In 2015, the National Trust is celebrating 50 years of caring for the South West coast with the Coastal Festival. As part of the event, the charitable organisation has been collecting stories from many people who love the coast.
Jurassic Coast Magazine writer and South West Coast Path hiker Ross Packman has been nominated to answer seven questions about his relationship with our coast. Read on below…
What’s your favourite beach?
“While I’d love to show some solidarity to my Jurassic Coast roots, my favourite South West beach is probably Gwithian in West Cornwall. I’ve spent many years visiting the area and it holds many fond memories for me. The view across the bay to St Ives never fails to relax me and the opportunity to surf (albeit badly) is one I don’t like to miss!
A short walk also delivers you to Godrevy Head and a chance to observe the lighthouse and resident seal colony. Time your visit right and you’ll see the year’s new pups lolling around in the sheltered cove below you.
Sea or sand?
Definitely sea! Having spent last winter training as an outdoor instructor with Land and Wave in Swanage, Dorset, I was in or on the water most of the working week. Coasteering at Durdle Door is a favourite activity of mine and a fantastic chance to experience first-hand the dynamic power of water.
Tell a memory of being by the sea.
In 2013 I successfully completed ‘Forgotten Paths’, my attempt to thru-hike the full 630 miles of South West Coast Path (SWCP), raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society. 50 days on the SWCP left me with many memories but one that springs to mind is a drizzling, miserable day on the South Devon coast.
I was stomping along, hooded and hunched against the driving rain, when I spied a large black shape atop a gatepost. On approach, I realised that the size meant it could only be a raven, seeking respite from the poor weather. I quietly drew my phone from my pocket and began to creep forward. As I got within perhaps five feet of the post, the bird‘s heavy-billed head snapped up and with a panicked ‘KROK’, it launched itself off the cliff edge, but not before I managed to grab a single shot on my camera. I hold a long-standing fascination with the corvid family and it was privilege to get so close to such an iconic wild creature.
What’s your favourite seaside food?
I’m an unashamed fan of most seafood, devouring mussels and mackerel alike with equal gusto but honestly, nothing beats a doorstep-sized crab sandwich on fluffy white bread!
Favourite ice cream flavour?
Not very regional I know, but banoffee is my top flavour. Attempting to save face, I‘m also partial to clotted cream. In fact, I‘ll have both, thanks.
Have you lived by the sea?
I’m truly fortunate to have spent most of my life within spitting distance of the coast. Growing up in Lyme Regis, Dorset, then spending time with both the East Devon National Trust and Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust meant I was never very far from the sound of the sea. I also recently spent three months working with Leatherback turtles on the Caribbean island of Grenada, which involved me sleeping on the beach at least three nights a week!
Favourite place on the coast?
Given the large number of stunning beaches on offer, it might come as a surprise that in my favourite spot, you often can‘t see the sea at all. The Undercliffs National Nature Reserve can be found to the west of Lyme Regis and represents one of the few examples of virgin woodland left in the UK. Created by a succession of landslips in the 1800‘s, the Natural England-maintained reserve boasts seven miles of almost completely unspoilt, self-seeded woodland, as well as atmospheric ruins from the same period.
Though the SWCP is currently diverted away from the Undercliffs due to ongoing land slippage, access is still possible from the eastern limits, but the path is anything but easy, constantly undulating with the ridges and cracks formed by the land‘s constant movement. The sounds of the distant sea, wind-swept canopy and birdsong often intermingle, creating a calming ambient soundtrack to one of my favourite walks.”