Crabs and Compasses

As a fitting coda to our trip to the Isle of Wight we had been invited to join some friends in Lyme Regis for the weekend. As I mentioned in my Isle of Wight post the eastern half of the English south coast was tipped on its end by tectonic forces so the geological history of that part of the world is exposed for all to see. In fact, moving from east to west is literally going back in time, heading as far as the Lower Jurassic era at Lyme Regis and Bridport, which is around 183-200 million years ago.

The Jurassic rock strata of the south coast westward from the Cobb at Lyme Regis

Those of you with a cinematographic interest may recognise the sea wall at Lyme Regis, it’s known as the ‘Cobb’, and was the location for the famous scene in The French Lieutenant’s Woman where Meryl Streep stands gazing out to sea. Which incidentally, is the only thing that myself and Meryl have in common, albeit for rather different reasons.

All our activities whilst we were in Lyme were marine orientated, I even managed to spend a couple of hours sea kayaking and peering into the crystal clear waters. The clarity of the water was incredible, it’s difficult to judge depth but I reckon at the deepest point I saw it was probably 15-20 feet deep. I could clearly see the bottom and the kelp fronds waving in the current, fish were darting in and out of the kelp and jellyfish were floating at the surface. I resolved to get up early the next morning and head out on the kayak to go snorkelling off the boat. So I got up and paddled out into the bay, but overnight a swell had risen which was swirling the sand around on the seabed and there was zero visibility in the water. So I need to make a return trip in the not too distant future so I can get in the water for a snorkel.

My son Jake and his friend Sam inspecting the contents of their crabbing bucket

Glancing over the sea wall while the children were crabbing I saw this handsome compass jellyfish (Chrysaora hysoscella) gently patrolling the periphery. I’d seen several of them in the bay the day before when I was kayaking and they’re common around English shores. They can pack a nasty punch for any poor unfortunate who makes contact with the tentacles which can cause a stinging, burning sensation and red raised lesions on the skin. I don’t know if it can get worse than that but it’s apparently fairly unpleasant while it lasts.

The compass can grow up to 30cm across which is about the size of this one.

Eyeing up the progress of the crabbing exploits was a hungry herring gull (Larus argentatus). He was very interested in any potential meals the kids may catch for him and he was ready to swoop onto any escapees.

Looking eastward from the Cobb are more cliffs and the rocks here are full of fossils. We were staying in the white houses on the left and just round the corner from there lies a prime fossiling beach which alas we were cut off from by the tide. There were lots of folk busy cracking open rocks on the part that was accessible but I think most of the fossils from that spot had already been found.

The cliff on the right with the yellow patch is called ‘Golden Cap’ and is the highest point on the south coast of England, rising to 627 feet (191m).

The catch:

Shore crabs – Carcinus maena

The bait for the crabs was bacon, they’re mad for it, and there was a prize for the first crab caught, the largest crab caught and the most crabs caught. My daughter won, every time she dropped her line into the water it was a couple of minutes or less before she hoicked one out. So, much to the chagrin of the boys, she won all three prizes and was as smug as hell for the rest of the day!

And as the bucket filled with crabs the gull got braver and braver:

But he was to be disappointed. At the end of the competition our bucket of crabs was emptied into the water at the bottom of those steps and they all scuttled away to freedom.

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34 responses to “Crabs and Compasses

  1. A very nice post, I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Very nice, Finn…thank you again for sharing your corner of the world…and it was nice to see that you let the crabs back into the water after having fun catching them all. 🙂

  3. The second picture of the jellyfish is my favourite. I love Lyme Regis, it brings back memories of holidays with my dad…along with West Bay and Eype. Lovely. I think we’ve all done a FLW moment there!

    • It just has to be done!

      Lyme’s quite a place isn’t it? I’d never explored it before but now I really want to go back. And I suspect a few more FLW moments will be had too 🙂

  4. I really feel as if I’ve been on the south coast for the past few minutes reading this. Another thoroughly enjoyable post, thank you Finn!

    • Thanks Lorna, I’ve been getting some very nice comments from all you followers about my south coast posts so it’s been really enjoyable writing the posts and reading all the comments. And the bizarre thing is that when I first started to put these posts together I wasn’t happy with the images and I anticipated a struggle to put posts together that I’d be happy with! But it seems it all came good in the end. I’ve almost used up all my backlog of images now so I’ll be back in real time from the end of next week. I hope you all like those posts as much as these holiday ones!

      • It’s a funny thing, I have the same on my blog, I’m often surprised by the posts that go down well. I’m glad you forged ahead with your south coast posts and I must say I have really enjoyed them. As with holidays though, it’s nice to be away for a change of scene, but it’s also nice to get back home and I always look forward to your posts.

      • Thanks Lorna, I’m pleased you liked the south coast, and from such an esteemed blogger as yourself that’s nice to hear!

  5. I have heard of Lyme Regis from watching my foodie hero Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and his exploits with catching various wild foods from boats and inner tubes with cray pots tied to them (always interesting and NEVER boring 😉 ). It looks like your children had a great time catching crustaceans and I feel sorry for that poor gull…at least he has a good idea where to catch a hefty pile of crabs should his luck be in ;). We have jellyfish that drift up and down the river with the wild tides that we get. They look like they are dancing some sort of surreal ballet when they get caught in a whirlpool. Our jellyfish are not elegant like yours, ours are just white, plentiful and ready to sting at a single pace. Cheers for sharing another fun and action packed post 🙂

    • I like HFW too, he keeps it real and champions ethical livestock management which automatically puts him in the top 1% of my favourite people.

      The kids had a whale of a time, it was a really fun day. Are your jellies dangerous? We always hear scary things up here about antipodean jellyfish.

      • Ours are the big fat white blobby kind and can give you a nasty sting but because we are way down south and our water is considerably colder we don’t get those bluebottles or portuguese man-o-wars that can kill you on the mainland. Blue ringed octopi are much worse though! My year 6 teachers young surfer cousin was bitten by one and died. We have so many poisonous things here that we just don’t think about them and most of them would rather eat their own feet than come anywhere near a human so we maintain a healthy respect for each other unless one of us breaks the deal and absentmindedly stumbles on the other one or touches the other…chaos! 😉

      • You guys are well blessed for venomous critters. I just looked up the blue ringed octopus and I didn’t realise the active ingredient in those little guys is tetrodotoxin – the same stuff that makes puffer fish a bad lunch option.

        Do you have many encounters with snakes/scorpions/insects etc which are venomous or are they easy to spot and avoid?

      • We have a few deadly snakes but they are a lot more docile and shy than those on the mainland and tend to slither off to escape rather than stick around and fight. We also have native scorpions (Urodacus manicatus)but they are small and brown and only give a bit of a nip when you are unlucky enough to collect them with the wood…nothing serious. The worst bites come from the endemic ants. Jack jumpers (Myrmecia pilosula) are nasty pieces of work that jump and bite and get the maximum reward out of their bites and many Tasmanian’s are actually allergic to them. Myrmecia gulosa or Bull ants are endemic throughout Australia and seem to be less active down here than on the mainland where it gets hot enough for them to trot about at a fair speed and they cover huge distances to collect food. The worst bite that either of us has had since we moved here to Tasmania was from a Blue ant that isn’t really an ant but a wingless female wasp. Diamma bicolor is not something that you want to trifle with and Steve’s foot inserted into his boot was apparently “trifling” enough to give a sustained injection of pure liquid fire pain that lasted for days. We rarely see snakes by the way and the last one that we saw was about 50cm long, had been laying under some logs that we cleared out (and we didn’t notice it there), decided to move somewhere else after it got disturbed and the feral cats killed it…at least we assume that they did because it was found on the driveway covered in tiny needle like punctures.

  6. Excellent post – I love Lyme Regis! The jellyfish was a surprise…

  7. Don’t you eat them?

  8. What a wonderful visit… Feels like I was there; thanks for that!

  9. Gulls’ feet are so adorable!

    • I know what you mean. Their feet are kind of amusing and I think they have real character. They remind me of crows in that they seem full of mischief and rather more intelligent than we humans like to give them credit for!

  10. I recognized the sea wall immediately. I love that film and am still fascinated by the way they captured that extended first scene in one long, uncannily beautiful pan sequence. I’d love to have seen a photo of your smug crabber girl with her winning catch!

    • I don’t know why I don’t have a shot of her with her bucket full of crabs. I think the winning total was 11 and she was extremely pleased with herself.

      The Cobb is a really cool place, I can see why they used it for that scene. Because the light there can be unique and because it snakes around, there are some great scenes to be had there.

  11. I’m enjoying your overview and photos on the Isle of Wight. It looks like your son,Jake, and his friend Sam are enjoying what’s in the bucket. Perhaps they would like to read my first book about traveling into a magical world created through the eyes of a nine year old: http://marygilmartin.wordpress.com/books/

  12. An interesting post Finn and great pictures.

  13. Neat jelly! Loved the info on Lyme Regis — it’s a popular topic with bloggers I see.

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