Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rockpool Ramble with BTCV Youth Group

On another glorious sunny day, Learn To Sea was honoured to be part of the last celebratory day of a 3 year project running with BTCV (British Trust Conservation Volunteers). This project was a youth group based conservation project from Exeter.

We had an amazing start to the day - we met at the source of the estuary on the Avon. They were a band of enthusiastic volunteers. It's always good to greet a group that have bonded over time. In the van - the music was blaring with some "interesting" singing in the van and best of all Alvin had brought some chocolate brownies that he had made early that morning and that was the first offering of the day - BRILLIANT!

So we started off where all walks should "talking poo" to put it politely. We were parked just beside the sewage treatment works and a pig pen homing some  lovely juicy, happy pigs! Strangely enough there was no aroma... just sleeping pigs in their pen, exhausted from their morning of eating! We talked about the catchment and water run off, sewage related debris and water quality - which is so important for this estuary - home to the "Bigbury Bay Oysters". Which I knew we might be tasting later!

As we walked down the estuary - my favourite of all in the UK. We were greeted by egrets ( invasive but beautiful) and sheldrake and other avian treats.  As we were walking down the tidal road we came across a crab moulting which was a good opportunity to talk about their amazing ability to moult their shells in order to grow. But lunch was calling and what a lunch - as it was the last of the year, the group were treated to a 3 course meal at the Oyster Shack. We had delicious oysters "pic-n-mix" and I had mussels too. It was great to know they were grown and produced and depurated so locally. In fact Richard ( the oyster owner) was lopping branches off in his garden as we walked past! And I was able to point out the depuration tanks en route to the restaurant as well.

Many of the group had never shucked, eaten or digested an oyster - but they all tried and all liked! Nobody was ill - it is not that common to be ill from well kept, well depurated (cleaned in running water for 42 hours) oysters. It was fantastic to see so many enjoy what is an overlooked and under rated delicacy from our local waters.

 Alvin enjoying his oyster!

We then trotted off with full bellies for the next part of the adventure back upstream to move on to my rockpool beach. Which obviously isn't mine - it's for everybody to enjoy!

The rockpooling was very cool! But not so cool that we were bothered when some of our feet got wet!! It was a brilliant spring low tide so we had a huge area of intertidal rocks to explore. With time and tide waiting for no man we headed down to the lowest point of the tide. We were rewarded with some amazing sights of clingfish, devil crab, montagu crab, cushion star, brittle starfish, carnivorous dog whelks and some irredescent, illuminated looking Peacock Weed - my favourite! It goes dull when taken out of the water - like so much of our marine creatures their colour and vibrancy is nothing out of the water only special when left in situ.

It was, I have to say, probably my best day yet. It was a lovely crowd, a lovely home grown meal and a fantastic low spring tide.

I feel so very lucky to live where I do and it is such an honour to be able to share it woth other people - it makes it even more special! Thanks BTCV for the brownies, laughter and being such a great crew!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Moor to Sea on The Avon!

Well, this month has been a great beginning of the SEA-son with Learn To Sea - lovely workshops, sunny beach cleans and fab funding news!

Learn To Sea has been given continued support from Aune Conservation Association for another year of after school clubs. Last year saw Aveton Gifford Primary School receiving 10 after school sessions on the Avon catchment...see previous posts...In 2011, Learn To Sea will run ( thanks to ACA funds) after school classes for 4 schools in the Avon catchment (pending confirmation from schools). They will each have 3 sessions - 1 field trip, 1 session on the natural history of the Avon and the last crafty session in which they will illustrate their favourite creature / plant of the Avon. There will be a final display of all 4 schools in a local village hall and also PRIZES! This is great news - each school will get new field study kit and the winning school will get an additional £200 of field study books/kit. Hopefully, this experience and funds will enable schools to run their own field trips after the sessions are complete!

It's a great opportunity for the schools in the catchment to learn about their patch and their neighbouring schools' in the catchment. Personally, I am really looking forward to getting muddy and crafty with the children of the 4 schools and to show them why our local patch is so very special and how lucky we are to have such amazing landscapes and wildlife on our doorstep!

So a huge thanks to the Aune Conservation Association for their support and the opportunity the children will have through this project...showing there really is, "Moor to Sea on the Avon!"

Sunday, 13 March 2011

News on my feathered & human friends in Midway atoll and the North Western Hawaiian Islands.

After my trip to Midway I was concerned to hear of the tsunami racing across the Pacific Ocean towards the North Western Hawaiian Islands. There's good and bad news - Wisdom the longest surviving 60 year old Albatross survived as did the only Short Tailed Albatross chick but many (thousands) of chicks lost their lives in the tsunami. The infrastructure and humans fared well but there was some unfortunate impact on the "moli"...

I was so very lucky to have spent some time on Midway with the "Moli" and learn about this magical island and all the amazing people that work towards it's health and conservation. Aloha to all on Midway...

I just wish I was closer to come and help clear away some of the debris...but hope that our efforts today beach cleaning will contribute just a little to coastal and ocean health.

For further info...



The memory of opening the carcass of an albatross chick to find plastic bottles and lighters with inscriptions, "Freedom and Innocence" will never leave me. The consequence of our "freedom" can be devastating.

Please remember to look up local beach cleans and contribute towards making a difference in your patch...it's great fun as well as being a great contribution to coastal conservation, saving wildlife and making for cleaner beaches.

Beach clean in the glorious sun!

Today, was a beautiful Spring day. Today was a beach clean day where we (along with local volunteers - mostly from the Aune Conservation Association) meet up clean the beach in the sun, have a nice chat, enjoy the Spring weather and remind ourselves how very lucky we are to live here in the South Hams. We collected lots of rubbish - particularly foam insulation in large blocks and some menacing smaller broken down pieces and collated the info on Marine Conservation data sheets. We collected as much of the broken foam, polystyrene and bottles that we could and left the beach cleaner and safer for wildlife and people...including the 5 attending small dogs, 2 young children and 9 month old baby that attended the beach clean.

We had a fab turn out of 17 people and 5 dogs. A wonderful bunch of kind hearted people who saw value in coming and cleaning the beaches - because it's a good thing to do but also because it's a great excuse to be on the beach with friends! After the clean up we all sat in the lea of the estuary "spit" and made a driftwood fire, cooked sausages and enjoyed the feeling of our cheeks getting a little singed in the early Spring months.

You should come along next time - it's a great day out...don't forget something to cook on the fire!

Incidentally, we were pleased to find that the beach was relatively clean, mostly due to recent weather conditions. But we couldn't help but think of coastlines in the Pacific wishing them well and concerned for the implications on human and oceanic health.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Happy faces & cold fingers!

Spring may well be here but it's proving to be pretty cold out there still! But that didn't put off the Youth Services Group bringing 3 wonderful youths from Plymouth to join a Learn To Sea workshop.

We started off with some star(fish) jumps to warm up and headed to the rockpools for low tide. We were filming the event so the children could take a CD home as a memento. Despite the bitterly cold winds we headed to the pools & soon (momentarily) forgot the cold. We found the moulted carapace of shore crab, anemones, edible crab and cushion stars. It was a great start to the rockpooling season.

After lunch in the warmth of the van the group learnt about Fred the Monkey (see previous posts) and his adventures, the impact of litter and even had a chance to see the dissection of an albatross bolus - or albatross sick as they affectionately called it. They were surprised by the squid beak and also the content of plastic. This then inspired us to go and collect litter from the beach and search the strandline for treasure - more lovely crab moults, a stinky dead crab and lots of lovely limpets!

We also managed to do some seaweed presses for the children to take home and a "design a plankton" session. They created some pretty scary plankton!

It was great to be back on shore and am looking forward to more rockpooling over the next few months when the pools will start getting warmer!

Thanks to the Plymouth Group for being sop much fun and enduring the cold on our rockpooling mission!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

What's ahead for 2011?

How can we top 2010? Well, it already is looking like a great year for the sea and our oceans!

We have already seen the brilliant success of "Hugh's Fish Fight". It was an incredibly encouraging programme. It supported what I thought was true - the general public really want to understand and learn about our seas and that they also want to support it's conservation. Hugh's crew did a fantastic job to educate and allow people the chance to support the fight against discards. Now that the marine environment has been put into the public arena like this, I hope that there will be a continued interest and opportunities of learning for the public. TV has a responsibility to do great things for our society and community - Big Fish Fight showed us that they have the power to really achieve this.

What's on in 2011.

The season begins with a workshop with a group of children from Plymouth's Youth Service. I look forward to taking them out this week and making some short films for them to keep as a momento!

March 15th Talk at Devon Maritime Forum.

I have been asked to run a talk about the value of marine education in Devon and nationally. I am looking forward to promoting the value of marine education and to meeting Tim Maddams from Hugh's fish fight who will be serving up some sustainable mackerel buns!

BBC Springwatch 2011.

Very happy to say that I have been asked to run another film for BBC Springwatch. I will post more details of this as the story unfolds...

BBC Coast 2011.

I have also been in discussion with the BBC Coast crew and hope to be running a film for them in the early Summer. Watch this space...

Aune Conservation Association, 2011. "Moor to Sea" Workshop & Competition.

The Aune Conservation Association have kindly considered supporting a second round of workshops for schools within the Avon Catchment...details to follow.

Summer Workshops 2011.

Shortly, I will post details of events for the Summer 2011 season. An opportunity to come and have a guided tour of our amazing intertidal rockpools. I can't wait to get my feet wet again! Hopefully with a little less rain than last season... although it didn't seem to put people off!


I will continue to run quarterly beach cleans and will post details of them. It's a great day out on the beach, very satisfying and a nice social - come and join us!

Learn To Sea looks forward to a great 2011 season of rockpooling and enjoying our lovely British coastline!

Long overdue update...

It has been too long and so much has happened in the last 9 months. It is time for a well overdue update.


I am in the process of finishing a blog which includes a diary of my trip to this beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific. This will be live soon once I have written some more of the diary and latest. In brief, the trip was more special than I can put into words. The depth of experience, friendships and imagery from that trip are too much to translate in photographs or words - although I will try on the blog. Needless to say it was life changing I found out so many things about Midway, conservation, culture and myself. I am also putting much of my new found experience, knowledge and discoveries into my projects and work that I do.

2. SUMMER 2010.

Learn To Sea enjoyed some workshops on the beach at South Milton Sands and will continue to run events throughout the Summer of 2011. Dates will be posted on here soon.

3. BBC Autumnwatch 2010.

I also had brilliant news from the BBC Springwatch / Autumnwatch crew that they wanted me to run a couple of films for them as guest presenter. It was a fantastic experience. The crew are so much fun to work with. The first film was on snorkeling though the autumnal coloured seaweeds. It took a couple of days to get the filming done through September - October - trying to get tides and visibility right can be a challenge! But so much fun and what a brilliant excuse to do one of the things I love best - snorkeling!

The second film was about the strandline. The strandline is an incredibly rich and diverse habitat full of all insects that are a veritable feast for shoreline visitors. We had heard from Steve Trewhella that there were several unexpected visitors to our shoreline. So we laid some Longworth traps and found Shrew! Beautiful little creatures with pinprick eyes and a venomous nip if of the Water variety...it was great to show the public some of the amazing diversity of things that can be found on the strandline. Within the film, I also mentioned that you can make "Sailor's Whistle" out of Bladder Wrack. Although, I didn't know exactly how. I had a lovely e mail describing how to make the whistle - I can now do it!

The two films were followed up by a "LIVE!" chat with Chris Packham and Kate Humble on the sofa of all sofas. To say I was a little nervous is an understatement! But when I got to the studio the crew, as ever, were so amazingly friendly and nice that it soon seemed less daunting. We ran a rehearsal and I realised that it wasn't such a huge ordeal! In the live all went well and I managed to keep it together! Then onto Unsprung which was great fun even when we lost air!

4. Other stuff....

Learn To Sea also ran workshops on marine litter for BTCV and other beach cleaning events and other Private bookings for marine educational workshops.

What a busy, unexpected and amazing year. 2010 was a great year for Learn To Sea and me, personally. I look forward to an exciting and busy 2011 to share and impart my love and knowledge of the sea!

You can now also follow me on Twitter @MayaPlass