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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.