Time and Tide Bell

A Continuing Arts Programme facing Lincolnshire's Coast

Bell Beach Biology

A project to study the wildlife on the beach near the Time and Tide Bell on the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe National Nature Reserve

What to do on the walk along the beach to the Bell?

We would love to know more about the marine biodiversity on this short stretch of beach between the Bell and the paths across the dunes to the Ferryboat Inn or the Crook Bank car-park. As you walk along see how many different species of sea-life you can find along the tide-line.

If you know what's what just make a note of the species you see. If less sure then pick it up (if it's an empty sea-shell rather than a whale) and take it to wherever you can look it up in a book, online or ask somebody who knows. Taking a photo might be useful. Then just send us an email with a list of what you have found. For each species tell us whether there were loads of them, several, of just the odd few. And any other information you might think might be useful. If you can't identify a species just send us us a photo.

Please send us photos of your finds and we'll post them here, building up a collection of what turns up on our beach.

New Citizen Science project with the Marine Biological Association (MBA)

We have teamed up with the country's leading marine biology organisation to develop a Bell Beach Biology based citizen science project.
On Wednesday 4th March 2020 twenty people gathered at the Ferryboat Inn, North End, Mablethorpe, to launch this project involving the local community to increase our scientific understanding of the beach environment. Jack Sewell from the MBA led a survey of the biodiversity on the beach around the Time and Tide Bell and a workshop planning what might be possible and useful. Funding for the project comes from UK Research and Innovation, bringing national scientific attention to the Mablethorpe beach. If you would like to join the project and get involved in some practical work of surveying wildlife on the beach please get in touch.

Discover more about the possibilities of citizen science with Capturing our Coast

Here's an example of a citizen science project: The Big Barnacle Count

And here are photos taken in January 20120 of part of the frame of our Time and Tide Bell, about seven months after installation. It didn't take long for barnacles to establish themselves, the difference in size between recent arrivals and those that are a few months old, being clear.

These are the Australasian acorn barnacles, Austrominius modestus. They are a non-native species, first recorded in British waters in the 1940s and now common all round the coast. More information at MarLIN The Marine Life Information Network.

These are drawings by Charles Darwin are from his 1854 monograph, A Monograph on the Sub-Class Cirripedia, in which he described this Australasian barnacle, then named Elminius modestus.

The barnacles on the bell frame tend to be pointing upwards. Here is a study of their orientation, comparing them to the barnacles on the concrete outfall cover in the centre of Mablethorpe.

Barnacle Orientation

British Coastal Wildlife (Collins Complete Guides) By Paul Sterry and Andrew Cleave.

Sea Fishes and Invertebrates of the North Sea and English Channel - Lawson Wood.

Exploring Britain`s Hidden World - A Natural History of Seabed Habits by Keith Hiscock

Online resources

MarLIN The Marine Life Information Network

Beach Stuff

Countryfile - British seashell guide: how to identify and where to find

Wildlife Watch - Beaches and Coasts

World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS)

First step to get involved: send us an email.


Common Oyster Ostrea edulis

Baltic Tellin Limecola balthica

Blunt Gaper Mya truncata

Oval Piddock Zirfona crispata

White Piddock Barnea candida

Common Razor Shell Enis enis

Common Cockle Cerastoderma glaucum

Icelandic Cyprine Arctica islandica
Found on the Theddlethorpe beach on the day the Time and Tide Bell was installed.

This bivalve is widespread in coastal waters and on the ocean shelves of the North Atlantic. In North America it is usually called the Ocean Quahog (pronounced ko-hog).

Arctica islandica dates back to at least the early the Cretaceous about 135 million years ago. Individual Icelandic Cyprines live for hundreds of years, the oldest living non-colonial animal known. One specimen was 507 years old when it died. Their shells have growth lines rather like trees, which record the years and the environmental conditions. They are being studied to help reconstruct as sequence of climate changes in the past.

Our greenhouse gas emissions not only cause global heating and sea level rise, the increased carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans' waters leads to acidification, a lowering of the sea water's pH. This will have devastating effects on ocean biodiversity, making a major contribution to the Sixth Mass Extinction, the beginnings of which we are now witnessing. The Icelandic Cyprine, however, can survive high levels of CO2 in the water, having survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 55 million years ago. Even if we manage to drive our own species to extinction, this little clam is likely to survive us.

Look out for Arctia Islandica on the beach. You might walk over a thousand cockles, mussels, oysters, razor clams, piddocks, tellins and gapers before spotting an Icelandic Cyprine, but when you do, it may be the shell of the oldest creature you've ever seen. And its descendants may have a longer future than humanity.

This is a Marine Conservation Zone 'feature species'. See Wildlife Trust.

Here's a bit of underwater film from off the Isle of Arran.

Rayed Trough Shell Mactra stultarum

Baltic Tellin Macoma balthica

Common Mussel Mytilus edulis


We are a Community Arts Group bringing Marcus Vergette's sculpture to the Lincolnshire Coast, one part of a permanent installation of Time and Tide Bells around Britain's coast, rung by the sea at high tide.
We aim to spark conversations about the coastline's past, present and future with a programme of art exhibitions and events

Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941