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How to go rock pooling in Norfolk

When you’re at the seaside there’s nothing more magical than exploring the depths of a coastal rock pool.

Get a glimpse into the depths for an intriguing snapshot of life under the waves – this is the easiest way to get up close to marine wildlife.

West Runton beach and rockpools, Norfolk

Rock pooling at West Runton with Cromer Pier in the background.

You can rock pool (they’re also known as tide pools) at any time of the year but the best time is from late spring to early autumn when the weather is best and the water is still. The water tends to be warmest in September.

The best places to rock pool in Norfolk are at West Runton, Cromer, Sheringham and Hunstanton.

1 Make sure you check the tide timetable beforehand – the best time to rock pool is at low tide.

2 The only equipment you’ll need is a curious mind and sturdy footwear with a good grip. Flip-flops are useless on sharp stones! Don’t forget sun cream and sun hats too. Maybe even a jumbo magnifying glass.

3 A bucket with some salty water in it is useful if you want to take a closer look at what you catch. Change the water regularly. You can also gently pull the bucket through the water to see what you can scoop up. Be careful with a net, as they can harm sensitive sea life.

4 The best, clearest rock pools are close to the sea edge – look at these first and move back with the tide. Don’t be afraid to get your hands wet – gently turning over seaweed can reap rich rewards. If you pick up a crab do it from behind, with finger and thumb top and bottom of the carapace. But beware of red-eyed blue velvet swimming crab – they can nip!

Rockpool rummage at West Runton, credit Matthew Roberts

Rock pool rummage at West Runton.

5 Sit very quietly and make sure you don’t cast a shadow over the pool – timid crabs and other inhabitants will know you’re there.

6 Look out for transparent common prawns and shrimp (which often swim backwards), starfish, and brightly-coloured anemones waving its tentacles at you, mussels and whelks, as well as limpets, the lawnmowers of the sea which scrape algae off rocks with their large rough tongues. Just under the surface you might see goby, butterfish or blenny. You might also see a shell moving on legs – if you do, it’s a hermit crab that’s made its home in a disused periwinkle shell.

7 When you’ve finished and it’s time to go, carefully return the contents of your bucket, salt water and all, to the rock pool.

Hunstanton cliffs rockpooling West Norfolk

Rock pooling at Hunstanton cliffs.