Discovering the Secrets of the Seashore with Olive Gilsenan

Secrets of the Seashore is an exciting new marine environmental experience based at the beautiful Donabate beach. They offer workshops and camps which provide endless seashore fun while promoting marine conservation awareness. Olive Gilsenan is the creator of this exciting new coastal venture and she has made it her mission to educate and encourage all beach users – adult and child alike to appreciate and care for our coastal environment.

We caught up with Olive to find out more.

Discover Secrets Seashore Olive Gilsenan

Discover the Secrets of the Seashore

Hi Olive, thanks for chatting with Coast Monkey! Tell us a little about ‘Secrets of the Seashore’?

Secrets of the Seashore is a fun coastal environment educational programme specially created for all visitors to Ireland’s seashores. From families looking to have a fun day at the beach to regular beach users, community groups, schools and holidaymakers. Our aim is to educate all beach users on how to care for our coasts through fun seashore activities throughout the year. Each activity has an environmental message and lesson that will help engage and encourage everyone to use and explore the coast in a fun safe and environmentally friendly way.

While learning to sculpt their own sandcastles people will also learn how sand is made, where it comes from to how it protects our coastlines and what marine life shelters under it as the tides come and go. While on our Seashore Explore Tour visitors will learn all about what lives in the sea from what washes ashore. For example a mermaids purse is a casing that surrounds the fertilized eggs of some sharks and skates. Finding these washed ashore can be very exciting and educational for adults and children.

Discover Secrets Seashore Olive Gilsenan

Learn about the diverse life of the seashore

What inspired you to set up Secrets of the Seashore?

This was very unexpected and yet I feel like somehow I was always preparing for it. I spent my summers as a child roaming the beaches of the Donabate and Portrane peninsula in north county Dublin and it was as idyllic as it sounds. From exploring the caves along the cliff walk to Portrane to collecting shells, swimming in the rain, rock pooling, making sandcastles and digging holes all the way to china as well as rock climbing for hours. I guess I was preparing from then.

It was not until a very hot summers day in 2016 that I knew it was what I was going to do it because on that day I entered one of the beaches and I did not recognise it. From the entrance to the beach as far as my eyes could see there was nothing but litter absolutely every where, plastic drinks bottles, drinks cans, glass beer bottles, bins overflowing and piles upon piles of litter left all around the bins.

I was horrified I really felt like I walked into some unknown world and as I looked around I saw adults walking away from their own rubbish and leaving it on the sand for others to clean up. My horror quickly turned to sadness as I realised that the tide was on the way in and that all the litter I was looking at was about to enter the sea. My mind turned to the innocent marine life that was now going to suffer because of the neglect of the people who left their own homes earlier that day and never gave a second thought for anyone or anything as they left one of North County Dublins beautiful beaches looking like a dump site once their own needs were fulfilled.

I knew from that day that I would have to find a way for people to come enjoy our seashores and leave the home of our coastal wildlife and marine life as clean and as healthy as they found it. I also realised that many people did not realise the potential harm they were causing so I knew that education and environmental awareness had to be at the heart of what I needed to do. That was the moment Secrets of the Seashore was born.

Discover Secrets Seashore Olive Gilsenan

Become environmentally aware with Secrets of the Seashore

How important is it to know about the marine environment from a young age?

I believe it is crucial because as a very young child I was exposed to the marine environment and I was also lucky enough to also spend the rest of my time living in the countryside and I know that my love and respect for the natural environment stems from those early years. I truly believe that if children learn about the natural environment through fun and education on coastlines and countryside then they will in turn take better care of their environment as they become adults and throughout their lives.

You offer lots of interesting ways to get involved, learn more and explore the seashore. If you had to choose one abiding message that your visitors would leave with, what would it be?

Leave no trace – Only your footprints, anything else left on our seashores can and will have a detrimental effect not only on our shorelines as they will look unsightly but more importantly it is the affect it will have for years to come on our seas, to the water quality, the marine life and the wildlife that depends on the sea and surrounding shores for their survival.

Our oceans and seas are already littered way beyond what they can deal with and we should not be adding to this problem. We should all be trying to help by cleaning our beaches of what washes ashore from our seas on a daily basis.

How can the average person make a positive difference to the coastal environment?

By taking their litter home with them, cleaning up after their dogs and horses and by not leaving anything behind them on their visit to the seashore. Mother nature will take care of the rest.

The future of the Irish coast – How would you like to imagine it?

Pristine clean seashores with crystal clear seas for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.

Discover Secrets Seashore Olive Gilsenan

The beautiful Irish coast

Have you unraveled all the secrets of the shore – or are you constantly amazed at new discoveries?

I am definitely amazed every time I visit the seashore, there are always new discoveries to be made and it excites me to learn something new on every visit. I doubt I will ever find out all of it’s secrets but that’s the magic of it and I don’t believe I will ever lose that, as once the seashore captures your imagination and your heart it won’t ever let go.

Ok, tough question – what’s your favourite coastal spot along the coast?

I’ll give you a hint, my favourite coastal spot is somewhere in between the top of Portrane beach at the Rogerstown Estuary along the walkway to Tower bay beach and across the beautiful scenic cliff walk with pretty amazing views at every turn to the little beach at Egans field in Donabate, to the Martello Tower in Donabate and along the 3km walk along Balcarrick’s sandy beach in Donabate to the mouth of the Malahide estuary and marina always with Lambay Island in sight. Spectacular! And if you take the walk the other way round it’s equally as spectacular.

Thanks for chatting with us Olive! If you want to find out more about the Secrets of the Shore check out their website today.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22