My Summer Holiday with Wembury Marine Centre!

My Summer Holiday with Wembury Marine Centre!

By Ben Fragell...

I have been visiting Wembury beach with my family since I was very young. I am now 16 and in the last few years have enjoyed going on the trips organised by Devon Wildlife Trust's Wembury Marine Centre.

Here is a review of my favourite activities:

Extreme Rockpool Safari

Extreme rockpooling is similar to the traditional rockpool safari, but even better! It is the ideal time to go out for an expedition, as the tide is at its lowest, usually less than 1 metre. This means that rocks and rockpools that would not normally be exposed now are, playing host to huge amounts of life. 

My experience of Extreme rockpooling gave me a much greater knowledge of the life in the rockpools, thanks to the information provided by the Marine Centre rangers.
Wembury assistant with VS Crab

Ranger Matthew with a Velvet swimming crab engulfed in seaweed...Me and my family behind!

A huge array of species can be found on an extreme rockpool safari, but here are some of my favourites:

Common lobster

Common lobster - Ben Fragell

Common lobster

Despite its name, the Common lobster isn’t a common sight while rockpooling, as they generally live further out into the bay. Lobsters can sometimes be found hiding away in crevices or under large rocks on the lower shore (or much rarer in the middle shore), where they lodge themselves right in to protect themselves from predators. As well as being hard to find, they are very quick, using their tail to propel themselves backwards, making it very hard to catch one!

Spiny spider crab

Spiny spider crab - Ben Fragell

Spiny spider crab

These crabs are normally found while snorkelling, as their large size doesn’t fit well with the cramped environment of the rockpool. If you are lucky though, they can sometimes be found skulking around rockpools on the lower shore on extremely low tides, however larger crabs have few spaces to hide, so can be quite easily spotted! Their orange shell and legs are standout and can be very easy to see, however the lower shore is covered to the brim with seaweeds, which these crab use to decorate and camouflage their shells, so some can be hard to get a first sight on. Spider crabs are always an exciting find!


Butterfish - Wembury Marine Centre


An elusive inhabitant of the rocky shore, these fish look like eels, with a generally orangey-brown body. However, Butterfish have black spots along their back, making them easily recognisable! As with most fish, Butterfish are incredibly quick and slippery in the water and can easily evade capture if disturbed, hence the name! However, they can sometimes be found under rocks out of the water in tiny pools, meaning they can be observed much easier and allowing you to see their beauty up close. Although much smaller than the previous two species, this little fish is still an uncommon and interesting find while rock pooling.

Long spined sea scorpion

Long spined sea scorpion - Ben Fragell

Long Spined sea scorpion

Another fish! This one is a master of camouflage! Sea scorpions are a great find while rock pooling, however they can be easily missed. Unlike the many other species of fish found in the bay, sea scorpions don’t reflexively swim away. They remain put, using their camouflage to blend in with their surroundings, hoping that you don’t see them and move on. These fish can often be mistaken for a venomous cousin, the Scorpion fish, however, the native species found in the UK are not poisonous, thankfully for us!  

Velvet swimming crab - Wembury

Velvet swimming crab - Wembury Marine Centre

Velvet swimming crab

Velvet swimming crabs are a common find across the middle and lower shore, although while out at the maximum low tide, they can be found far larger than the normal size. These crabs get their nickname as the Devil crab due to their demonic red eyes, an unmistakable and easy way of identifying this species. As well as having devil-like eyes, they are very aggressive, and unlike other crabs, will often put up a fight, raising their claws to try and pinch anyone who puts their fingers too close!

This is the ideal trip if you are looking to find a huge variety of life, as well as being a group event, so it is much easier to see some of the normally hard to find things! Extreme rockpooling is always watched over by the Marine Centre rangers, who know where to find things and can identify them for anyone who doesn’t know what they are!

Night-time Rockpool Safari

An event I have only been on once and is very different from a normal rockpool safari. This trip takes place during the dark making it more exciting and if the moon is out, a beautiful atmosphere as well!  Some creatures are easier to find and some look different. No need to lift up rocks to find crabs, there are many of them scuttling around the pools and over the rocks. I think the primary attraction of this trip is the rangers having UV lights and seeing its effects on some of the creatures in the rockpools. UV Light can react with some of the organisms in the rockpools creating vibrant and colourful patterns that would not normally be seen in the sunlight. Prawns and anemones glow in the UV lights, but on other creatures it makes no difference. My favourites are the Strawberry, Beadlet and Snakelocks anenomes which emit a large array of colours when under the UV light and are definitely worth going on this trip to see in their full glory!

National Marine Week Shoresearch Safari

This is a special “Citizen Science” rockpool safari, where the Marine Centre rangers want help to find which species are prevalent on the beach. The aim is to find as many species as possible in a few hours, including seaweeds (which I usually pay less attention to!). The rangers note down all the finds. Also, cards with different species on are distributed among participants and everyone has 10 minutes to search for the creature on their card. It is good to find some of the species and not good to find others, for example the invasive species.

This trip is ideal for those who want to find as many different things in a short space of time as possible, as the rangers often show around interesting finds to other people so that everyone can see as much as they can. It is also good for learning a lot about the presence or absence of species and what that means for the health of the beach ecosystem, and to feel that you are contributing the knowledge about it.

Shoresearch safari at Wembury

Shoresearch Safari - Wembury Marine Centre

Snorkel Safari around Wembury Bay!

The snorkel safari is a more unique experience as this trip is in the sea not on the rocks. This trip requires a wetsuit, snorkel and mask and flippers and confidence in the water.  Due to this being in the cold sea, the trip is shorter than the other three previously discussed. This experience is a good way to see species that wouldn’t normally be seen in rockpools, such as Spiny spider crabs, wrasse and jellyfish. Other species can also be seen, like Sand eels, Blennies (Tompots & Montagu's) and various species of seaweeds and kelps.

This trip is good for those wanting a different experience that you can’t necessarily do on your own, due to it requiring equipment and understanding of the tides. However, the seawater is cold here, even in the summer, which can make it feel uncomfortable after a while!

This trip is good for those wanting a different experience that you can’t necessarily do on your own, due to it requiring equipment, understanding of the tides and other safety measures.

The Rangers at Wembury Marine Centre would like to thank Ben for this fantastic personal interpretation of our events and for the wonderful enthusiasm he and his family shared with us this summer at Wembury...we hope to see you again next year :-)