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Joan Edwards

Joan Edwards is the Head of Living Seas at The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

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Wembury Marine Centre celebrates 20th Anniversary

Posted: Friday 18th July 2014 by LivingSeas

Wembury- Paul NaylorWembury- Paul Naylor

Last Saturday Wembury Marine Centre celebrated its 20th Anniversary. To mark the occasion staff members old and new, alongside many friends were invited to a special reception, which followed some celebratory rock-pooling on the shore! Starting out as a Wembury warden myself, in 1988 - when I spent my first summer working from the back of my car - it was great to see so many old friends again, all of whom played such an important role in establishing the Wembury Voluntary Marine Conservation Area and visitor centre. Little did we know then that this would be influential in establishing a local and active marine group at Wembury, which would lead onto national action.

The very first parks, crucial building blocks for the network of protected sites which we are working towards today began with the National Parks and Access to Countryside Act (1949). It allowed for the creation of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). However, during the 1970's, it became clear that very few intertidal areas (of marine biological importance) had been notified under this Act. In 1971, Parliamentary Questions and enquiries from the Department of Education and Science and the Council for Nature were raised regarding the protection of our marine environment and the need to establish marine parks and reserves below the low water mark. In view of this renewed pressure, the National Environment Research Council established a Working Party in the same year on Marine Wildlife Conservation to consider the need to protect marine life around the United Kingdom. It was this group that highlighted their concerns about the number of visitors, in particular school children that were going to Wembury without any supervision. As a result, through local discussion, and the passion of Dr Norman Holme, Wembury was given the status of a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. Over the next few years, part-time wardens – including me - were funded to help with school visits, ensuring that school children that came to Wembury followed the seashore code.

Working for Devon Wildlife Trust on Wembury beach was great fun and you soon got to know were the best rock pools were. What surprised me at the time was how many local kids had never been to the sea even though they lived only a couple of miles away. Which made their visit so important as often they were back at the weekend with their whole family in tow wanting another go at the rock pooling adventure they had had experienced through the school visit. However, it soon became apparent that a full-time presence at Wembury and a visitor centre were required. So a number of us including John Lamerton, Roger Swinfen and Gerald Boalch, working alongside South Hams District Council, Devon County Council, The National Trust and the local community, set about writing the plans and raising the funds for the Wembury Marine Centre.

In 2004 the Centre was opened and since then has allowed thousands of school children to enjoy the amazing marine life of Wembury, while ensuring that they leave it as they found it.

But just as important, Wembury and the Marine Centre has provided an amazing training ground for many of our new stars of marine conservation, providing a base for 100’s of volunteers over the last 20 years.

You can find out more about the Centre here.

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