What a summer! Of course, we’ve had some rain and cooler days but hey, this is the UK and anything else would only send us into mass panic and the inevitable hosepipe ban. I’m really happy with my allocation of sunny days so far and the family and I have been doing our best to make the most of it by getting outdoors and hands-on with nature...

On our jollies
Fledging from the north of England, Norfolk is a relatively new discovery for me. However, we just love it – particularly it’s stunning coast – and it’s fast becoming an annual holiday destination for us (I have no association with the Norfolk tourism board and other beautiful counties and coastlines are available throughout the UK!!!).

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that my kids love getting up close and personal with critters. No matter how slimy, ugly, flittery, skittery or small, they can’t get enough. So this year we decided to go big on water beasties; we’ve dabbled in rockpools and ponds before but it was time to spend some serious time seeing what ponds and seas have to offer our family of novice naturalists.

Rocking the pools
Depending on the time of year, where you are in the UK and the rock pools you choose, there’s an amazing variety of creatures to catch or spot in rockpools. We’d done some ‘research’ (digested the contents of a ‘what to find in rockpools’ online search!) and set off bristling with excitement. It turned out that our catches over the few days were somewhat humble compared to the list of things you might find but that didn’t matter. Both the kids and we were well and truly captivated by our haul of seaweeds, tiny crabs, miniscule fish and shrimps, snails and great views of barnacles and anemones. The challenge of finding new and exciting stuff keeps the kids going for ages and as soon as you get your eye in, you’ll be amazed by what you can find.

But a note of advice: pay attention to tide times. You certainly don’t want to get stranded or swept away but dangers aside, there’s nothing worse than having two kids bouncing with excitement to find it’s high tide and the pools won’t be revealed for hours! It’s painful and you’re better than I if you get through this without copious amounts of icecream, rides on the helter-skelter and painful child-guided walks around arcades trying to communicate to your little leader why spending your life savings on 2-penny slot machines isn’t the most fruitful activity!

Dipping into the deep
The place we stayed on our holiday this year had lovely ponds set-up for pond dipping so in between trips to the beach, our nets and buckets were put to good use delving in fresh water.  

Just like rockpooling, we’re nothing more than enthusiastic novices and didn’t manage to land anything particularly extraordinary after attempts on a couple of outings but the challenge of trying was captivating enough. Like most children, mine are prone to getting bored quickly but seem to get a twinkle in their eyes and a steely determination with a net in their mits! It didn’t take long to get into the swing of it and find the best spots and soon enough we’d got water boatmen, backswimmers, snails, tadpoles and pond skaters in our bucket. My daughter got within a whisker of catching a sizeable fish in her net which would without doubt have claimed our family’s Dip Of The Day award but sadly it got away... something to aim for next time and she claimed the award in any case!

Year-round pursuit
Autumn may be easing in now but don’t let that stop you. Just stay safe and warm and you’ll have a great time discovering brilliant beasties in rock pools and ponds at all times of year. There are some brilliant guidebooks and online sources of information to help you get the most from your rockpool or pond dipping adventure and here’s something from the RSPB to get you started including ‘how tos’, ID sheets and even instructions on how to make your own net from a pair of old tights!

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