Roa Island Rock-Pooling

Roa Island lifeboat station and Piel Island

Britain is rich in grain and timber; it has good pasturage for cattle and draught animals, and vines are cultivated in various localities. There are many land and sea birds of various species, and it is well known for its plentiful springs and rivers abounding in fish. Salmon and eels are especially plentiful, while seals, dolphins, and sometimes whales are caught. There are also many varieties of shell-fish, such as mussels, in which are often found excellent pearls of several colours, red, purple, violet, green but mainly white. Whelks are abundant, and a beautiful scarlet dye is extracted from them which remains unfaded by sunshine or rain; indeed, the older the cloth, the more beautiful its colour.

I love this picture of plenty from the opening to Bede’s History of the English Church and People. Read eighteenth or early nineteenth century naturalists like Richard Jefferies or W.H. Hudson with their depiction of fields thronged with skylarks, or histories like Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, and you get a feel for an abundance which we have lost. But head to the low-tide line when the moon is full and you can still catch at least a glimpse of teeming fecundity.

We’ve been to Roa island once before, on that occasion as a stepping off point for a trip to explore Piel Island.

Piel Island

That’s a great day out, but this time we would stay on the north side of the channel. Roa island is the closest place to home with a rocky beach, complete with a few pools behind the stanchions of the Life-Boat station. We were guests of Arnside Natural History Society, we were armed with nets and plastic tubs, and we were seeking out the denizens of the sea-edge.

The sun shone. It seemed that every rock turned over sheltered half a dozen crabs, and often something else of interest. Children of all ages were absolutely thrilled.

Here then are some photos of some of what we found, haphazardly presented in the order in which they were taken…

Brittle star

Brittle star.

Shore crab

Shore crab.

Sea weed

Sea weed.

Barnacle Bill

A barnacled shore crab.

What you looking at?

Between us we found five different kinds of crab in all. Shore crabs and hermit crabs were ten a penny. We also caught one each of an edible crab, a spider crab (see below) and a porcelain crab (although I managed to miss that one). Apparently this is also a good place to find squat lobster, if the tide is low enough.

Bootlace seaworm

This large jumble of intestinal tubing is actually a bootlace seaworm. These things can grow to great lengths.



Mating shore crabs

Mating shore crabs.

Big starfish

A large starfish.


A smaller starfish, christened Betty by the girl who found ‘her’.

Fish eggs

Fish eggs.

Trivia monacha - European cowrie

European cowries.


Another sponge.


And another.

Spider crab

Spider crab.

At first I thought that this must be a tiny juvenile example of the large spiny crabs we sometimes see off the rocks which lie slightly below the low-tide line at Porth Towyn, but now I’m pretty sure that it’s actually of an entirely different species, and although small, may well be adult.

Box full of goodies

Catch of the day.

Glass prawn?

I was inclined to think that the creature in the centre of this photo was a shrimp, but the closest match I can find in our ‘Sea Shore’ field guide is a ‘glass prawn’, so perhaps that’s what it is.

Our friend BB found this…


…huge barnacled bivalve, I presume an oyster. In addition to the barnacles it had another passenger….

A green beadlet anemone?

…a green anemone.

Some of the kids stumbled across this…

Lion's mane jellyfish

…lion’s mane jellyfish in the shallows. It seemed to me to be upside down, and I thought it was dead, although this was hotly disputed by the kids. I’ve since discovered that the lion’s mane is the world’s largest species of jellyfish, and that these can deliver quite a nasty sting.

These tube worms…

Tube worm

..were entertaining. I think that they are peacock worms. The dull brown tubes, apparently empty, would suddenly shoot out brightly coloured tentacles, which would just as abruptly disappear again.

Hermit crab

A largish hermit crab.

Roa Island Lifeboat Station

The lifeboat station.

B investigates

A very happy customer.

Roa Island Rock-Pooling

7 thoughts on “Roa Island Rock-Pooling

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks for that – I’m a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan, but I’d forgotten that one. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know how nasty they can be when myself and half a dozen small children stood next to it in the water, wondering what it was.

  1. Top Stuff!! I’d be as happy as a pig in you know what there. Great idea for a day out if we get a good day when we come to yours. Kids would love it especially if we can squeeze in a little ferry ride to Piel island if its running.

    I thought the bootlace sea worm was a length of chain!

    No weird barnacles then 🙂

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I think we might be too far north for the buoy barnacles. The worm was allegedly 4m long (I didn’t see it stretched out). I learned from the talk we went to tonight that just over 300 species have been recorded in this channel. Apparently it has the most biodiversity of any stretch of coastal water off the Northwest of England.

  2. Have to say that the bootlace seaworm thing turned my stomach a bit – mind you I’m still feeling a bit over-sensitive to beachy stuff…

    And for someone who did Marine biology at A-Level, I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t remember the half of what anything was in your photos!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It was even more disturbing in the flesh.
      Marine Biology A-Level! I didn’t know there was such a thing – what a cool course that must be. That definitely wasn’t on offer at my school. Then again, that was in Leicestershire, about as far from the sea as it’s possible to be in this archipelago.

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