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.
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…
A barnacled shore crab.
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.
This large jumble of intestinal tubing is actually a bootlace seaworm. These things can grow to great lengths.
Mating shore crabs.
A large starfish.
A smaller starfish, christened Betty by the girl who found ‘her’.
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.
Catch of the day.
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 anemone.
Some of the kids stumbled across this…
…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…
..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.
A largish hermit crab.
The lifeboat station.
A very happy customer.