Walking the Eastern Coast

Blog post by Katy Ellis on 20 May, 2021

Student Katy Ellis is walking the English coast from Essex to Hunstanton as part of a Plover Rovers charity team. In this blog post, Katy explains her intention to engage with local communities about conservation and the environment, and reveals which species she can't wait to see on her walk.

Chocolate, crimson and beige: the colours of mud, oystercatchers and endless sandy beaches. When I think back to my earliest memories of the British coast, those three colours are the ones that stand out in my mind. Growing up in Cambridgeshire, we went as a family to the North Norfolk coast every year and it was there that my interest in nature was piqued. I couldn't think of anything more exciting than spending hours sitting in a log hide watching warblers flit between reeds or rambling miles along muddy paths overlooking vast saltmarshes teaming with curlews and avocets.

Fast forward 15 years or so and I am now lucky to be studying a BSc in Conservation Biology and Ecology at Exeter University's Cornwall campus. I fell in love with the South West when I hiked part of the SWCP last summer; not only was the sheer beauty of the beaches and cliffs along which I walked all-absorbing and empowering, but the sublime healing power the sea had on me after months of anxious lockdown - as I'm sure anyone who spends ample time by the sea can tell you - sparked something in me. Though virtually all aspects of the natural world fascinate me, my prime areas of interest are exploration, human wildlife conflict and engaging more people with nature, so I grabbed the opportunity to walk part of the English coast with the goal of uniting coastal communities with their local conservation research.

Photo: Katy Ellis

Photo: Katy Ellis

I am very privileged to have had a fantastic education, especially in relation to the natural world, so I would like to be able to share this passion for passing on knowledge and inspire the next generation of conservationists. I will be part of a team of five walking for the charity Plover Rovers, whose aim is to unite citizens with science and increase ocean literacy. The five of us will each be walking a different section of the coastline, together covering the entire English coast and collectively bringing a sense of unity to all coastal communities.

From hardcore biologists to writers, musicians and artists, conservation needs to be a collaborative field. Too often we talk about conservation science as a niche with finite dimensions. We need to speak more of the language of conservation, engage the local communities who are at the forefront of these changes and fights, and inspire tomorrow's leaders; it's all about communication.

I will be walking the South East section of our coast, from Essex round to Norfolk. I am particularly excited to explore the coast of East Anglia, as it is typically perceived as being less 'wild' than some of the larger National Parks in the South West or further North given its proximity to London; this walk will hopefully inspire Anglians to get out and see for themselves that we do in fact have some exquisite habitats of our own which are well worth enjoying and protecting.

Photo: Katy Ellis

Photo: Katy Ellis

As for wildlife I’m hoping to see along the way, of course seals are everybody's favourite with their sleek bodies and inquisitive cheekiness. I can't deny I'm looking forward to seeing my old favourite, the oystercatcher, but I'm also keen to see some species I haven't seen before that are perhaps thought of as being more terrestrial. One of the key debates with coastal ecology is that it belongs neither in the marine nor the terrestrial domains; it is instead its own unique blend of the two, however this means that it is often overlooked by researchers who want to focus in on one habitat or the other. By spending time at the intersection of these two environments, I hope to shed some light on the interaction between the ecological communities and the vital roles they play on our planet.

Katy Ellis is part of the Plover Rovers walking team.

Header image: Katy Ellis

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