What the coast means to me: Morwenna

A few weeks ago, Coast and Marine Advisor Phil Dyke told us how his love of the coast impacts on his work. But it’s not just our Coast and Marine Advisor who loves the coast. It is also a special place for Morwenna Slade, who is working on the National Trust’s Fit for the Future campaign. Howard Bristol, our Neptune Coastline intern, asked her how it has influenced her.

Morte Bay with Woolacombe and the village of Morthoe from Morte Point (National Trust), North Devon.

Morte Bay with Woolacombe and the village of Morthoe from Morte Point, North Devon. ©National Trust Images/David Noton

What is your favourite place on the coast?

I love the sea and I find it difficult to name just one spot that could be my favourite because there are so many beautiful places. But Woolacombe and the surrounding north Devon coast is definitely a very special and important place to me. 

How would you describe it?

Facing out towards the island of Lundy, Woolacombe Bay is a long expanse of flat sand, which curves round to form a bay with rocky outcrops at each end. There are beautiful sand dunes at the back, and to the north there’s a headland which goes up to the village of Morthoe. The coastline in that area  is beautiful, with lots of enclosed coves and sandy beaches. Some coves are better for rock pooling and other activities, but Woolacombe Bay itself is best for surfing.

Children on the beach at Woolacombe / © Morwenna Slade

Children on the beach at Woolacombe.
©Morwenna Slade

What does this place mean to you and why?

It’s important for me because it is a beach of many firsts. I met my now husband for the first time on a surfing and canoeing trip to Woolacombe as a fresher at Southampton University. It is where I first got on a surf board, and a few years later, first swam in the sea on New Years Day. It has become a place my family visit regularly, and it was the first beach I took my son to as a baby. 

A few weeks ago, you wrote a blog on the National Trust’s coastal policy and Shifting Shores. Do you think your relationship with the coast had an impact on what you wrote?

Yes – though perhaps not my relationship with Woolacombe in particular. The Studland Peninsual is another of my favourite places, and is particularly special to my husband’s family. But when I was researching how coastal erosion will affect our coastline, I was saddened to discover the impact this will have on Studland.  There will have to be big changes of infrastructure at this site – moving beach huts, toilets and further along the coast iconic sites such as Golden Cap are facing large scale erosion. A lot of places we know and love will change dramatically and beyond recognition – and that’s before factoring in a rise in sea level.

A view from the summit at dawn on the Golden Cap Estate. ©National Trust Images/David Noton

A view from the summit at dawn on the Golden Cap Estate. ©National Trust Images/David Noton

When I was a child I would go on holiday to my grandparents’ house in Fairlight Cove, Sussex. The cliffs there were badly affected by erosion, and landslips were very common.  Every year the cliffs would look slightly different with some buildings dramatically teetering on the edge after one particularly bad fall.  So I guess I have been aware of how alarming substantial coastal erosion can be, and I was shocked about significant impact that climate change is projected to have on the UK’s shoreline.

Why do you think the coast is a special place for so many people?

I think there’s definitely a connection to childhood: everyone remembers summer holidays at the beach when they were young. But I think there are other social factors at work. Before the mid-nineteenth century, some people probably never saw the sea, even though nowhere in the UK is further than 75 miles away from the coast. But over the last 150 years, we have gone from not being able to travel easily over land, to being able to hop on a train to the seaside, and I think our love of the seaside is a hangover from this excitement of sudden mobility.

  • If you love the coast and would like to tell us why it is important to you, feel free to add your own comments at the end of this post.
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