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Hello from Wembury!



Devon Wildlife Trust

Meet Coral Smith, Marine Education Officer for Devon Wildlife Trust and’s newest blogger

Hello Scubaverse and fellow dive enthusiasts and thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog!  So, I’ve been asked to write a regular blog about the work I do to promote marine awareness and conservation in the UK, but before we get onto that I thought I’d give you a bit of background about myself and how I got started.

Growing up in landlocked Hertfordshire (not too far from Scubaverse HQ), it wasn’t until a summer holiday to Lyme Regis in Dorset, when I was about 4 or 5, that I got my first taste of the sea and marine life, rockpooling with my dad in tide-pools that seemed to go on forever. I like to think that’s where my interest in marine life started…

Moving on to when I was nine years old, our family moved to the Caribbean and I was lucky enough to have an amazing underwater world right on my doorstep. The sea then became a part of my life, as I’m sure it does for lots of people living on a small, beautiful island. Every weekend I was snorkelling on warm tropical coral reefs and Parrot fish soon became my favourite, as was watching the magical flying fish skim out of the water as the sun set on another day in paradise. But it was my first time swimming with green turtles that really did it for me and I just fell in love with the ocean and everything that lived there.

Coral taking part in a PADI Project Aware course whilst volunteering at Wembury Marine Centre. Copyright: Devon Wildlife Trust

Four years in the Caribbean and then it was time to move back to Hertfordshire. After finishing school, I headed to Plymouth University to undertake a degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography. Here I learned that Marine Biology wasn’t all about swimming with turtles and dolphins in nice warm tropical water and that I’d probably never get a job in this field, but I managed to come away with a first class honours degree and went on to do a Masters in Biological Diversity. My lecturer was right about the job thing though, as I came out of uni and didn’t immediately land the job of my dreams, or any job even close… I guess I hadn’t really thought that far ahead! So I spent a couple of years doing various voluntary placements before finally landing a part time role in the education team at the Marine Biological Association of the UK, based in Plymouth. I spent three years working in a lovely team there, before moving on to my current role as Marine Education Officer for Devon Wildlife Trust, based at Wembury Marine Centre.

Wembury was my first full time voluntary placement back in 2009, and like so many other people now working in environmental education and outreach in the South West and beyond, it all started here. Wembury is a magical place, felt by both the locals and the tens of thousands of visitors who flock here each year. It’s not the best looking beach by any means – it’s pretty small, lots of the sand comes and goes, but the rocky shore and view of the Mewstone (a small island just over a kilometre out) is simply stunning. It must be up there as one of the most photographed and painted spots around and is a favoured filming location for numerous BBC Natural History programmes.

Devon Wildlife Trust

Rockpools and Mewstone at Wembury. Copyright: Devon Wildlife Trust

Historically, Wembury holds one of the richest biodiversity hotspots for intertidal marine life in the UK, and in recognition of this Wembury Bay was set up as a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA) in 1981 and now also forms part of the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Wembury Marine Centre opened in 1994 and was the inspiration of marine biologist, the late Dr Norman Holme. Today, the Centre is managed by Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) on behalf of a partnership including the National Trust, South Hams District Council, Devon County Council and Plymouth University Marine Institute.

Devon Wildlife Trust

This year’s team at Wembury Marine Centre. Copyright: Devon Wildlife Trust

My colleague Cat and I manage the Centre, both working for DWT, and each year we are supported by a small team of trainees and interns thanks to our partnership with the Marine Institute and other placement schemes. The purpose of our outreach work here is to promote Wembury as a Marine Conservation Area and to create a sense of marine stewardship among the local community and visitors alike. Our work also extends beyond Wembury, promoting The Wildlife Trusts’ vision of ‘Living Seas,’ where the marine environment is managed sustainably for the benefit of all its inhabitants and where people are inspired by marine wildlife and value the sea for the many ways in which it supports our quality of life.

Over the next few months you will hear more about the marine conservation work we do and some of the more interesting and bizarre stories from our little Bay in South Devon.

For more info visit:

Coral Smith lives in South Devon in the UK and works as Marine Education Officer for Devon Wildlife Trust. Based at Wembury Marine Centre near Plymouth, Coral’s work involves promoting marine conservation through schools education, public outreach and community involvement.

Marine Life & Conservation

Review: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet



Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netlix documentary: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough’s latest and arguably most important documentary to date is now showing on Netflix.  It is, in his own words, his “witness statement” of a unique life exploring and documenting the wonders of the natural world.

Attenborough looks back and realizes that the previously gradual changes he witnessed (animal species becoming harder to find and fewer wild spaces) have now become vastly more widespread and noticeable. As the human population increased, so has the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the amount of wilderness has decreased.  His conclusion: human activity and man-made climate change have accelerated the pace of biodiversity loss.  This not only imperils the majority of natural habitats and creatures on Earth, but also the very future of humankind.

From images of lush green landscapes we journey with him over time to revisit these places, now wastelands. One of the most haunting is the contrast between early footage of orangutans swinging through the rainforest, to recent images of an orangutan clinging onto a lone tree devoid of all but one branch in the wreckage of a deforested site. Attenborough then makes a statement that has stuck with me since watching “A Life On This Planet”: that though we undoubtably have an obligation to care for the natural world, it’s not just about saving other species.  It is about saving ourselves.  His drive and determination to advocate and spread this message as much as possible at the age of 94 is both impressive and humbling, yet Attenborough manages to make this serious subject an unexpectedly positive learning experience.

In the final chapter of the movie Attenborough turns from the bleak reality of the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, and offers a lifeline of hope and positivity. We can, he tells us, reverse the damage we have caused, we can save our species and the wonders of the natural world, and it can be done with just a few conceptually simple actions.  It’s enough to enthuse even the most jaded and pessimistic of conservationists!  Attenborough has an amazing ability to awaken our love of the natural world and now he shows us our future is in our hands. It’s time to act.  But we must start now and it must be a united effort.

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to be impressed with the eloquence of David Attenborough’s words, or his powerful yet simple message. We are self-confessed Attenborough super fans, but I don’t think anyone could contest that this is a stunning 1 hour and 20 minutes of hard hitting brilliance. The film closes with the comment, “Who else needs to see it?” The answer is all of us.  We highly recommend this documentary to everyone. Put simply if you watch no other documentary this year, watch this one.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Review: My Octopus Teacher



Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netflix documentary: My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher is the story of how filmmaker Craig Foster befriends a common octopus in the kelp forests off of the Cape Town coast.  Mike and I love to watch all things underwater and nature-based and so eagerly sat down to this documentary film, a new September arrival on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here:

After burning out at work Foster finds fascination and a deep connection with nature when spending time freediving at his favourite local spot.  In a sequence familiar to those who watched the “Green Seas” episode of Blue Planet 2, he comes across an octopus camouflaging itself with shells.  With his curiosity piqued, he begins to seek out the octopus on all of his dives, finding delight in its seemingly strange behaviours, learning what he can from the scientific literature and slowing working to gain the mollusc’s trust on his daily visits to her world.

My Octopus Teacher portrays a very anthropomorphised view of our subject and Foster’s relationship with her.  His conclusions tend to be more emotional than scientific and his eagerness to find similarities between himself and the octopus shows a great sentimentality.  However, you cannot help but be captivated by the incredible mutual curiosity and bond developing before you.  This relationship, and the stunning scenes of the kelp forest with its diverse inhabitants make for a deeply absorbing viewing experience.  There is some fantastic cephalopod behaviour, from the octopus adapting her hunting tactics for different prey, to strategies for outwitting predators and incredible colour and shape morphology.  Foster is also keen to point out how little we know about octopuses and that there is a great opportunity to learn something with every dive.

One of my favourite observations made by Foster at the end of the film is that by going into the water for liberation from daily life’s concerns and dramas, he realised how precious these wild places are.  As he starts to care about all the animals there, even the most minuscule, he comes to find that each one is both important and vulnerable.  Foster finds that his relationship with the octopus changes him and he feels a part of the kelp forest rather than just a visitor, an experience he then shares with his son.  To me Foster’s insight that we must connect with an environment in order to be truly motivated to protect it resonated very strongly.  For those fortunate enough to fall in love with our wilder environments and connect with them, seeing it mirrored in this documentary is quite moving.

Overall we very much enjoyed the film, especially the weird and wonderful behaviours caught on screen and the story as it unfolds.  Though our first reaction was one of pure jealousy (that Foster has such a stunning local dive spot and coastal property!) we soon moved past the envy and found My Octopus Teacher to be a very relaxing and enjoyable evening’s entertainment, which we highly recommend.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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