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Meet our long-distance walkers: Kathryn

Our long-distance walkers have three different roles:

  1. They take the point of view of a marine scientist, documenting the nature they encounter on their walk through the eyes of a member of the scientific community, putting things in a scientific context.

  2. They communicate with local communities, talking to locals about their relationship to the sea, their sense of place and their heritage, telling these stories to a broader audience.

  3. They bring information, inspiration and excitement into the communities, talking to scout groups, citizen groups... acting as a connection point between the scientific community and the local communities.


An introduction to me and the South coast

Hello and welcome to my first blog post! My name’s Kathryn and over the summer I will be walking the South coast of the UK, writing about the history and biology of the coastline along with stories from the people and communities I meet along the way. To say I love hiking is an understatement – every chance I get I’m out in the countryside, trudging my way up a hill or meandering around a big field of cows - all for the thrill that exploring the natural environment gives me. Since moving down to Cornwall to complete my MSc in Zoology my love of hiking has quickly grown into a love of the coast. The gentle waves and rugged cliffs draw me away from my desk (more often than my lecturers would like to know!) and onto the many coastal paths that are just waiting to be discovered.

The time I got lost on a coastal walk – you would think it’s impossible considering that you always have the sea to guide you, but I somehow managed it!

Left: Scrambling my way up a hill in the Peak District in an attempt to see the view!

Right: At the top of Helvellyn (I promise) in the Lake District under some of the worst conditions I’ve ever walked in. Sometimes you aren’t always rewarded with a view!

Throughout my degree so far, I have gained a real interest in marine science and the impacts that humans are having on coastal environments. I have been involved in various projects over the past couple of years, such as determining the camouflage abilities of shore crabs and looking at the population structure of anemones. I always enjoy spending a weekend poking around the local rock pools to see what I can find. In the future I would love to focus on the sensory ecology of marine organisms – the colours, behaviours, and sensory abilities of animals in the sea is absolutely fascinating, and it would be great if I could learn more about them!

My favourite marine animal – the nudibranch, otherwise known as sea bunnies! They come in a whole variety of vibrant shapes and colours, one of which is shown here.

I’m really looking forward to walking the South coast, but I don’t expect it to be easy! One of the biggest challenges I’m expecting is the physical aspect of walking around 150 miles. I’m frantically doing a bit of exercise every week in hopes of getting my fitness up. Even though walking around Cornwall and my University is exercise in itself (someone decided to build the campus on top of a massive hill!), I’ve also started running three times a week and cycling instead of taking the bus to improve my stamina. One of the other challenges I’m expecting along the way is having to talk and interact with people that I’ve never spoken to before. This is incredibly daunting for me as I’m generally quite an introvert, but in a way I am looking forward to it as I’m sure to bump into some amazing characters and hear some interesting stories!

One of the main reasons I’ve decided to take on this challenge is to learn more about the coast I’m walking along. I’m already aware that the South coast has a rich history, especially when it comes to the World Wars, with the cliffs acting as formidable barriers against attacks and invasions. The coastline around Kent especially is notable for its military history, museums, and memorials, so I’m looking forward to getting to see that aspect of the coast. Furthermore, this area of coastline has suffered from some of the worst human impacts in the UK; its proximity to mainland Europe led to it becoming a focal point for the building of docks, ports, and boatyards. It will be really interesting to see the effects this has had on both the coastal habitats and ecosystems present there, in contrast to other coastal areas that have suffered less disruption.

The Battle of Britain memorial near Folkestone, one of the many memorials along the Kentish coastline paying homage to soldiers that fought in the World Wars.

That about wraps up my little introduction – I’ve certainly enjoyed reading and finding out a bit more about the coast I am going to be walking this summer, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about me and my South coast adventure! In the meantime I’ll keep training, and of course I’ll share anything else that I find that’s interesting about this coastline in my next blog. Wish me luck!

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