A child holding the spiny starfish.

Warm in Waders -a chilly beach adventure

Have I mentioned that I don’t like the cold? Well I don’t, and worse than that I don’t function well in it; my fingers seize up, my brain goes fuzzy and my grumpiness level soars. Not ideal when I’ve agreed to meet up with a small army of children on a freezing, windswept beach. Fortunately I’m prepared and have no shame. 

Full thermals + three layers of jumpers + coat + scarf + green waders equals = a toasty-warm fashion disaster. 

Junior’s still young enough not to notice or care about anything except whether I’ve brought his enormous metal spade. The other kids don’t seem worried either as I waddle over to them. They call me ‘the shark lady’. I think they mean that in a good way. 

It’s amazing how fast children learn. A few minutes after he’s shown his first catshark egg case, a friend’s child is spotting them everywhere, his sharp eyes picking them out faster than me. We’ve soon clocked a couple of dozen of them. The parents find some too.

Mandy's catshark egg case. Hannafore, Looe
Mandy’s Greater spotted catshark egg case. Hannafore, Looe

We ease one up into the light and see the baby shark swimming in the case. I explain why we must leave them attached to the seaweed. These cases will take around eight or nine months to hatch and need to withstand everything the sea throws at them without becoming dislodged. 

I show a child how to tell the difference from male and female crabs by their tail shapes. We find a female with eggs to demonstrate why the females need that wide curved tail. A few minutes later he gasps with excitement as he finds another crab with eggs.

Female crabs have a wide u-shaped tail. This hairy crab is carrying eggs under her tail.
Female crabs have a wide u-shaped tail. This hairy crab is carrying eggs under her tail.

We make some other common but child-pleasing finds. The spiny starfish is passed round many little hands and I turn it upside down for a moment so everyone can see how it uses its tentacle feet to move. Cameras click before we slip it into a bucket to be taken to the ‘shore lab’ of the Looe Marine Conservation Group rockpool ramble so everyone will have the chance to see it.

A child holding the spiny starfish.
A child holding the spiny starfish.

 Fish, crabs, squat lobsters and all sorts of other creatures wriggle away under every rock. With the tide this low, we are practically on the seabed so it’s ideal.

A squat lobster (Galathea squamifera). These little crustaceans dart off backwards when you try to pick them up by flapping their tails.
A squat lobster (Galathea squamifera). These little crustaceans dart off backwards when you try to pick them up by flapping their tails.

There are other, less common finds. The stalked jelly, a Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis, is so small we have to take turns to put our heads down close to the seaweed to see it.

Our stalked jelly - A Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis. These are so small they're often overlooked.
Our stalked jelly – A Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis. These are so small they’re often overlooked.

We find jewel anemones, tiny clingfish, a flatfish, colourful variegated scallops, anemones and more before joining the end of the Looe Marine Conservation Group rockpool ramble to see what else has been brought in. 

My attire gets me some looks, but I don’t mind, I’m just about warm enough and that’s priceless. Apparently I’m not the only one who couldn’t give a stuff what they look like.  Some people even ask where they can buy waders like mine.

A small species of clingfsh - possibly small-headed clingfish - showing its lovely marbled colours.
A small species of clingfsh – possibly small-headed clingfish – showing its lovely marbled colours.
An overhang studded with green and yellow jewel anemones.
An overhang studded with green and yellow jewel anemones.
Another children's favourite - the bootlace worm holds the record for the world's longest animal. I picked up a metre-long section of this one to show everyone.
Another children’s favourite – the bootlace worm holds the record for the world’s longest animal. I picked up a metre-long section of this one to show everyone.
This stunning little anemone, a Sargatia troglodytes had lots of pieces of shell stuck to its column.
This stunning little anemone, a Sargatia troglodytes had lots of pieces of shell stuck to its column.
Variegated scallop opening - Hannafore beach near Looe, Cornwall.
Variegated scallop opening – Hannafore beach near Looe, Cornwall.

 

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