Our guide to rock pooling!

Lurid long tentacles, snapping crabs and transparent prawns. Discover a whole new bunch of creatures along the shoreline as you check out the fascinating marine life that inhabits Cornwall’s rock pools. At first the pools might look empty, but keep still and beneath the water the marine life will soon spring into action. Here are the major stars to look out for:

Tompot Blenny – distinctive red eyes and red tentacles protrude from its head like a stylish hat.

Pipefish – as their names suggests, this fish is long and thin and like seahorses, the male pipefish carries the young in his brooding pouch.

Velvet Swimming Crab – bright red eyes, bright blue banding on its legs and covered in dark hairs, this aggressive little creature packs a mean punch with its strong pincers.

Common Prawn – so transparent you can see all their internal organs as they dart around the water in jerky spasms.

Snake-locks Anemone – bright green with purple tips, this elegant creature has a sting in its tail; its tentacles are used to stun passing fish.

Here are five places we recommend:

Falmouth, Castle Beach
At low tide the beach has rock pools aplenty, there’s not much sand, but the ideal spot for rockpooling.  The little beach cafe and shop sell the necessary buckets and nets you’ll need for a fun rock pool safari. Shop / Cafe / Toilets. Directions: At the Pendennis Castle end of Cliff Road in Falmouth, 5 minutes from Falmouth Docks train station.

Treyarnon Bay
Recommended by almost everyone with a passion for peering at sea creatures. A wide open bay where at low tide huge rock pools are revealed. Car park/Shop/Toilets. Dogs allowed all year. Directions: from Padstow on the B3276.

Gerrans Bay, Portscatho
The whole bay is scattered with tiny rock pools that are home to an amazing array of fish, anemones and seaweed. Especially check out Towan Beach just over a mile west of the village. NT car park/toilets at Porth Farm and about half a mile walk to beach. Directions: take A3078 then follow signs to Portscatho.

Duckpool Beach near Bude
Dramatically located on the northwest coast, high cliffs tower over the pebbles where at the far end of the beach large crabs lie in wait in the numerous pools. Small car park/toilets. Directions: Take A39 east from Bude.

Port Isaac
Still a busy port for landing lobster and crab so where better to look for smaller varieties of sea dwellers? Rock pools around the harbour provide a great open air aquarium. Car park/local facilities. Directions: B1334 from Wadebridge.

Kennack Sands
Right down on The Lizard, Kennack Sands is not only a popular centre for scuba diving but also a perfect family beach – lots of sand, a little stream runing down to the sea and rock pools aplenty. Large car park/ shop/ café/ toilets. Directions: Take Ruan Major turning from main Helston-Lizard road A3083

Don’t forget….
…to replace stones if you move them and don’t prod or remove the animals
…to check the tides. Rock pools are exposed at low tide but make sure you have access to the main land at all times

…The Children’s Green Detective Guide to Cornwall, designed and written especially for children at Key Stage 2. It’s an entertaining guidebook for kids to Cornwall’s natural attractions from rock pooling to woodlands, £4.99 from Young Guides

the Cornwall Wildlife Trust organises regular beach cleans, rock pool safaris, photographic wildlife courses, nature walks and more. Many of their activites are free of charge and their experts put you in touch with Cornwall’s facinating wildlife. Find out what’s coming up at their website.