Work up an appetite
with a spot of beachcombing
Next time you come to visit us at Billy’s, work up an appetite with a spot of beachcombing. Just a short walk from our café is a world of wildlife treasures just waiting to be discovered and the best time to go looking is just after a winter storm. We’ve enlisted the help of Sarah Ward, Living Seas office for Sussex Wild Life Trust, to guide you. And once you’ve made your discoveries, warm up by our log burner with a delicious hot snack.
Beaches are fantastic places to go treasure hunting, whether you’re searching for coins or looking for shells and other curiosities that find their way onto the shoreline.
Winter weather creates stormy seas which often cause a whole assortment of treasures to get washed up on beaches. Items being transported by the sea get deposited at the top of the beach where waves lose their energy. This creates a line of deposited material around the high tide mark, known as a ‘strandline’ and the perfect place to go beach combing. You may find that Bracklesham beach has multiple strandlines – this is because the high tide will fall at different heights on different days. Here’s a guide to some common things to look out for:
- This often makes up the bulk of a strandline and you may need to move some of it aside to unearth other things. There are three main types of seaweeds: greens, browns and reds.
- Just like their relatives which you’d find in your garden, marine snails make a hard shell to live inside which protects them from predators and from drying out. This protective shell long outlives the creature who made it, so empty shells are a common sight on our beaches. As well as shells from marine snails, you might also find limpet shells and bivalve shells, such as cockles and mussels.
- Other remains. Lots of other types of sea creatures leave parts of themselves behind which end up in the strandline. You may well come across crab moults: often mistaken for a dead crab, these are actually where a crab has outgrown its shell so has taken it off to grow a bigger one. Another familiar sight are cuttlefish bones: cuttlefish, which are actually not fish at all but a type of mollusc, use these ‘bones’ as an internal buoyancy device; they are very light as they are full of tiny air pockets.
- Eggs and egg-cases. These are an exciting find as they give us clues as to the creatures which are living in the seas nearby. Common whelk egg cases, sometimes called ‘sea wash balls’ due to their historical use by sailors to wash with, are a common sight in the strandline. Perhaps the most interesting are ‘mermaid’s purses’, which are the egg cases of sharks and rays. We get a variety of sharks and rays inhabiting the waters around Sussex, most common are small-spotted cat sharks, spotted rays and thornback rays.
- Sadly litter often gets washed up alongside all the wonderful marine life. A two minute beach clean is a great way to keep Bracklesham beach looking lovely!
With thanks to Sarah and the Sussex Wildlife Trust