East Lothian’s Secrets!

While watching Coast on BBC2 the other week, I was really surprised to find that the wrecks of 2 World War II miniature submarines lie in Aberlady Bay, East Lothian. Ever curious and making sure we checked the tide times first, Tom and I decided to go and have a look yesterday. Thankfully our trip across the sands was not just timed well with the tide but also with the weather! We made it out to the wrecks and back to the car (a 2 hour round trip) without getting rained on. An achievement in itself!

If, over the holidays, you are looking for a nice day out with older children that will support their language and vocabulary development, this is a really nice activity. As you walk out from the car park through the nature reserve and across the sand, you will see a wide variety of birds, sea creatures and plants & flowers – a great opportunity for vocabulary building. The World War II Midget Submarines themselves provide a topic-based discussion point where you can develop general knowledge, vocabulary and story-telling skills.

A view of the western submarine wreck at Aberlay Sands, East Lothian

Like the skeleton of some ancient dinosaur, the western submarine wreck looms out of the sand.

It’s difficult to see here, but the submarine is only about 6m long. These subs had a crew of 5 brave souls! I can only imagine how cramped and sweaty it must have been with 5 people inside! At the end of World War II, these 2 subs were moored up in Aberlady Bay and the RAF used them for a bit of target practice. If you would like to learn more about these submarines, have a look at the excellent Coastrider blog for more detail.

Copper piping sticking out of the Eastern Sub wreck at Aberlady Sands, East Lothian

Like some weird snakes, the old copper piping from the Eastern sub's hydraulic system is remarkably clean and shiny!

If you do decide to head out to Aberlady for a look, you will need to plan to reach the sub wrecks about 30-60 minutes before low tide. They are only visible around low tide and awareness of the tide times is essential for your trip as the tides come in very quickly at Aberlady Sands. Avoid a lifeboat call out by going to the BBC Weather website to check tide times. Now, a word of caution! Tide times are always quoted in UTC (Universal Time Co-ordinates) which is pretty much exactly the same as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). That means that the times given don’t take into account the clocks going forward at the end of March. If you are checking tide times between the end of March and end of October you will therefore need to ADD ONE HOUR to the time shown. For example, yesterday’s afternoon low tide was quoted as 14.45 which means actual low tide was at 15.45. All of this tide and beach stuff gives you another set of learning and language building opportunities for your children. For older children, you can find out more about how tides work at Science Blogs and Geography for Kids talks about tides, tsunamis and the water cycle which is a topic in the national science curriculum.

Finally, develop your child’s real-life problem solving skills and help them stay safe on the beach this summer by visiting the RLNI’s excellent beach safety advice page or CBBC’s Newsround article about beach safety.

An anemone inside the Western Submarine wreck at Aberlady Sands

An anemone has made its home in the western wreck!