Give it a go: Beachcombing

This spring, you’ll probably be spending some time by the sea. But sometimes the water’s a bit nippy or just not that inviting. Why not give beachcombing a try?

Give it a go: Beachcombing

Photo: RNLI/Anna Burn

You might be surprised at what you can find when you take a closer look at the beach around you. RNLI Volunteering Development Coordinator Debbie Corke is a keen beachcomber, who turns some of her discoveries into pieces of art. She shares her tips on making the most out of a trip to the seaside.

How did you get into beachcombing?

I have always lived by the sea and family holidays were spent camping near the beach in Devon, Cornwall and Wales. I like nothing better than spending hours on the beach hunting for treasures, particularly when the waves are high and the beaches are deserted.

What should you be looking out for?

Anything that catches your eye. I look for shells, particularly cowries, ever since my mum taught us how precious they were. Pelican feet shells are also very special. And look out for shark eggcases, often known as mermaid’s purses – you can help conservation researchers by identifying and logging your finds with the Shark Trust’s Great Eggcase Hunt.

Stones with holes have always been considered lucky in our family and around the country there are various stories about them – in some areas they are called hag stones. They make great wind chimes strung up in the trees in the garden.

I also collect string, rope, discarded pieces of fishing net – anything that can be woven into a tapestry. It’s also a good way to give something back, cleaning up the beach and protecting wildlife!

Where are the best places to beachcomb?

There are treasures to be found everywhere. Each beach is different and if you visit at different times of the year, you will find different things. It’s a great way to get the family out and about in the fresh air and enjoy the scenery.

There are some fabulous groups on Facebook where you can photograph and post your finds – particularly great if you’re not sure what your treasure actually is! I meet many people on the beach who stop and want to chat about beachcombing, so it’s a very sociable hobby.

What safety advice do you have?

Make sure that you check the tides of the beaches you are exploring – it’s easy to walk further than you first thought and get cut off by the tide, when your gaze is pinned on the ground. Also check local signage on the beach, which will show any hazards or danger areas.

Preserving our sealife

Our beaches and rock pools are home to a variety of interesting wildlife, so be careful not to disturb or remove any living creatures. Only take home open shells like limpets or razor clams where you can see from the outside that someone’s not at home! Be sensible about the finds you keep, and always respect the wishes of the beach owner. See the Marine Conservation Society for more advice.

Three things to spot on the beach

  1. Mermaid’s purses – these peculiar, beautiful little capsules are the eggcases for several species of shark.
  2. Cowrie shells – once found on the back of sea snails, cowrie shells come in a variety of shapes and designs.
  3. Cuttlefish bones – often spotted in budgie cages, these internal shells are used to help cuttlefish stay buoyant.

If you’ll be exploring the coast this spring, take a look at our coastal walking advice to make sure you stay safe.