National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign – 50th Anniversary.

2015 sees the 50th anniversary of the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign. As a charity, the National Trust in the UK relies on donations and legacies, to continue its work of maintaining parks, areas of natural beauty, and stretches of coastline in their natural state.

Since its inception in 1965, the Neptune Coastline Campaign has bought over 750 miles of UK coastline. 750 miles of coastline which are cared for, and maintained by the National Trust, for the benefit of all who wish to enjoy them.Climbing_out_of_Whitesands_Bay_-_geograph.org.uk_-_451582

Many areas of the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, China, and other large countries, remain almost untouched since the dawn of time. Ravaged only by the elements, they stand as a monument to the way things were, before Homo sapiens arrived.

For a small, heavily populated country like the UK, these areas are almost none-existent. While the Americans have their ‘wide open spaces’, the UK has its narrow, confined spaces, and they’re getting narrower every day.

Recreational open spaces in the UK’s towns, cities, and urban areas are becoming smaller and smaller, eventually disappearing under tons of concrete and brickwork – becoming another tower block or office complex. Without the likes of the National Trust, English Heritage, or the Neptune Coastline Campaign, the large multinational conglomerates would be taking these areas of natural beauty as well – replacing them with yet more concrete and brickwork.

It’s only when you see the results of the Trusts work first hand, that you begin to realise just how much they are needed, and to a large degree, undervalued.

From a baby, to my mid-teens, my holidays were spent in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Working, as I got older, on a relatives farm. When not on the farm we enjoyed static caravan holidays, at Newgale beach, or Whitesands Bay, just outside St. Davids.

Along Newgale beach, caravans were perched on rocky outcrops behind the breakwater of smooth pebbles, worn round by the constant movement of the seawater as the tide came in or went out. A pub with a couple of letting rooms stood at one end of the straight road which ran the length of the beach. The road curving away from the coast, and making its way to higher ground at either end of the beach. 

At Whitesands Bay, the caravan park was a farmer’s field. The odd touring van having to be pulled out of the muddy field by the farmer and his tractor, if we’d had heavy rain the day before. A car-park sat opposite the field, and a row of four or five corrugated shacks sold shrimping nets, beach balls, souvenirs, or bottles of pop (soda), and bags of crisps.

For a young baby boomer, life in those days was idyllic. The sun always seemed to shine. Days were spent playing in the sea, or paddling in rock pools. Hours were spent trying to catch any hapless shrimps, or small crabs, which had left it too late to exit with the outgoing tide. Trying to hide under clumps of seaweed or pebbles, they were no match for a five year old and his shrimping net.NewgaleBeachPembs

Lunch was taken on the beach. Flasks of tea, orange squash, and mum’s homemade sandwiches of tomato, boiled egg and tomato, cheese and tomato, and a variety of other fillings, wrapped in a slightly damp cloth to keep them fresh. Always, it seemed they contained a liberal sprinkling of sand.

Time, as they say moves on. My life began to change, and the beach holidays in Pembrokeshire became a thing of the past. Different reasons took me to other areas of the UK, and the distant shores of foreign lands. Eventually, some 30 years later, I settled on the south coast of England.

Now in the late 1980’s, my latest born was a few months old when, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to take my wife away for a few days. Back to the area I had spent so many happy summers, Pembrokeshire.

Driving down, my mind wondered how much the place must have changed over those 30 something years. Purpose built caravan parks, maybe amusement arcades, and swings and playgrounds for the kids. Small shopping malls, and fast food takeaways for the beach visitors. We arrived in St Davids, smallest city in the UK, and booked into a small B&B, one of the few open out of season.

It was still early afternoon when we dropped off our bags. A quick bite of lunch and we were off again, but just a mile down the road. I was eager to see how much of Whitesands Bay had changed over the years. I drove slowly down the hill toward the beach.Sea_cave_on_Newgale_beach_-_geograph.org.uk_-_520469

The roads were still the same, narrow, with hedgerows on top of stone walls on either side. I pulled into the same car park. The same farmer’s field was still the caravan/camping site, although it seemed slightly larger. The only concession, a communal toilet and shower block. Even the tin shacks were still there, and still of tin, although, due to the time of year, all shut. It was like a journey back in time, everything was the same as it was 30 years before.

The following day we drove a few miles along the coast to Newgale Beach. So little change here either. The pub car park was larger, to cater for overnight mobile homes, and a camping area seemed to have taken over from the precariously perched caravans. There were though, still one or two parked, empty, waiting for the first visitors of the new season.

Chatting to the B&B’s proprietor over dinner that evening, I told him about my childhood holidays, and how surprised I was so little had changed in 30 years. ‘Welsh National Park’, I was informed, ‘and the Neptune Coastline Campaign. Little gets changed here, unless it’s for safety issues, or they have a damned good reason’.

Now, another 25 years on, I wonder if that still holds good. If I ever get back to the UK it’s on my bucket list. A trip 60 plus years back in time, too days of sunshine, and a young lad with his shrimping net.Whitesands_Bay,_Pembrokeshire_-_Mick_Garratt

If you intend to visit the UK during 2015, then enjoy the hustle-and-bustle of the big cities, the theatres and museums, hotels and nightlife. But try and take some time out. Hire a car, or book a coach trip. Visit one of the many National Parks, Historic Sites, or Coastal Walks up and down the UK. Managed and maintained by English Heritage, The National Trust, and the Neptune Coastline Campaign. Get a taste of real ‘Olde England.’

Andy F [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mike Graham [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Gunns [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Gunns [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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