Beach Combing

Grab your guide to the shore, we’re going beach combing.


photo via by Law Alan

No not that kind…

There’s so much to find at the beach: cuttlefish bones, empty shells, dog-fish and ray egg cases, whelk egg cases and if you’re really lucky perhaps a fossil. It’s fascinating and a great way to while away a sunny afternoon.

But wait a minute, is beach combing sustainable? in a lot of Caribbean countries, taking home seashells is forbidden but we’re in the UK, so what effect are we having on the shore line gathering our little trophies?

Shell A

There’s very little information on this subject. In some cases it’s common sense, for example: remember it’s natures’ home and be respectful of that by avoiding disturbing seabirds that use the sea-shore for feeding and nesting. In other cases, such as the collection of shells, there are no hard and fast rules but again common sense dictate that filling bags ad bags with them from the beach is going to have some effect and be causing a degree of unnatural erosion.

Shells and sand

Photo via by Cuckmen

Foraging is generally considered OK. If you’re foraging on a beach, for mussels or seaweed, do check you are not near a sewage outlet as this would prove to be a serious health risk. Unfortunately, you’d be surprised where these outlets are!

You don’t just find nature on the beach. There’s flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict items from ships. Flotsam floats, jetsam is part of a ship or cargo that has been thrown overboard, lagan you’re unlikely to see unless you’re a diver as it sits at the bottom of the ocean and derelict is lagan that will never be reclaimed. There are different laws pertaining to the collection of these different types of marine salvage and if you’d like to know more about this you can find some guidance for UK laws, here. In the main, this type of salvage, remains the property of the original owner and reasonable efforts must have been made to find the owner before you keep it; you can be fined up to £2,500.


Photo via by Siraphat Thanyaphuriwat

So who owns the beach? It could be National Trust, like Studland Beach on the Dorset coast. It could be one of the many public beaches in the UK. Or it could be owned by the Crown Estate, which makes the sovereign the owner of the beach.

It would be impractical to ring up the Queen or the National Trust every time you want to take a pretty shell home and I think, as I said before, a lot of this is common sense. Don’t take more than the beach has to give and perhaps give a bit back, as Leo Hickman in this article for the Guardian suggests: ‘Perhaps, an unofficial rule when harvesting something from a beach is to carry an item of litter off the beach for every item you want to take home?’ I like this idea, a lot!

The most important thing to do at the beach is enjoy yourself! Explore the rock pools, dabble your feet in the frothy sea, feel the sand between your toes and connect with nature!

What have you discovered at the beach lately? I’d love to know, so don’t forget to let us know in the comments below!




One thought on “Beach Combing

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Oh, beachcombing is a lot of fun! And you never do know what you’ll find, either. But it’s like everything else: everything in moderation. A few shells, smooth pebbles or interesting pieces of flotsam/jetsam probably won’t hurt anything. But too much is not a good thing… Oh, and let’s be honest: beachcombers make great fictional body-discoverers in crime fiction. 😉


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