Saturday, February 4, 2012

Freshwater Bay

Carole and I went for an invigorating walk along the cliffs above Freshwater Bay this morning.

This is a new discovery for me….a Common Whelk egg mass with developing Common Whelks inside! Normally I’m only by the seashore whilst on holiday in the middle of summer and so only find the empty cases, looking like a lump of popped bubble wrap!

January is breeding time as far as the Common Whelk is concerned so it will only have been a matter of days or, maybe weeks, since this mass was anchored to a piece of rock below sea level. But this mass has come loose before time, and I found it washed up on the tideline at Freshwater Bay.

Living with the sea on 3 sides is giving me the opportunity to learn lots of amazing new facts. One of my text books says that each capsule, or cell, within the egg mass contains about 12 fertile and a thousand ‘nurse’ eggs. By eating the nurses the newly hatched whelks grow that much larger and stronger before emerging through the capsule exit to the outside world. Suddenly, these ‘bath sponge’ cases are even more fascinating!

It’s amazing how much history you can learn by studying plants. There were the dessicated remains of Carline Thistles carpeting the cliff top. Apparently they are named after Carl the Great, aka the Emperor Charlemagne who supposedly staved off the plague from his stricken army after being shown how to use the healing properties of this plant by an angel!

Or maybe you’re more interested in its supposed aphrodisiac qualities….though, in order to benefit, you would need to plant it and then harvest the root during a new moon…and ‘fertilise’ it with the sperm of a black stallion! Hmmm….maybe not, then!

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