Rock pooling has been on my parenting bucket list for a long time, I have many fond memories of childhood holidays in North Devon and Cornwall hunting for hidden creatures in rock pools. Filling buckets up with crabs, shrimp and the occasional fish while wading through pool after pool in jelly shoes and armed with a net. This also meant that taking my own children could have been one of those rose tinted glasses moments where you remember something being awesome but your children just look at you like you’re mental.
However with bug hunting being their favourite pass time by a long shot I thought I was on safe ground, after all rock pooling is really just bug hunting with added water and sand isn’t it? So a few weeks ago when we were on holiday in East Sussex I decided it was time, although the pressure was on a little as Matilda was very disappointed that the beaches were full of stones and not sand! I’d read that Birling Gap was a prime location in that are for rock pooling and a quick study of the tide times confirmed that mid morning was low tide and the perfect time to be down on the beach.
I’ve never been to this are before, but when you can enjoy views like this with almost the whole beach to yourself (god bless term time holidays) I would be very tempted to come back again. The beautiful white cliffs of the seven sisters give a stunning back drop (and running route) and all this is just a few metres from a National Trust car park. Perfect.
So the location was beautiful, the weather was great, we had two excited children and 2 grandparents to help out and a nice packed lunch. Which on its own is a great morning out, what I hadn’t expected was the amazing star fish. Now I’ve seen a star fish or 2 a few times in Devon but never on the scale of here. There were quite literally hundreds of the things dotted across the rocks, pools and sand. I’m not sure if this is normal or if they’d been washed ashore by a storm perhaps but it was amazing to show the children and explain how they moved around.
It was a little odd climbing over white limestone rocks rather than the black granite of Devon but we had an amazing morning investigating all the pools. Although pops may have had more fun than the children and we kept having to tell him to slow down and wait for them. As well as the starfish we found a few crabs, loads of shrimp and all manner of shellfish. We also of course collected a nice pile of shells and stones that the children insisted on bring home.
In fact we had so much fun we came back the next day to do it again. Such simple fun yet this was the thing the kids enjoyed the most of the whole holiday and it is essentially free. On our second visit I introduced them to the joys of building dams in the sand to stop the streams and we even had a little paddle in the water. Although Matilda wasn’t so keen on the waves, she kept asking if they were going to get her, not entirely sure where that paranoia comes from.
To finish the day we of course sampled the finest National Trust cafe cake and coffee in the lovely cafe sat on top of the cliffs. I’ve no doubt this place gets very busy in the peak of the summer but for our visit it was just perfect. Which led me to the conclusion that I think we may well be a National Trust family and not a theme park or zoo one. We need space and fresh air when we go out and the children have inherited my aversion to noisy busy places. Maybe it’s time we got ourselves a family membership?