Monday, 30 November -0001

A Shore Thing

From rugged cliffs to sunny coves half a century ago we joined a campaign to save our coastlines and the results are staggering

Fifty years ago, large groups of children from youth organisations across the country took to their neighbouring cliffs and lit the hundreds of ancient fire beacons that have been used since the Iron Age to warn of seaborne disaster. But this time, according to the clarion call in The Lady dated 22 April 1965, the danger was from within. These enthusiastic young people were part of a movement under the tutelage of the then head of the National Trust, Lord Antrim, to save the nation’s cliffs and coastlines for posterity. The result was the launch of the highly effective Enterprise Neptune, one of the longest-running environmental campaigns in western Europe. To date it has resulted in the National Trust taking over the management of some 775 miles of coast in the British Isles; the equivalent of approximately 10 per cent of the UK’s coastline.

Coast-Jun12-02-590Left: The Lady sounds the clarion call in 1965. Right: The coastline we featured – Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

The initial campaign, embraced by our readers, was to raise £2,000,000 to save the coastline and the land around it from being developed or falling into disrepair: the equivalent of £36,241,000 today. Lord Antrim urged the Trust’s 150,000 members to each donate £10. Non-joiners were called upon to do what they could. Tea parties, garden sales, dances, even children’s pocket money went towards saving landmarks, from the first ever acquisition with Neptune funds at Whitford Burrows on Gower to the most recent, a one-mile stretch of the iconic White Cliffs of Dover.

Coast-Jun12-04-590Clockwise from left: The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Boats moored at Blakeney Point in Norfolk. Below left: The remains of St Patrick’s Chapel at Heysham Head, Morecambe Bay in Lancashire. Hemmick Beach, near St Austell, Cornwall

The National Trust now has more than four million members and the Neptune appeal continues to raise awareness of our environment and is marking the anniversary of Neptune’s start by encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the natural wonder that is the British coastline. Over the summer there will be a variety of National Trust coastal events organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

To find a local coastal event: 0844- 800 1895, 

The National Trust Book of the Coast (National Trust Books, £30).

Were you a beacon lighter in 1965? Let us know at 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER, or email us at

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