03/08/2016 09:13 BST | Updated 03/08/2017 06:12 BST

Want to See UK Wildlife? Head for Your Nearest Coast

I love living by the sea at home in Kent.

Not only do I find the coast the most invigorating of places to be, but it is also always packed with wildlife surprises. You simply never know what you'll spot, if you keep your eyes open.

This was certainly true last week when, as my wife walked up to the window of our house overlooking the English Channel, she shouted "Porpoise!!!".

And there, just 30 metres out, travelling along in that slow, deliberate way porpoises do, were two dainty fins breaking through the gentle swell, the pale white and grey sides visible against the darker backs.


Harbour porpoises. Photo: Niki Clear

My family rushed outside onto the promenade to get a better look at these beautiful creatures, and it looked like a mother and calf. Stunning! As they made their merry way past the swimmers and the sunbathers on the beach, we were fixated, wondering when and where they would next pop up.

Most people around us where totally unaware what wildlife wonder was passing them by - but for those that spotted them, the look of joy on their faces was a delight to see.

And that's what's so wonderful about wildlife. It can give you such cause for great joy without doing anything, but being there. No one had paid to be on the beach, to get a ticket to watch the animals. This was nature giving us a free show, as it always does.


Seal breaking the surface. Photo: Richard Taylor-Jones

During my time filming at sea for the BBC around the UK I've had so many of these free shows. Be it watching fin whales lunge feeding on herring, filming killer whales hunting seals off John o'Groats, seeing puffins bringing in sand eels to their young on the Farne Islands or coming face-to-face underwater with giant barrel jellyfish. There really are too many to list, such is the diversity of our British marine life.


Puffins - now on the IUCN red list of endangered species. Photo: Amy Lewis

So sad then, that our marine environment and its incredible wildlife gets treated so badly, so often. But we live in challenging times when industry, our own consumerism, jobs and growth all battle with the need to help wildlife. Let alone mentioning climate change. For certain, we humans must constantly work harder to see how we can balance these demands out.

And in part that's what National Marine Week, which goes on until 7th August, is all about.

It's about getting people into this watery world, helping them to understand it, appreciate it - and getting them to want to protect it. From there I hope some will go further and look deeper into understanding the difficult decisions conservationists and governments face in protecting our seas for the future, and perhaps some may go on to make a real difference.


Starfish in a rockpool, Wembury, Devon. Photo: Paul Naylor

So please, if you can, get yourself down to one of the many events going on for National Marine Week, like those organised by The Wildlife Trusts across the UK - or even just get to the coast, it doesn't matter where.

Soak up that sea air, enjoy that huge sense of space and wilderness. You might get your very own wildlife surprise while you are there - and who knows what that might lead to.