Updated: Jul 22
One in six of us suffer from anxiety or depression during our lives. A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter* has found that those living by the sea have improved mental health. These findings add to the growing body of evidence which links access to wide-open blue spaces to mental well-being.
Parrog, Newport, Pembrokeshire
I was lucky enough to grow up in a lovely part of the world - Barbados, in the West Indies. My grandfather built a house there on the east coast - at Cattlewash, in St Joseph - made from greenheart wood imported from South America, the only building material durable enough to withstand the constant on-shore Atlantic Trade Winds. The air was so salty, you could taste it if you stood on the veranda with your mouth open! I was told as a little girl that my grandfather believed that the negatively-charged particles created by the action of the waves were beneficial in some way, and that all I had to do was walk along the beach in the surf - presumably to absorb all this good stuff! Whatever the science or myth behind that story, our family would try to get down to Cattlewash for a while during the summer, and we always came back rested and refreshed.
We children spent many a happy hour on the beach, collecting shells, catching crabs and clambering over the reef. It was one of the happiest times in my life. Later, I got married in a simple ceremony, standing on the same verandah at Cattlewash on which I'd spent so many sun-filled, happy days.
We are now lucky enough to own Seaborne House** which is a few minutes' walk from Traeth Mawr - the big beach at Newport Sands on the Nevern Estuary in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The wide-open spaces remind me of Cattlewash with the Scotland District "mountains" in the background; in Newport we have Carn Ingli to climb and explore, which provides a similar backdrop. There aren't so many shells here, but there are no tar deposits or man-of-war which we encounter on the east coast of Barbados - the first island in the pathway of Atlantic shipping detritus and the trade winds blowing the Portuguese jellyfish onto shore. Instead, there are driftwood, seaweed, empty crab and mussel shells at Newport Sands. I still collect these things on my walks on the beach!
Perhaps you need something to look forward to during the long, dark days of winter? This part of Pembrokeshire reminds me very much of the east coast of Barbados - salty wind, wide-open skies, lovely walks with great views. Summer is warm and beach-orientated. Autumn and spring are walk- and pottery/art gallery-focused. Winter is cosy, sparkly and walks followed by slap-up teas next to the wood-burner constitute a large part of our activities. We want to make some happy memories with our children and grandchildren. That's why we have visited West Wales over the past 30 years with our kids, and then found ourselves somewhere where our 4 boys and our grandchildren can have that laid-back luxury of comfort, coupled with practicality.
Where's your wide-open blue coastal space?
*Garrett, J. K., Clitherow, T. J., White, M. P., Wheeler, B. W., Fleming, L. E. Coastal proximity and mental health among urban adults in England: The moderating effect of household income. Health & Place, 2019