Coast show

Reva Klein

Reva Klein boards a replica 18th-century warship which this summer is home to an exhibition about our shores. It's all plain sailing really

All that's missing is a parrot perched atop a shoulder and a bottle of rum or two. On the Grand Turk, a replica of an 18th-century warship, everything else is in place. It's all cutlasses, cannons and class war between the officers and the press-ganged crew.

And the best part is, you can climb aboard and be part of it all, at a port near you this summer. The National Trust, has commandeered the lovingly constructed, meticulously detailed ship until the end of August for the National Trust Coast Show, a mix of environmental awareness, nautical heritage, drama, music and a cracking good family (or end-of-term) outing. The tour of the Grand Turk, which featured in the television dramas Hornblower and Longitude, includes 14 UK ports covering about 2,000 miles, with 100,000 children and adults expected on board. It's done Scotland (Dundee) and Northern Ireland (Bangor) and hits Wales this weekend. Then there's the South-West to come before it returns to St Katherine's Dock in London via Dover and the south coast.

Activities on board vary between ports, but one of the primary aims of the tour is to give people a chance to learn about the British coastline and publicise the Trust's Coastline 2000 campaign to raise pound;5 million towards environmental protection this year.

Vignettes of maritime life through the ages entice visitors aboard. On deck, you can learn sea shanties, hear how the first lieutenant keeps discipline with the threat of the cat o' nine tails and be taught a sailors' dance or two. You'll meet Emily, the long-suffering admiral's wife and if you've got your wits about you, you'll spot Jo, an innkeeper's wife, disguised as Joe, a sailor, in pursuit of adventures on the high seas. You'll hear grim tales of the cramped, dark conditions that sailors had to endure for months on end, of old sailors coming back as ghosts and of ships over-run by rats. You'll be shown how to tie knots and be given a spell at the ship's wheel. You might even find you've been press-ganged yourself. All the characters are based on research by volunteers working with the Trust's education team.

The National Trust has been at the forefront of protecting the British coastline since 1869 and for the past 40 years has been buying threatened stretches of it when it has had the opportunity to do so. Through its Neptune Coastline Campaign, it has been able to protect 600 miles, including such natural national treasures as the Lizard n Cornwall, the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and the white cliffs of Dover. Changes in sea level, the speed of inappropriate development and pollution have all taken their toll in different ways. The Trust's work centres on reversing or preventing damage. For instance, erosion of sand dunes at East Head near Chichester in West Sussex has been curbed by planting marram grass, which stabilises the dunes. A prominent headland at Blakeney in Norfolk was bought by the Trust in order to remove a sprawling caravan site, which was subsequently moved out of sight. And the Trust owns national nature reserves, sometimes in co-operation with local wildlife trusts. It also owns and manages sites of archaeological importance, including lighthouses and defence works - Iron Age cliff forts as well as the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment on Orford Ness, Suffolk. This year the campaign incorporates a Coastline 2000 survey, in which students from 1,000 schools and colleges, members of the Geographical Association and Trust volunteers and wardens are gathering information about the English and Welsh shoreline. The interim results of the survey will be available for Geography Action Week (October 9 to 14), with full results next April.

Meanwhile, an exhibition below deck on the Grand Turk offers a glimpse at the wider picture of the Trust's work. There's a chance to see what the modern day British coastline fetches up. The detritus on display includes a Danish washing-up liquid bottle and washed up fishing tackle. Other tables show nautical artefacts from different eras. You're invited to work out what's modern and what's centuries old, as well as what the objects are.

gently, entertainingly, the Coast Show draws people into the past to shed light on the present and, in doing so, to cast an eye on the future of the British coastline.

The Grand Turk will be in Swansea tomorrow (July 1) and Sunday, moored opposite the Dylan Thomas Centre. Next stop is Britannia Quay, Cardiff, from Tuesday to Thursday. For a full schedule, ring 020 8315 1111 or see Trust is organising treasure hunts for "young explorers" at 70 properties this summer in aid of the Neptune Coastline Campaign. There is also a new regional list of events for children and families in July, August and beyond. For details tel: 020 8315 1111Schools, or individuals planning holiday s on the coast, still have time to register with Coastline 2000 ( For details contact Annemarie Cotton: tel 0114 296 0088 or e-mail c2k@geography.

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Reva Klein

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