Beachcombing

Beach scene

What is beachcombing?

Beachcombing is when you visit a beach with the intention of looking for items of interest to you, this could be seaglass, pottery, marbles, bottle stoppers and even trash. 

Some of my local beaches have volunteers who visit the beach in groups to collect the trash others leave behind or that gets washed up on the beach.

If you go beachcombing you are a “beachcomber”.  A beachcomber is someone who searches the beach specifically looking for things to find. 

Many years ago the word “beachcomber” could be used to describe a criminal, a drifter, a bum or even a sailor deserting from his ship.

Modern-day beachcombers are usually looking for seaglass, pottery and other things that may have washed up onto the beach from the years gone by. 

I often wonder what those people would think about us collecting their rubbish like it was a treasure! To be displayed as one of our prized possessions.

Would they think we were crazy? I wonder. Who knew that the rubbish from the olden days would become so valuable to us, when those people so easily disposed of it.

Beachcombed items

Who can go beachcombing?

Anyone can go beachcombing really, young or old as long as you are physically fit and able to get onto the beach, then generally you can go beachcombing. 

I myself have found beachcombing to be extremely therapeutic, not just for my mental health but also for my physical health too.

Each time I go to the beach, I’m able to do that little bit more. For me, there is nothing more freeing than the peace and tranquillity of an empty beach and to be alone with my thoughts. 

There are some limitations due to the terrain of some of the beaches, while other beaches are easily accessible. There are beaches that can be quite treacherous and great care should be taken when trying to access these types of beaches. 

For instance one of our local beaches is close to the mouth of the River Severn so the majority of the beach is covered in thick mud.

This mud is very dangerous and great care and attention should be taken when visiting these types of beaches as it is so easy to get stuck in the mud. 

I remember the first time we went, we walked around these rocks and instead of sticking to the inside on the other side we started walking diagonally across the beach. 

My partner was slightly ahead of me and we were chatting away not paying attention to the ground when all of a sudden he stepped into really thick mud and couldn’t get free. 

You could say well how didn’t he know it was mud? Sometimes the mud actually looks like normal sand and it’s not until you stand on it that it sinks 7-10 inches.

After a few minutes of panic, he lay down and managed to unstick his feet. He was covered in mud but this was nothing compared to what could have happened had the tide been coming in, this is why It is so important that you are aware of your surroundings and the times of the tide at all times. 

Beachcombing does also require quite a lot of energy, as you are constantly bending down picking things up, walking for long distances or climbing over rocks and sometimes over sand dunes which can be quite tiring, so never do more than you can manage.

Beachcombed items

Why has beachcombing become popular?

Beachcombing has become a lot more popular in recent months, one of the reasons for this is crafting as people have realised that there is value in the things that are found on the beach. 

These items can be turned into things like jewellery, sun catchers or even pictures that can be sold to other beachcombing fans.

Beachcombing has become popular because people also like to collect things. Collectors of seaglass like to keep it on display in some way or another so that they can look at it and enjoy it. 

A collector is someone who keeps the things they find on the beach and finds ways to display them. Another handy item from back in the day which is often used to display beach treasures are old printers trays.

Printers trays are usually single drawers from old cabinets, these drawers have separators in them which are perfect for displaying beach treasures in every little section, these can also be mounted upright on a wall which means they make great displays. 

Displaying seaglass in a vase is always great, the different colours of seaglass in a vase on a window sill can be spectacular because they shine so beautifully in the sunlight. 

Collectors like to enjoy their treasures and put them on display, like they would a photo or a painting, and the best thing is that you have found the treasure which makes it even more special.

Pebble face

What can you find while beachcombing?

Sadly we all know that rubbish can be found on the beach. but you can also find lots of other things like seaglass, seapottery, shells and even old glass bottles. Some beaches you may not find anything at all. 

Other things you can find on the beach are remnants of the war, like bombs, grenades and bullets. 

While it’s exciting finding these items there have been many times over the years where live ammunition has been found and the bomb disposal team have to be called in so it can be safely disposed of. If in doubt you should always ring the coast guard and report any suspected items. 

If it is one of the items listed above and you don’t think it is live, you will need to report it to the coast guard, they will usually evacuate the area and cordon off so that they can carry out a safe and controlled explosion of the item.

Old glass ink bottle

Where can you go beachcombing?

You can go beachcombing on any beach, but not all beaches are the same and some beaches don’t produce much of anything at all. 

If you want to find seaglass and pottery then the best beaches to go beachcombing on are shingle type beaches. 

Shingle beaches almost always have some seaglass or beach pottery on them. 

You can also find old marbles, bottle stoppers and even some beads and buttons, either on the surface or just sitting in the shingle waiting to be exposed.

Seaham beach

Best beaches to go beachcombing on?

The best beaches to go beachcombing on are the beaches with a lot of the previous history. Beaches next to old harbours or factories will yield the best finds because they were areas that were heavily used by people.  We all know that where there are people there will be trash and that’s where the best finds come from. 

Thousands of ships would be docking at harbours across the country transporting goods to other countries. Some of those ships may not even have made it to the harbour and they end up spilling their cargo into the sea.

The bristol channel was the main shipping passage to other countries from the UK and thousands of ships sank along the coast due to bad weather conditions alone.

During the war many hospital ships and warships were blown up, so that stretch of coast has untold history spilling on to its beaches just waiting to be found.

Not to mention the people aboard the ships that would have been thrown their rubbish overboard. 

Back in the day factories that were near to a beach would have disposed of glass directly into the sea, places like Seaham in England had several bottle factories and they all disposed of their scrap glass into the sea. The seaglass that comes from Seaham is some of the best seaglass to ever be found.

These days businesses have waste collected by their local authority. Way back in the day they didn’t have a refuse service as we do so they used to just throw it away anywhere they could.

There are lots of coastal refuge sites dotted around the country, my favourite beach refuse site is based in Lyme Regis in Dorset.

Whenever we have some really bad weather the cliffs erode exposing some amazing finds. 

This beach is littered with seaglass and pottery, but every now and again you will get some quirky finds like an old teapot or an old iron, and if you are really lucky you can also find coins and bottles there. 

it’s a great beach for a beachcomber, the only downside is its 2 ½ hours away from us, but when we do go I’m always having to drag the family away from there because they enjoy it so much and we can’t wait to go back.

Lyme Regis is also known as the Jurassic Coast so there are always plenty of fossils to be found as well. 

In 1811 a young girl named Mary and her little brother joseph found an ichthyosaur on the beach and at the time they sold it for £23 it later sold at auction for £45 and five shillings, Mary made a somewhat good living out of selling fossils that she found at Lyme Regis and later went on to open a fossil shop.

Tooth found on the beach
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