Friday, 25 November 2016

A Complete Guide to Spelunking! Cave Exploring With Children

noun: the hobby or practice of exploring caves

Spot the stalactites!
When you first enter a cave, your eyes take a moment to adjust to the dim lighting, the strangely still air, the glistening rocks around you, and the ethereal silence of life underground. 
If you're looking for a fun, stimulating activity for a cold rainy day, I highly recommend cave exploring. We went to Kents Cavern, an incredible prehistoric cave system in Torquay, Devon that is also an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Kents Cavern is the oldest known human settlement in Britain - in 2011 archaeologists found a 41,000 year old piece of human jaw here, the oldest fragment of modern human bone ever discovered in Northwestern Europe.
Impressive prehistoric cave system
Visiting a cave system is a great way to learn about history, evolution, cave people, the Pleistocene period, archaeology, geology, the Stone Age - to name just a few things! In this cave scientists found the earliest anatomically modern human fossil discovered in northwestern Europe - from 44,200–41,500 years BP, and a whole load of Cave Bear bones. Isn't it strange to think that 10-foot-long Cave Bears once dwelled on these lands, over 24,000 years ago? Thankfully for our ancestors, they had mostly vegetarian diets.
The cave is of course full of stalactites, tapering structures made of calcium salts which hang down like icicles from the roof of the cave, and stalagmites, which grow in a similar way but upwards from the cave floor. Both are formed by dripping water, and they sometimes meet in the middle! We actually saw a pair that is going to meet one day, but it was protected by a glass enclosure so I didn't get a good photograph of it. You can just about make it out here:
A stalactite and stalagmite due to meet
Due to the wild and rugged nature of this vast underground cave, visitors are only allowed inside with an official tour guide. I found her to be excellent in conveying the history of the cave and answering our questions, but I will add that the tour took about an hour to complete and was on ground that was not particularly even-footed for small feet - especially in the low light. I had to carry my 2 year old for most of it, although my 5 year old managed fine, but there was also a lot of complicated information for young children, and none of the tour was tailored to them particularly. They were very patient, and managed to keep themselves from climbing the surrounding rocks (which wasn't allowed), but other children might not be.

At the end of this particular tour the guide turned the artificial lights out so we could experience the full pitch black of the cave, and, just for fun, they played loud bear noises around the cave in the dark. Needless to say, my youngest daughter was somewhat frightened by this! As I said: not really for young children. So, if you plan to take young children on a cave tour, it's worth asking about what it involves beforehand, as there is no way to opt out once you're deep underground. 
However, the tour and overall cave experience were exceptional, and I'm glad I took the children along. We will certainly being going again when they're older! Here is a photograph I took of a demonstration by the tour guide, of a source of light used by prehistoric people. It involved use of a scallop shell:
Scallop shell, illuminated by artificial light
In paleolithic times, cave-dwellers used to soak moss in animal fat, and stick it to a scallop shell to make a lamp. The tour demonstration used paraffin wax instead of animal fat. It was impressive and surprising to see just how much light the shell provided in the otherwise-pitch black cave:
Light from the shell-moss concoction
Apparently this invention could burn for almost an hour, providing light to set up a fire in the cave. I'm often amazed by the innovative solutions our ancestors came up with for their every day needs, since it's so easy now to take those skills for granted - with the flick of a light switch. My daughters were also impressed by this demo in particular. They had fun 'going on a bear hunt' and exploring the strange underground formations:

'Mummy, what's this blob doing?'
They also enjoyed sifting for gems (which they got to take home), brass rubbing pictures of trilobites and fossils, and the other themed activities in the children's area. In fact, if you have young children, I'd suggest going to Kents Cavern just for the lovely cafe and children's area for a day out!
Sifting for gems in one of the many sand boxes
There are numerous paleolithic sites around the UK and across the US that are open to the public and offer guided tours. Cave exploring is a great year-round, family-friendly activity, and if you go on a rainy day like we did you might get to see water dripping inside the cave, which is pretty cool!

If you have additional needs then check beforehand to see what the tour will be like, whether you can use a pushchair in the cave, as well as to confirm opening times and prices, and to check whether they have child-centred activities above-ground. It's not necessarily a cheap expedition for the whole family, but certainly makes for an educational and exciting one on a cold rainy day. The cave will be cool inside but not as cold as outdoor weather: Kents Cavern tends to stay a comfortable 14 degrees even in winter and summer.

You can also pair it with many themed activities, which in our household means making art (mostly cave drawings and paintings), and of course reading books! Our favorite cave exploring book is Stone Age Boy by Satoshi Kitamura, which is about a boy who gets transported back in time and lives with prehistoric people for a short while. It has wonderful explanations and illustrations of life in the Stone Age, although it may be too technical for young readers in places:


Inside Stone Age Boy
Stone Age, Bone Age by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom is similarly themed but less technical, with a nice simple rhyme scheme for young children and additional notes for older readers:


Inside Stone Age, Bone Age

We also like Ug by Raymond Briggs and Julia Donaldson's Cave Baby, and of course for older readers there is Stig of the Dump, which I reread several times as a young child. Check out this resource guide for more themed book and activity suggestions.

Of course, for older children, caving (exploring wild, non-commercial caves) is a real option, but I still recommend taking along with a guide for safety purposes. If you need something wilder for older children who can handle rough outdoor weather, now is the best time to go fossil hunting: all you need to know is in this guide.

Happy exploring!

Light from the outside world!
Obligatory cave-selfie

Incredible scenery

Model cave family

Monday, 24 October 2016

A Complete Guide To Fossil Hunting: Where, When, How, & With Children


One of the many large ammonites at Lyme Regis beach

Image source: BBC

Two years ago an amateur fossil hunter named Alan Saxon was strolling along Black Ven, a cliff on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, when he stumbled across a five-foot ichthyosaur fossil embedded in a horizontal slab of rock. Ichthyosaurs, literally 'fish-lizards', were actually not fish at all, but dolphin-like reptiles that swam in the Mesozoic ocean at the same time as the dinosaurs. Experts were immediately called in, and excavation of the nearly-complete fossil began, taking eight hours of careful, dedicated work. Time was of the essence, as a storm that was due to hit the beach which would likely have buried the 200-million-year-old remains.

Ichthyosaur reconstruction, source
It might sound like the opening scene of a Hollywood blockbuster, but globally such treasures are frequently unearthed. For example, archaeologists discovered the largest-ever dinosaur footprint in the Gobi Desert this year (it's over a metre long, by the way), and amateur fossil hunters do sometimes stumble across new pieces of history. For example, plumber Steve Etches has unearthed over 2,000 specimens over three decades of hobby hunting, and one of Britain's most famous finds was discovered in December 2000, when former solicitor David Sole found a Scelidosaurus skeleton preserved in limestone. The Scelidosaurus, literally 'leg-lizard' (are you sensing a theme here?) was a land-dwelling dinosaur, and is one of the species that many children - including mine - are very familiar with!

My two and four year old children get excited about dinosaurs the way only young children can, which makes fossil hunting a fun activity for the whole family. Collecting and identifying fossils also helps them to learn about history, evolution, and think about the fact that dinosaurs are extinct (all big concepts for young minds). They also love collecting rocks, and my firstborn has her own rock collection.. Anyway, I believe the dinosaur fascination goes something like this:

Seems accurate, no?

Nautiluses feeding on bait, image source
What do I usually find when I'm out fossil hunting? Here in the UK, the most abundant fossils on our beaches are ammonites: marine mollusc animals that lived in the seas between 65-240 million years ago. They became extinct along with the dinosaurs, so much of what we know about them now comes from studying their living relative, the nautilus (pictured).

There are now six living species of nautiluses (try saying that out loud without snickering!) and thanks to abundant fossil records we know that nautiloids have not evolved much during the last 500 million years. Their shells are clearly well adapted, as well as beautiful, and easily preserved in cliff faces and rock. Nautiluses may actually be in danger from overfishing, but no protection exists for them at present.

Black Ven, found along the Jurassic Coast
Where to Find Fossils
The most famous fossil beaches in England are on The Jurassic Coast in East Devon and Dorset, the Isle of Wight and the east Coast of Yorkshire. Since I live in Devon, I tend to frequent The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site as it's fairly near by. If you're able to get there, Charmouth on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is ideal for first-timer fossil hunters, as the beach is abundant with ammonites and belemnites that are around 190 million years old - you just need keen eyes and a bit of patience to find them. Jurassic squid and dinosaur bones can also be found, although a guided walk is the best way to learn to identify them, at least initially.

Generally the best places to fossil hunt are coastal, but if you can't get to the sea easily there are other excellent geological sites worth exploring: check out this guide by the UK Fossils Network to find an area that is near you - or for somewhere to take a fossil finding holiday!

When to Go
You might expect fossil hunting to be the perfect summer activity, and certainly there are treasures to be found year round, but the best time to go hunting is actually between November and April. This is because rough weather and winter storms help to expose previously hidden fossils,

Be mindful of the tide when you're out there, though: Charmouth for example becomes inaccessible when the tide is fully in. Lyme Regis is a good place to go at any time, and is also my favourite location to take children since it's near toilets and food sources, whereas Charmouth is a hilly walk from both. It's always good to read up on any wild location before going out there with children, in my experience.

What You'll Need


  • As usual, my advice is that any expedition requires a guidebook! I've used a few different rock identification guides over the years, and my recommendation is the Dorling Kindersley Handbook of Fossils by David Ward, as it's a very comprehensive guide with nice big photographs to help with identifying finds in the field
  • Sturdy footwear, e.g. wellies or hiking boots
  • Waterproofs and warm clothes
  • Something to carry fossils in, e.g. a bumbag or backpack
  • A camera, for fossils you can't remove and in case you find something exceptional!
  • A small chisel or geological hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • A notepad of tidal times, if you need them


  • A chisel can be useful for getting a better look at small fossils
    As well as keeping an eye on incoming tides, never remove fossils from cliffs or climb cliff faces, as there is always a danger of rocks falling. It's also good etiquette to leave big fossils for other people to enjoy, as this sign kindly asks:

    Fossil hunting instructions are often stated on site
    Fossil Books for Children
    I try not to go on any expedition with my children without taking along relevant books for them. Books help to develop interests and understanding, enrich learning experiences, and what more can I say, they're books! (I love books.) At the moment our favourites to take fossil hunting are The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton, and Stone Girl Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt. Both of these books are about Mary Anning, one of the world's best-known fossil hunters, but each book gives a slightly different version of her life, which is why they're current favourites: the discrepancies lead to questions about what the true story is. What we do know for definite is that Mary was born and raised in Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast, where she found and excavated a complete fossilised ichthyosaur skeleton as a child, in 1810/11. She also went from living in poverty to becoming a renowned expert geologist, and is a fascinating person to learn about.

    Reading about Mary Anning and her fossils
    So, that's all you need to know to go fossil hunting, and I hope you've enjoyed this mammoth(!) free guide. Doesn't archaeology rock? Stay safe while out exploring, and get in touch with your finds! Here are some of mine.. No dinosaurs yet, but I'll keep looking...










    Friday, 2 September 2016

    'We Are Made of Starstuff': Planet-Gazing is Part of Who We Are (Featuring Planets Mars and Saturn)

    What strikes me most when I look through the telescope is that I'm looking at objects that are so far away that their light has taken years to reach our planet. It takes light 4 years to reach the Earth from Sirius, a nearby star, while light from the Eagle Nebula takes 7,000 years to reach the Earth. For all I know, what I'm looking at may no longer exist in the form I can see, or may not exist at all. When we look up we are looking into the past.

    So last week I traipsed out to the countryside after dark with my telescope to see the rare Venus-Jupiter alignment that may have been the origin of the Star of Bethlehem, and which won't occur again until 2065. Unfortunately I was thwarted by a combination of light pollution and sparse cloud cover low in the sky which meant that seeing just above the horizon was impossible. But as the sky darkened, three very bright objects appeared low in the western sky, and they were so bright that they were clearly visible to the naked eye even through sparse cloud cover, which had cleared by the time I found a spot to set the telescope up in.

    The first bright object I set the telescope on was in fact the planet Mars, which is a minimum of 54.6 million kilometers from the Earth, It looked like it was emitting an eerie orange glow, and had grey patches decorating its face. It wasn't the red hue I expected based on what I know of Mars, as it looked a lot like this:


    Image source
    With craters, dark regions, polar ice caps and clouds, Mars is an incredible sight. The red rust colour comes from the very fine dust that contains iron oxides.

    I should have spent longer gazing at Mars but I was excited by the excellent visibility and jumped straight to Saturn, from which there was no going back. The distance to Saturn from the Earth is constantly changing as both planets travel through space, but at their closest points they are approximately 1.2 billion kilometers apart. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system. Galileo Galilei saw Saturn's rings in 1610, but it wasn't until a few decades later that astronomer Christiaan Huygens proposed that Saturn had a thin, flat ring. In fact, Saturn has many rings made of billions of particles of ice and rock, some as small as a grain of sand and others as large as a building. The rings are believed to be debris left over from asteroids, comets, and/or shattered moons.

    Even a very blurry view of Saturn is easy to identify because of its trademark rings, but I had to use two special lenses to see them in detail, which was a lot of work because as soon as the lenses were fitted to the telescope the planet had moved out of sight, creating a steady dance between ringed planet and determined astronomer. It was worth it though:



    I gazed at Saturn for so long that a farmer turned up with his son to see what I was up to.. Apparently someone had reported strange goings-on near his farm! He was baffled to find that I was looking through what was clearly a large telescope on a tripod, and although I acted fast to show him Saturn it was already out of sight by the time he'd walked over, and it would have taken some time to remove the lenses get it in range of the telescope again. In any case, the farmer was delighted with my excitement about the night sky, and left with a cheerful insistence that I return to this spot again to stargaze as often as I like. Something he said has stayed in my thoughts since then, though - he told me: 'I must admit, I come out here to check the sheep at night sometimes, but I never look up' (gesturing to the sky).

    When I get a clear view of the night sky, my neck ends up hurting from craning it up for so long. It's always worth it. In fact, I've often wondered whether part of the reason we went from using four limbs to travel to two might be because we were so intent on looking up. Certainly our ancestors, who lived outdoors and didn't have the present visibility barrier of light pollution, spent much time gazing at, mapping, and pondering the night sky. They knew that some objects were stars and others were not because of the constellations they devised - they could see that the planets has varied paths across the sky. They knew this without aid of telescopes, just through continuous observation with the naked eye.

    We may have forgotten this, but it's where our days get their name from:

    Sunday is named after the Sun,
    Monday is named after the moon,
    Tuesday is the god Týr's day (known as Tīw in Old English),
    Wednesday is the god Odin's day (known in Old English as Wōden - so, Wōden's day),
    Thursday is the god Thor's day,
    Friday is the goddess Freyja's day,
    and Saturday is the god Saturn's day.

    The planets, stars and constellations once played a significant role in our lives. For most of our history we looked up to the stars to gaze at the distant past, and even to try to see the future. I see the telescope I have access to as an immense privilege, and I actually believe that being able to see planets should be a human right. We are part of the cosmos. If we stop looking up, we stop seeing who we are and our small role in this immense universe. We also forget how incredibly fortunate we are to be here; how lucky, how random, how insignificant and special it all is at the same time. As Carl Sagan said, 'we are made of starstuff'.

    I believe that everyone should be able to see what I see, and that's mostly why I write these blog posts. The universe is as much as part of who we are as this blue planet is. To view it and ask questions about it is not just for those of us with telescopes: much is visible with ordinary binoculars, if you know where to look. (For tips on how to start, see my short post on stargazing). There is always much to be gained from looking up.

    To catch Mars and Saturn right now, follow the basic rules and look for the following rough alignment. It changes shape over time of course, which is why a night sky guide is so useful.

    From Collins 2016 Guide to the Night Sky
    As these amateur pictures show, Saturn, Mars and Antares will be visible through September and into October. Take a compass and look south west. They will be very bright, likely the brightest objects in the sky, bar a few random stars. On a clear night and with a keen eye you should be able to tell that they are not like the stars around them. Look for the triangular-shaped alignment, which changes over time but is still noticeably triangular. Good luck!

    I'm going to head out soon for more Saturn-gazing, and to get a better look at Mars with the lenses, and to take a look at Antares, a supergiant star and the fifteenth brightest star in the sky that is often referred to as 'the heart of the scorpion' because it's found in the constellation Scorpius.

    As for how far into the distance I've ever seen, remember when I spotted The Ring Nebula? It's 2,300 light years away. That will never fail to amaze me.

    How far into the past have you seen?

    Tuesday, 30 August 2016

    Grow Your Own! Caterpillar to Chrysalis to Butterfly, in pictures

    Want to grow your own butterflies? We just released five beautiful painted ladies into the world, and will definitely do this project again next summer!


    Painted lady butterflies are a very common non-native species, but they're impressive all the same. Not only do they travel to Europe from Morocco in north Africa, through Spain, and then migrate to Britain in their thousands (sometimes in their millions), but entomologists have no idea why they travel such an immense distance, as each generation only carries out part of the journey before reproducing and dying. From Britain the painted ladies continue their journey south.

    We were super excited to try this project at home, and it's really easy to do, and fascinating for children and (creature-keen) adults alike. I ordered a kit to help us do it the first time around, to make sure we didn't make any mistakes. The caterpillars arrived in the post like this:

    Caterpillar babies!

    We got our kit from Insect Lore. The pot arrives with the caterpillars in it and that brown substance at the bottom which is their food. These babies grew astonishingly quickly - within a week they were this large:

    Hungry caterpillars
    Although the full life cycle process takes just under two weeks, so it requires a lot of patience for young children. I kept my two occupied with books, namely Caterpillar Butterfly by Vivian French, and the less technical old favourite The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which we also have in pop-up format (scroll to the end....).

    Book recommendation: Caterpillar Butterfly
    We also listened to musician Poco Drom's song Wriggle Wriggle Out a lot. If you haven't heard this already, it's free to listen to online and you're in for a treat! I recommend catching Paul at a live gig one day too.. With the kids of course!

    As the song goes, we waited and we waited, and we watched patiently every day for the caterpillars to become chrysalides, which they did, one at a time.


    Then, almost a week later, we had five chrysalides instead of five caterpillars. The kids were very excited about watching them pupate, and interested in the silk webs being weaved by the caterpillars, and their little round droppings..


    One morning I heard a mysterious tap-tap-tapping noise in the living room, and found that it was coming from one of the chrysalides, which was shaking and hitting itself against the inside of the pot. Initially alarmed, I consulted the leaflet that came with the kit and found that chrysalides sometimes do this to ward off predators. Perhaps a fly or spider had gotten too near to the pot. I thought it was a shame that the children had missed it (the tapping stopped after a few moments), but I did manage to get a video of the phenomenon to show them:


    Once they'd all become chrysalides we transferred them to an enclosed net, in which we left some fruit and flowers sprinkled with sugar water for each butterflies to feast on as it emerged from its pupa. I don't have any photographs of this stage because it was too tricky trying to get shots of them through the net, but it was pretty cool watching each chrysalis crack open to allow the butterfly out! Most of them seemed to do it overnight, but were still completing the process in the morning. The butterflies emerged over a few days, and then we took them into the garden to let them fly free.

    Feasting on Passiflora (passion flower)


    In case you're unsure about whether this is a good nature project, natural history writer Patrick Barkham argues that ‘we’ve released butterflies since Victorian times’ and that there’s little harm in continuing the trend today. Personally I think it's an amazing way to teach children about the life cycle of a caterpillar, and to bring out the naturalist and wildlife-lover in youngsters.





    Fly, my pretty!
    If you want to try this at home, you still have until mid September this year, which is the latest these butterflies can be released. I'm thinking of taking in some cabbage whites, as our garden is overrun with them at the moment. Earlier this year I thought it would be fun for the kids to plant wild nasturtiums, but they sort of took over the garden, and then caterpillars took over eating them, so I just decided to leave nature to it. They were VERY hungry caterpillars:

    Look closely and you'll see at least 20 in this photo! One per stem
    If you don't want to order a kit, here's what you'll need to do this at home. Use a jar or plastic pot with small holes in the lid, to enable the caterpillars to breath. I've seen people use mesh as lids but the chrysalides will need something to hang from, so a solid lid is important. Keep the container out of direct sunlight for the duration of their stay. Caterpillars need a lot of food, so fill the container with leaves and the like... Apparently they like nasturtiums... After a few days you should see that they've doubled in size, and soon after that they'll become chrysalides. When they're all in that stage, remove the lid from the pot and clear away the silk and poo in the container, as emerging butterflies can get caught in it. You'll want to release them outside soon after they're all out. The kit I bought came with a mesh net, into which I put the lid of the pot that the chrysalides had attached themselves to. As soon as they're out, they'll need something fresh to much, like fruit or some sugar water - we put sugar water on a passion flower which is how my daughter was able to hold the butterfly. Happy pupating!

    Pop up version of The Very hungry Caterpillar

    Tuesday, 16 August 2016

    Coastal Creature Identification: Rambling Around Rockpools

    Wembury, Area of Outstanding Beauty
    Down here in Devon we are very lucky to have easy access to so many wonderful varied terrains and beaches that are simply teeming with life, if you know what to look for. Wembury is located on the south coast of Devon, and it's an ideal spot for rockpooling:





    Rockpooling is a super fun and easy activity to do with children, and if you pick a good spot for it you'll certainly find plenty of specimens to investigate. Rockpools are diverse and unique habitats filled with salty sea water and plants and animals that are well adapted to weathering harsh living conditions. They have to deal with fluctuating water temperature, salinity and oxygen levels, plus predators. They're really fascinating environments and can help to get children excited about biology, evolution and marine life in a practical but safe way. Take along a few basic tools, including bucket, not a net - this useful infographic tells you all you need to know to plan an expedition:


    For the guide I recommend Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife, because it has everything you might need to identify in it including molluscs, algae, fish, sea squirts, sea anemones, crustaceans.. You need this guide! But, be warned: it will likely end up looking rather weathered, like this:


    May come with added sea water
    Velvet swimming crab 

    The velvet crab is the largest swimming crab found in British coastal waters, and it's relatively easy to identify because of the red markings around its eyes. We were really excited to find one! This one took a good look at us before scuttling back into the water:



    Marine worms

    I didn't manage to get a good photo of this worm we found, but there were so many of them and - if I'm honest - we were kind of excited after spotting the velvet crab and had higher ambitions than worms! The kids were interested in what kinds of worms live in water though, and we're going to have a better bash at identifying them next time.

    Unidentified worm
    Compass jellyfish

    Our third and final find was in the actual sea rather than in the rockpools, and it was really difficult to get a photograph of this compass jellyfish as it was being thrown around with the waves, particularly since it seemed to spent a lot of its time upside-down:

    Compass jellyfish: tricky to photograph!
    The compass jellyfish is commonly found in British inshore waters between July and October, and is also easy to identify thanks to the beautiful markings on the outside of its bell, better pictured here:

    Image source
    The compass jellyfish is not dangerous at all, but if you do get sting by one it's apparently similar to the feeling of being stung by nettles (ouch), and you'll need to rinse the wound in salt water or vinegar and remove any stingers with tweezers. (Urinating on the sting won't help.) Compass jellyfish can grow upto 30cm in diameter, and the one we saw was around 10cm, so possibly just a baby!

    And for future ambitions...

    I'm really keen to find Calliactis parasitica, a sea anemone that is invariably found attached to Common Whelk shells that are occupied by the Common Hermit Crab. Contrary to the name of this, er, specimen, the relationship between these creatures is symbiotic, not parasitic, as the sea anemone protects the hermit crab from predators with its stings, and benefits from the food thrown up by the hermit crab's movements. And it looks like (drumroll please!) this:
    Calliactis parasitica, image from the Collins guide
    So, why am I so keen to locate the C. parasitica, aside from the fact that it looks so flippin' cool? Because of the children's book Sharing a Shell, of course, by Julia Donaldson. If you don't already know this book and you have children, you're in for a treat. My kids love this book and I love reading it to them, and not only is it about rockpools, but it also features none other than the anemone and crab pictured above (although it doesn't mention that anywhere in the book and there's also a bristle worm sharing the shell in the story). Still, what better way to teach kids about sharing than using the C. parasitica?? Here's a picture of my firstborn reading the book to herself on the beach after a day spent rambling around rockpools in Wembury:
    Sharing a Shell: essential reading for mini rockpoolers
    You can also watch a reading of the book on YouTube and hear the Sharing a Shell Song by none other than Donaldson herself, but I recommend getting the book anyway - it's a keeper!

    Oh, and it would be cool to see a basking shark too, which can also be seen off the coast of Wembury, but we weren't so lucky this time. The Wembury Marine Centre is also a must for keen rockpoolers, and offers free entry to those with National Trust memberships. They also do identification sessions on the beach.

    That's it for my first post on coastal wildlife identification.. Now it's time for another trip to the beach - rockpooling is for adults too!
    Rockin' the beach selfie look (groan)