THE BEST OF BRITISH
Whether it’s fully immersing yourself by diving or snorkelling, or just dipping a toe into the water while rockpooling, what better way to make the most of the summer than enjoying our own native marine life?
What better way to make the most of the summer than enjoying our native marine life?
It can be easy to dismiss the waters around the UK as freezing and murky, with few obvious signs of life, but reduced visibility doesn’t mean a lack of biodiversity. Instead it can provide an invisibility cloak under which a huge variety of creatures live and thrive. It just takes a little patience and knowing where to look.
What the UK lacks in tropical reef ecosystems, it makes up for in a variety of other habitats; Sea grass meadows, rocky reefs, undersea caves, seaweed gardens and maerl beds all play host to a variety of marine species. Charismatic megafauna such as sharks, rays, whales, dolphins and turtles, often more commonly associated with warmer climes, all call UK waters home, and tropical reef staples such as triggerfish, seahorses, corals, nudibranchs and sponges can also be found inhabiting our shores.
For the more adventurous, Scuba diving is a great way to get up close and personal to the seascapes and fauna we have to offer. Although wetsuits, or sometimes drysuits, are a necessity due to the water temperature, this is a small price to pay for the full, immersive experience diving brings. PADI and BSAC institutions can be found all over the UK, regardless of how inland you live, and offer a variety of training courses and dive opportunities, from novice to experienced.
If you don’t have the equipment or the qualifications to dive, but you still want that immersive experience, just don a mask and snorkel instead. Remember to check ahead for local sea conditions and tide timetables first.
Rockpooling — easy, fun and free!
By far and away the easiest and most accessible way to take in our local marine life is through rockpooling, and as a summer beach pastimes goes, it takes some beating.
Timing is important
The best time to go rockpooling is around an hour before to an hour after low tide, allowing access to some of the pools that remain submerged for the vast majority of the day. Check the local tide table though, as the last thing you want is to be caught by the rising tide. Low spring tides provide the greatest difference in the tidal range, and thus the lowest of low tides. Spring tides occur twice a month, with the name referring to the idea that the tides ‘spring forth’, rather than having anything to do with seasonality. Having said that, spring time can be an ideal time too, as it’s the breeding season for many rockpool inhabitants.
Hide and seek
Life in the littoral zone is tough, and the animals you are looking for are adapted to live under permanently fluctuating conditions. As the tide retreats, the small bodies of water are cut off from the main channels and the water temperature and salinity begin to rise, only dropping back down when they become reconnected again on the high tide. During these periods of shifting water parameters, many species choose to hide underneath rocks, seaweed or undercut channels around the edges of the pools.
Initially a pool may look barren, with just the odd shell on display, but get closer and a whole world of creatures reveal themselves.