More Rayed Trough Shells at Rhossili

Living Rayed Trough Shell in a shallow tide pool on a sandy beach

Following the line of the limestone cliffs towards Kitchen Corner as the tide receded, the tide pools and beach were littered with dozens of living Rayed Trough Shells (Mactra stultorum Linnaeus) as they popped up to the surface of the sand. I don’t quite know why they chose to do this but it afforded an opportunity to see the living animal as opposed to the dead ones and empty shells that wash up more frequently on Rhossili Beach.

Two pale fleshy tubes joined together were extended between the two hinged shell valves. One inhalent siphon for sucking water with suspended nutrients inwards, and one exhalent siphon for dispelling de-oxygenated water with bodily waste products. I was afraid that these bivalved molluscs would die while gaping and exposed to the air, so I picked up a few and put them in the water of the pools but they were not very lively and did not re-bury themselves. I was surprised that no-one else seemed to notice them. Even the dog that I saw appeared more interested in splashing in the pools than snacking on the free harvest.

Tracks and Trails on Whiteford Sands

Furrowed trails made by common winkles on wet beach sand

You don’t exactly have to keep your nose to the ground to see them but you do have to be a keen observer to notice all the different tracks and trails left on the soft wet sediments of the beach at low tide. Larger marks left by people and vehicles are the first ones you see. Bird footprints are every where. The birds are feeding on all sorts of invertebrate seashore creatures like worms, small crustacea and molluscs – all of which leave holes, burrows and furrows as they move in and out of the sand and across the surface. Some of the pictures shown here simply aim to give the general context for the area of Whiteford Sands that I was walking across. If you look closely the other images, you will see not only the ripples in the sand but also the intricate network of traces left by the virtually invisible organisms that inhabit this ecosystem. The larger furrows in photos 1, 12 and 13 are made by the common winkle (Littorina littorea Linnaeus). I cannot name each animal that is responsible for each of the other types of trace. However, I am sure that there will be some specialists out there who could, especially those researchers concerned with the interpretation of trace fossils (the ichnologists).

Click images to view full size.

View looking west towards the sea at Whiteford Sands

View looking north-east towards the dunes at Whiteford Point

Wet seashore sand with marine invertebrate and other tracks and traces

Wet seashore sand with marine invertebrate tracks and traces with bird footprints

View looking north-east over wet seashore sand ripples with marine invertebrate tracks and traces at Whiteford Sands

Wet seashore sand ripples with marine invertebrate tracks and traces

Wet seashore sand ripples with marine invertebrate tracks and traces

Wet seashore sand ripples with marine invertebrate tracks and traces

Wet seashore sand ripples with marine invertebrate tracks and traces

Wet seashore sand ripples with marine invertebrate tracks and traces

Furrowed trails made by common winkles on wet beach sand

Furrowed trails made by common winkles on wet beach sand

Clustered Periwinkles at Whiteford

Large groups of common winkles clustered around the base of large stones on the beach

At low tide many thousands of common winkles or periwinkles (Littorina littorea Linnaeus) seek shelter from dessication and predation by clustering together in the few hiding places available on the beach. At Whiteford Sands these niches include the overhung bases of larger stones, crevices in ancient timbers from the rapidly emerging submerged forest, and nooks and crannies in the recently exposed ancient peat. Alternating layers of peat and clay, overlain by rocks from glacial till, provide algae-covered surfaces on which gastropods can feed, and islands of low tide refuge in the vast expanses of sand on this sea shore.

Large groups of common winkles clustered around the base of large stones on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered around the base of large stones on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered around the base of large stones on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered around submerged forest wood on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered around submerged forest wood on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered around submerged forest wood on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered in exposed ancient peat beds on the beach

Large groups of common winkles clustered around submerged forest wood on the beach

River Cerne near Charminster

Water-logged sheep pasture by the River Cerne

The heavy rains of the past few weeks have stopped for the moment but the River Cerne is still swollen and the water table raised so that fields are boggy and covered with pools. The stretch of this small chalk river between the villages of Charlton Down and Charminster in Dorset, England, is shown in the images here. Most of the shots are taken from the east side of the valley following the Cerne Valley Trail (14 January 2016). At one point the engorged river channels itself under a narrow footbridge of re-used railway sleepers and gushes out downstream with waves and foam. In another place, a bank-side tree has lost the footing for its roots and leans right over the water. Ripple-strewn and reflecting shallow ponds have accumulated in the sheep pastures, while the area by the ford has over spilled into Mill Lane making it look like a canal and tow path.

The tree-lined winding course of the River Cerne north of Charminster

Large shallow lake of flood water in sheep pasture near Charminster

The flooded road at Mill Lane near Charminster

Flooded lane near the ford in north Charminster

River swollen to the top of the banks near Charminster

A small tree leans precariously over the swollen River Cerne

The swollen river water gushes out downstream of a footbridge

Flooding around a foot bridge over the River Cerne

Bankside trees reflected in flood waters in sheep pasture

The West Side of Worm’s Head

View of the Worm's Head from the Rhossili cliffs

1. Looking at the tidal island of Worm’s Head from the cliff top of the Rhossili Headland on the Gower Peninsula, South Wales.

I had often enjoyed exploring the rocks, gullies, and pools of the wave cut platform which forms a causeway between the Rhossili Headland and the tidal island of Worm’s Head. It was not until last year, on a glorious April day with a particularly low spring tide, that I actually ventured onto the island itself for the first time. The Worm’s Head is divided into several sections. The largest and probably the highest of which is the Inner Head. A section known as The Long Neck connects this to the Middle Head with its famous Devil’s Bridge on the way to the Outer Head.

The island is composed of Carboniferous Limestone but the rock layers become younger from east to west, passing from Black Rock Limestone Group, to Gully Oolite, and then High Tor Limestone. I decided to walk along the shore on the westerly side of the island. To see what I saw, look at the pictures in the gallery below. If you click on any picture in the gallery you can view the photographs in slideshow format with their captions.

I walked along the beach as far as the Long Neck, which is a narrow stretch of jagged rocks formed by steeply sloping strata that connects the Inner Head to the Middle Head.  It looked quite difficult to negotiate the crossing although many people were having fun trying to do it. However, fearing that I might not have enough time to reach the Outer Head before the tide returned and covered the causeway again, I then turned round and followed the footpath at the base of Inner Head. The west flank of the hill was covered with bright yellow gorse flowers and patches of wild violets. It was a beautiful walk and I hope it won’t be long before I visit again to explore the rest of the island.

 

Rural Views around Charlton Down

English countryside under dark skies

 

A walk in very mixed January weather along muddy lanes, through arable countryside with freshly ploughed and green planted fields divided by clipped hedges. Rain and hail from dark clouded skies, and occasional shafts of sunlight, slant over low rolling hills trimmed by bare-branched trees. The local river full to the brim and flowing fast with turbulent waters, escaping into channels that once fed the old mill and water meadows. White fleeced sheep with pink noses feed near the old derelict barn.

Winter Walk at Whiteford Sands

Red fishing buoy flotsam

Crisp and cold, bright and sunny, just right for blowing away the cobwebs with a walk along the strand at Whiteford Sands. On this particular winter’s day the tide had brought ashore lots of flotsam – fishing nets, buoys, floats, and crates, shoes, hard hats, and miscellaneous plastic rubbish that rested on a driftline of sand, pebbles or shells. Here are some of the things that caught my eye as I strolled the high water mark from Cwm Ivy Tor to the spit beyond Whiteford Point on Boxing Day 2013. Click on any of the images in the gallery below to view in a larger format and slideshow.