Many people don’t even know what beachcombing is, let alone what they need to do it. I was one of those people until a few months ago, but the more I do it, the more I’ve realised that I was probably doing many things wrong in the beginning.
I never really used to like the beach, if I’m honest, sandy sandwiches, sand under my fingernails and in my shoes was always my idea of hell! But when the kids are little, they always seem to want to go to the beach.
I would often visit the beach with the kids, sit down like everyone else, watching them dig holes and helping to build sandcastles, taking in the scenery and the fresh air but not really doing much of anything else. Sometimes we would scramble over the rocks in flip flops and have a poke around in the rock pools or pick up the odd pebble, but for me, that’s really as far as my beachcombing went.
We all have the beachcombing instinct in us from way back when in the hunter-gatherer days. We have just never really unlocked it because everything these days is at our fingertips, which means we don’t really have to go and look for it. Lots of us do a bit of beachcombing without even realising we are actually doing it. Have you ever bent down to pick up something shiny, a shell or a pretty pebble that caught your eye? Well, if you have, then you are a beachcomber.
The things you will need to take beachcombing will differ slightly from person to person and even from beach to beach, but in this article, I will list what I think any beginner beachcomber will need to hunt for treasure safely.
It might seem a little expensive to buy these items if you don’t already own them, but I can assure you that it’s not an ongoing expense as these items will last you many, many years. You also don’t need to purchase them all at once; upgrading one at a time is fine; you can even buy items on selling sites for a lot cheaper than you can in the store.
It’s also worth Looking in the sales section, especially out of season sales as you can pick up some bargains there; I bought my girl some walking boots half price and two thermal tops for £6.99 each from £25 and the Mr got a pair of walking boots for half price too.
Know your limits
This probably seems like a common sense thing, really but trust me, I found out the hard way when I first started, and an outing to Lyme Regis put me in bed for two weeks.
I have a health condition called fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I managed a good day on the beach until it came time to go back to the car; those steps that seemed so easy to go down were not so easy to go back up, especially after walking and bending for a few hours on the beach. It took me a full two weeks to recover from that trip.
The beach has been incredible for my recovery. It has quite literally saved my life; I’m now able to do a lot more, I can walk a lot further too, but I still haven’t tried to do those steps again.
I believe it is 114 steps from the Charmouth road car park down to the walkway for someone who is fit and healthy; it’s great exercise, but if you have any health conditions, then this is not the place to access the beach. My advice is to know your limits, assess what you can and can’t do, research the beach beforehand and make sure the access points onto it are easily accessible.
There is nothing worse than getting to the beach, and the tide is in or coming in because you will not be able to go on the beach. It can also be extremely dangerous if you misjudge it and wander too far off from the main access point. I use an app on my phone called anytide, and it has never let me down in predicting the tide times yet.
I also have the met office app installed on my phone. I don’t like going to the beach when it’s raining because I can’t see anything through my glasses.
There is nothing worse than planning a trip, doing all the research, then getting to the location and realising you haven’t got any money for the car park. Lots of car parks these days charge for parking, and some of them don’t take cards or paper money, and there have been places we have been to that also refuse to give change too, so keep some loose change in the car ready for parking.
It can get freezing on the beach in the winter, so it is also worth investing in some thermal clothing or even thermal underwear. You will also need a decent waterproof coat. I can tell you there is nothing worse than getting caught in the rain and being soaked through to the bone; it’s absolutely miserable.
Gloves can be a pain in the winter picking things up, but you could use fingerless gloves or those fingerless mittens that fold over the fingerless gloves if it gets freezing. I have also been recommended biking gloves because they are waterproof and windproof, but you can still pick things up and use your mobile while wearing them; I haven’t actually tried them myself, so I can’t really recommend them.
Footwear is so essential when it comes to beachcombing. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone out for the day and winged about my stupid choice of footwear.
To begin with, I really couldn’t justify paying out a lot of money for a pair of walking shoes, the ones I have I actually bought off Facebook; the lady had bought the wrong size and couldn’t find the receipt to take them back. Hence, I got an absolute bargain for only a tenner. Now I wear my sensible walking shoes every time I go to the beach, and I’ve made sure the Mr and the kids all have them on too.
It is also a good idea to invest in a decent pair of wellies; we will be investing in some for when we revisit Seaham as we found the sea would sneak in and soak your feet. Wellies are also great if you want to try out mudlarking; the number of things I’ve seen in the river while out and about but didn’t have wellies on to be able to get it is shocking.
A bag for your finds
When I first started beachcombing, I had frozen shoulder in both my shoulders, so a rucksack was out of the question because I couldn’t get it on and off my back without being in agony. I also didn’t want a bag that would hang on my shoulders with all the bending because any movement was literally agony for me, so I made a pouch that went around my waist, kind of like a bum bag slash money belt slash tool belt. It worked perfectly for what I wanted.
During my time beachcombing, I’ve seen people with all kinds of bags, across the body type bags, rucksacks, netting bags. However, I think the one I made still fits my needs perfectly, although my choice of fabric was a bit hit and miss, and after 8/9 months of some seriously heavy-duty use, it’s breaking, so I have to make myself another one; I may tweak the next one a little bit though.
The type of beach you go to will tell you what tools you will need. If you go to a shingle beach, then taking along a hand rake will be a good idea. With a hand rake, you can scrape around in the shingle. Some of my best finds have been sitting just under the surface. A quick scrape around with a rake is all it needs to pop up to the surface. We have a telescopic one that, on our latest trip to Seaham, many people stopped us and said they were actually going to get one of those.
This might seem like an odd thing to take to the beach, but some beaches are pretty muddy and old bottles tend to get stuck in the mud, so having a trowel will be handy to dig them out if you do tend to visit those types of beaches.
Rock hammer and chisel, We go to Lyme Regis a lot, and this particular beach has lots of fossils. People are always hammering away at rocks to reveal the fossils hidden inside, so if you want to find some fossils, invest in a rock hammer and a chisel.
Packed lunch and a drink
Depending on the beach you visit and what’s available, taking a packed lunch is always a good idea. Some beaches don’t have any facilities, or if they do they could be quite far away from the beach itself, the last thing you want to do is have to leave because everyone is hungry.
I would also recommend taking a drink too, especially during the summer months; people get carried away looking for treasures and forget they haven’t had a drink for the last 3-4 hours. Be aware that some beaches also don’t have toilets so you might want to be prepared to do a nature wee.
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitiser
- Lip balm