As we worked our way through the narrow streets, we were greeted with looks of bemusement from the villagers. I smiled as it dawned on me, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in convoy. The mission had changed altogether from the beach party days, although it was equally as exciting. Unlike those times when I took these special places for granted, in the naive assumption that their timelessness somehow protected them, I was now leading a group of marine activists, striving to safeguard something more valuable and vulnerable than I ever imagined.
Judging from the wait at our meeting point, spirits were high. As we came around a corner on the dirt track, our backdrop for today’s dive finally came into view: the iconic St Michael’s Mount. I pictured how the others may be feeling at seeing that view for the first time and the anticipation of a new dive site. In reality, most were probably preoccupied with panicking, as the track narrowed and they heard the brambles etching their way into their paintwork. Just as the members of the convoy were starting to doubt what I’d got them into and whether the track would ever end, we took a sharp turn through an overgrown gateway, into a National Trust field, and we’d arrived.
It was instantly apparent why we were there; the beach was clearly a problem area. Even from a distance, you could see the beach was strewn with debris, tangles of of fishing nets and a large pile of rubbish previously collected by beachgoers. In all, our team consisted of nine divers, seven beach volunteers and three dogs. The beach cleaners took the prize for the most debris retrieved on the day and with tireless effort, retrieved an astonishing amount. The divers took the prize for the most challenging visibility Debris Dive undertaken to date and the dogs took the adorability prize (sorry Nigel, you can’t win them all).
One inspirational effort I feel compelled to mention, was that of Zillah. Being new to our group, Zillah had contacted me prior to the event, keen to know as a nondiver how she could become involved. I explained that we needed volunteers to help conduct beach cleans, record data, act as shore cover and engage with the public. On the day she arrived early, after traveling the length of our county on her wedding anniversary to take part. As soon as we hit the beach she was off, determined to move every last possible piece of rubbish and rallied the group into dragging the large tangles of fishing nets from the beach, concerned they’d be washed out again. Thank you Zillah!
The visibility inshore was non-existent. However, it could be seen from the coast path that it improved a short distance offshore. So, it was agreed that the dive procedure would include a surface swim and descent in clearer waters, with extra vigilance needed, due to the risk of separation. Thankfully, once we’d ploughed through the murk we were pleasantly surprised to find an interesting and pretty dive site. Notably, the nature of the debris in the sea was different from what had been washed ashore; seeing the amount and type of debris on the beach, I had been expecting to find mostly ghost gear. Whereas, most of what we found on our dive was plastic bags and domestic rubbish.
This goes to prove the importance of correlating data from both above and below the water line and the need for regular data submissions. From the shore, it is quite clear that this cove is a real problem area, but from just one dive and without any beach clean data, you would gain a very different impression of the site. Our group is currently looking into ways in which we can work with others to help pull this data together. The reason for the variance in this case, could be down to several contributing factors. One might be topography; it’s clear that there must be a lot of debris out there. The cove has an extensive reef, stretching throughout its length, dropping off onto sand and is part of a much larger bay. The debris may be constantly on the move, until there are storms of sufficient force to drive it up above the reef and deposit it high upon the tide line.
One thing’s for certain; it was a highly enjoyable day with good company. I would like thank the National Trust’s Julie Hanson, for recommending such an interesting dive site with such an awe-inspiring backdrop. And for working in the background to assist us in the logistics of the day, including removing the large pile of debris we left to be collected. Her only request being that we join them in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline campaign, by Toasting the Coast whilst there. The project was set up to protect the coast from the threat of development and look after it for ever for future generations. The National Trust now safeguard 775 miles of coastline across the England, Wales and Northern Ireland (300 miles of which are in the SW).
Our group is lucky that one of its most dedicated volunteers Tom Turner, who always goes unseen, runs a productions company, Paramore Productions. He has a habit of virtually disappearing into the background during an event whilst still managing to capture the day perfectly. Simultaneously on this event, three of us asked where’s Tom? He was spotted scrambling along on his belly not 30 feet in front of us trying to get the shot he wanted, now that’s dedication! Here is Tom’s latest masterpiece; once more he’s managed to turn such a challenging and potentially grim subject matter, into a piece of art. Thank you Tom
Trenow Cove Pre Event "recce" Video
Trenow Cove Dive Day Video
Video courtesy of Tom Turner @ Paramore Productions