Category Archives: Blogs

Plastic Free Woolacombe

Plastic is big news and has been so ever since viewers saw the BBC’s Blue Planet II and were shocked at how much plastic was in our oceans. 

We were already alerted to the problem posed by plastics when supermarkets started charging for their carrier bags. But Blue Planet bought those concerns into sharp focus and told us we simply have to do more to protect the oceans, their inhabitants and our planet. 

It is believed that up to eight million objects enter our seas on a daily basis, with up to two-thirds of those objects coming from litter left on beaches or washed down in our rivers. That debris chokes our seas and damages the fish, mammals and birds that either consume it or become entangled in it. The Marine Conservations Society found that rubbish washing up on UK beaches increases year on year; it was up 10% in 2017. 

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) list many shocking stories on their website about the damage done by plastics when they enter the sea. In one case a whale had to be put down after being found malnourished off the coast of Norway. An autopsy showed 30 plastic bags and other packaging in its stomach and intestines. 

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Looking after our coastline

Woolacombe’s award winning three mile stretch of golden sands is one of the many reasons people visit this beautiful coastline. Like a number of British beaches Woolacombe is privately owned. Much of the land in and around Woolacombe was once owned by the Chichester family of Arlington Court, when the last in the family line, Lady Rosalie Chichester died in 1949 much of her land was gifted to the National Trust. However the beach, along with some of the surrounding land had previously been purchased from the Chichesters by the Parkin family. The beach is now managed by ‘Parkin Estates’ a family owned company who take a responsible and conscientious approach to its service and how the land and beach are looked after. Considerable investment is made to provide high standards whilst being sympathetic to its environment. This work is reflected in the awards that Woolacombe Beach frequently receive not to mention the thousands of people that choose to visit this glorious place each year. Parkin Estates do a fantastic job, maintaining the beach, we can also play our part in keeping our beautiful beach clean and tidy.

Looking after our coastline is extremley important. One of the big issues that we can help reduce on a personal level is the increase in marine litter. Marine litter describes the litter that is left on our beaches or washed up on our shores. The environmental charity ‘Surfers against Sewage’ work to protect the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy. The SAS have projects that target coastal environmental issues including marine litter, sewage pollution, climate change, toxic chemicals, shipping, industry and coastal development. Marine litter is the collection of discarded objects that do not occur naturally in a marine environment. The amount of this type of litter that can be found along the UK’s coastlines has almost doubled in the last 15 years. The majority of which comes from plastic waste which never truly breaks down and can impact our environment for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The rise in plastic can also be very harmful to the marine food chain.

“Over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million seabirds die every year from ingestion of entanglement in marine litter.” So, what can we do to help? Of course we can be more aware of what plastics we are throwing away, do we really need to use as many plastic bags, can we reuse plastic bottles? We all need to be more mindful of what we are using and the impact that it has on an environment that we all love. In 2013 the #2minutebeachclean was started. The campaign encourages people to spend a couple of minutes when they are on the beach clearing some of the litter away that has been left by the tide or people using the beach. Working together we can help keep our beautiful coastline a place that future generations will love to visit, and marine wildlife can safely enjoy. The National Trust for Woolacombe conduct a series of Beach Cleans that you can join, please visit their website for more information:

The Royal Hotel, Woolacombe – The Future

If you are reading this magazine, you more than likely agree that Woolacombe is a very special place. You may be discovering its delights for the first time, or a seasoned pro who has seen the town evolve considerably over the years. Preserving Woolacombe’s charm for locals and visitors alike is perhaps the most important thing for new businesses to consider as they come to the area, and as a significant hotel refurbishment is about to take place, we wanted to share some of the vision and values behind it. With demand for seaside accommodation increasing rapidly every year, and the UK experiencing something of a staycation boom, Devon must adapt to make sure that anyone who wants to visit can do so – and have a comfortable and memorable stay. The Royal Hotel in Woolacombe will be completely refurbished, to become the Atlantic Bay Hotel in 2019.

The Royal Hotel has been a family favourite for many years, with a reputation for friendly staff and great food, as well as some of the best views over the bay. Those traditions will live on in its new incarnation as the Atlantic Bay Hotel, with the building receiving the thorough refresh it deserves – as well as a few exciting additions. The hotel will get its biggest makeover since the 1960s, both outside and in, to become a stunning four-star hotel and spa. All 96 rooms will be revamped and provided with all the latest mod-cons, while the refitted swimming pool will be complemented by a new spa and fitness centre. A fantastic restaurant and a relaxing lounge and cocktail bar will be created, while redundant buildings to the rear will make way for expanded parking. The front of the hotel will be freshly landscaped to provide patio areas with seating to make the most of the magnificent views. The sympathetic conversion is planned to begin in January 2018, and the hotel will be up and running by the summer of 2019. Trusted local tradespeople will be contracted to complete the building work with a strict timeframe of under a year in order to minimise disruption to the area.

The incoming operator, Giant Hospitality, prides itself on safeguarding the things regular holidaymakers love about their favourite places. The family-owned group made its name in another classic holiday hotspot – Llandudno Bay in North Wales, where it runs the traditional, family-oriented Queen’s Hotel, and the more modern Llandudno Bay Hotel. The business model of the developer is to take hotels in wonderful locations that are due a bit of a makeover and whose owners are ready to move on, bring them back to their former glory (in-keeping with visitors’ requirements and the tastes of the local market), and deliver exceptional service at a competitive price. The hotel itself will be majority owned by people who care about the area and intend to use the hotel. Anyone can invest in a room, earn a healthy share of profits, and stay at Atlantic Bay for two free weeks every year (taking care of the family holiday as well as trouncing interest rates in the bank). For more information about the refurbishment, or to invest in a room from £75,000, contact Property Frontiers, or call 01865 700 202


Andrew Cotton – Big Wave Surfer

Andrew is a Plymouth born married father of 2 who grew up on the North Devon Coast where he started surfing at the age of seven. Ever since then, catching waves and being in and around the ocean has been his life. When he left school he worked in a local surfboard factory until the age of twenty-five. He then re-trained as a plumber, but along the way began to realise that his real passion lay in big wave surfing. Initially Andrew focussed on helping to pioneer big wave sports in Ireland, and more recently he turned his attention to Nazare, Portugal. Numerous Billabong XXL entries followed and he came to wider attention in 2012 when he towed American surfer Garrett McNamara into what the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed as the biggest wave ever surfed. Since then Andrew has a number of indisputably big waves under his belt, one or two of which have caused debate in the press as to whether they are even bigger than Garret’s record. With the national and global media coverage that followed, it might be said that he has been helping to push the boundaries as to what was thought possible and put Great Britain firmly on the surfing map. But it definitely hasn’t come easy, particularly as home in North Devon is not exactly famed for its big waves. So it’s meant making a lot of sacrifices to get to where he is today, working hard all summer in order to chase down waves all over Europe in the winter as well as spending as much time as possible with his wife Katie and their two children.

Can you remember when you first went on a board and tried surfing? Yes. Easter holidays at Saunton Sands when I was about 7. Hired a suit and board, freezing cold, raining and windy. Loved every second!

Surfing is often considered a spiritual as well as a physical pursuit, does it feel that way to you? Yes. I think surfers have a natural connection with the ocean and at times feel I’m physically performing my best when I connect and get in a really good flow with the ocean. So I guess that is spiritual in a way.

What made you want to surf the ‘big wave’ what is it that appeals? It was never a conscious decision I suppose it just evolved. I truly enjoyed surfing way more the bigger it got.

When you have surfed that ultimate big wave, which to many people is the ultimate achievement in surfing. What ambitions do you have beyond? I’ve got loads of goals and ambitions as well as that ultimate wave. Obviously the biggest wave is the dream but my surfing is constantly evolving and I’m always looking to improve. My small wave surfing always needs to be worked on so maybe I’d focus on that!

Where and when was the best wave you ever rode? I still haven’t ridden my dream wave yet, hopefully that is still to come.

What is the appeal of surfing, how would you explain what surfing means to you to someone who knew nothing about surfing? It might sound cliche but I suppose it’s a full on lifestyle maybe even a life commitment. Everything evolves around the wind, tide and long range forecast which can make planning things really hard. But it has always been like that my whole life.

How good is the surfing in Devon? Devon has great wave with a good variety in most conditions, on the whole it’s pretty consistent and if your keen you can probably surf most days in some form or another.

What other interests do you have apart from surfing? Swimming, cycling, training and hanging with the family.

Your friend Skelly is quoted as saying nothing scares you, is that true? No that’s not true , I get scared all the time. But challenging fear is healthy and something we should do more from time to time .

Mark Johnson Photographer

I have been taking photos around North Devon for a number of years so have got to know many of the features and seasonal variations. Whether it’s the sun setting over Baggy Point in the winter and Morte Point in the summer, the tide variations between seasons or the different flowers that grow during the year. This knowledge of the area can help in knowing where and when to go to get some great pictures. The other thing to take into consideration is whether I can take my little Westie dog, Poppy out with me. She often makes a perfect little subject and loves the experience of being out and about around the North Devon coastline.  Although I have taken pictures in many areas of the landscape, I have some favourite places, particularly when there is a view which includes a sunset and as much detail of the wonderful landscape as possible.

I am proud that some of my mounted pictures are now available to buy at the beautiful little West Country Gallery in Woolacombe.

Read the full article in our latest magazine.




Amanda Prowse Woolacombe Aug 2015100_1515

Woolacombe has a special place in my heart. My parents who are now in their seventies, spent their very first holiday there by the sea in the nineteen sixties and it was an epic journey from London in those days by all accounts. How times have changed and we, as a family who live in the West Country, have spent nearly all our summer holidays (and a few winter ones too!) in the beautiful town that we hold so dear. It was while we were visiting for a week in the summer of 2015, sitting on the sand by day, strolling the town by night and wandering the coastal paths before stopping for fish and chips to be eaten al fresco, that I felt compelled to write about the magical place where the views and the sunsets rival any in the world! I was sitting alone on a bench up on the Esplanade, watching the surfers claim the last of the day as their own, bobbing about on the waves like slick, black, inquisitive seals that I reflected on the glorious day we had spent. I felt a surge of happiness, recalling the simple joy I had felt to be laughing and happy in the sunshine with those I love. I started to think about what was important in my life and it was very simple, my family, my children, my friends; these are the things I hold dear, the things that make me happy.

Then I started to wonder, what it would feel like if I were to lose one of these things, or worse still, lose them all… My mind began to whirr, as it often does and ‘My Husband’s Wife’ was born. I placed my hand on the worn slats of the bench I was sitting on and imagined being Rosie Tipcott, coming up here for a chat to the world and a good old think during good times and bad. My Husband’s Wife is a story about what it would feel like if the unthinkable were to happen. It asks the questions ‘How do you begin to recover when the person you love has a change of heart?’ and ‘How do you go on when the glue that holds your family together disintegrates and that you are powerless to stop it?’ The book explores the idea of what that loss would feel like and gives us a peek into the life of an ordinary woman who has to become extraordinary just to survive.

The characters, Rosie and her wonderful young daughter’s are the heroines of the story, but the town of Woolacombe is also a star with the beaches, the shops, cafes and welcoming streets, as the backdrop. I am lucky enough to travel and work all over the world, but Woolacombe remains one of my favourite places, a place that I think about when I am far away and the place where I can walk on the beach in all weather and feel life’s stresses blow away out to sea. Here’s a little taster of my novel, my nod to this beautiful place and the magic that lurks on its coastline… “Having lived in the small seaside town of Woolacombe her whole life, it was hard for Rosie Tipcott to see it the way visitors saw it. Where tourists might rave about the surfing, linger for hours in the famous sand dunes or spend every afternoon on the crazy-golf course, Rosie was often preoccupied with what to make for tea, how many shifts she’d get that week or whether she’d remembered to switch off the iron. There was of course the odd day when she would take a moment from her chores to sit on her favourite bench up on the Esplanade and look out at the big, big sea foaming against the deserted beach at Barricane. Or when her eyes were drawn to the dazzling red sunset, as beautiful as any on earth. Either could stop her in her tracks and quite take her breath away. But what she really loved about the North Devon town was that it was home, the place where she lived in a quiet backstreet with her beloved husband and daughters.”



The Character of our Coast

The Character of our Coast is a new exhibition of rarely seen historic and contemporary photographs demonstrating the impact of people and climate change on North Devon’s coastal landscape over the past century. Beaford Arts and the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) have researched their photographic archives to illustrate the changes to present a “now and then” display, supported by funding from the AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund. The photographic exhibition can be seen from 2nd – 5th June at Holy Trinity Church, Westward Ho! as part of the Westward Ho! Festival. Beaford Arts and the North Devon Coast AONB will link the past with the present, to help us learn about and consider what we want for our coastal landscape in the future.

Beaford Archive background

The work of much loved photographer James Ravilious is widely known. For seventeen years James, who died in 1999, worked as a photographer-in-residence for the Beaford Centre, creating a detailed document of the landscape and communities of rural north Devon during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The James Ravilious collection is a body of over 70,000 negatives now stored in the Beaford Archive, only a small proportion of these have been digitised and are now publicly available through the Beaford Archive website. Working closely with his colleague George Tucker, James re photographed images dating back as far as the late 1800’s, building what is now known as the Beaford Old Archive. “James recorded the memories of the people who gave him the images,” says Kathryn Burrell, Archive Manager at Beaford Arts, “but those recollections were often partial, which has resulted in limited amounts of detail of many of the images”.

Contribute to our Coast

As part of the project, Beaford Arts has launched an online duplicate of The Character of our Coast exhibition to provide a platform for public discussion. “We want to invite people to tell us anything they may know about the Archive images, so that we may build a more detailed historical resource of our unique coastline” says Kathryn. As a test case for this, the Beaford Old Archive image ‘Seaweed Gatherers at their work, Appledore, date unknown’ was posted on the Beaford Archive Facebook page. The only information held was that given in the image title. Thanks to over 30 comments it is now known that the photograph was taken at Badstep at the top of the Appledore Lifeboat Slipway and that the ladies in the image were named Mary Duck, Hester Screech and Mary Tune. One contributor also informed the Beaford Archive that the laver the ladies would have been carrying in their sacks goes rather nicely with fried bread and crispy bacon! The Beaford Archive would love to hear from anyone who can contribute further knowledge or information to the images and comments can be added to the photographs in the Contribute to our Coast album at:

The AONB perspective

The special qualities of the AONB’s coastal landscape have been under recent scrutiny with the completion of a formal Seascape Character Assessment. This considers the natural and human interactions with land and sea, to create the distinctive character of the coastline. The photographs and descriptions produced for this work highlighted to the team some significant changes to the landscape during the 50 years since its designation.

“I was looking for a way of starting a wider conversation with the people who live and work along the North Devon and Torridge coasts about the future of our coastline,” said AONB manager Jenny Carey-Wood. “Technical documents aren’t for everyone and planning discussions can be contentious, but people love images of places they know and many would be surprised to see what has changed and why over the last 20, 50 or 100 years.” From his work on the Seascape project and liaising with the Beaford Arts team to identify key coastal photos, Dave Edgcombe, AONB Project Officer noticed two distinct changes over the last century, “Whilst in many places little may have appeared to have changed, in some areas such as the coastal resorts, there has been significant landscape change as these settlements have literally sprung up. Natural changes due to climate effects such as storms, cliff falls and sea level rises can be clearly seen from the images in the James Ravilious Collection and the Beaford Old Archive compared with today’s images.” “The James Ravilious Collection is a valuable heritage resource. Whilst it is very much about people in the landscape, rather than a study of landscape with people, it provides a good ‘snapshot’ in time about how we used and enjoyed the coast of North Devon some 30 to 40 years ago. Some people will notice little change, whilst for others a whole way of life and work has changed.

Exhibition Partners

Beaford Arts is the UK’s longest running rural arts organisation and in 2016 it is celebrating 50 years of supporting rural creative development across northern Devon. Through a programme of touring events and education projects, Beaford Arts works with communities across 1350 square miles of rural north Devon bounded by the Atlantic sea and moorland, providing access to high quality arts experiences. Work developing the Beaford Archive aims to further support the culture and heritage of rural communities throughout the region. Visit the James Ravilious Beaford Archive online at and the Beaford Old Archive at North Devon Coast AONB has been a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ since 1959 in recognition of the spectacular coastal area and special qualities within it. The area covers 66 square miles and stretches from Combe Martin on the Exmoor coast to Marsland Mouth on the Cornish border. The work of the North Devon Coast AONB team is guided by a 5 year Management Plan overseen by the AONB Partnership, which includes representatives from national, regional and local agencies, local authorities, voluntary organisations and local community representatives. For further details see:

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