Staycation with ESG Clarity’s Natalie Kenway: Beach cleans, sustainable fish and Berry Head

Kicking off our new series, Natalie Kenway shares the sustainable activities on her staycation to Brixham, Devon

In this brand new series, members of the responsible investment industry share their staycations and sustainable holiday activities with ESG Clarity readers.

Following our popular Working from Home with… and A Sustainable Xmas with… series on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted to find out how holiday plans have changed – and become more environmentally and socially friendly – in a year where travel abroad is looking challenging.

Kicking off the series is our very own Natalie Kenway, global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity, who spent the May Bank Holiday in Brixham, Devon.

Where are you holidaying this year and with whom? How will you travel there?

My favourite place in the world, Brixham, Devon with my husband, two daughters and our pug Queenie. We travelled by car from our home in Hertfordshire, which was, as usual, packed up with everything including the kitchen sink. I am hoping soon that will be an electric car.

How does this differ from your ‘usual’ holidays?

It doesn’t, really! We visit Brixham once or twice a year – but then occasionally have a week abroad somewhere for the heat.

However, going to Devon just the four of us is new. My husband started visiting Brixham as a boy with his family and groups of family friends. Just before I had my first daughter, we started returning to the holiday camp he visited and had been going there every Easter for 10 years with my family, his family, lots of friends from up and down the country including Herts, Essex, Liverpool, Warrington and even Ireland. There are normally around 70 of us but the record was 101 one year.

Last April, as the pandemic unfolded, we delayed our Easter trip to this year, and then of course the UK government announced we could holiday again the week after we had booked.

So despite not being with our usual (very large) crowd, we booked up our trip over the first May Bank Holiday to get that change of scenery so many of us are craving, and our Brixham ‘fix’.

It has been a very tough year. How will this holiday help you reset and refresh?

When I see the sign to Brixham, I feel my body relax. It really is a special place to me, my family and so many other holidaymakers we meet there who also visit every year.

It is a beautiful fishing harbour on the south coast of Devon in the Torbay area. There are plenty of picturesque beaches with piers and fairgrounds, if that is what you are after, or secluded and discreet coves that are difficult to access with steep cliff pathways, but are absolutely stunning and usually occupied by a smaller number of couples and families having quiet barbecues.

The fishing harbour itself is bustling with locals, tourists and trade and SO MANY fish restaurants, much to my delight. Although I cut out meat three years ago, I love fish and would find it so difficult to give it up any time soon. I can’t remember having a bad meal in any of the Brixham eateries; it is a foodie’s delight.

Wildlife is also in abundance around the harbour and I don’t just mean the seagulls. Seals and porpoises are regularly spotted, and there are lots of children crabbing with buckets. You may also spot Brixham’s very own ‘pirate’ complete with parrot on his shoulder and bunny under his arm.

If you can’t already tell, I am in love with Brixham!

How will you ensure your holiday is environmentally friendly?

Well, we aren’t flying. We also stay in a cottage on a holiday park that must be at least 50 years old judging by the kitchen and décor, so I’m sure that has saved some vital resources somewhere, and we avoided using the electric heaters (they were left on for us though).

My favourite restaurant Rockfish is also very mindful of the environment and, promising the freshest local fish, its motto is ‘tomorrow’s fish are still in the sea’. Nearly all fish are sourced locally – the restaurant is situated above the fish market.

Brixham is one of the leading fisheries from a sustainable perspective in the UK and the fisherman take great pride in ensuring species numbers are monitored. As it explains on the Brixham Fish Market website, the local fishermen have been at the forefront of introducing new ideas to help improve fish stocks by ensuring that smaller fish escape from the nets. These methods prevent smaller fish being landed and discarded because they are either too small or there is no available market to sell them.

I spoke to founder of Rockfish, Mitch Tonks, about this for our May podcast ESG Out Loud, and how else the restaurant chain supports the environment and local community. Listen out for that on 17 May.

At another Brixham fish restaurant, Simply Fish, the manager also coaxed my ‘fussitarian’ husband from his usual cod and chips, with the former sourced from Norway, into opting for hake, which is fished locally. He was pleasantly surprised and said he would be ordering again instead of cod. All those years I have tried to make him more adventurous with food…

Share some (sustainable) activities you have planned for your staycation?

I went on a beach clean. It has been well covered in ESG Clarity that our oceans are full of plastic. According to estimates on Sea Shepherd UK, there are 86 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans, more than five trillion pieces and most of them less than 5mm in size. Furthermore, we’re adding eight million tonnes to this every year and in some parts of the ocean, plastic particles outnumber plankton by 26 to 1.

The most astonishing fact is in 30 years, if we carry on this way, the weight of plastic in the oceans will be greater than the weight of fish.

So I persuaded my girls and husband to join me in clearing litter from one of the beaches – some of it disposed of there, some of it washed up by the sea.

My daughters have seen the very sad YouTube clip of the sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril so understand the perils of plastic in our sea.

We also went for some lovely walks around Berry Head Nature Reserve (but it was far too windy) and had a family paddle boarding lesson. I am now looking for somewhere local so we can try again, but maybe when the water is a little warmer!

What’s your holiday reading?

Currently reading The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. I am a great believer in the Law of Attraction. While in Brixham, I also had a tarot card reading, which referred to this and what’s coming up next for me.

What’s the verdict? Do you think you will be staycationing more in the future? Or are you looking forward to travelling abroad?

Most definitely. We will be returning to Devon in the summer and probably every year again after that. The dream is to have a second base there.

However, I wouldn’t rule out going abroad again. We have significantly reduced our travel for leisure and business but I would love to take my daughters to Florida to experience the theme parks – I am afraid that is something that can’t currently be experienced in the UK.

How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic will impact business travel long term?

Obviously, it has been far reduced but what I have been so pleased to see the impact it has had on the investment industry’s approach to remote working during the pandemic. Just a few short years ago, asking to work one day from home was a challenge, and now we are seeing entire teams working productively remotely all the time.

As the world opens up more, I hope the pressure to be present in the office doesn’t return. With the help of technology, we have proven it works.

What’s on your radar for the ESG investment industry for the rest of the year?

Regulation and education and lots of both. There has been so much new legislation implemented this year, and further announcements of more to come this year and beyond in the UK, Europe and now the US too.

As this industry evolves however, and it is rapidly, we need to ensure that investors – whether that is the end investor, a discretionary fund manager or pension trustee, has the tools and knowledge to understand the new terms and frameworks and also fathom where to get the industry and data they need. This is why we have launched ESG Clarity Intelligence in partnership with Federated Hermes, an educational hub for investors.

I am also looking forward to our Global ESG Summit on 27th May and the many other exciting projects we have planned for ESG Clarity readers – watch this space!


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...