Stormy Margate

Stormy Margate

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A mysterious appearance and some beach finds.

This week there has been media attention on a little bay in Cornwall where lego from a lost cargo container has been washing up. The thread of the article being the mysteries of the sea.
At this moment in time I am working on a mystery of my own. About a fortnight ago I came across big lumps of coal washed up in one small area on the foreshore this included large lumps of ships timber and a base of a large earthenware pot. The largest piece of coal weighs just over two kilo and going by the barnacle growth they have been on the sea bed a long time. So why all of a sudden do large lumps of coal and ships timbers suddenly move off the sea bed and end up on the strandline. They may be all unrelated  instinct does tell me that an inshore wreck is breaking up. Anyway I will find out tomorrow when I revisit the site.

A nice surprise this week a piece of Amber found at Ramsgate.

A few fossils all found in the past fortnight in three locations in Thanet.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Manston air crash 1948

I have received this email regarding the Manston air crash 1948, something I am sure local historians will find interesting for their archives. The author has no objection to me circulating the email and is pleased to share this information.
My name is Malcolm John Andrews, aged 78. After resigning my commission with the RASC in 1963 I moved to Belgium where I married Liliane Vanbrabant.and have lived here to this day.
On Sept 18 1948: I lived in Dane Valley, Margate with my mother Gertrude May Andrews and my baby brother Brent. I was aged 11 (born Feb 1937).  At the time of the crash, my father, Francis Andrews, was an RAF flight engineer serving in Palestine (part of the UN Mandate).
On that fatal day my mother and, I believe, two other friends, decided to cycle up to Manston Airfield to see the Battle of Britain display. My mother had Brent on the back and I had my own bike. I cannot recall the other friends but we were all by bike.
I was about 50m ahead of the others near Vincent Farm when the mosquito roared over my head and crashed onto the roadway. The explosion threw me off my bike and, when I came to a few moments later, I found myself lying on my back in a vegetable field. Frankly I was too young and too dazed to recall every detail but there was a blazing mess of plane and cars on the road and billowing black smoke. Keeping away from the heat I simply waited for help, not knowing if my family members were hurt.
Surprisingly quickly a policeman approached me and asked me to go home and wait for news. Of course there was no-one at home and I did not have the key, so I went to the next-door neighbour (Mrs Morris?) in a bungalow like ours in Dane Gardens. Later the police arrived and I was moved to my uncle and aunt’s place, also on the Dane Valley road.
Ironically, my father received a telegram saying “wife and son killed in air crash” but he had no idea which son.
Consequently I went to boarding school (Sir Roger Manwoods) in Sandwich then Boys Squadron RAC, then RMA Sandhurst and was finally posted to (West) Germany in the early 60’s.
I am now anxious to correspond with all those involved in that disaster.
Malcolm (Mel) Andrews,
Clos de Valognes, 8
1410 Waterloo, Belgium
Phone : +322 3844362. Mobile : +32 478 2895330

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Thanet's conjoined oysters

During the recent Fircroft school trip I was so amazed how fascinated everyone was when they came across an area of large pacific oyster shells, especially those shells that were conjoined. Something I admit I just take for granted when walking the beaches. I often think like with most things Thanet people from outside Thanet look at things more with an artistic eye than us locals. So judging by this photograph I can now see why. Each conjoined oyster is unique with a mixed range of colour and shape leaving them open to interpretation whether it be craft or plain natural.
Pacific oysters have now been on our shoreline in large numbers for over two decades and are now classed as an invasive species by Natural England. Locally there is a local expert on the subject and his name is Willie McKnight, his work can be accessed on the internet for further reading.
Thanet's pacific oysters originated from the spat from the outlet pipes of the North Kent oyster farms and against all odds have bedded down on the chalk reef around the Thanet coastline. In some areas of coast this has had very little impact but in some bays they have formed reefs that is out competing indigenous species. To date Natural England have culled around 75,000 oysters in critical areas in a bid to contain the species. Over the past few winters many of the shells from the cull have made their way ashore along with the batches of shell from the winter kill.
In the photograph are shells from the winter kill that had been bedded on a unstable base like soft chalk, flint or another shellfish. The rough winter sea  has dislodged the mass of shell from the oyster reef and worked its way ashore providing winter feed for sea birds. The shells then break apart and become scattered and buried in the sand close to the strandline and eventually to breakdown naturally. These shells in the photgraph are a couple of years old and have been slightly stained by the natural mineral elements in the sand and I suppose they do have this appeal.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Broadstairs Botany Bay sea potato

The coin is a 10 pence piece to give some idea of scale.

This time of year Botany Bay Broadstairs is such a wonderful place to beachcomb  and in this settled weather many finds do turn up that generally do not survive in the winter seas. On example is the sea potato a relative of the sea urchin. Sea potato's are not rare but finding one intact on the Thanet coastline  is. This is because the shell is paper thin and when held it does have that fragile feel similar to holding a birds egg. This trio came ashore a few weeks back when we had a touch of north in the wind, a perfect time to walk the Botany Bay strandline.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A day at the seaside - Thanet seashore safaris

Some of the finds, clay pipe bowl and a stem. Bottom line left to right two slipper limpets , carpet clam and a pacific oyster.

Sea shore safaris are very much now the "in" thing at many seaside resorts where the shoreline  holds an abundance of marine life . With 22 miles  of chalk reef and coastline Thanet can clearly rate in the top ten UK venues with the vast diversity of marine life that can be found on our foreshore.
On these credentials it is surprising that nobody has really thought of this before. But then being local we do take so much of our natural environment for granted.
Since the surge way back in December 2013 I have spent most of my spare time on the beach recording and building collections of the lesser known species from our coastline. This includes my stones of Avalon amber project that is going very well.
So when I was approached by a London  school to act as a guide for a beachcombing trip I jumped at the chance just to show and explain what Thanet has to offer. Beachcombing can be a lonely pastime and I thought it would be nice have a bit of company for a change and many pair of eyes can be better than one. So today was my first trip with a school group, and the group being the Fircroft Primary School Tooting. The venue being the Nayland Rock Margate a flat expanse of rock near Margate main sands and not far from facilities like a toilet and a shelter.
The party arrived at 09:45am, split into three groups and the first group arriving in time for low water. With all groups I was amazed by the  enthusiasm and their adventurous nature  as they searched everything the rocks had to offer, often bombarding me with questions as they foraged the coastline picking up sea shells as if it was treasure. It was unfortunate the tide was on the move for the third group  keeping us closer inshore but I am sure all groups were pleased with the experience and the finds.
A sample of every single sea shell the beach had to offer was found by all the groups. The most popular finds being the Pacific rock oyster and the variety of common whelk shells. They even found rarities for the area and that did surprise me, the most stunning being a small Wentletrap shell.
I learnt a lot from the experience and I am sure they did. As for myself it was a learning curve for  other trips I may do in the future. Overall it was a very good day and they left Margate with a very good impression.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Finding sea shells at Botany Bay Broadstairs

Over the past decade Botany Bay Broadstairs has become increasingly popular for all sorts of activities. One of the reasons I believe is that the headland  of coastline from Foreness Point to Kingsgate Bay that forms Botany Bay is completely natural. Gone are the concrete promenades that form the Thanet sea defence system leaving the area as nature intended with very little evidence of the twenty first century.
Off shore is where the water from the Thames Estuary , Southern North sea and the Northern end of the English channel merge. This leaves the entire shoreline open to all sorts of possibilities for the intrepid beachcomber when the wind blows directly on shore.
The shoreline is incredibly clean and on the right winds and tides many interesting finds can be found on both the high water and low water areas. There are three main types of fossils that can be found, being belemnites, sea urchins and the marble size fossilized sponges. Towards the Kingsgate Bay side of Botany bay the Micraster  heart shape sea urchin can be found. I do not consciously look for fossils in the area as I collect the sea shells but when I do come across fossils I do pick them up. So I do know of their existence.
All the sea shells that are found are common to the south coast and they come directly off the chalk reef that surrounds the Thanet coastline. The area has to be one of the best for finding dog whelk, netted dog whelk and piddock sea shells. Then there are mussel shells, whelk, slipper limpet, common limpet, periwinkles, carpet shells taking the second ranking. Even though cockles, pacific oysters and razor fish shells are common to Thanet they are less prolific in the Botany Bay area giving them third ranking.
There is one observation I have made regarding Botany Bay sea shells  and these are the shells of the common whelk. The whelk shells are bigger, thicker, heavier than those found elsewhere in the Thanet area  and all bear the scars of a turbulent life. This suggests to me that the whelk has completed its live and death cycle and these whelks have not been harvested from deeper offshore and then dumped  inshore after they have been picked like many of the whelk shells that litter the Margate and Ramsgate areas of the Thanet coastline.
In the Botany Bay area I have found small scallops shells, Baltic tellin, thin tellin, prickly cockle, sea urchins and sea potato sea urchin shells and these have been on rare occasions on favourable winds.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Thanet coast - pretty in pink

Most of the colours of seashells  found on the Thanet coastline do tend to be plain and those shells that have any tinge of colour do tend to fade once the animal inside has died and the shell is washed up on the strandline. However there is one species of shell that seems to hang on to its colour, and that is the Tellin  otherwise known as the Tellina . The colour range varies  from a bright pink to yellow and can be with stand being weathered by sand and tides longer than most sea shells. There are two types of Tellin that can be found around the Thanet coast, being the Baltic Tellin and the Thin Tellin . The number one spot for finding these in masses is to the left of the old hoverport slipway at Pegwell Bay Ramsgate. Second hot spot being Minnis Bay in Birchington .
Photographed are today's find from Pegwell Bay and these are the pick of the bunch that took about half an hour to pick up.