Print page

The Colourful Coast Project

Aerial view of St Bees Head RSPB reserve

The chough has been chosen as a flagship species for this project because of its past association (breeding and wintering) with St. Bees and its reliance on a diverse mosaic of habitats that encapsulate the coastal landscape which St. Bees has supported in the past and has the potential to support again.

Situated between Whitehaven town in the North and St. Bees village in the south, the area targeted by The Colourful Coast Project is located on the western extremity of Cumbria, looking across to the Isle of Man (26 miles away).

The project area is 660 hectares in size. This can be broken down into a ‘coastal slope zone' of 248 hectares and a 'wider benefits zone' of 412 hectares. The project area includes the St. Bees Heritage Coast (the only such area in north-west England), the only high sea cliffs in north-west England, and the largest seabird colony in north-west England on our St. Bees Head reserve (including the only breeding black guillemots in England and one of only two mainland puffin breeding sites in England).

Project objectives

  • Restoration and management of coastal habitats, including coastal heath and species-rich grasslands
  • Enhancement of the landscape, through the strengthening of traditional field boundaries via the restoration of stone faced hedgebanks
  • Improvements to access for locals and visitors
  • Improved socio-economic benefits for the local area through the development of local 'ownership' of biodiversity and environmental assets
  • Realisation of the area's potential as an eco-tourism destination or stop-over for people on long distance rights of way such as the Cumbria Coastal Path and the Coast to Coast
  • Resource protection benefits from reverting steep, cliff top arable fields to grassland

Work planned or underway

Monitoring management plans are being written into several new HLSs.

Haig mining museum have funding to develop a new visitor centre that will also house information on the project area.


  • Project incorporated into the wider reaching “Colourful Coast” project  and partnership now includes Copeland Borough Council and Haig mining museum.
  • In 2009, a visitor and access audit was carried out, looking to link up access paths and create a standard interpretation format that can be used to sell the project at strategic access entry points to the project area. Some “colourful coast” signage is now in place.
  • We are successfully creating a strip of open access along the coast to effectively create a ‘wider benefits corridor'.  This will be further enhanced with the Coastal Access provision currently under consideration.
  • Several farms have come into HLS across the project area, with all the essential ingredients to hold choughs when they arrive!

Who to contact

Norman Holton
Senior Sites Manager, Cumbria Reserves


The Colourful Coast Project is a partnership between the RSPB, Natural England and the National Trust with support from Cumbria County Council.