My Account

Secret Locations: Sharing Cornwall’s ‘Hidden Spots’

This article addresses the topic 'to share or not to share secret locations in media - Specifically Cornwall however it can apply to anywhere. From reasons why, responsibilities and why I think it can feel 'sticky'.

secret-spots-in-cornwall
cornwalls-secret-swim-spots
hidden-gems-in-cornwall

The topic of ‘sharing locations’ splits rooms and has been circling my brain waves for a few years. I used to share where I explored in Cornwall and then I omitted the location details, and then I went full circle and now I do mention where I go – mostly – but with a little more ‘sensible Susan’ sprinkled in.

Also, even if you are not someone who actively shares content, please scroll down to the middle section which applies to anyone looking to explore and adventure in Cornwall.

Before I go on, there are many people who get involved with this topic from different angles all with their own sub arguments – environmental, social and personal. I am a firm believer that, regardless of your beliefs and personal preference on this dividing topic, it is never okay to provoke an argument and bully someone online – no matter which side you are on. You can only do what you do, recognise your impact and stick with it – big media companies I’m also talking about you. If you haven’t got anything kind or considerate to say, don’t say anything at all. By all means advise, question and have a civil conversation about things but 8/10 the social media comment sections aren’t the place for criticism, constructive or otherwise.

REASONS PEOPLE DON’T SHARE LOCATIONS IN CORNWALL.

From a sense of responsibility to protecting their favourite spot. There are some very good reasons why people don’t share locations and I support 100% of all these reasons. Someone might choose not to share because:

1. It's second nature.

They don’t have all the information – they know that area of coast and its tidal characteristics & topographical conditions like the back of their hand and might not be able to explain the nuance of navigating an area because it comes as second nature.

2. There are dangers and risks.

They understand the dangers and risks of the location and not sharing is better than someone inexperienced exploring getting hurt.

3. It’s too complicated!

It’s too complicated to explain – there are many factors to take into account when exploring the coastline including the ability of the person exploring – things can just be too complicated when explaining to a stranger as there are too many unknowns.

4. No time.

They don’t have time to share the intricate details – people are busy and they aren’t tourist information centres. Just because they’ve had a smashing time, doesn’t mean they owe you one, end of story.

5. Why share if people are disrespectful?

They don’t want a specific outdoor area, remote or otherwise, getting mistreated. I’ve witnessed first hand the littering, grass scorching, sand bonfires and general dangers a minority of people leave in natural spaces. It is risky for wildlife and very unpleasant to clean up.

6. It's a sacred place.

They want to keep a spot to themselves because it is really special to them – connecting with nature is crucial for mental, physical and spiritual health – some places outside are sacred to people – I get it!

REASONS PEOPLE DO SHARE LOCATIONS IN CORNWALL.

From driving engagement to precious memories. There are also some very good reasons why people do share locations and I support 90% of all these reasons. Someone may choose to share because:

1. They know that ‘Secret’ is the new ‘sex’ - IT SELLS!

Clickbait titles like ‘Cornwall’s Hidden Swim Spots’ drive traffic, clicks and engagement particularly on short form social media platforms. The word ‘secret’ creates a black hole 🕳 that sucks in engagement – causing virality. Humans naturally want to know where the pretty things are – to fill that void they will ask ‘where is this’ pushing the post to new audiences. This translates to an impressive report and success metric for businesses – self-employed or otherwise.

2. They want to keep the memory.

Social Media is a visual and digital diary for many people. They post simply for themselves, their friends, to share what a bloomin’ good time they had out exploring Cornwall!

3. They want to share stories of Cornwall.

They want to share stories of Cornwall’s rich history, beauty and outdoor spaces. Social media is SOCIAL. Sharing experiences, cultures, memes and interacting with each other’s similar interests is how you make friends online.

4. They don’t want to ‘keep it a secret’.

They don’t want to ‘keep it a secret’ and feel uncomfortable with gatekeeping. Withholding information about locations might be seen as unkind, unfair or unwelcoming. It has potential to impact social minorities who already face barriers to the outdoors. While this may not be the case, some share because they want to be open and welcoming to all.

5. They don’t care for the invisible pressures of this debate.

This whole conversation can be very tiresome and get old very quickly. I totally understand this POV and why people simply don’t care for the drama of it all and will do what they do.

6. They want to educate and be honest.

There is so much to teach people about nature, geology, mythology, sea safety, how to explore prepared and more. If people are going anyway, then better give them the low down on what to really expect. Cornwall is more than just a pretty photo and in my opinion, it is not spoken about enough across media channels.

Growing up in Cornwall and anywhere by the coast gives you an advantage when it comes to sea safety. You can take certain knowledge for granted, for example the tides! Many people aren’t aware that the sea can engulf a beach twice a day as the sea comes in and out.

Beyond personal reasons for doing so, what is the impact when people do share and what can we consider the responsibilities to be?

DO DIFFERENT PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN SHARING LOCATIONS ONLINE?

Yes. The degree of responsibility increases the more you command people’s attention – whether you like that fact or not. Be you a specialist Cornwall sea swimming account or national newspaper. The more people you reach, the more responsibility you have to protect the location, its community and your audience.

And yes, this is all very sensible Susan. I’m not going to pretend this bit is fun or glamorous but it is important.

1. Average Joe/Joanne Bloggs.

Whilst everyone has a degree of responsibility when posting locations, it could be argued that alongside your holiday pics from Greece, a friendly cow on your feed and a cute selfie, a location of Cornwall isn’t going to negatively impact that natural space – no offence.

2. Influencer / Specialist Media

As mentioned before, the more people you reach, the more responsibility you have. If you have more followers you need to do more research into the impact sharing will have. I think it is worth reflecting on the following questions:

  • What would happen if 15% of my followers were to visit this in one year, predominantly in the summer months? Again, the more people you reach, the more influence you have. So try to gauge a realistic impact of your sharing a location.
  • Is the audience you are sharing too appropriate? E.g. Are they aware of the countryside and marine code and have a predisposition to behaving responsibly in nature? If not, how can you make them aware?
  • Can the road infrastructure support this? Parking, Traffic, Road Conditions.
  • How will the local community be affected by an increase in visitors? Think about the people who live and work in these – often rural – areas, how can this disrupt or even improve their daily lives.
  • What is the potential environmental impact of increased footfall?
    Wildlife, flora, marine life, footpath conditions, terrain, litter, fires, etc etc.
  • What bite-sized information or links can I give to mitigate any negative impacts on the above? This is completely dependent on what you are sharing and who to but at least think about it realistically and put in some footnotes.
  • Take on reasonable suggestions. I have shared things in the past which, unbeknownst to be, has been a pain point for a local community. I received a message about a better place for visitors to park and I changed the post. Simple.

The number of people and the type of people you influence does matter. It will affect the places and information you share. It is difficult to stay relevant and ‘new’ so the bigger your following the more pressure you might feel to skip the responsibility. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation of where it is you are when sharing. But some advice:

  • Try not to be a tease and use the word ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ in your captions – there will be 100+ other things you can talk about other than location.
  • If you do choose to share – do it with responsibility and respect. You will get people who get upset whatever you do. Afterall it is a sensitive and dividing topic with multiple layers and facets.

3. Large and Popular Media Platforms & Advertisement

It stands to reason that when advertising natural spaces to hundreds and thousands of people, the impact of that needs to be thought about and mitigated in the best way possible.

It’s not to say that large media platforms shouldn’t share location details, but if they are thinking about it, the information provided should be balanced, locally informed and the potential impact researched. So all the questions for the influencer and MORE.

The reader needs as much information as possible – from links to robust resources to the ‘negative’ aspects of the location too: for example, if there is no beach at high tide – mention that it disappears twice a day!

The bigger your audience the less you are going to be able to RESPONSIBLY share.

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE AUDIENCE - PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO A CORNISH 'SPOT'.

It’s natural to get drawn to a stunning photo and feel excitement to visit a ‘secret spot’. I get that buzz all the time – it’s not a bad thing to want to visit these places at all. However, if we are to be responsible travelers and explorers there is a small checklist of factors to consider before we plan our visit. See our Cornish Explorer Lowland Walking and Swimming Guide.

1. Know the two UK Nature Codes.

Have you read and digested the Countryside Code and Marine & Coastal Wildlife Code? these include rules about dogs, litter, gates, wildlife, seasonal considerations and more. There are more guidelines than you think!

2. Assess the Parking.

Is there designated parking and are you willing to walk from the nearest car park? – Plan your day from the car park. It happens too often where people abandon their vehicle in front of a field gate or obstruct a tiny country road because the car park is full or they want to get as close as possible to the location. Those country roads are rural communities’ only access to emergency vehicles – it is crucial to bear this in mind. Furthermore, the farmer will simply move your car out of the way by any means – best not chance that!

3. Understand the Weather.

What are the weather conditions and how will they affect where you want to visit? REMEMBER that a picture online is only a snapshot in time. It stands to reason that people will capture a scene looking its best. Only under a certain set of weather conditions will places look a certain way! Try to avoid planning a whole trip around a single photo and have more than ‘it looks pretty’ as a reason to visit – it avoids disappointment!

3. Understand the Sea.

What are the sea conditions and tides? Similarly to the point above, the Cornish sea is ever changing from the tides to the waves. Some beaches cannot be accessed at all on the high tide and a 180 in wind direction can turn a calm cove to a white horse frenzy. Generally for calm seas you want an offshore wind below 20 mph – always swim with lifeguards.

4. Is your body up to it?

Is the spot within your fitness and ability to access? A great example is Tintagel beach. Publicly accessible but down a set of concrete stairs which has had its bottom half broken by waves. Lots of people struggle to descend and ascend the slippy boulders to the beach where Merlin’s Cave is. A spot that is not particularly secret but the English Heritage should probably pre-warn less mobile people about!

5. Local Facilities and Restrictions.

What are the local area facilities and dog rules/restrictions? Sometimes in all the excitement of planning a trip to a place you can forget about where you are going to relieve yourself. Also, if you have a pooch, there are many places where on-leads are mandatory in Spring and Summer at certain sections of the coast path – on top of the beach restrictions.

6. Leave ZERO trace.

Imagine there are no bins – do you have a small bag to put all your waste – both organic and plastic. I suggest a small dry bag that you can wash out and compress with ease. If you can take it to the place, you can take it home again. DON’T stuff litter into full bins or leave rubbish next to it.

As someone planning a trip to Cornwall (or anywhere for that matter), you have a responsibility to be respectful to the places you are visiting. Do your research and come prepared. But most importantly – be prepared to change your plan!

If you’ve never thought about this before I don’t blame you! It is A LOT. Our culture doesn’t generally encourage these elements when holidaying or visiting new places. Our disconnection with nature has dulled our senses and shiny advertising gives a false impression.

You won’t get it perfect and practice makes you better – but at the very least, smash the ‘no litter’ bit every single time you go outside.

WHY SHARING FEELS… STICKY?

Throughout writing this article I have been trying to figure out the reason why simply sharing a location can feel a bit… sticky. Even when you have done everything ‘right’. And I think I have an answer.

Because advertising and media are intrinsically linked, you can’t help but feel immediately on the back foot and like you have to defend your reason to share. You feel the invisible judgement of being a ‘sell-out’ or ‘just doing it for the likes’ come down hard.

Don’t get me wrong, sales and metrics is a reason for sharing a location as we have discussed. I think a ‘stickiness’ comes when nature and outdoor natural spaces are presented as static theme park experiences. I don’t know how else to describe it! Any outdoor enthusiast knows that your favourite spot one day can be very different the next – someone who only sees the coast once a year will simply not know its many personalities.

Exploring this advertising idea further is the ‘picture perfect’ angle. Cornwall is fed to the majority as a sunny beach with blue skies holiday location with ‘caribbean seas’ when the truth is a little… rainier!

These trains of thought lead and gather into a big ball of inauthenticity and shallowness. Perhaps it’s the discomfort of this reality that makes it all feel a bit STICKY!

Overthinking much?! So what do we do.

TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE - WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

As I said at the start, everyone has their own take on this and it can and will change as you navigate the media landscape and what places you visit.

It is a multifaceted topic with no straight-forward or simple answer. I have briefly peeked into a few cans of worms but not nearly explored some points enough.

The one thing I think is important is putting nature over numbers, safety over sales and responsibility over results when sharing locations in the media.

Moreover, I have come to a loose set of conclusions. No doubt this will shift but I can’t tell you how good it feels to have written these thoughts onto a page!

I think a core issue comes from using provocative language such as ‘secret’ and ‘hidden’. It presents certain locations in Cornwall as thirst traps and suggests these beautiful and magical outdoor experiences are static.

I’ve noticed that when I’ve used the correct local name for beaches and coves etc it isn’t as juicy as ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’!

‘SPOT’ – again this word feels all wrong – too finite and too cemented. Cornwall has 304.7 miles of coast path, 2,631 miles of footpaths & bridleways, and 422 beaches & coves. I will repeat again – under the right weather and sea conditions ANY place on the coast will bring the magic promised in a pretty picture you’ve seen. I assure you people would find loads of ‘spots’ if they knew what conditions to look out for and how to read the tides, the sea and the forecast.

It would be a great challenge to ask ourselves why we want to visit these ‘spots’. Are we interested in a place beyond how it looks? Or are we simply hoping to take the same picture that enticed us to that spot in the first place. For me, this whole topic highlights the huge disconnect people have with nature and why nature connection practice is so important.

When exploring Cornwall be it planning or sharing – remember a place is more than a pretty picture.

Community. Culture. Wildlife. Architecture. Spirit. Nature. Inspiration. Sensory Experience. Meaning. Emotions. History. Footpaths. Folklore. (and has potential to be so much more).

Yes a beautiful place is easy on the eyes but how much can our exploring experience be elevated when we look into the full range of nature connection.

Thanks for reading “Safety Over Secrecy: Sharing Cornwall’s ‘Hidden Spots”. I hope I have given some light on this diving topic and a little food for thought! Please feel free to share and link this article – copywriting is prohibited – please give me credit if you use my words. If you would like to work together on a writing feature for your or my own blog please email me at kate@cornishexplorer.co.uk.

Read more:
Walking Cornwall on Rainy Days: A Guide.

We love Cornwall. We love walking. I love the rain (and I hope you do too). So why not do all three! Walking around Cornwall when it’s raining gives me energy, awakens my senses and connects me to nature – like a big wet hug.

23.5 degrees: Where is the Light?

As the evenings darkness creeps in with the time shift. Read about how the difference of 23.5 degrees made me more connected with nature and the light.