Bantham beach: creating memories that last a lifetime

Writer and author Melissa Harrison explains why Bantham means so much to her and why she is backing the National Trust appeal to raise money to buy Bantham beach and Avon estuary.

Melissa Harrison with her sister and Mum on Bantham beach

Melissa Harrison with her sister and Mum on Bantham beach

“Going to Bantham Beach was one of the things I looked forward to most as a child. Every year, without fail, we would spend at least a day of our Devon holiday there, sometimes more: we would erect our lurid, 70s-style windbreak and establish a territory using sandcastles, inflate the dinghy, demolish our home-made sandwiches and then ritually bury Mum in the sand.

I loved exploring the dunes and swimming in the sea, but best of all I loved rockpooling: it seemed like magic that so many creatures could all live in one beautiful little world, and I’m sure I owe at least part of my adult love of nature to those idyllic days.

The thought that all the fun I had could be lost for future children seems heartbreaking, and I really hope that the National Trust are able to buy Bantham and preserve it for the nation.”

Melissa Harrison is the author of Clay; her new novel, At Hawthorn Time, will be published by Bloomsbury in April 2014


Creative Walking

We all know that going on a walk and getting some fresh air has its physical benefits. However, Dr Sowden, at the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey has been exploring the link between walking and creativity and explains his findings.

Everybody knows that walking is good for you.  But the benefits of walking may be more widespread than the obvious gains in physical fitness.  For instance walking may help our creativity, that is, the almost universal human capacity to think up new ideas that sometimes surprise others, and even ourselves, and that result in something of value.  It might be a great work of art, but equally it might be something ordinary like a better way to do our shopping, wear our clothes or amuse our friends.  So convinced am I of the benefits of walking that I choose to park my car a couple of miles from work each day.  On the walk in I find myself considering the day ahead, often with no specific point in mind but just a general awareness of what I want to achieve, and by the time I arrive at my office I usually know how I am going to make things happen. In contrast, on the way back to my car I naturally find myself mulling over the events of the day and how things have gone.  These two processes reflect the creative thinking cycle, the process of finding problems and generating new ideas and solutions on the one hand and then evaluating them on the other.  Creative thinking often entails effective use of both these modes of thought.

Interestingly, recent psychological research suggests a number of ways in which walking might help this creative thinking process.  Walking has been shown to improve our ability to shift between modes of thought, and to improve our attention, memory and recovery from mental fatigue, all of which are important for thinking creatively.  Further, exercise, such as walking, elevates our mood and this has long been associated with enhanced ability to generate creative ideas.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, walking exposes us to the constant flux of a changing environment providing us with an endless array of new and unique experiences, which combined with our past memories may, through serendipity alone, provoke new associations and give birth to new ideas.  Indeed there may be a bit of a twist in this tale of serendipity, walking and creativity.  In a recent study, researchers compared walking a free route to walking a repetitive route and found that the free walking was more beneficial for performance on a creative thinking task.  Perhaps I may have to start varying my walk to work a bit if I am to reap the full rewards of serendipitous creativity!

Find a walk and be inspired on your next Great British Walk and share any great or big ideas that you’ve had whilst out on a walk.

Exploring the past along the path

The South West Coast Path (SWCP) is a regional ‘icon’ and a major tourist attraction in its own right, appealing to everyone from families on outings to serious walkers from all over the UK and beyond. With the National Trust owning more than 420 miles of the South West coast, we play an important role in maintaining and managing the SWCP.

The SWCP team, in partnership with the National Trust, AONB services (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and many other organisations, has just received a significant grant of £2.1million from the Rural Development Programme for England (Sustainable Tourism Theme) towards its ‘Unlocking our Coastal Heritage’ project. This exciting project aims to understand more about our coastal history, repair some key archaeological and historic sites and investigate others threatened by coastal change. It will also provide improved access to certain routes, and interpretation and information at a series of new ‘discovery points’.

National Trust archaeologist James Parry writes: ‘The site of St Anthony Fort & Battery seen here on the headland just above St Anthony Lighthouse, overlooking Carrick Roads and Falmouth beyond, has long played an important strategic role in defending Falmouth and the estuary from coastal attack. It includes what is possibly the best surviving early breech-loading artillery fortress in the United Kingdom. The position and historic nature of this site is unique; the current tranquillity of the coastal walk is suddenly interrupted by the realisation that the site was once a noisy and dramatic place.

St Anthony Battery

‘The black and white photo shows St Antony Head as it was in 1942. The “Unlocking our Coastal Heritage” project will enable the excavation and interpretation of one of the previously inaccessible Second World War gun emplacements as well as essential conservation work to the shell hoists, significantly adding to the understanding and enjoyment of the site.’