How to go rock pooling – our top tips

Jess Price from the Sussex Wildlife Trust on how to get the most out of your rockpool rambles.  

Bucket and net beside a rockpool


The seas around the UK have the potential to be amongst the most productive and wildlife-rich on earth. Hidden beneath the surface are landscapes every bit as varied and beautiful as those we see on land, with undersea cliffs, caves, chasms, mountains, dunes and plains. But it is not until the waves have retreated and the tide is low that we get a glimpse of this mysterious world and the weird and wonderful wildlife that inhabits it.

Advertisement

Rockpooling is a fantastic activity that people of all ages can enjoy. Summer is a great time to get out to the coast to take full advantage of our island state. Leaning over the small pools of water that form on the rocky shoreline, you can find a huge range of creatures that you might otherwise never know were there.

Wildlife including crabs, shrimps, anemones, limpets, snails and starfish can all commonly be seen in rockpools around the coast. Download a rockpool species spotting sheet from the Wildlife Watch website here.

In Sussex, brilliant rockpooling sites include Seven Sisters Country Park near Seaford, the costal stretch between Brighton Marina and Rottingdean, and around Worthing Pier. Of course, there are excellent rockpooling locations all around the UK. You can find some great suggestions on The Wildlife Trust’s website and right here by searching in the bar above.

The best places to find interesting creatures are fairly sheltered rocky shores, on shingle or sandy beaches. You could also search around boulders, piers and pontoons which often contain interesting nooks and crannies for wildlife to hide in.

Wherever you decide to go rockpooling, please remember to follow the seashore code of conduct – the best sort of rockpooling means leaving no trace of your visit.

When rockpooling:

Advertisement
  • Wear sensible footwear and take care as rocks can be very slippery. Also, keep away from the cliff-foot to avoid falling rocks, and soft mud and quicksand.
     
  • Always check tide times and weather, as it is easy to get cut off by an incoming tide. Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
     
  • The lower the tide, the more unusual things you will find in the lowest part of the shore. Head out an hour or two before low tide. This will give you lots of time to walk out with the tide and the most time at the lowest point before the tide comes in again.
     
  • Respect the marine wildlife and habitat. Do not take live specimens, try taking photos instead, and avoid trampling and unnecessary disturbance.
     
  • Don’t paddle or throw things in rock pools – remember they are creatures’ homes.
     
  • Always put rocks back in the same place and the same way up as they were when you found them and don’t pull seaweed off the rocks.
     
  • Clear buckets or Tupperware boxes allow you to view creatures from below, but make sure you change the water regularly and keep creatures separate so that they don’t attack each other.
     
  • Take your litter home or dispose of it carefully in bins if provided.