A Saturday afternoon beach clean – hope for the future at Hope Cove

Last Saturday we spent the afternoon at Hope Cove taking part in a beach clean organised by Amanda Keetley of Less Plastic and sponsored by the pressure group Surfers Against Sewage.

Hope Cove Harbour Beach
Harbour Beach, Hope Cove


Hope Cove is a popular seaside village on the south Devon coast located on the eastern side of Thurlestone Bay.  The village used to be a centre for fishing and smuggling but nowadays tourism is the main activity.  It’s a 45-min drive from our house through the undulating countryside of the South Hams and the journey took in all kinds of weather.   We left in squally showers and sunshine and then, from one of the elevated sections of the road, I looked across to the peaks of Dartmoor, had someone really sprinkled icing sugar snow?  Later on, I glanced to the west to see the sun shining from a pale blue sky illuminating a deep emerald green valley.  To the east, however, a thick horizontal layer of dark grey cloud lay above clear sky that glowed with an ominous orange light.  Curiously, the dark grey layer appeared to be bleeding downwards in to the orange layer compounding the threatening feeling of impending rain.

Fortunately, by the time we arrived at Hope Cove, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining although its low angle left large areas in the shade and the persistent sea breeze made it feel much colder.  There were good views across Thurlestone Bay to Burgh Island and onwards as far as the distinctive conical outcrop of Rame Head in East Cornwall.

We found a large crowd of 40 or more people gathered around Amanda Keetley as she explained her plan for the afternoon.  Hope Cove has two beaches, the smaller Mouthwell Sands and the larger Harbour Beach. The tide was well out exposing great expanses of sand and we were to clean both beaches. She handed out large plastic sacs and reusable gloves and people dispersed to pick up plastic waste and other litter.  There were quite a few children and dogs and the afternoon had a happy, light feeling despite the cold.

Hazel and I went to Harbour Beach where we found plenty of plastic waste along the strandlines.  We didn’t see many large items such as plastic bottles but there was a lot of plastic twine/fishing line much of it entangled with seaweed.  We also found pieces of plastic bag, plastic wrap, pieces of plastic rope and many, many smallish plastic fragments (1-2 cm) probably from the breakdown of larger items.  Much of this waste is potentially very damaging to sea creatures.

We also found a few plastic nurdles and other pellets but only at the back of the Harbour Beach on dry sand. The nurdles were quite similar to those we found at Leas Foot Sands, two miles further west round Thurlestone Bay.

When we had enough of the cold we took our bag to the collecting point outside the Cove Café Bar where a large pile was developing.  In the end there were about 20 bags of waste: it was reassuring that so much plastic had been picked up but troubling that so much needed to be picked up.

Our reward for the afternoon, apart from feeling we had done an important job, was a free hot drink in the Cove Café Bar. The owners were supporting the beach clean and were very generous and welcoming despite the huge crowd; they are taking measures themselves to reduce use of plastics in the café so the drinks were served in china cups although some of us had brought our own reusable cups.

Two final points:

I was encouraged to see that most of the people taking part in the beach clean were in their thirties suggesting an awareness of the problem of marine plastic waste and a feeling that something needs to be done even when you are busy with jobs and children.

Should you be sceptical about the value of beach cleans, I suggest you take a look at a report from Eunomia where they conclude that beach cleans are an effective way to remove plastics from our seas.

Hope Cove Beach Clean 2
Beach cleaning on Harbour Beach. The white house featured in the BBC daytime drama “The Coroner” set in south Devon


Hope Cove Beach Clean 3
Hazel standing by the bags of plastic waste


Reusable cup
A reusable cup from Surfers Against Sewage (I am not sponsored!)


Nurdles etc at Hope Cove
The nurdles and pellets we found on Harbour Beach. There seem to be more of the white “mermaids tears” kind of nurdle but that could reflect our growing awareness of these pellets.


Rame Head from Hope Cove
Rame Head from Hope Cove



The featured image is of Mouthwell Sands, Hope Cove.

15 thoughts on “A Saturday afternoon beach clean – hope for the future at Hope Cove”

  1. Good job, Philip. I haven’t come across the word nurdles before and had to look it up – though your context pretty much explained what they are. I spent a smashing week in Hope Cove a few years ago. Soar Mill Cove especially was a favourite place. D


  2. Thanks David, I have added a link explaining what nurdles are. You certainly chose two of the best places around here for your holiday. Soar Mill Cove is a beautiful secluded spot with fascinating flowers and insects.


  3. That was a good effort by all of you especially as it is now turning colder. We saw pictures at the weekend with snow on Dartmoor! You don’t realise how much small items of rubbish can be found on the beach, we are still looking out for nurdles but luckly haven’t found any yet. Sarah x


    1. Thanks, Sarah. Yes it still suprises me how much “small” plastic there is on beaches. Have you looked at Charmouth for nurdles and other pellets? I stopped there briefly a few weeks ago and found some below the bridge on the river banks by the car park. The recent storms may have changed this of course. They have some in the Marine Centre as well.


  4. Thank you for taking the time to help clean up a beach. From western US, where local beach clean-ups are annual affairs. Though I have not participated, you are inspiration!


  5. Cheers to the two of you joining others for a worthy day for all. As a side note, I recently saw a report of a plastic & trash cleanup on a remote, uninhabited island up north … I think Norway. It was eye opening!


  6. Sounds like an excellent days work Philip – well done to everyone! No beaches near me but I can at least recycle everything or take large items to the council recycling centre. I just wish everyone else would do the same – we still see sofas dumped in the alley when the centre is 10 mins drive away and the council will happily collect for those without a car. It really is an attitude issue with some people 😦


  7. Thanks for your comment. Yes I agree, there has to be a change in people’s approach to recycling. Hopefully the government will introduce incentives such as a deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles etc


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