What if your island home is a tent with no electricity or water? It overlooks the island and has a beautiful sea view. However, the toilet is located 50m away on a steep hill.

You might be less eager to sign up if your camping trip will last for four months.

Looe Island Camping

Lauren Brenton-Crabb

Looe Island, located just a mile from the Cornish coast is a popular spot for sunbathing seals. It is a 22-acre marine reserve that includes beaches, grass, and woodland. It also offers nesting areas for many endangered seabirds, including great black-backed Gulls.

Looe Island, located just a mile from the Cornish coast is popular among sunbathing seals.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust advertised for volunteers to help them camp on Looe island for four months in April. About:blank

The Trust received a flood of applications and selected Lauren Brenton-Crabb, 22, and Toby Cogan (21), University of Exeter graduates in geography/environmental science.

They were relieved to find Looe Island’s natural sounds and tidal rhythms, far from the noise pollution and traffic of the mainland.

Lauren says that sunsets were “blissful” as the sun set above Port Nadler beach.

“Sometimes, we were joined by island’s sheep, who would lay down around us while hundreds of greater black-backed and herring gulls flew to rest overnight on the island.”

Watching the wildlife on the island

Lauren Brenton-Crabb

Volunteers were charmed and impressed by the diversity of wildlife they were tending to, counting and identifying, from oystercatchers and brimstone moths to grey seals.

Toby and Lauren enjoyed working outdoors in the fresh ocean breeze and hearing the gulls calling.

They were treated to rare views of Cornwall’s green-and-gold coastline during breaks.

Toby says, “Fortunately our tent was located right at the top island, where we could view beautiful views of Rame Head and it was ideal for watching seals resting upon the Ranneys rocks.” Tom agrees.

“We will never forget watching them play in the sun and hearing their howling – especially in early mornings as an alarm clock!”

“We enjoyed watching the playful, young, and curious seals darting through the seaweed among the rocks together.”

Lauren Brenton-Crabb Conservationist

Lauren adds, “We loved watching the playful, young and curious seals darting between the rocks through the seaweed.”

“Meanwhile, the older, cooler seals that have seen all of it just ‘bottle in the water’, peacefully sleeping, nose to the sky while the rest of the world passes by.”

The couple sent their seal ID photos to the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust.

Remote camping: How to cope

Lauren Brenton-Crabb

How did they manage camping on such remote islands for so long?

Toby says that it was difficult to prepare and organize food when there was no refrigerator or freezer. The couple quickly learned to cook on a camp stove with two burners.

Lauren says, “We often had omelettes (using islands eggs and vegetables), plus chickpea or lentil curries. The tent was our cooking area. It was very convenient to have the tent ventilated in case it rained.

They took less showers because they are trying to conserve water. Looe island’s water is not safe for drinking, so they brought it by boat from the mainland. Lauren and Toby needed to charge their batteries using a generator in order to recharge their laptops and phones.

They were granted occasional days to leave the island and they attended an arts and craft fair to sell their fishing net products.

The couple enjoyed occasional days on the island and sold their recycled fishing net products, such as bracelets, at an arts and craft fair.

Protecting vulnerable species

Toby Cogan

Looe Island is home of many endangered species. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust provides boat services during the summer with guided tours.

It’s also so close to the mainland that Lauren and Toby had to often deter any ‘invaders.

Toby says that part of his role was to patrol the island looking for unpermitted visitors. This can lead to some difficult confrontations.

In particular, during June and July, swimmers, kayakers, and paddle boarders would often ignore the rules and land directly on the island.

“People often didn’t understand why there was a no landing policy for the island. This was very frustrating. Toby continues, “This was particularly problematic when seabirds nesting. Un-permitted landers caused all birds panic and young birds flee to water where they were very vulnerable.”

“On busy, pleasant weather days, when one person landed it would attract all the other water users around to Land, increasing the disturbance. While most people were able to understand the reason we came over, others became defensive and rude.

Returning to the mainland

Lauren Brenton-Crabb

Lauren and Toby are in good health after months of hard work on the island. Lauren claims they have “calves of iron” thanks to their daily hike up and down the hill to reach their distant toilet.

Toby says, “There was always an opportunity to do something.” We were also involved in physically demanding tasks, such as clearing vegetation and assisting with contractor deliveries. Our island experience was marked by a bench that we built.

They also carried new solar panels to the island and helped build the shed for them. A legacy that will benefit future volunteers.

Both castaway conservationists are aware of the psychological benefits that their island adventures provide.

Both castaway conservationists are aware of the psychological benefits that their island adventures provide.

Lauren says that despite spending most of our year in lockdown and doing university work at home with deadlines that were stressful, living on an island without these stressors and surrounded by birds, insects, and the sound of the ocean has been a blessing for her.

Toby and Lauren might need to adjust to the crowds once again. The couple has just returned to the wild after spending four months on the island in peace and seclusion.

Lauren states, “We are enjoying a camping trip in Dorset for a few day now, a quick getaway prior to working – we obviously love camping too much.”