A spell of better weather – remarkably mild, warm even, in the high teens centrigrade – towards the end of March gave us the first opportunity of the year to get water-borne again. We were lucky to team up with some friends, and head out in their fast and very comfortable boat, to explore a bit of shoreline we haven’t visited for years.
About an hour at twenty knots took us to a remote and rarely-visited area of heavily indented shoreline, where rocky outcrops and low cliffs meet a gently sloping muddy bottom. As we approached, a dozen grey seals with pups eyed us languidly from their haul-out on the rocks. The tide was exceptionally low, and with about half-an-hour of ebb remaining, we edged ashore and walked across a small island to a wonderfully tranquil inland tidal lagoon. It was shallow, and very sheltered. Small green urchins were abundant – more than we’d ever seen, but in the Mediterranean – and a most comical sight caught our eye, of which we’d heard but none of us previously seen: razor-clams, or – as they’re known locally – spoots, squirting narrow jets of water six to eighteen inches skywards, retreating into their sandy burrows alerted by the sound or compaction underfoot of our approach.
Seaweeds were there too, and plentiful – and of types which again we’d never before encountered. Deep green leaves were interspersed with purple-red filaments, and among the usual bladder wrack and kelp, a knobbly pouch or pocket about six inches long was cast up on the mud.
Oddest of all were the algae shown above – in a small colony, across an area of no more than about ten square yards, of weeds, each cluster attached by short single stems to a rock or stone. With a flat or slightly convex ‘head’ or cap, in shape and appearance they looked to all the world like a family of saltwater mushrooms.
We haven’t managed to identify the species yet. If anyone reading this can assist, we’d be delighted to hear from them – on firstname.lastname@example.org, please.
PS Thank you to our more expert friends, who tell us it’s thong weed, or Himanthalia elongata