As part of National Marine Week, on Friday 10th of August we welcomed Cornwall Wildlife Trust marine biologists Niki Clear and Adele Morgan for a special Ecoasteering session at Port Gaverne.

exploring rock pools with marine biologists from Cornwall Wildlife Trust on an Ecoasteering session with Cornish Rock Tors

With a 1.02 metre low tide in the middle of the morning we had a large expanse of intertidal rocks and rock pools uncovered and waiting to be explored.  With Hugo and Toby leading a group of enthusiast of all ages, and accompanied by Niki and Adele, we set off along the south side of Port Gaverne.  The first thing that we found were an abundance of Celtic sea slugs; admittedly they aren’t the most glamorous of marine creatures, but these small mottled grey slugs are quite rare and difficult to find so Niki and Adele were pleased to record a colony here.

exploring rock pools with marine biologists from Cornwall Wildlife Trust on an Ecoasteering session with Cornish Rock Tors

celtic sea slugs

Along the same rock wall we found several different small crabs, including a Montague crab and several small shore crabs.  The Montague crab is a pretty pumped up little fellow with big pincers, and will grab hold of anything that it can and not let go – including in this case a small piece of plastic straw (which we managed to take off him and dispose of).

montague crab holding a piece of plastic straw

With Niki and Adele on hand to spot and identify, we worked our way along the intertidal zone, turning over stones in rock pools and trying to identify all of the creatures that swam and scuttled off into the shadows of the seaweed.  We saw lots of shannies, and of course all of the creatures that can’t move of their own accord such as strawberry and snakelock anemones.  Hugo also found a five-bearded rock ling towards the end of the session.

strawberry anemone

As well as scrambling around the rocks and rock pools, and exploring some of the large caves, the group also explored the gut at low tide, finding lots of beautiful blue-rayed limpets which are about the size of a grain of rice and can be found clinging to kelp fronds.

blue rayed limpets

After a few jumps and a go on the “seaweed slide” – a slippery gulley on a wave-washed ledge, the group explored the exposed rocks all the way back to the beach.

coasteering with cornish rock tors

“It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”

John Steinbeck

rainbow wrack

rainbow wrack seaweed

These sessions with experienced marine biologists are really rewarding and very informative, for all members of the group and our guides who also get to enhance their knowledge.  Rock pools and the rocks and ledges that are exposed as the tide goes out are each tiny little worlds within which, over the course of a single tidal cycle, countless dramas are played out by the species that live there.

exploring a sea cave on a coasteering session with cornish rock tors

small crab in a rock pool

We’re hoping to host more Your Shore Beach Rangers sessions in the future, and all being well Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Shore Search team will be joining us to do a proper survey at Port Gaverne, and officially record some of the amazing marine life that calls our coast home.

rockpooling at port gaverne on a cornish rock tors ecoasteering session


coasteering in cornwall with cornish rock tors

National Marine Week is upon us again (although these days it’s a fortnight)!  Our friends at Cornwall Wildlife Trust are celebrating Cornwall’s extraordinary marine life with fun and inspiring marine events across the county from Saturday 28th July to Sunday 12th August, including a very special Ecoasteering session with us at Port Gaverne on Friday August 10th.

Join us for a coasteering session with a difference with marine biologists Niki Clear and Adele Morgan, exploring the coastline for fantastic wildlife in hard to reach places!

edible brown crab in a rock pool in cornwall

Friday 10th August, 10am – 1pm
This special Ecoasteering session will cost £36 per person, with priority given to residents of Cornwall who want to explore the beauty of their back yard.

This is a joint event with Shoresearch Cornwall and the Your Shore Beach Rangers team.

Take a look at all of the other National Marine Week events.


comb jelly (Beroe cucumis) photographed in Cornwall by Chris Wootton

With the incredible clear and calm weather that we’ve had here in Cornwall through June and the start of July, it’s been really easy to spot some of the marine life that call our stretch of coast home. There have been numerous jellyfish drifting with the tide recently, mostly Moon jellyfish (Aurelia Aurita) and Blue jellyfish (Cyanea lamarckii), but we have also spotted a few Comb jellies (Beroe cucumis) that are truly mesmerising. A Comb jelly is a sack-shaped jelly so looks very different to a “normal” jellyfish with their bell-shaped body and tentacles hanging underneath. They can grow up to 15cm in length and have been described as being “shaped like a small courgette”, however we have only seen small specimens about half that size recently – not much larger than an adult’s thumb. They are totally transparent making them hard to spot, but the eight longitudinal combs that run the length of the comb jelly and which they use to propel themselves reflect and refract the light as they beat putting on a spectacular light display. As they move, every colour of the rainbow seems to ripple along the length of the comb jelly. One friend called a comb jelly a “disco jellyfish” when she was shown one recently! They are also reported to be mildly bioluminescent, but it’s hard enough to spot them during the day let alone at night! Comb jellies are predators, actively hunting plankton and often feeding on other comb jellies. They feed by swallowing their prey whole through their large mouth.

comb jelly (Beroe cucumis) photographed in Cornwall by Chris Wootton

If you’re paddling in the shallows around the rocks in any of Cornwall’s sheltered bays, such as here at Port Gaverne, this summer, then keep an eye out for the rippling light display of the comb jelly – they are a wonder of nature and a sight to behold.


Many of you will know our sea kayaking and coasteering guide Hugo; he’s been an integral member of the team here for many years now and does a fantastic job of spreading his love and enthusiasm for the marine environment and this bit of the Cornish coast. Well, now it turns out that he’s also a descendant of a famous pirate!

Hugo’s dad was researching their family tree, and discovered that the Brown’s are distant descendants of Thomas Salkeld, a famous Westcountry pirate of Elizabethan times. During Elizabeth’s reign Salkeld had been a privateer and an associate of another notorious pirate named William Bishop, but when Bishop was pardoned his reputation was ruined and the pirate captains under his command deserted him. In March of 1610, Salkeld and his crew of sixteen men seized the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel for his own pirate stronghold, and declared himself its sovereign, King Thomas of Lundy!

Lundy Island

Lundy Island is a granite outcrop that sits off the coast of North Devon at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. It is just three miles long and half a mile wide, with rugged cliffs making it both easily defendable, and a haven for wildlife – the name Lundy comes from the Vikings who named it “Lund-ey”, which means “Puffin Island” in old Norse. There is evidence of Bronze and Iron Age settlements on the island dating back 3000 years and Lundy has been inhabited since these times, and between the 13th Century and 19th Century it was a base for pirates on more than one occasion – including, it is alleged, the famous Barbary Pirates of North Africa.

 From Lundy Salkeld attacked and captured ships in the Bristol Channel, taking their crew prisoner and pressing them into service. Eventually he commanded a crew of 130 volunteer pirates and prisoners, with “six or seven” ships and numerous small boats. Captives were enslaved, had their heads shaved, and were put to work on the island to fortify it under threat of hanging.

“He is fortifying the place, compelling prisoners to pull down stones out of the rocks to make a platform for his ordnance, and means to build a fort in that place where in times past, by report, there has been a castle. He swears he will never leave the place till the King (James I) pardons his life, and gives him the island for his inheritance… As soon as he takes any prisoner he holds his drawn sword to their belly, saying, “if thou wilt not swear to be true to me and observe my articles, I will presently kill thee.” He means shortly to set up a gallows to execute whom it pleases him.”

 Excerpt from a letter from the Earl of Bath to the Privy Council

coat of arms of thomas salkeld

Salkeld’s antics were of such concern to the merchants of Bristol that the famous pirate hunter Sir William Manson was ordered to fit out the 34 gun HMS Assurance and set sail for Lundy to capture it and Salkeld. In his haste he left before Assurance was ready, in a smaller ship with only 25 men, however in the intervening period one of Salkeld’s captives, a merchant from Bridgewater named George Escott, led a revolt against him and drove him from the island. Escott had lost his ship and goods totaling £500 (over £43,000 today) to Salkeld, and in return for ending Salkeld’s reign of terror over the Bristol he was offered an annual pension of 1s 6d (a little over £6 per year) by James I! Manson set off to hunt down Salkeld, but he had joined the crew of another local pirate, Peter Easton, who threw him overboard and left him for dead following an argument. Salkeld’s period ruling Lundy as its pirate King was brief, but colourful.

 Now we just have to hope that his roguish ancestor won’t give Hugo any grand notions of invading Castle Rock with a fleet of sea kayaks, and declaring himself king!

cornish rock tors sea kayaking guide hugo brown

 Thomas Salkeld was the subject of an episode of the 2009 documentary series Vic Reeves’ Pirates on The History Channel. We can only find it online dubbed into Spanish, though!

 


Ask anybody who swims in the sea regularly if it’s good for you, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you that it is. Open water swimming, sea swimming and cold-water swimming have exploded in popularity in recent years, however this is no fad – Doctors were prescribing swimming in the sea and visiting the coast to “take the sea air” as far back as 200 years ago, and the treatment is known as thalassotherapy.

What’s So Good About Sea Swimming?

Recently the growth in tri-sports and adventure racing has seen many swimmers take to the open water, and the reported benefits for both physical and mental health have also introduced people to its benefits. Swimming in the sea or in cold water on a regular basis is said to soothe and improve skin conditions thanks to seawater’s higher mineral content, and immersion in salt water has also been said to alleviate respiratory ailments such as hay-fever and sinusitis because saline water is thought to reduce inflammation. Swimming in cold water releases endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol, helping to lift mood, whilst the effect of regularly placing your body under mild stress by immersing yourself in cold water has been shown to increase the body’s white blood cell count, improving immunity and the body’s reaction to stress.

wild swimming with cornish rock tors

Sea Swimming in Cornwall

The sea here in Cornwall isn’t that cold over the summer months though; in fact, for those of us who enjoy the sea all year round the summer months when sea temperatures can reach 15-18 degrees Celsius are positively warm! Regularly submersing in the sea and settling into a nice rhythm to swim along a beautiful stretch of coastline is without doubt, in our opinion, the most enjoyable and beneficial exercise that one can undertake. The breathing patterns of swimming stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, and an A-to-B swim can be an almost meditative experience when you are totally absorbed in your timing and technique.

swimming into port isaac on a wild swimming session

And then there’s the view. On a calm and sunny day the view looking back at the stunning stretch of coast along which we are lucky enough to run our sessions is second to none. Wading into the water at Port Gaverne and swimming the one mile stretch to Port Isaac pausing to enjoy the view en-route, before swimming into one of Cornwall’s most picturesque villages through the harbour walls is an incredible experience. For swimmers wanting to cover some distance we can extend the route or swim the return leg, whilst others may be content do swim a mile and walk back along the cliff path, enjoying the view from the other direction.

swimming between the harbour walls at port isaac

This year, The Big Swim Cornwall is taking a break; in past summers this event has always been a highlight as hundreds of enthusiasts swim the one-mile route that we are so familiar with and raise money for charity. The last two events have been unlucky with the weather and this year the organisers are taking a year off to “let the grass grow back” to use a favourite Glastonbury phrase, and to re-evaluate their routes and plans for inclement conditions to minimize stress should they be unlucky again in the future. The great news though, is that you can still swim the route of The Big Swim, but on any day that you choose and without lots of other swimmers. Whilst running over the finish line in Port Isaac is a great feeling, getting splashed or kicked during the mass-start (particularly if you’ve entered one of the more competitive categories) isn’t a great feeling. We can take you out solo or in a small group with one of our instructors paddling a sea kayak alongside you for support, encouragement and to stop you from veering off course.

open water swimmer with support paddler on Cornish Rock Tors guided wild swimming training session in Cornwall

Whether you are a seasoned sea swimmer, are new to adventure events and looking for a supported training session, or you want to see whether sea swimming could help lift your mood or ease an ailment, we can tailor sessions to suit your needs. Our guided wild swimming sessions run at 8am, so you’ll see the best of the day, and cost £40 per person.

Click to find out more about our Guided Wild Swimming sessions.


If you’re after an active holiday and want to make the most of Cornwall’s varied landscapes, then our Pedal and Paddle Offer will be just what you’re looking for. As a National Trust ambassador business, we’ve teamed up with the team at the Lanhydrock Cycle Hub to offer our customers 20% off activities with each other. If you join us for a guided sea kayaking or stand-up paddleboard session, or hire equipment with us, then you can claim 20% off cycle hire or guided mountain biking sessions at Lanydrock and make the most of the incredible woodland trails. Likewise, if you’ve hired bikes from the Cycle Hub at Lanhydrock then they’ll give you a voucher for 20% off paddle activities and hire with us here at Port Gaverne.

sea kayaking in port isaac bay with cornish rock tors

Lanhydrock is one of the National Trust’s flagship properties in Cornwall; it is a beautiful country house and estate with parkland and extensive woodland just outside Bodmin, about half an hour from Cornish Rock Tors. Three years ago part of the estate was redeveloped and a cafe and cycle centre were built, and a network of cycle trails developed through some of the estate’s woodland. The well-maintained trails range from wide family friendly routes through to exciting downhill tracks for more experienced mountain bikers, so there’s something for everyone there. Cycling at Lanhydrock is a great day or half day out, and provides a good excuse to see a different part of Cornwall.

mountain biking the trails at Lanhydrock with the National Trust

The Pedal and Paddle Offer is only available outside of peak holiday seasons, within two weeks of a voucher being issued, and sessions or hire are subject to availability. You’ll also need to book your session or hire in advance. We’ll be offering vouchers to everyone who comes out paddling with us, and hope that as many of you as possible will be keen to have an active visit to Cornwall with us and The National Trust.

Find out more about Lanhydrock Cycle Hub here.

By visiting a National Trust property, joining the Trust, or supporting ambassador businesses such as Cornish Rock Tors, you are supporting their work and helping the National Trust to look after special places for ever, for everyone.

*The National Trust is a registered charity, number 205846

On the last Saturday of the Easter Holidays this year, our sea kayaking and coasteering guide Hugo organised a Big Spring Beach Clean event at Polzeath for marine environment charity Surfers Against Sewage.  Hugo is SAS’s regional representative for Polzeath and our local stretch of coast, volunteering his spare time and energy to raise awareness of their important campaigns, organising events such as this one and looking after the local SAS Beach Clean Box.  The Big Spring Beach Clean series (and its cousin the Big Autumn Beach Clean series) mobilises volunteers around the country to give a little back to their local beach; this year over 35,000 volunteers took part in 571 clean-up events at beaches, lakes and inland waterways.  Together they removed 63 tonnes of litter from the environment.  What an incredible effort.

six bags of litter collected from the beach during the spring 2018 polzeath beach clean

Polzeath’s beach clean was organised by Hugo and was also supported by Bird Sunglasses, Ann’s Cottage surf shop and The Tubestation (who hosted and refreshed volunteers), and was well attended with 52 people helping clear litter from the beach.  Together, they collected six full black sacks of litter and removed an old lobster pot from the high tide line.  Somewhat frustratingly, strong southerly winds in the days leading up to the clean meant that some plastic litter that could otherwise have been removed was blown offshore; that lot will have to wait for another day.

1930 medal found at surfers against sewage spring beach clean event in 2018

Beach cleans often turn up some interesting finds, amidst the usual suspects of single use plastic bottles, straws, cotton bud sticks and bits of fishing net.  On this occasion, a commemorative medal from 1930, celebrating the third jubilee of the founder of the Sunday School movement, Robert Raikes, was found.  One key element of these beach cleans is to record the types and amounts of different litter collected, which will be used to inform an upcoming report by the treasury into a proposed tax on single use plastic items.

surfers against sewage polzeath rep hugo brown during the 2018 big spring beach clean

We’re really proud of the work that Hugo does for Surfers Against Sewage.  The welfare of our oceans and coastlines is incredibly important to us – it’s our office and our playground and we love showing off our beautiful back yard to visitors to the area.  The marine plastic pollution issue is real, but thankfully it’s a problem that we can all do something about.

This summer Hugo is taking part in SAS Does Strictly, putting himself outside of his comfort zone as he learns to dance to raise funds for Surfers Against Sewage.  You can follow his progress and donate via his Just Giving Page.

All photos by and copyright of Christina Jones.


stand up paddleboarding across crystal clear water in cornwall with cornish rock tors

Get on the water and try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or sea kayaking this Easter under the guidance of our experienced instructors.

We’re running a Paddle-Sport Taster Morning on Saturday April 7th (the middle weekend for most of the school Easter holidays), so if you’ve ever fancied having a go at paddling a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard but have been unsure about committing to a full-length session or guided trip with us, then this one-off event will be perfect for you.  For just £5 we’ll get you into a wetsuit and introduce you to the basics of paddling (either sitting down or standing up!) within the sheltered waters of Port Gaverne cove, giving you the chance to have a go in the shallows or test the water with your family.

 

sea kayaking in the shallows of port gaverne cove in north cornwall

Sessions will run at 9am, 10am and 11am and cost £5 per person.

Booking is essential for this event, so please call us on 07791 534884 to reserve your space.