Cornwall Beachwatch: Treasure Troves of Data

In August we ran a Wild Days Conservation research holiday on the wild and wonderful beaches of west Cornwall. Our beach-combing produced some interesting finds, and valuable data for the Beachwatch programme.

Detailed survey

recording finds

Recording finds

Over three days, the team visited six of Cornwall’s beaches on the lizard peninsula, and the north coast near St. Ives. The beaches were owned by the National Trust, RSPB and local communities and ranged from secret rocky bays to broad stretches of shining sands. And the sun shone!

Our surveys adopted protocols developed by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) for the Beachwatch programme. Measured 100m stretches of beach were carefully trawled for any signs of man-made litter which was carefully collected, sorted and documented. The data was collated and submitted to MCS.

Beachwatch: treasure troves of data

Beachwatch data - Porthoustock

Beachwatch data – Porthoustock, Cornwall

MCS’s Beachwatch programme has been collecting data through volunteer run surveys and is now in its 23rd year. In that time, the conservation charity has gathered an impressive quantity of information about the nature and changing patterns of marine polution. Their annual reports are used to lobby policy-makers and companies: the recent interest and action against ‘micro-beads’ is one example of how this information is helping change the way we act, and the products we use.

During our three glorious days on the beach, it was enlightening to see exactly what was found – we collected and documented a total of 2,557 individual pieces of litter, weighing a total of 15.1Kg – all from beaches that at first glance looked clean and welcoming. Perhaps predictably, the majority of this was in the form of small, sometimes tiny, pieces of plastic: exactly the sort of thing that can easily become a hazard to wildlife.

A rubbish holiday

Picnic on the beach

A jolly picnic on the beach

This being Wild Days Conservation, we also had an enormous amount of fun and perfected the ultimate beach picnics. We also took some time to meet the rangers and people who look after the beaches, survey the nightlife: moths and bats of the area, and enjoyed some lovely evenings out for dinner – including an evening dangling our legs over the harbour wall, wine glasses in hand, eating Rick Stein’s fish and chips in Falmouth.

Cathie, one of the team, when asked why she’d come on a holiday to pick up rubbish answered “I don’t know – but I’m loving it!”

We’ll be back on the beaches in Cornwall in 2017. Book now for an Early (sea)bird discount…