In these short, dark, damp, misty winter days minds drift to summer vacations in the sunshine.

Those taking breaks in Britain will imagine the sounds of breaking waves and gulls’ familiar cries: they will think of beach cricket, deckchairs, ice cream and sandcastles. Some may contemplate a spot of rockpooling.

We all did it as kids didn’t we ? Armed with buckets, spades and nets we went searching pools left behind by the tide for crabs, star fish, worms or any other wriggly things to put in our buckets and study until it was time to tip them back again. Naming any but a handful was usually impossible but for a time we enjoyed close up views of animals mostly hidden from us by water.

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A new book explains how to get the most out of rockpooling, how to identify your captives and the best way to record them.

The Essential Guide to Rockpooling by marine biologist Julie Hatcher and diver Steve Trewhella crams a wealth of information into 300 superbly illustrated pages.

There are detailed descriptions of around 400 common and rare rocky shore species with colour photographs, lots of ideas for rockpool related family activities and lists of stuff to take with you.

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Image courtesy of Princeton University Press

My parents often used to send me rockpooling while they took a deckchair break. They were happy to buy me a fishing net and point me towards the nearest pool.

The net came from one of those seaside shops selling everything from plastic beach shoes to rock, cheap sunglasses, ice cream, hats and postcards. One of the many tips in the book is not to use this type of long-handled net as sweeping it around a pool may damage and scare away wildlife. Before travelling, buy a short-handled aquarium net instead.

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This book will help enhance your search for sea creatures and aid identification so you can tell limpets from sea slugs, whelks from worms and thongweed from bunny ears.

Now a rockpool joke: What did one rockpool say to another ? Answer: Show me your mussels.

The Essential Guide to Rockpooling by Julie Hatcher and Steve Trewhella is published by Wild Nature Press for Princeton University Press. Price £16.99 paperback.