4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

As a child, I spent a lot of time at Normans Bay in Sussex. The beach there was a mix of pebbles, shingles and sand when the tide was out. I swam, sailed, made sandcastles and I could not even begin to count the number of pebbles that I have picked up off a beach and thrown into the sea or scoured the shoreline looking for the flattest so I could skim them. Mostly they were just a there, I remember it was painful to walk across the mostly brown pebbles in bare feet to get to the sea. Every now and again I would find a shell or an unusually coloured stone which would be used on the sandcastles for decoration.

Until I picked this up it never even crossed my mind that you could learn so much from a single stone. There is a chapter on how a pebble is formed and a basic lesson on geology. There is another in depth on the kinds of pebbles that you are likely to find on which beaches around England. Ellis explains the meaning of terms swash and backwash, longshore drift and how shingle beaches behave with the relentless waves. He moves onto semi-precious stones and the types that you are likely to find around the UK.

It is a book that I wish I had first had as a child, something that Robert Macfarlane was fortunate to find on his grandparent’s shelf when he was growing up as he explains in the new foreword to the book. The language is a little dated, but then it is a reprint of a classic book that is over 65 years old now, however, it is still a delight to read. Given that you are dealing with small items of geology, the details of what to look for are not going to be changing for a long time. The fold out cover is beautifully illustrated by the artist Eleanor Crow and it is worth buying just for that alone.



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