Have you any budding scientists in the family? Do any of your children need to return to school with a ‘what I did in the summer holidays’ style essay? They could do worse than help the Big Seaweed Search project run by the Natural History Museum and the Marine Conservation Society.
The Big Seaweed Search has been running since 2009 and aims, with the help of the public, to monitor and consequently understand and protect the various species of living seaweeds around the coast of the British Isles. Britain is home to over 650 types of seaweed which in turn feed and protect thousands upon thousands of marine creatures; it is therefore vital to know as much as possible about seaweeds in order not only to safeguard them but also our marine environment.
Some 20 or so seaweed species are edible in the UK but if you think that a 'landlady’s wig' and a few 'deadman’s shoelaces' are more likely to be stored in that trunk which has been handed down from eccentric great aunt Ethelberga than found on the seashore then leave well alone! If you don’t know your desmarestia aculeate from your ulva lactuca then perhaps it’s best to not eat either of them.
Back to the budding scientists. The Big Seaweed Search is interested in living seaweed, so only that attached to rocks or the side of the pier etc. should be studied. The study can take place at any time of year; all you will need is a camera/smartphone, pencil, the recording form and identification guide. Make sure that the right clothing and footwear is available, this is the north-east so remember that it can get chilly.
So, firstly download the necessary information:
Big Seaweed Search Guide
Secondly find your site.
Look under Rockpooling etc. on the Thistledowne guests' site for information on where to find the best areas nearby that may include living seaweed (or ask anyone you come across on the seafront). Other than the areas mentioned on the website there is always Souter Lighthouse.
Thirdly and most importantly check the tide times!
You will find Tide Times for Sunderland on the home page of the main Thistledowne rental site scroll down and they are posted on the right hand side of the page, alternatively you will find them on the Thistledowne guests’ site on the Rockpooling etc. page.