Sand art at Watergate Bay

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Natural canvas

Intercity trains bursting out of tunnels past forests, castles and hot air balloons. A profusion of intricate spirals stretching across the sand to the sea. A giant galloping polo horse, drawn by two galloping polo horses. Gorilla, crab, life-size inflatable dinghy, marriage proposal, a cry for world peace… The subjects may vary, but the canvas is always the same: two miles of sand revealed at low tide.


From large events to spontaneous solo creations, sand art at Watergate Bay goes back as long as we can remember – and most likely centuries before. Transient masterpieces eked out over many hours, erased by the tide in moments. Professional artists to children, activists to casual beachgoers – the vast expanse of smooth sand invites everyone to play at making their mark.

Does the inevitability of the tide’s advance make it more special? For acclaimed landscape artist Tony Plant, it’s all about appreciating the moment in a place of beauty. “I do it so it disappears – its transience is part of it,” he explains. “I love watching it disappear as the tide comes up and the sea starts taking slices out of it. It looks like the waning moon. I did one at Portreath a few years ago and someone came up to me as I was sitting watching the tide come up afterwards and said, ‘I’ve never watched the tide come in before.’ I thought it was brilliant, that my piece encouraged them to sit and watch the tide. So often we rush around and take things for granted.”

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Tony Plant sand art

Tony positively encourages everyone to have a go, emphasising how natural and easy it is, with no secrets or special techniques. “What I do is no different from what kids everywhere do on beaches,” he says. “Everyone does it, or did it – it’s just that I’ve never stopped.” There really is no right or wrong way, he maintains; just have a go and see what happens.

Why not come and cast the first stroke?

Tony Plant Beach Art

Tony Plant sand art

Getting started: a few pointers

  • A rake creates a bigger, bolder line that can be seen from further away – but you can also use sticks or just your hands or feet to draw lines.
  • Rearrange rocks, seaweed or shells if you want some extra texture and colour.
  • Avoid really wet sand as your lines will fill in too quickly. Very dry sand can also be hard work.
  • Make the most of natural features in the landscape like large rocks. “If you trace the outline shadow of a rock every 15 minutes for a few hours, you’ll get a really interesting grid pattern,” says Tony.
  • Share your pictures! We’d love to see your creations – use #watergatebaysandart and tag us @watergatebay and we’ll pull our favourites into a collaborative online gallery.
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Tony Plant sand art

Eden Project Earth Story Beach Art 1 002

Marc Treanor commission for Eden Project 2019