We tend not to associate urban areas with wildspace. Places where children have the opportunity to connect with nature in their own way. Yet in the heart of Aberdeen lies a tiny beach which does just that. It is becoming quietly famous in its own way because it happens to be one of the best places for watching marine life on the NE coast of Scotland.
It is situated at the mouth of the River Dee, which is well known for its salmon fishing and being the river which passes through the Balmoral Estate around 45 miles upstream! It is also at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour which is a busy place and perfect for watching the ships travel in and out.
This academic year, the City Early Years team are piloting the Wee Green Spaces project. This is aimed early years settings and classes who are keen to get going with using a local area of greenspace, whatever that may be. It could be a local park, a welly walk along a farm track, a woodland site, a beach or even the botanical gardens! We’re not being fussy. Lots of organisations and people are pitching in to help . For example, the City Ranger Service is providing support and advice. The harbour is delighted that their part of the beach (below the high tide line) is being used.
This rainbow greeted the nursery group which arrived last week at the beach. A sign of hope that their efforts have been worthwhile! It also indicated cold fickle weather that ensured the sun, wind and rain all came out to play as well.
When beginning a new project such as visiting a beach, it is easy to forget that everything is new. The children were all dressed in warm clothing. They had a seat and their snack in their backpacks. We take for granted the simplest of tasks. For example on the way down, everyone got stuck at the gate. Luckily this was easily mastered and remembered on the way back.
The children had seen photos of the beach before going. I had bought a few items along too, for the children to use. They knew in advance that their first job was to create a trench shelter. At this point I should confess that I began the job beforehand. It was just as well because even learning how to dig and move sand properly was new.
The effort of the group did pay off. Before long we had a lovely shelter which the children enjoyed sitting in. It was the most talked about event of the session, according to the staff back at the nursery.
The children had practised using the litter picker at the nursery. They were keen to try this new skill for real. This is doable with warm gloves on which is a good thing. Being an urban beach, there is plenty of litter around to be picked up.
The sea wall was a source of fascination to a couple of children during the first visit. It provides quite a bit of shelter from onshore wind and waves. As you can see, the wall is very tall and when viewed close up has all sorts of patterns and textures on it. We also discovered that we can stick sand onto it too.
The children soon found the marram grass path up high. There aren’t big dunes at this beach but you do get a good view and a sense of height from this vantage point.
The path also leads to a dead end at the top of this rough concrete slope. And that means decision time. Do you retrace your journey or go down the hill? The children went for the shortcut down the slope – definitely more challenging and it was clear they felt a good sense of achievement when reaching the bottom.
The children largely ignored the sea on their first visit. However, today was totally different. It was ALL about the sea. One child was particularly interested in the tide and finding out whether was coming in or going out.
He spent quite a bit of time digging and investigating the depth of the water in various places along the shore.
There were plenty of discussions about whether the sea would “get us!” The rocks made for all sorts of eddies and swirls which added to this excitement.
There were lots of child-sized rock outcrops which provided perfect scrambling opportunities. The children quickly learned how slippery seaweed is and found ways to manage this so they could all stand on the tops of the rocks and announce, “I am the king of the castle.”
Examining a rockpool was popular too. Empty shells were gathered on the plank that one child decided would make a good floating shelf.
There were several few dead crabs, claws and shells found during the course of the session. One child studied the identification chart at length and after originally thinking they were lobsters, eventually decided that they had to be crabs.
Digging has remained popular on both days. The child in the photo below, got very interested in the challenge of digging deeper and used the length of his spade to measure his progress.
Snack on the beach was definitely a sandy affair. Next week, we’re bringing brushes to help remove the sand from our clothing too. It gets everywhere!
Today we spent well over two hours at the beach and the time flashed by. It was encouraging to see how well children had remembered the routines and how enthusiastic they were about the beach.
What next week will bring remains to be seen. What is good is that there’s a couple of walks which are also possible to undertake so there’s a lot to do in this place. As for a winter visit to a beach – wrap up warm, keep moving and enjoy the experience. It’s a great time to go!