on year.

Over the next six months as I work on the Neptune Coastline Campaign, I’ll be trying to understand what makes the coast a special place for so many people. I’ll be helping to communicate the National Trust’s marine and coastal work, so that the coastline will go on to inspire generations to come.

  • If you love the coast and would like to share your memories with us, feel free to add your own comments at the end of this post.

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