Swansea beach is crunchy with shells, and that means that the waters are pulsating with life. Other nearby beaches, less so. Why so many in Swansea? Shellfish eat stuff. What stuff? The stuff they eat determines the colour of the shell. Other stuff eats shellfish. Who they? Yet other stuff eats the stuff that eats shellfish, and so on.

But it’s all out of sight, beneath the water. The shells are the marine population’s equivalent of pizza boxes discarded after a Friday night of revelry, every night being Friday night down there.

I have grandchildren currently hiding indoors as Covid-19 stalks the hills, scenting their blood, while schools bar their doors to tiny hammering fists in order to better protect them from illness and their staff from responsibility. But when that has been resolved, I’ll invite them (the grandchildren) to the beach to find one examplar of each type of shell. Mr Google and I will then photograph and identify each shell and begin to piece together the assault plan which fails daily while leaving billions of broken bodies scattered over the tide line.

In the meantime, consider this table, taken from the Swansea Rural Local Development Strategy:

FLAG stands for Fisheries Local Action Group. The Swansea Bay FLAG covers the 70-mile stretch of
coastline from the Loughor estuary in the west to Porthcawl in the east.

This is a whelk:

Common Whelk Shell Stock Photos & Common Whelk Shell Stock Images ...

Anyone who has ever walked along Swansea beach knows that they are common enough, and the above table indicates that they are edible. But Swansea whelks are not eaten in the UK or even in Europe: all sales – nearly £50,000 worth – are to the Far East. Proof positive that we can’t even run a whelk stall. I wonder if they can be found in Swansea market..