By Sophie Maplesden
Wild Coast Sussex Assistant Project Officer
I recently had the pleasure of helping to organise the Wild Coast Weekend. This was a free, two day event run by the Wild Coast Sussex Project, aimed at 18-25 year olds interested in conservation, our local coast or those purely wanting to boost their nature connectedness. It offered training in citizen science, marine species identification, and environmental campaigning.
The event took place at the Seven Sisters Country Park, a beautiful area by the coast surrounded by stunning white chalk cliffs. This is an important area for conservation and lies within the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone.
The weekend started off where you would expect, on the beach. We first searched for all the wonderful things we could find for some identification practice.
While on the beach, Communities and Wildlife Director Nikki Hills led a mindfulness session in which we talked about nature connectedness, and we all took a moment to take in the beauty and vastness of the ocean.
The participants then took part in a campaigns workshop led by the inspiring Ella Daish, Campaigns Officer at the Marine Conservation Society and founder of the #EndPeriodPlastic campaign. After learning about what it takes to run a successful campaign, each group came up with their own campaign ideas. It was inspiring to see what they came up with, many focused on the environment and engaging communities with their local wildlife.
he Saturday ended with an amazing barbecue and Question and Answer session with our guests that work in different marine careers/sectors. Participants got to ask about the experiences of people working in: conservation (at the Marine Conservation Society and Sussex Wildlife Trust), for government bodies (at the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) and in marine research (at Swansea University).
The Sunday began with a sea-themed art workshop run by the projects previous intern Lenka Wilkinson. This was a great way to combine creativity with ocean connectedness.
We were joined by Andy Dinsdale and Beverley Coombes from the charity Strandliners, who led a fascinating session about plastics found across the Sussex coast. They brought in some examples found in Sussex, such as detonation cable that had come from America, ink cartridges fallen from shipping containers, and a sea bean; a seed pod that had come from the rainforest in Brazil. This displayed just how connected the ocean is and the global impact of ocean plastic.
The attendees then conducted their own beach clean, with a twist… a silent disco beach clean! Everyone sorted through what they found using Marine Conservation Society beach clean survey sheets, which are a great citizen science approach.
We continued the citizen science training with Wild Coast Sussex Communities and Wildlife Officer, Ella Garrud demonstrating how to identify mermaid’s purses that come from shark, ray and skate species. Photos of mermaid’s purses can be uploaded to the Shark Trust’s Great Eggcase Hunt by anyone, to help learn about our local shark, ray and skate species.
Lastly, the group got to do some rockpooling and learnt about quadrat surveys and species identification from Sussex Kelp Recovery Project Co-ordinator George Short.
The weekend ended with roasting marshmallows and handing out well earned certificates and prizes.
Overall, it was a great weekend and went down a storm with our attendees. The event provided new skills for working in conservation and a space to try new activities, meet like-minded people and connect more with the local coast.
A massive thanks to everyone that attended and helped to plan the event, especially to Wild Coast Sussex Project Officer Sophie Atkinson, who organised and managed the whole event.