Martin’s Jurassic Coast Journey
Jurassic Coast Ambassador Martin Curtis has today been nominated as a VisitEngland Tourism Superstar for Dorset. You can vote for Martin here to be England’s next Tourism Superstar.
In this blog, Martin takes us through his journey, from growing up on the Jurassic Coast, to moving away, to moving back and rediscovering it with his family and his business, Jurassic Coast Guides.
I grew up in Upton, a small town on the outskirts of Poole. From as long ago as I can remember, my Mum and Dad would take my brother and I to the beach. They both worked hard during the week, and didn’t have much in the way of spare cash lying around, so come weekends we’d all pile in the car and head to the coast.
Our favourite spot was Kimmeridge, just a short drive from our house. I have vivid memories of stopping along the way at the top of Creech Hill, and taking in that spectacular view whilst laying out the picnic basket and flying kites. From there, it was down the hill to Kimmeridge and its spectacular beach. It was here that I found my first ever fossils, although they would have disintegrated by the time I got them home!
One of the joys of growing up in Dorset was going to the coast like this, and it was a constant presence throughout my childhood and teenage years. When I met my partner Clare at 16, that was where we went together. One of the things I love about Dorset is that there are still locations where you can spend all day on the beach for a couple of quid in parking, and it’s something a lot of families still do today.
Apart from natural erosion, the beaches really haven’t changed much in all those years; there’s a World War II pillbox at Kimmeridge which is still there today. I have distinct memories of seeing it as a child, and now I can show it to my children when we visit. I’m so proud to be able to carry on our family’s tradition by taking my own children to the coast, and I think it’s something that makes this place incredibly special.
I was 21 when I left the area and moved to London for a few years with Clare. We eventually moved back to Dorset when our first daughter, Darcie, was born. Clare worked at home so I took on the role of full-time Dad, taking Darcie out of the house so Clare could work. I got the backpack out and with Darcie strapped to me, I started exploring the coast again and revisiting my childhood. I got back into fossils and rediscovered my love for the coast, remembering pleasurable experiences from my own youth. I became involved with a Duke of Edinburgh group, got some basic training in leading walking groups, and inevitably ended up taking them along the coast. I was in love with my home county all over again!
These first forays into leading walking groups led me to get my Mountain Leader qualification, which meant I could do more, and could begin to establish this as a viable career option. I spent four years traversing the coast and some of Dorset’s hinterland, getting to know its nooks and crannies and educating myself about how best to lead groups along it. These years spent exploring gave me that deep understanding of the coast which I could bring forward into my business.
It was at this point that I first became involved with the Jurassic Coast Trust. I remember sitting in a coffee shop and seeing an ad in the newspaper, asking for volunteer “Ambassadors” to come forward. I came to one of the earliest Ambassadors’ meetings in Beer, East Devon, and met Mike Green and some of the other Ambassadors, and begun to learn facts about the coast that I didn’t previously know about. Mike gave me a set of his wooden blocks, which concisely tell the tale of how the Jurassic Coast was formed, and I started using these with my walking groups. Becoming an Ambassadors opened up a world of interest and knowledge for me; every day was a school day!
There’s so much to learn in this incredible area, and being an Ambassador has helped me to build a more complete picture of why the coast is the way it is. I’ve particularly enjoyed the “Winter Watch” training days, led by Sam Scriven from the Jurassic Coast Trust. I think I’ve been on nearly all of them over the last three years, and each session has given me at least a couple of useful bits of facts and info that I can pass on to people when I’m leading them on the coast.
I’m not a geologist, but with the knowledge I’ve gained as an Ambassador, I can add a little bit to people’s experience when they’re here. People might only be here for a day, or a weekend, they may have travelled down from Scotland or from overseas, and this might be the only chance they ever get to see our coastline. I want to create those “wow” moments for people, so they have a once in a lifetime experience and go home to their friends and family raving about their trip to the Jurassic Coast.
It’s really nice to be recognised today. It’s certainly my ambition to the best guide I can be, and if I were to be Tourism Superstar for the whole of the UK, it would mean I’ve been noticed, and it would make my whole journey worthwhile. I’ll certainly be thinking of my Mum and Dad, who did everything for me, giving me that deep love of the coast as a youngster which has resulted in this career and way of life for me.
The Jurassic Coast Trust supports Ambassadors like Martin all along the Jurassic Coast.
By joining us as a Member, you can help us to recruit and train more brilliant Ambassadors like Martin, ensuring that our coast is looked after and that people have the best possible experience of it.