Of Driftwood and a Tidal Lagoon

Traeth Crugan is a quiet beach situated between Llanbedrog and Pwllheli. The beach is mostly coarse sand and small shingle backed by boulder clay banks with agricultural land behind.  crugan2InternetWhen you arrive at the shore when the tide is high, as is often the case, the nature of the beach and its sublittoral remains to be discovered.  This is the site for the day but some of our number have another expedition in mind first.

A splinter group 🙂 have driven to Abererch railway station to meet up with Tom Clifton in order to walk the strand westwards to the headland at Hafan Y Mor, also known as Penychain.   SearchingForTimberThis is a point of deposition for driftwood.  In the past Tom, who has made a unique and special study of shipworm occurrences in timber washed up around Anglesey and the Lleyn, has found some of his best samples of here.  Some of is samples have been very large, possibly struts from piers, necessitating the use of ropes to haul the wood along the 2-3 miles of beach back to his parked car.  So we join the beach by the Abererch Sands Holiday Park near the station and trudge east seeing little in the way of beached wood.  BeachedTimber1 But, as we reach the headland we start to find accumulations of smaller pieces of driftwood on the strandline and then we happen on a very promising trunk with boreholes.  Out come the bow saw and the hand axe and Tom, Nick and Simon set to.

BeachedTimber4Sadly when the log is sawn through it is clear that the boreholes were not made by shipworms but another organism whose traces in the timber we do not recognise.  Nevertheless we have had a demonstraton of the technique by the master and it has been his pleasure to make this expedition, it having been several years since he has carried out any marine fieldwork.

So we trudge back to our cars and drive to Traeth Crugan to join the others.  The tide is ebbing well now and before long there is a shallow lagoon to wade around, where dead shells are lying on the pebbly sands. Tapes aureus  and Gastrana fragilis are locally common here, occurring elsewhere around the coast of the British Isles at widely scattered localities.  Paul Brazier, who works for Natural Resources Wales and is a long-time acquaintance of mine snorkles the lagoon and Paula Lightfoot has also donned her diving kit so she can collect some sublittoral weed samples for Ian Smith who needs a good sample of living Pusillina inconspicua for DNA work in association with people at Cardiff Museum.

Once I can cross the lagoon and gain the platform on the seaward side I wander over this reef, suddenly becoming aware of the numerous Gibbula magus snails  gibmagsInternetcrawling over the substrate.  Hundreds of them.  Tom is taking another trip down memory lane.  He discovered this site during his days as area recorder and he joins me near low water.  Blog-TraethCrugan1

It is very evident when the tide turns and I recross the lagoon to join Nick.  When we leave the beach I am slightly concerned that Ian is still working along the far margin of the lagoon and his routes of access to the main beach seem to be disappearing under the rising tide.  I am also more than a little concerned that he is on kitchen duty for his Pasta and Broad Beans in tomato sauce.  Yet again our redoubtable Marine Recorder will be one of the last to leave the shore.

Nick and I follow Tom in his car; he has a more efficient satnav than we do and we are still finding it tricky to get back to the house after our daily excursions.   Blog Simon on shoreBack at the house there arrives a moment when the resident cooks realise that if people are going to eat at anything like a reasonable hour, and we have invited other field trip participants to eat with us, a nettle needs to be grasped.  Eschewing some aspects of Ian’s recipe we concoct a Pasta and Broad Bean dish with Pesto, preceded by Sonia’s Butternut Squash and coconut milk soup.  Ian arrives just as we are about to serve the pasta, full of embarrassment and apologies for having timed his fieldwork badly and spent the past hour driving round the lanes searching in vain for the house.  I can identify with him, if we had not been able to follow Tom Clifton back to the house I think Nick and I might have gone astray.

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