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The Pebbles on the Beach

Clarence Ellis

‘The ideal beach walker’s companion.’ – Robert Macfarlane

23 in stock

Date Published
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*Top 10 Sunday Times bestseller*

The Pebbles on the Beach was first published in 1954. This newly reissued edition includes a foreword by Robert Macfarlane. There is a handy illustrated guide to identifying pebbles on the reverse of the book jacket.

Pebble-hunting is a pleasant hobby that makes little demand upon one’s patience and still less upon one’s physical energy. (You may even enjoy the hunt from the luxurious sloth of a deck chair). One of the true delights of the pebble-seeker is to read the stories in the stones – to determine whence and by what means they came to be there. We must always bear in mind that a pebble is a transient thing. It is in the half-way stage of a long existence . . .

This is a book about the simple pleasure of pebble spotting. Clarence Ellis is a charming, knowledgeable and witty guide to everything you didn’t know there was to know about pebbles. He ruminates on what a pebble actually is, before showing us how they are formed, advising on the best pebble-spotting grounds in the UK, helping to identify individual stones, and giving tips on the necessary kit. You’ll know your chert from your schist, your onyx from your agate, and will be on your guard for artificial intruders before you know it. Understanding the humble pebble makes a trip to the beach, lake-side or river bank simply that little bit more fascinating.

Critic Reviews

An illuminating, summery and delightfully schoolmasterish guide. Written by a history teacher who had served on the Western Front, and later became a pebble-collecting enthusiast, it answers all life’s important questions. Where do pebbles come from? What are they made of? And how do you find a really rare one?... Inspiring ... A rare find ... Some of its charm derives from the sheer fascination of the subject, some from the period tone, but a lot reflects the author’s personality. Ellis comes across like a reserved but eccentric uncle ... Republishing this book was a brilliant idea ... [it] deserves to be a huge summer bestseller.

Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

If you are the sort of person who feels soothed by the shipping forecast, you’ll love this book about our shores… its tone of voice recalls postwar Britain, the Light Programme and trips to the seaside. But instead of Dogger, Fisher and German Bight, it introduces us to the poetry of onshore phenomena: longshore drift, fulls and swales, heliotrope, chalcedony, swash, backwash and fetch… Ellis’s account of the geology of pebbles – what they’re made of, where they come from, and how – is fascinating, and he offers a whistlestop tour of the English and Welsh coastline, describing what to look for where. Even if you never pick up a pebble (and you’ll find it hard not to), it’s a surprisingly satisfying beach read.

Critic Reviews

I love this book. Like all the best nature books it is alchemical, sparking wonder in the mundane.

Tristan Gooley
Critic Reviews

There's nothing quite like the thrill of hunting for treasure on the shingle-studded beaches of Britain ... This classic Fifties book on pebble-collecting has just been re-published, in the hope of reigniting enthusiasm for this great British tradition ... The book was a roaring success ... the staple companion to the British seaside experience: a wonderfully therapeutic form of escapism and free fun, whatever the weather. Today, Ellis' guide, with his thoughtful, almost poetic descriptions, is just as useful almost 65 years on - and perhaps it has never been more necessary ... Utterly enchanting.

Daily Mail
Critic Reviews

In this scorching record-breaker of a British summer, Ellis’s book has become a runaway bestseller.

Daily Telegraph *****
Critic Reviews

Fascinating ... A pebble-hunting family could be most united and happy for hours ... Charmingly illustrated ... Ideal seaside companions.

The Spectator