Clambering over some awesome rocks, revealed by a low tide, on Crackington Haven in north Cornwall on a breezy winter’s day reminded me that time spent at the coast can be a real tonic. For most Brits a trip to the seaside is a summer activity travelling to crowded coastal towns or packed beaches, full of a real buzz. But going to the seaside out of season can show you the coastline in a new light.
Listening to the waves is a lovely way to feel calm and relaxed
I have always been a massive fan of the UK’s coast. As a kid I spent many a happy hour pottering around Dawlish Warren in Devon and more recently rock pooling with my son and daughter is probably top of my coastal pops (there is something so relaxing and joyful about staring at a small pool of water to find some crabs lurking in the seaweed or small fish swimming at speed to find cover).
A winter trip to the coastline (and we’re never really that far from it) is a must to keep you topped up with fresh air through the shorter days as the arrival of spring can be almost smelt with the blossoming of nature. It’s also somewhere where you can just do nothing in particular, wandering along sandy beaches, collecting shells or sea glass, or staring out to sea. Yes the British climate can make a day at the seaside an interesting one but kiting yourself out with waterproofs and warm cloths prepares you for almost anything.
Cycling along the Camel Trail to Padstow was a real battery charging experience. The light seemed to change every minute as the tide started to flow in the creeks and upstream and the calls of the wading birds created a wonderful soundscape to the pedalling. My daughter’s rosy cheeks summed up the simple joy of cycling by the seaside.
Spending time at the coast is magical and the unpredictably of the weather adds some spice to those days out. Winter time with the low sun and the thought of a wood burning stove in a local pub after a coastal walk is just as good and probably more atmospheric that a day at the coast in the height of summer.
“Dad, I’ve caught a crab, I’ve caught one, come quickly”. The sound of my excited 8 year-old daughter rock pooling on Bantham beach in south Devon as the first crab of the day is scooped up and popped into a bucket.
A tiny little crab found in a rock pool on Bigbury beach in south Devon
There is something magical and timeless about rock pooling. As the tide drifts out a secret and accessible marine world is revealed, firing the imagination and creating a real sense of adventure. All sorts of creatures are trapped in little watery bolt holes. The coming and going of the tides sculpturing the rocks into perfect little places for sea water to get trapped for a few hours until the next tide comes in.
I’ve always loved looking in rock pools. They can evoke powerful memories of days spent at the seaside. You can get lost in the hunt for crabs, small fish and lovely little shells, vacated by their residents. And with the unpredictability of the British weather its one of those activities that you can do, come rain or shine.
Armed with a bucket, spade and ideally a net you can have hours of fun exploring these little watery worlds along the coastline. Kids and their parents clamber and climb over the rocks looking in little shallow pools or deeper water where you have to compete with seaweed to find anything.
For me the architecture of rock pools is fascinating. From the steep sided rock pools of north Cornwall at places such as Godrevy or Porthmeor in St Ives to some of the low-lying pools in south Devon at South Milton sands. Becoming an honorary marine biologist for a few hours you’ll need some patience and a good dose of luck. I love the sitting and watching part, looking for the slightest movement from beneath a stone or behind some seaweed.
It was great watching kids fanning out along the rock pools, collecting their temporary treasures that will be returned to the sea, and then sharing their finds with other children; comparing notes of where they’d found things or heading off in little groups to search for more. You can never really get enough of rock pooling and every place that you visit is different enough to reveal something different.