What lives in a rock pool off the coast of Northumberland?
Call me naïve, but I never realised there were hermit crab living in UK waters, let alone in the cold North Sea in Northumbria!
Oh were our eyes set to be opened to the richness of sea life in simple rock pools as we headed down to Lower Newton on the Sea to meet Jane the National Trust Ranger! (Follow her on twitter as NT Ranger JaneL)
Lower Newton is the cutest little enclave of houses around a village green, with a few holiday cottages a little further up. It is on a strip of coast managed by the National Trust. From the village you step onto a stunning beach with a protected bay and some great rockpools.
Jane was waiting for us with little nets, transparent little cups and most importantly little white Ikea toy storage plastic trays- the significance of these we were to find out later. It was low tide, the tide just turning. We had about 2 hours in which we could explore the rock pools to the north side of the bay.
As we walked down the beach we looked at those little squiggly sand bits that look like sand worms where the water had gone out. You see them all the time. Do you know what they are? We didn’t. Well they are worm castings, which is not the same as worm poo, apparently.
The worm eats the sand, filters our all the yummy (for him) microorganisms and then ejects the filtered sand out his back end. After digesting the microorganisms thus filtered he then also poops. This fact has really caught the attention of Hugo. Perfect 5 year old humour!
As we reached the rockpools Jane pointed out the different critters on rocks, she wadded in turned some rocks and encouraged us to watch what moves. And wow!!! There was a lot of movement.
We caught hermit crabs.
We stroked sea louse.
Hugo was immediately reminded of his “pet” woodlouse at home, Lousy.
We felt seaweed with lots of hard little swirly crusts on. (Oh what were they again? We learnt so much it’s hard to remember everything)
We let a sea anemone feel us with its tentacles.
We collected limpids, sea snails and hermit crabs and put them in our white tray.
Angelina was a little weary about touching the creatures, until she found an especially nice dog welk shell occupied by a hermit crab.
We fingered Sponge Bob Squarepants’ bro- a lovely sponge. “Just gently!” we were reminded by Jane.
We lifted lots of seaweed to find the elusive crabs and almost gave up, when Jane caught finally a little green shore crab.
We even found a very well camouflaged shrimp: it was translucent with what looked like sand inside its body. (Sorry, we had no success in capturing this on a picture.)
Max had a wonderful time exploring till he went plonk on his bottom in shin deep water.
Trousers off and we thought that’s the end of our rock pooling adventure, but he was determined to enjoy it longer; shivering and barelegged he refused to budge from the rock pools or even to put on dry trousers.
Soon it was ready to go:
As we put our different living finds back into the rockpool from the white tray, we thought we’d have a race. We each chose one hermit crab, placed them at the edge of the water.
*Yes, that is a crab right at the bottom… he didn’t really count. 😉
And in a chorus we went:
“Ready, steady, go!“
Then eventually some movement, and the race had begun. Two hermit crabs scurried off- Hugo’s and the one we had chosen for Dogonthebrink-, the rest needed a bit of encouragement with us making waves and pretending the tide was coming in…which it actually was, just not where we were standing …yet.
However, with the tide coming in, we said goodbye to the rockpools and headed up to the village green to enjoy some of the Ship Inn’s own brew and some warming food. We had some vegetable soup and smoked kippers (the local must-have delicatessen) for lunch. Both were delicious!
We have to say a huge thank you to Jane the National Trust ranger, who opened our eyes to all the wonderful living creatures in the rockpools!
If you get a chance, do visit this little stretch of beautiful Northumberland coastline. This beach at Lower Newton by the Sea offers a fantastic family day out. (Oh and even dogs are allowed on the beach, off lead!) If you time it right, you can even join Jane on one of her rockpooling walks.
Have you been rock pooling before? What find got you most excited?
Lower Newton on the Sea is on the North East coast of England in Northumberland.
The National Trust offer free rockpooling rambles, scattered through the year. Check out their website for a schedule (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/embleton-and-newton-links/things-to-see-and-do/events/).
Parking is at a small Pay and Display carpark just outside the village.
The Ship Inn can get very busy- like it did on the day we went- as it has an excellent reputation. If you do intend to go, check out their opening times and get there early.
The National Trust has a fun pack of mostly free activities to encourage children and their families to discover the natural world- 50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4. (The full list can be downloaded here) We LOVE this list!
Rock pooling is #37 on the list of 50 things.
We stayed at Dunstan Hill Camping caravanning club site, which was about a 10-15 minute drive away.
You can watch this 2 minute film of Jane rock pooling with 60 kids: http://youtu.be/KVYByCCLSjY