Sitting at my desk on a wet Monday morning in September, it is hard to believe the summer is already over. And what a summer it was! I was lucky enough to be taken on as a National Trust Beach Ranger on Woolacombe Beach.
Starting in July, our first role was to strim all the pathways that run through the dunes – from the Marine Drive car park to the beach and, of course, the Coast Path that runs right through our dunes towards Putsborough and beyond. The second task in the dunes was to fix the wooden steps that take people down from Marine Drive. These are made in a traditional way using only wooden pegs to hold the step in place – no nails, cement or screws are used – just wood and a bit of elbow grease to drive the pegs into the sand.
An ongoing task throughout the summer was to clean the beach every day. The National Trust owns and manages the stretch of the beach between the two large rocks known as Mill Rock (Woolacombe end) and Black Rock (Putsborough end), with the two extreme ends having private owners. Some of the rubbish left on the beach was sadly left by visitors – dog poo bags, lolly wrappers, barbecues etc. but most – say about 75% was washed in by each tide. Most commonly, we picked up bits of fishing rope, fishing crates, gloves and other detritus from ships out to sea. We loved our ‘exotic’ natural finds – sea potatoes (a type of sea urchin), crabs (sometimes alive), shells, trigger fish, goose barnacles and, most prized of all, a whole dried sting ray which we affectionately called Stink Ray because of his particular perfume.
We ran events throughout the school holidays – games on the beach (giant snakes and ladders and volley ball were favourites) and rock pool rambles on Barricane Beach where we found pipe fish, star fish, spider crabs and many other fascinating creatures.
The best part of the role, however, was talking to the visitors on the dunes and the beach. Sometimes they had questions about the wildlife, the tides or other visitor attractions, sometimes we just had a pleasant chat and they went on with our day. It was lovely to meet so many happy holiday-makers, walkers and locals. It made all the hard work worthwhile to see people using the paths and steps, and appreciating a litter-free environment.
Roll on next summer!
Summer Beach Ranger, Woolacombe