A guide to rockpooling in Brighton

Just off the coast of Brighton, tucked away beneath the waves we have a huge variety of marine habitats including hidden chalk cliffs and  reefs – with their rich and colourful diversity of life, they are as good as any tropical reef! When the tide is low, Rockpooling gives us a glimpse into this underwater world, and you don’t have to go far from Brighton to explore some of the best ones.

Rockpools near Brighton Marina along the Undercliff Walk

The Undercliff Walk

The closest pools to Brighton city centre are near Brighton Marina along the Undercliff walk. These pools are within the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Beachy Head West was one of the first MCZs to be established in the country. The chalk reef is among the best examples of marine chalk habitats in the south east, which supports so many species and when revealed, the Rockpools are full of hidden gems.

So…let’s get started!

First things first, check the tide times! Sometimes you only have a small window of time to search the Rockpools, so checking this is key. There have been a couple of times where I’ve  made my friends come with me, only to find the tide is in and the rockpools are covered. Don’t make my mistake! Good sites to use are magic seaweed or tidetimes.

Undercliff rockpools covered by the sea around mid-tide

Equipment and footwear

Footwear with a good grip is essential – the rocks can get really slippery; wellies or waterproof trail shoes work well,  but beach shoes are the best.  Don’t forget sunscreen, a hat and take plenty of water to drink – you will be really exposed to the sun on the rocks. The Wildlife Trust’s top tips for rockpooling shows you the basic equipment you need to take with you to safely observe the animals.

Searching along the rock pools

ID guides 

The Wildlife Trust’s Spotter sheet is a great way to help you identify your finds if you’re a first-timer. As you become more familiar with the species there are some excellent pocket guides out there like Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife or The Essential Guide to Rockpooling 

Searching for animals 

The far end of the beach towards the sea is the best place to start your search as the deeper pools are here. You can then make your way back towards the beach to search the shallower pools. Animals like to keep cool and damp, so searching under rocks and overhangs will give you a better chance of spotting them. Turn rocks and seaweed over slowly and gently, the longer you look, the more chance you will see things. Listen out for the sounds of fish splashing and crabs clicking too.

Protecting wildlife

Turning over stones, Chitons hidden underneath

The animals in rockpools are quite vulnerable so ensure you turn rocks over and put them back as slowly as possible. Check constantly to see if anything has moved under where you are going to put the rock back. If you collect anything in a bucket don’t keep it in there for long as it will get stressed by the temperature. Return everything you find to the pools as close to where you found it as possible.

Always something new!

The best thing about rockpooling is you always spot something new each time you go. Here are some animals I have spotted during my time rockpooling this summer on the Undercliff pools.

Spiny spider crab 

Camouflaged spiny spider crab

Chitons 

Chitons

Cuttlefish eggs 

Cuttlefish eggs

Shore crab

Shore crab

Strawberry anemone 

Strawberry anemone

Reporting your finds 

Reporting rare finds to wildlife charities can be really important as it helps be build up a more detailed picture of the wildlife that lives in specific habitats. If rare species are found their is a higher likelihood that the areas will be protected in the future. Find out how data reports helped towards creating Marine Conservation Zones here.

You can report your finds to: 

Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre 

You can find out about the latest interesting reported finds on the glaucus website

 

 

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