Beach combing in Yorkshire

devils clawSome national newspapers when they write about the best places to beach comb in the UK can, perhaps accidentally, give the impression that the tide line of certain parts of the Yorkshire coast is knee-deep in jet, amber, fossils of all varieties and shells in all shapes and sizes. There was even a mention of treasure in one paper with directions about reporting such finds to the Coroner’s Office – now there’s a distinctly medieval throwback. Incidentally if you should uncover anything of value then legally you have fourteen days to report the find.  However, I have yet to find a gold doubloon nestled amongst the seaweed, plastic debris and bits of rope that end up on most beaches so I don’t think I shall be putting the local coroner’s office on speed dial.

IMG_6766I am, however, more than happy with my daily wuther on the seashore. I love this time of year when most of the tourists have gone, the ice-cream van has packed up and the only folk out on the coast are wrapped up in heavy duty sweaters and coats. I’m also very pleased to be wearing my purple wellingtons – who’d have thought wellies could become a fashion accessory?  There’re a still a surprising number of people though – fisher men with lines, fishermen pulling their boats up onto the beach, wind surfers, dog walkers with enthusiastic and very wet dogs, people on horses, beachcombers, folk with thermos flasks enjoying the view, bird watchers, small children demanding to paddle.

I’m also loving the fact that I can currently tell you when the tide will be in and when it will be ebbing as I have no desire to get stranded somewhere unpleasant when the tide turns – and the tide can come in pretty quickly leaving you cut off and in need of rescue.


Staithes has yielded drift wood, limpet shells and the odd clam imprint – I’ve not found an ammonite yet but I did find a very battered bit of belemnite today – that must have washed in from somewhere else. Runswick Bay yielded sea glass, shells – limpets, welks, grey top shells (Gibbula cineraria – and doesn’t that just trip off the tongue) and one other small brown shell that I should know but which I’ve totally forgotten the name of, a heart shaped stone and several photographs whilst today’s trip to Saltburn has made me a very happy person indeed. I’m now the proud owner of several gryphaea (Devil’s Claw) bivalve fossils- examples in the first picture of this post. They were just sitting at the water’s edge minding their own business.  Once I’d spotted one I saw them dotted along the shore for the remainder of the walk.  Devil’s Claws are approximately 160 million years old and are really internal moulds of the original fossil – or in other words an extinct oyster – but they do look rather like distinctly beastly toes. Oh yes and then there was the sea glass – lots and lots of it. My friend Hattie is absolutely right. Saltburn is sea-glass Heaven…it also has a very nice wool shop but that’s a slightly different story.

We also think we have one piece of jet. How do we know? Well if you rub it on a piece of sandstone it produces a brown line whereas coal would produce a black mark.  There is an awful lot of coal at Saltburn as well as the occasional bit of polished ironstone. The other thing we’re very pleased to have found, we think, is a piece of amber. It’s warm to the touch, extremely light and looks remarkably like the stuff on my amber necklace. Having checked online I need to rub it with a piece of sandpaper and if it’s amber it’ll small vaguely of pine…of course it might be something else completely but I’m extremely pleased with my haul and there’s still more beaches to visit weather permitting.


What am I going to do with my finds other than weigh the car down and make it smell slightly of the seaside?

Well – really! There’s no need for practicality at this stage in the proceedings. But if you must know  I’m thinking drift wood mobiles and pirate ships, sea glass jewelry, sea glass in glass vases…perhaps I need a Victorian style cabinet of curiosities – there are several at Calke Abbey packed to the gunnels with interesting looking shells and fossils – of course those are all carefully labeled – mine might be a bit more eclectic.


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