It took me a while to understand the allure of the Sussex coast. Years ago, my daughter Tamara introduced me to beachcombing for sea urchin flint fossils. These are 60 million years old, and our collection now weighs about the same as a healthy young Staffordshire bull terrier. Over the decades my beachcombing has amassed a motley assortment of lobster traps, bamboo flag poles, old floats and driftwood but do you know what I’m collecting now? Seaweed. And the finds are getting better and better.

Tamara is, once more, the trigger to this new diversion and its thanks to the Nearshore Trawling Bylaw that got passed a few years ago that seaweed hunting on the Sussex coast is more interesting than it once was.

Last year Mara, as we call her, and her family started returning from their afternoons on Climping Beach with varieties of seaweed. Back home she washed and dried them, then sandwiched the seaweed in blotting paper, popped the sandwiches in a beautiful, old, cast iron Belgian book press she just happens to have and pressed the seaweed for a few days. Once it was dry, using watercolours, she drew urns on the blotting paper and filled them with fantastic arrangements of real seaweed. She made frames and our hallway wall is crammed with a wonderful array of real Sussex seaweed.

There’s an under-the-radar coalition of organisations called the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project (SKRP). When I first moved to Britain in 1970 there was a 40-mile-long forest of kelp just off the coast, from Shoreham to Selsey. But by 2000 only a few patches remained. More than 96 per cent had been lost to years of trawl fishing and in the aftermath of the great storm of 1987. The two-year-old byelaw excludes trawling from over 300 square kilometres of seabed. The kelp forest is regenerating and, with it, the habitats that help sustain healthy inshore fishing. The SKRP reports sightings of electric rays and trigger fish in the newly protected area. In April I watched a morning fisherman land a 3lb sea bass at high tide at the Atherington groins. And the variety of seaweeds on the beach is proving fun for me as well as my dogs.

Bladder Wrack fronds make wonderful pressed ‘trees’ but it is tricky to press. The bladders stick to the blotting paper. Oarweed is flatter and presses better. So does vermillion green, and flat eel grass.

Seaweed is either green, red or brown depending to some extent on the depth of water it grows in. The green seaweeds contain chlorophyll to help turn sunlight into energy. Red and brown seaweeds contain different chemicals, to absorb different wavelengths of light to photosynthesise at different depths of water. The recent bountiful red seaweed on Climping Beach was a result of turbulence in deeper water. Very dramatic when pressed fresh.

The reviving kelp beds off the Sussex Coast are a nursery for lobsters and crabs. That’s why Littlehampton fishing boats are dropping traps so close to the shore. And why my local fishmonger on the Riverside Industrial Estate in Littlehampton has no problem finding local plaice and crabs. And skinned dogfish! Cut into steaks its perfect for summer barbecues – all thanks to that seaweed.