After the beach boulders and scattered rusty metal debris, there is sequence of flat rock platforms exposed by the retreating water. They are riddled with holes made by the boring bivalves known as piddocks, some burrows just have empty shells in them but others are still occupied by the living molluscs that squirt water a foot or more into the air at frequent intervals. A velvet swimming crab mooches around the edges of the platforms, and sand tube and mud tube dwelling worms abound on all the surfaces.
I discovered an interesting stretch of shoreline when I visited Lyme Regis yesterday. The cliff location is known as The Spittles and it is situated immediately east of the new sea wall. The tide was going out but not as far as in March 2010. Enough to disclose an array of boulders with scattered fossils, broken coloured glass, and rusting metal. The man-made junk resulted from a major landslide in 2008 when the contents of an old town rubbish tip (which had been in existence from 1920 to 1973) cascaded shore-wards with the rocks and mud. The junk continues to wear out of the cliff face to the present time.
There are some interesting items to be found. The rusting metal components, often with remnants of paint, provide intriguing contrasts with the natural environment in which they are lodged. There is a striking similarity between the metal colours and textures and those of the dead and dying autumnal colours of seaweed. As the water receded, it left intricate patterns in the sand around the rocks and even in fine sediments of smoother rock surfaces.
The tide went out a long way on 10th March 2012. A very long way. For the first time ever I was able to see the glory of the hitherto hidden acres of golden-fronded kelps, brown fucoids, and red seaweeds carpeting the rocks at Lyme Regis. Usually when I visit the water is high on the shingle beach but on this occasion I could follow the water as it went out over the sand and rocks to get an entirely new perspective by looking up the shore, to the Cobb, the town, the fossiliferous cliffs of Black Ven and Charmouth to the east, including sight of Golden Cap. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the last time I was going to see the old breakwaters at Church Cliff.
Seaweeds glistening in the sunlight on wave-washed limestone at Spaniard Rocks (near Burry Holms) at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. Higher in the intertidal zone all the seaweeds were black and crispy after rapidly drying out, and would only regain their beautiful colours and slitheriness when the tide returns.
Thick mats of seaweed wash ashore on beaches along the Jurassic Coast. Dead seaweed is often automatically viewed as horrid, unsightly, and a nuisance – but if you pause and look, there is beauty in it. There are many types of seaweed to be discovered in the masses on this strandline. Their fronds intertwine in a kind of accidental natural weaving. Each species has its own characteristic shape, texture, and pattern. Their combined presence forms greater abstract designs of infinite variety, the individual fronds making strands or threads as in a tapestry. The puckered patterns of the crinkly Sugar Kelp stand out as the most decorative features of the assemblage. The colours change from deep olive brown to golden yellow and cream as the algae decompose. The textures range from leathery to satiny, from slimy to crispy depending on moisture content. Opaque and hardening on exposure to air; or translucent and soft when floating in shallow water rock pools.