OPINION: My first experience of rock pooling – and why I’ll be doing it again

Donna-Louise said her family had a superb time discovering the delights of rockpooling

Donna-Louise said her family had a superb time discovering the delights of rock pooling - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

This weekend I did something brave, something that I've never done before in my entire 35 years. I went rock pooling. 

Although it might not seem brave to many, water makes me nervous, and even more so with my three young sons in tow. 

Armed with a boot full of towels, a change of clothes, wellies, snacks, and more snacks for the kids, I loaded the family into my mummy-wagon and headed to the north Norfolk coast. 

I'm not sure who was more excited - my partner or our boys. But as we approached the sign to West Runton beach car park, there were squeals of delight from everyone, even me. 

We paid our £3 to a very helpful attendant, parked up, and slipped our feet into wellies before clambering across stones, rock, and sands to begin our rock pooling adventure. 

It was then I realised I didn't have a clue what I was doing or what I was looking for. Instead, I was mostly clinging on to my three-year-old's hand for dear life. 

Eventually, the sea life surrounding us took over my anxiety, and I began enjoying myself. We found tiny crabs, hundreds of whelks, seaweed, seaweed, and more seaweed, tiny fish, and a variety of weird and wonderful stones which my eldest was positive were a concoction of dinosaur fossils - they weren’t, but why ruin his fun? 

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We also came across a red fluffy thing which two young boys, far more educated than me in rock pooling, had to explain was a sea anemone. They were an absolute delight to speak with, and it was a joy seeing and hearing their enthusiasm. 

While we all had a wonderful time, made even better by the discovery of a forgotten £10 note in my coat pocket that was prompted spent on ice cream, I realised I might not be the only novice to this fun pastime. 

And with June's weather looking better than May's, I thought it might be helpful to share some rock pooling advice to other fellow novices in the hope and spreading the joy. 

1. Keep safe – probably the most important advice of all! Make sure to check the tide times before you leave and always try to go out on a falling tide.

Wear suitable clothing and footwear and take a drink and a snack - although to be fair, I’m guaranteed to take a snack most places I go. Also, make sure to let somebody know where you are. And walk carefully! Seaweeds and wet rocks are very slippery. 

2. Be thoughtful to your environment – have a quiet approach to a rock pool as not to disturb any creatures. Try not to cast a shadow or splash the water as the animals will be alert to any change in the surrounding environment.

Don’t lift rocks or boulders that are too heavy, as you could hurt yourself or damage whatever is living or hiding underneath. Always try to replace rocks where and how you found them.

After rock pooling, carefully return any creatures and seawater back to the shore. This is their home. 

A crab lurking in the deep - one of the great fun aspects of rockpooling

A crab lurking in the deep - one of the great fun aspects of rock pooling - Credit: Donna Louise Bishop

3. Have fun – make sure you pack everything you need and do a bit of research before you go. It’s only fun if everyone is safe and prepared.

There are plenty of groups to join on Facebook too, which members ready to give guidance and a helping hand. 

4. Finally, if rock pooling in Norfolk, be sure to check out its hotspots. The best time of year to go is between spring and autumn and on a dry and calm day when the water will be still. Some of the best beaches for rock pooling are West Runton, Cromer, Hunstanton, and Sheringham.

At low tides, these beaches are absolutely brimming with fascinating wildlife.