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Case Study: Coast Care

Title: Coast Care

Category: Landscapes for Nature
AONB: Northumberland Coast ​​​​
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Coast Care is a partnership initiative of Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Seahouses Development Trust. The initial project is funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund for three years until April 2020.

Coast Care is focused on the conservation and management of the coastal landscape of the Northumberland Coast AONB and its hinterland by offering volunteering opportunities for residents, visitors, young people and corporate groups. Volunteers are invested in to increase their knowledge and skills and the project opens up opportunities to receive training and practical experience.

Coast Care has already made such a difference - over 900 volunteers have volunteered over 16,000 hours in a range of activities to help conserve and enhance the landscape of the coastal plain.

What was done

Volunteers have been recruited to assist in the following activities:

  • Manage invasive species
  • Protect threatened species
  • Improve habitats
  • Improve heritage monitoring and recording (ecological, cultural and archaeological)
  • Monitor erosion and exposure of archaeological features
  • Improve public access (public rights of way) and visitor experiences
  • Improve local ownership and community pride to safeguard the landscape for the future.

Coast Care has delivered 239 group activity sessions since late 2017 -over 5550 hours of volunteer time, which have involved practical conservation such as beach cleans, removing invasive species, habitat management and  improving accessibility.

A network of voluntary ‘site wardens’ has been established and are supported to help look after their ‘patch’ of coastline help to keep these areas clear of litter, monitor coastal erosion and report  any issues which can’t be tackled by themselves. Footpath wardens assist the local authority rights of way team to keep public footpaths and bridleways accessible and safe for the public to use.

Over 2995 hours have been spent on wildlife surveying, this has included monitoring a recording on a variety of species including; winter and breeding  farmland bird surveys on ten farms in the AONB, shorebird monitoring and protection, cetaceans, red squirrels, barn owls nest box programme, bat surveys , bumblebees and  butterflies transects. Volunteers are recording and removing Pirri Pirri, a non native invasive plant,  on the new England Coastal Path to prevent spread of this non native invasive to other areas of the coast.

Coast Care also has Young Rangers  - a group of 13-19 years old who assist with practical conservation and habitat management work whilst also learning new skills and working towards gaining their John Muir award.

Volunteers are also assisting with; First Aid at events, photography and filming, administration and historic environment monitoring


There are some fantastic examples of what has been achieved by Coast Care so far.  The Beach Cleans have proven to be the most popular group activity with up to 3000 hours spent cleaning across the 22 beaches in the project area

 Last year over 30 volunteers were trained to survey and remove litter on the 22 beaches in the project area. The survey data was analysed and compared results from a study carried out 10 years previously.

Over 840 hours have been spent by volunteers in the Wildlife Support Officer role. These volunteers are assisting with the transport of injured or sick seals from beaches to rehabilitation facilities. Many of these volunteers have gone on to become BDMLR volunteers to be trained in becoming mammal medics.

Coast Care have delivered a wide range of practical conservation tasks.

Over 60 hours have been spent removing  gorse from rare whin grasslands to allow the unique flora to return to these sites.

At another site volunteers have contributed 280 hours removing Sea Buckthorn to return the dunes to a marram dominated community. They also found invasive Pirri Pirri at the same site and have removed that too. This work has had support from local residents and they will be continuing to assist to manage this site in the future.

Coast Care volunteers have helped  a local Parish Council with the creation and management of a wildflower meadow. These task days have engaged with over 20 local people so far which is significant for one small area.

Coast Care have a training programme in place to be able to invest in those volunteers who could benefit from learning new skills.

Training sessions so far have resulted in over 390 volunteers developing a new skill. In the final year of the funded period, Coast Care will provide a tailored programme of training to ‘lead volunteers’  - these volunteers are critical to the sustainability of the initiative post-NLHF funding. These volunteers will receive formal training in pesticides, brushcutter use, dry stone walling, hedge planting and laying and chainsaw qualifications.

Graduate Trainees - When planning Coast Care it was recognised that recent graduates were struggling to get on the career ladder and needed something between volunteering and their first paid job in the sector.  Three ‘graduate traineeships’ were built into the project. The first trainee worked with Natural England to monitor and protect shorebirds and oversee volunteering. She is still working for Natural England. Our second trainee has just started and is working alongside a local community to implement a management plan for an important grassland nature reserve in their village.

A better understanding of habitats and species in the area will be an important legacy. Identification training for a range of species has been delivered, for example, Butterfly Conservation provided training and now there are volunteers undertaking regular butterfly transects.

Five volunteers have been trained to monitor barn owls. This is specialist work done under licence. As well as monitoring, volunteers have built ten new nestboxes with funding from Bamburgh Castleand have contributed 280 hours to barn owl conservation.

This ID training  has enabled volunteers to record their casual  sightings via the iRecord App.

The contribution Coast Care makes to the health and wellbeing of volunteers cannot be underestimated but is difficult to measure. Volunteering gets people out in beautiful landscapes with other people and gets them active. Coast Care helps to tackle inactivity (particularly amongst the over 50’s contributing to the ‘ageing well’ agenda), social isolation and loneliness (many volunteers have moved to the area and have no social networks, mental health issues, obesity and a host of other conditions.


Coast Care fills a gap. Organisations on the coast were turning away volunteers yet there was plenty of tasks that needed to be done to conserve and enhance the AONB.

Coast Care has filled that gap - with investment from National Lottery HF it has provided the coordination that was missing to match volunteers to suitable tasks. But coordination is just one part of the jigsaw, critically, supporting the volunteers to undertake these tasks and investing in them  to make the initiative sustainable once the funded period ends.

The enthusiasm of the volunteers has been key to the successes to date. The passion and willingness to give so many hours of their free time and dedicate themselves to more than one role at times is significant.

A strong partnership has been critical. Not only the three organisations behind Coast Care but the many organisations, landowners and businesses that are engaged with the initiative. Coast Care has great support within the local communities, with the residents, parish councils and politicians.


Quote from nominee

“Coast Care has made such a difference on the Northumberland Coast in the last two years. It’s made a real difference on the ground, habitat enhancement, species conservation and access improvements that wouldn’t have been done otherwise are now happening. We can support local people to improve their local areas and litter isn’t on the beach for long before one of our army of beach-cleaners has bagged it up.” - Iain Robson, Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership 

Quote from participant

“16 months ago I was so depressed and down with work so we gave all up and moved to Northumberland. Can’t believe now we’ve so settled, no money but a wealth of new great friends and interests. Who’d have thought a coffee roaster from Huddersfield would be cleaning beaches and rescuing seals”.

Key search words:  Coast Care, Volunteering, Coast, Landscape, National Lottery Heritage Fund, resources, communities, health, wellbeing, mental health, physical activity, ageing well, conservation, enhancement, habitats, species.