Category Archives: Outdoor activities

Best beaches for beachcombing

The name “beachcombers” was first given to a motley crew of European castaways and ship’s crew deserters making a living as best they could on South Pacific islands.

Modern beachcombers can be quite serious about their activity, becoming experts on storms, ocean currents and seasonal events to increase their chance of an exciting find.  Among the mounds of seaweed, tangled fishing nets and plastic bottles, booty can include shells, driftwood, semi-precious stones, and the content of lost shipping containers.

A list has been drawn up of Britain’s top ten beachcombing beaches, taking into account tidal variation and gradient, as well as safety and accessibility.  The photograph,  which captures the absorption of beachcombing, is of Westward Ho! Devon,  and it accompanies a Guardian article on activity holidays.

1. Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire
2. Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire
3. Westward Ho! Beach, Devon
4. Cowes, Isle of Wight
5. Camber, East Sussex
6. Frinton on Sea, Frinton Beach, Essex
7. Herne Bay East, Kent
8. Barmston, East Yorkshire
9. Combe Martin Beach, Devon
10. Cresswell Dunes & Foreshore, Northumberland

The Guardian:  Activity holidays in the UK

Camping on Mull

The Isle of Mull is one of my favourite places in the British Isles. This place offers camping and bungalows next to the sea with views of Ben Nevis and the Caingorns. This is great base for exploring the island. There are otters on site on the loch and a seal colony nearby. Dolphins can occasionally be seen in the Sound of Mull from here. The owners note:

“Sea otters and red deer are regulars, and dolphins and porpoises are occasional visitors. Birds include terns, cormorants, eiders, curlews, herons, and buzzards, and you can watch gannets diving for fish out at sea. Golden and sea eagles occasionally fly past, and we can tell you how to find them off site.”

Wildlife and Sex on Hampstead Heath

John Constable, Hampstead Heath, c.1820
John Constable, Hampstead Heath, c.1820

The management of London’s biggest park (790 acres/ 320 hectares) involves balancing recreational activities with nature conservation. Stressed out city dwellers can relax in a rural landscape, composed of a rich variety of habitats, including meadows, where grass is allowed to grow long to favour butterflies, and woodlands, where all three of Britain’s woodpeckers nest.  Outdoor swimming is a popular activity on the Heath, while by one of the 25 ponds a bank has been constructed to encourage kingfishers to breed.  Up on Parliament Hill kite-fliers enjoy spectacular views of London and might also see Kestrels and Sparrowhawks hunting.

Encouraging respectful attitudes from the wide range of visitors is an important part of looking after the Heath.  There is a particular problem with the amount of rubbish left behind by night-time pleasure-seekers in West Heath, for example, famed as a safe cruising zone. The “Heath & Hampstead Society” proposes the following:

“The Society is . . . working with the City to come up with new ways to manage the problem, for example, putting solar lamps in trees to power flashing beacons on litter bins during the night.”

Wild camping in Britain

If you really want to feel you’re in the great outdoors, you should try wild camping. It’s more exciting, it’s free and you really feel part of the countryside. It is generally only legal in England and Wales with the prior permission of the landowner, though in most cases, if you ask nicely you probably won’t be refuesed.
Follow these rules: keep out of sight and away from livestock, do not build open fires, do not camp in large groups, respect the environment, stay for one night only, and follow the wild camper’s mantra: “pitch late, leave early.”
While you should also follow the above rules, things are easier in Scotland. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 makes wild camping legal in most cases as long as practised away from homes and roads.

The Guardian has this excellent article on wild camping. It gives recommendations, in addition to much of Scotland, for Dartmoor, The Berwyn mountains, North Wales, South Downs and The North Pennines.
The Guardian

For Scotland see: the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Climbing a redwood


BBC Radio 4 Nature on tree climber James Aldred climbing and sleeping in one of Britain’s tallest trees, a giant redwood, at a secret location. Lots on the natural history of the giant redwoodwhich was introduced into the UK in the 18th century.

  • Read and Listen (BBC)
  • See also Giant Redwoods, Coast Redwoods and Dawn Redwoods in the UK Read

The right to roam

Guardian editorial on the the right to roam. “Like the minimum wage, the right to roam was bitterly opposed in advance but has since caused barely a murmur of dissent….there are worrying signs that people who live in towns now feel divorced from rural life, uncertain what to do and where to go. The danger is that it is a short step from losing interest to losing the countryside itself.”
The Guardian