Tag Archives: Hope Cove

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.

Waves, storms, seals and sweethearts

Light rain peppered the windscreen as we began our drive across the rolling south Devon countryside. We were mindful of the mixed weather forecast but as we headed south, conditions improved markedly and eventually the sun was shining from a nearly cloud-free, blue sky. Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the grey shroud of cloud that covered Dartmoor behind us, but the lure of the coast was too strong.

We planned to walk a circular route starting at Hope Cove, a small village on the Devon coast with its mixture of permanent homes, many holiday homes and a few cafes and pubs. It’s very popular in summer but now there are only a few people about despite it being half term for some. Hope Cove is actually two coves, one with a sandy beach and another with a small harbour and a life boat station.


When we arrive at Hope Cove, the sun is still shining and our attention is grabbed by the panorama of a steely blue sea and many white wave crests. The stiff breeze coming off the sea makes a “Devon” flag stand to attention as though it had been starched. This breeze also whips up a strong swell and a succession of chunky waves that attack the sandy beach. Retreating waves leave a pattern of foam which, caught by the sun, sparkles jewel-like with a myriad of colours.

foam 2
The “glittering” foam

At the harbour, the tide is high and waves are beating against the harbour wall, throwing up irregular plumes of spray. A family is standing on the beach in the spray zone and there is much shrieking and darting from the children as each wave breaks. Elsewhere on the harbour beach, we see a group of pied wagtails, perhaps as many as ten. The black and white birds skitter about rather like the children. They also make occasional flights to the neighbouring roofs and when they return we imagine that their wagging tells us how pleased they are to be here.

outer hope 1

Outer hope 2

There is so much to see; it’s mesmerising but we need to move on if we are actually going to do this walk. So we continue up hill to a high promontory called Bolt Tail. From here the view takes in the full sweep of coast round to the Mew Stone at Plymouth and on a good day over to the Dodman peninsula in Cornwall. But today all we can see is a thick misty greyness signalling a succession of storms tracking eastward. The weather has changed; it’s clear we are going to be drenched and it’s only a question of when. The first storm largely misses us but the second is bang on target and we shelter under an umbrella in the lea of a large gorse bush.

There are very few flowers to see at this time of year but despite the weather there is quite a bit of wildlife. As we were walking up the hill out of Hope we looked back and noticed a seal playing in the water near the harbour. The conical black head is unmistakable but it’s pure chance that we were looking when it came up for air. On Bolt Tail we saw stonechats, the males looking very spruce with their pale ruddy brown breasts, white collar and black head. They were, as you might expect chatting to one another. Further on, we looked from the cliff and noticed a kestrel just below, its brown plumage clear even in this light. This small bird of prey seemed to hang in the air; head down, watching for prey, it repeatedly adjusted its wings and managed to stay in one place even in the strong wind.

sweethearts lane

Eventually we leave the coast path and head inland along quiet minor roads and a green lane named Sweethearts Lane. I can’t help wondering about the name, who were the sweethearts, were they fulfilled or unrequited? The trees lining this path have created a tunnel-like canopy and the bed of the lane lies below the adjacent fields, perhaps the result of repeated passage of feet, hooves, wheels and weather. Sweethearts Lane, therefore, also qualifies to be called a sunken lane or holloway.

sweethearts lane 2
The sunken lane
sweethearts lane 3
View of Sweethearts Lane with the sun behind the tunnel

Finally, we climb up to a high path that follows field edges and takes us back to Hope Cove. The storms have now gone and the sun is shining again. The views along the coast are clear and spectacular. At Hope, even this late in October, people are sun-bathing and a large family, in wet suits, is enjoying the sea. As they frolic in the water I am reminded of the seal.

view west
The view to the west above Hope Cove and towards Burgh Island

Thanks to Hazel Strange for the lovely photos.