Searching tidal pools for creatures and plants is not just for kids. Joshua Howgego went rock pooling with marine biology expert Helen Scales to discover all kinds of weird and wonderful lifeforms, from anemones and chitons to zooids
13 July 2022
AS I clamber out of the car for a day at the beach, it is – in typical British fashion – absolutely freezing. Most sensible people have stayed at home. But despite the conditions, I am in a joyous mood. I have come to West Runton, Norfolk, to do something I have loved ever since I was a child: go rock pooling.
Even better, I have persuaded one of the world’s foremost experts on seashells to come along with me. Author Helen Scales trained as a marine biologist and has written two books on seashells. There isn’t much about marine creatures she can’t tell you.
We pull on windcheaters and woolly hats. But as we stride towards the water, I worry that we won’t find anything interesting. How fascinating can life get on a cold and windy beach in England? As it turns out, I needn’t have been concerned. Rock pools are just as beguiling in real life as they are in our collective imagination, and I am about to encounter an incredible range of underappreciated species.
What’s more, you can too. If you look closely and arm yourself with a little knowledge, there is an awful lot to appreciate about the lives in this little-understood habitat.
As we walk towards the beach, we pass a sign encouraging us to be “respectful rockpoolers”. Scales gives me a quick primer on what that means. Lift up rocks carefully and always put them back where they came from. Don’t pull animals like snails off rocks …