“What is it? What does it eat? Why is it doing that?” – just a few of the multitude of questions from delightfully inquisitive children on our latest rock-pool ramble to Barricane Beach Woolacombe on 2nd August.
Forty or so children and their parents found a huge array of animals on the shore. The largest included numerous large spider crabs, decorated with camouflaging marine detritus and skulking under seaweed waiting to moult prior to mating. Amongst the smallest, “the best thing I’ve ever found” according to the proud spotter, was the elegant sea spider Nymphon gracile. Amongst the most bizarre sights was that of a thimble-size Gem Anemone persisting in trying to swallow a giant pink fleshy worm-like thing, a crab’s leg, denuded of its shell, and several times its length
For the dedicated enthusiast arguably the most exciting find were the tiny exquisite sea slugs spotted by Coastwise’s Rob Durrant – Elysia viridis and the uncommon Palio nothus. These and other animals were brought back to the aquarium for closer inspection. Amongst the familiar crabs and small shore fish were a cushion star, hermit crab, a small flattie, and some buoy barnacles, just a few of dozens washed ashore in recent days. Basecamp supervisor Brian Heath organised a regular change of water and good oxygen supply for the changing population of animals
If the enjoyment of the Coastwise guides was anything to go by, this was one of the most successful public rock-pooling sessions of a summer bedevilled by uncertain weather. There are still a few more to go, Westward Ho on 21st August and Ilfracombe for the Sea Ilfracombe Festival on 1st & 2nd September, and for Coastwise members there will be some additional activities on the shore before starting the autumn programme of weekly talks.