Caroline Warwick-Evans lives in a yurt in west Cornwall near the Helford River with her husband Joe and three young children, Marna, Finn and Solly. She is the co-founder of The Cornish Seaweed Company with university friend Tim van Berkel.
I have always had a deep connection to the ocean and the wild free space that exists on the coast; its energy and ferocity, its deep calm and timelessness. I certainly crave this in life.
I left England to travel and adventure at 18 and dreamed of sailing the seven seas. I was lucky enough to land incredible jobs working as deck crew on numerous old tall ships. From Antarctica to Japan, French Polynesia to Africa, the work carried me, and not surprisingly my love of being on the ocean grew.
Fast forward a few years, with a degree in renewable energy engineering and some time spent working in developing countries with small communities, I returned to Cornwall to work in the renewables sector. This vital sector in Cornwall was very sadly hit hard by the economic crash in 2012 so the jobs just disappeared.
After hearing about the seaweed industry in Ireland on the radio one morning, my imagination started to whirl…! Seaweed was recognised and prized throughout Europe and Asia as a wonderful sustainable local food source, not to mention a deeply nutritious superfood and there was really nothing being done with seaweed in this country. I spoke to my old friend Tim van Berkel, who was also ready for some adventure and we decided to set up a seaweed company – The Cornish Seaweed Company was born.
In the early days, Tim and I did everything; harvesting by day whatever the weather, packing the dried seaweed in a friend’s bakery at night time, building drying units from reclaimed materials, working seven days a week and cycling round London with a compass on marketing trips. Last Christmas we celebrated our incredible team at a Christmas party with over 20 of us…we have come a long way!
We now have a seaweed farm where we are growing seaweed on ropes to satisfy the growing demand, as well as the original wild harvesting we have been doing where we cut the seaweeds direct from the rocks with scissors. Seaweed is the most sustainable British superfood, and unlike all land plants, it grows without the need for fresh water or fertiliser and creates a habitat for ocean creatures, thus reducing the acidification of the ocean whilst sinking carbon.
I’m excited to be able to face the challenges again of harvesting year-round in all weather and the comradery of the team as we head back for a late pasty after a rough and windy harvest on a bouncing boat. The ultimate joy is jumping over the side of the boat on a still blue-sky morning, with wetsuits on, to free dive for seaweed amongst the forests of kelp beneath the surface. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have seals come up to play and a huge box jellyfish blobbing past.
It is intense physical labour hauling seaweed all day and processing it ’til late but worth it for the satisfaction it brings. I don’t really know if I would say I’m proud of the business we have built but am certainly happy that I can stand back and smile at all we have.
Find out more at cornishseaweed.co.uk