Marking 10 years since the MSC Napoli was grounded at Branscombe, Devon

What do you do when a large tanker containing thousands of gallons of oil is left beached and broken just metres from your beach?

That was the challenge facing rangers at Branscombe, east Devon, on Sunday 21 January 2007.

The stricken MSC Napoli after shedding its cargo, now washed up on the beach at Branscombe, Devon

The MSC Napoli was grounded off the Devon coast ten years ago. Credit: David Levenson / National Trust Images

Days before, the 275 metre long container ship MSC Napoli had broken its back in storms of the Cornish coast.

Tugs battled through stormy conditions trying to tow the ship to Portland harbour, Dorset, when coastguards took the decision to ground her just off Branscombe beach – rather than risk worse damage in deep water.

But the vessel leaked 200 tonnes of fuel and around 200 containers – a tenth of the total number strapped to the ship.

National Trust rangers helped with the clear up along the Devon and Dorset coast.
And the crash helped transform the conservation charity’s approach to planning for marine disasters.

Simon Ford, the National Trust’s Wildlife and Countryside Adviser in the South West, said: “I remember I was at the office when we heard about the Napoli. The rangers at Branscombe rushed down to the beach and we drew together our own team to support the emergency services’ effort.

“There were hundreds of thousands of mars bars completely smothered in oil washing up on the beaches throughout east Devon and Dorset, along with a multitude of other items from car parts to enormous shipping containers.

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Oil-slicked Mars Bars litter the beach following the grounding of the MSC Napoli ten years ago. Credit: Simon Ford / National Trust

“At the time I was working on a marine plan for Cornwall, planning the National Trust’s response in the event of a disaster off the Cornish coast.

“The ship grounded just as I was completing the plan for Cornwall and extending it to Devon.

“When it happened we were caught off guard.

“But because we had the draft plan from Cornwall we knew what we had to do.

“We rushed through, trying to use the information from Napoli to guide our plans for all National Trust places.

“We changed our planning processes as a result, taking into account marine pollution – cargo as well as oil.

“We made sure that every single National Trust coastal site in the UK have an emergency plan.”

Sheep graze peacefully above the aftermath of the MSC Napoli shedding its cargo, now washed up on the beach at Branscombe, Devon

Sheep graze in front of debris cleared following the Napoli disaster Credit: David Levenson / National Trust Images

The oil slick claimed the lives of many birds such as cormorants and guillemots .

But the long-term impact of the disaster on the area’s wildlife was not as bad as conservationists initially feared.

In the immediate aftermath it was thought that the scaly cricket (Pseudomogoplistes vicentae) had vanished from Branscombe beach.

But the rare insect, which is nocturnal and lives on shingle beaches, was rediscovered 18 months after the MSC Napoli was grounded.

Simon said: “We’ve learned the lessons of Napoli and previous tanker disasters, making sure that the damage to wildlife on sea and land is kept to a minimum.

“We’re as prepared as we can be for the next Napoli.”

Amy Liptrot’s THE OUTRUN wins Wainwright Prize at BBC Countryfile Live

Amy Liptrot’s debut book was named winner of the prestigious award for nature writing at a special event at BBC Countryfile Live this afternoon.

The Outrun, her account of reconnecting with her native Orkney, beat five other titles to win the Wainwright Golden Beer Prize.

Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot

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66 miles of new England Coast Path opens in Kent

The National Trust is today supporting the launch of 66 miles of the England Coast Path in Kent and East Sussex.

The conservation charity cares for six miles of coastline in Kent, including the White Cliffs of Dover and Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve.

An event marking the opening of the path will take place at the National Trust’s White Cliffs visitor centre.

The England Coast Path is an initiative of Natural England, the government’s natural environment agency. When the full path opens in 2020, the 2,700 mile long England Coast Path will be the longest continuous walking trail in the world.

Visitors walking their dog along the clifftop at The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, on a sunny day in August.

Visitors walking their dog along the clifftop at The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, on a sunny day in August.(c) National Trust Images / John Millar

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National Trust launches £250,000 coastal appeal to protect stunning Cornish clifftop

A £250,000 fundraising appeal is today  being launched by the National Trust to raise money to protect and care for Trevose Head near Padstow in Cornwall.

The fund will enable the conservation charity to extend areas of existing wildlife habitat on Trevose, whilst retaining other areas as arable farmland. Both are important in supporting rare wildlife. National Trust rangers will also create new footpaths, opening up the headland for visitors.

Thanks to the generosity of people who have left gifts to the National Trust in their Wills, the Trust is able to commit significant funds towards the purchase of Trevose Head.

Trevose Head -55 by John Miller

Trevose Head (c) National Trust Images / John Miller

 

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Shortlist for Wainwright Prize 2016 revealed

Publisher Frances Lincoln, in association with the National Trust, has today announced the shortlist for The Wainwright Prize 2016, an annual award to celebrate the best UK nature and travel writing.

Wainwright

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Soundscape transports you to the coast

Musician and producer Martyn Ware is today releasing an 82-minute coastal soundscape inspired by the hundreds of sounds submitted as part of the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ project, which ran throughout the summer of 2015.

Martyn Ware on Brighton beach

Martyn Ware on Brighton beach recording sounds for the sounds of our shores project. Credit: Tim Stubbings

Called “Sea Inside Us All” this ‘cinema for the mind’ takes listeners on a sonic journey into a world of rich, diverse and beautiful sounds from the stunning UK coastline.

The “Sounds of our Shores” crowd-sourced project was a collaboration between the National Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland that ran between June and September 2015 – part of a celebration of the National Trust’s 50th anniversary of the Neptune Coastline Campaign.

Martyn Ware, a founding member of The Human League and Heaven 17, said: “This project has been a delight to work on – it has been a genuine pleasure to create this unique composition featuring the amazing sounds that people have recorded around our magnificent and characterful coastline.

“I’ve tried to create an emotional journey around all the elements that connect us all to the coast and the seaside, and this has been beautifully enhanced by my son Gabriel Ware’s orchestral compositions.

“You will be transported to places of fond reminiscence and imagination with the help of this cinema for the mind.”

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Some of the sounds that made it on to the soundscape include the classic ghost train ride in an amusement arcade, the singing of a Cornish folk song and people walking along a shingle beach.

Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environment Sounds at the British Library, said: “Martyn Ware’s ‘Sea Inside Us All’ beautifully encapsulates the importance of sound in our nation’s relationship with the British coastline. From waves and wildlife to amusements and industry, these sounds represent the many aspects of the coast that we hold dear.

“I cannot think of a better way to sum up the project than with this cinematic soundscape that celebrates the sounds of our shores so perfectly.”

All of the sounds submitted as part of the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ project, via audioBoom, appear on a unique sound map and will be added to the British Library Sound Archive.

More than 680 sounds were uploaded by hundreds of people from across the UK on to the sound map from around the 10,800 miles of coastline including the intensity of the Fog Horn on the Lizard in Cornwall to the drama of heavy waves on Orkney. These sounds captured people’s special connections with the coast, whether a place that they go on holiday with the family or a sound linked to a particular memory.

Kate Martin, National Trust Area Ranger at Formby, said: “This soundscape provides an instant feeling of calm in a manic world. It stirs so many pleasant memories and feelings from throughout my life and genuinely slowed my pulse and put a smile on my face.

“As the soundscape plays out I was transported to many different times of my life, from happy childhood seaside holidays, to foggy days working on the beach at Formby and many more besides. You really cannot overstate how evocative sounds are.”

 

Cyril Diver: a natural hero

National Trust wildlife expert Matthew Oates explores the life of naturalist and wildlife pioneer Cyril Diver.

“Few of Britain’s remarkable naturalists achieved as much as Cyril Diver (1892-1969). During the 1930s he and other volunteer experts meticulously surveyed, mapped and recorded the wildlife of the heath and dune system on the Studland peninsula, near Swanage in Dorset. They had a fantastic time, and also saved the site from development. A civil servant, Diver went on to draft much of our country’s initial wildlife legislation, and devise and lead the Nature Conservancy. This country owes him big time, yet he is largely forgotten.

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Cyril Diver and friends surveying Studland on the Dorset coast in the 1930s

Eighty years on, the National Trust has led a three year project to resurvey the peninsula, with close reference to the Diver archive material. As in the 1930s, specialist surveys were conducted by volunteers, both experts and beginners, though coordinated by a project officer. They had a fantastic time too, and have pioneered the citizen science approach to advanced wildlife recording, much of this in partnership with techy students from Bournemouth University. There is nothing naturalists love more than survey work, especially in a place as rich as Studland Peninsula.

The place has changed too, massively. Major changes commenced when Studland was taken over for tank training during the Second World War, and then when Rabbits died out to myxomatosis. A new sand dune has developed since the 1930s, and major changes to the ponds, swamps and mires have occurred.

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Cyril Diver in Dorset in the 1930s.

Recent surveys found 620 species of vascular plants – a quarter of the UK’s native flora, an increase from 465 in Diver’s time, though a few rarities have disappeared. Diver didn’t survey the lichen flora, due to a scarcity of experts, but recently over 340 lichen taxa have been found, including 29 major rarities. Insect-wise, today’s beetle surveys comfortably outscored Diver – 777 species, compared to 239, though 56 of Diver’s 239 were not re-found. Diver found 325 species of moth, the recent surveys found 611 but failed to re-find 105 on Diver’s list. And so on… . The recent surveys discovered two species new to Britain, though others may await confirmation. All this data will fascinate scientists, particularly climate change specialists, and will be celebrated at a conference at Bournemouth University on March 21st.

Now, more than ever, this nation needs its naturalists, to provide data to help us understand the burgeoning issues of climate change, new species colonisation and impending ecological change. We need more in-depth studies along the lines of the Diver Project, and to recruit and equip a new generation of inspired naturalists. The National Trust has a key role to play here, and will do so.”