Exploring Itchen Ferry shore

Until a few days ago, I didn’t know my limpets from my barnacles. Now though I can tell you a limpet is a mollusc whereas a barnacle is a crustacean, and I can recognise a barnacle because I found some on a rock at Itchen Ferry shore.

Itchen Ferry was a village destroyed when the Supermarine factory was bombed during WWII, and there is now a memorial garden at the river’s edge (read more about the area here). It’s a small shore with a tiny sandy beach, and a surprisingly wide range of wildlife. That’s why I was here: it was the last day of the Waves in Weston alphabet challenge, and I’d come up with the idea of looking for an example of zooplankton. I’d checked the tides and gingerly walked towards the water, ignoring the fishermen seated on the slipway, and the ducks on the water. A little bit of careful looking and bingo! Limpets! Actually they were barnacles, I realised when I got home – but still zooplantkon. So this is how I learned the difference between the two – from taking part in a fun Facebook challenge to find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet while out and about getting daily exercise. There was no rule about finding only natural things, that was a challenge I set myself – and I managed it most days.

After I’d got my picture, I decided to explore the strandline, picking up some litter as I went along. When you take the time to look down, it’s remarkable what you can find, and how colourful it can be. As well as shells, shingle and several types of seaweed, I found seaglass and pieces of china, two of my favourite finds. The seaglass was not quite ‘done’, having some sharpish edges, so I left it there for the tides to do their work. There were also a few feathers, a bundle of whelk egg cases – known as a sea wash ball – and a mysterious ‘sea bean’. Well, I’d like it to be a sea bean from a faraway place, but I think it might actually be a blackened, hollow conker!

I felt inspired to write this post because of the impact this mini expedition had on me. I’ve walked past this spot many times, and only occasionally lingered. Often my gaze is upwards at the clouds or the sunset, or the sea birds flying out to Southampton Water and the Solent at dusk. I’m usually much more at home in woodlands and grasslands, where I can easily spend hours exploring. The water and the shore is much less familiar, and slightly scary. This was the first time I’d really connected with this shore. It was exhilirating and absorbing, and I’ll be returning to discover more.

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