Ted and the Sea Urchin

Ted Perryman has been initiated into the ways of conchologists………… and other shore explorers.  There are stones under which he has now looked.

Back in France for Easter and, sadly, the bright warm days we have enjoyed in England have not crossed the Channel with us.  Tant pis – we look at the tide tables and calculate that a late afternoon beach foray followed by a car boot picnic tea will be possible, before Ted is driven home and launched into the bedtime routine.

Rochers de Dranguet is becoming a bit of a favourite place to look at intertidal life.  It is also a child-friendly shore.  The clean, smooth sands which are gradually exposed as the tide goes out give way to a mid-shore rocks which extend over a distance of some 600m to the lowest shoreline.

As these rocks start to emerge from the receding sea you are already getting into a zone where there is ‘life’ to find which is varied and interactive.  There are also tracks and channels through which you can safely plodge in the shallow draining seawater.  Unlike a lot of rocky shores you are not faced with a uniform platform blanketed in treacherous seaweed.

But first we must find our way across the sands in our wetting shoes.  Ted’s are crocs, which are a shade large.  With the aid of socks, and after a few shed shoes, he finds his technique for keeping the crocs on.  We reach the first pool around an isolated rock.  We slop through this water and Ted thinks it is hilarious.  Our first hurdle over – after all the water is not that warm at this time of year – we get to shelly gravels, rollable weedy boulders and some meandering channels through the platform. We roll our first boulder and, behold, we find 2 small cushion stars.  Ted knows about these.  His brain is probably word perfect on his bedtime story, Tiddler.  He also knows about crabs and we find these easily, several kinds, including the classy Velvet Swimming Crab .

We now have a shallow white pot with half a dozen crabs scurrying around and 2 starfish.  We carry on looking and find a sizeable Edible Crab.  This one has a carapace width of 10cm and has to be coaxed out of the sand for inspection, then released.   The crab reburies himself with ease. We have been finding various sea snails, including winkles, dog whelks and the showy Painted Top Shell.

But the best is yet to come.  Under the last boulder of the day we find a Green Sea Urchin.  We agree this is a prickly beast and then put him back.

If there were a test to pass then Ted would have done so with flying colours.  It probably helps that he loves the water and he is going through a stage of rapidly accumulating vocabulary, repeating what he hears, and then surprising us by coming out with words we don’t think he has heard recently, but which must have been residing in his head, in waiting.  Ted’s field trip is concluded with a brief picnic sitting on the tail gate of the new car.

Charlotte has recorded Ted’s little adventure on video and also on her digital camera.  Cribbing Charlotte’s photos for this post feels a bit like copying her homework!

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