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Pebbles on the Beach (1954)

by Clarence Ellis

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911223,625 (3.83)4
*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.… (more)

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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. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
The Pebbles on the Beach: A Spotter’s Guide by Clarence Ellis review – a valuable reminder of simpler times
The geology of pebbles and the poetry of onshore phenomena in a beautifully produced guide, first published in 1954
If you are the sort of person who feels soothed by the shipping forecast, you’ll love this book about our shores. The Pebbles on the Beach was first published in 1954, and 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…

Clarence Ellis was born in 1889 and, after serving on the western front, worked in further education, but his passion was pebble collecting. He has a didactic approach, occasionally strict, and once or twice poignant about the relative brevity of human life, such as when he compares the formation of sandstone to “the ‘dust to dust’ cycle of man”.

He also makes certain demands of his reader, warning: “You should not dismiss the jasper with contempt because of its impurity and opaqueness”, but promising that “on the second, or perhaps the third, day of patient searching, you will suddenly become aware with a delicious thrill that you have gained the knack of piercing the disguises of the chalcedonic pebbles. Thenceforward your progress will be rapid and joyous.” The most basic kit of the casual pebble collector, he insists, must include a strong-bladed knife, a geological map of the district, a small hammer, a pocket lens and piece of flint with a sharp edge. There is no room for buckets and spades on this holiday.

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.

The book is beautifully produced, with a new introduction by Robert Macfarlane, a comprehensive index and a fold-out cover bearing an illustrated guide to pebble identification. Sometimes it is valuable to be reminded of simpler times, amid all the demands of 21st-century life. With a copy of this book and a pocket lens, you too can be beach ready.

From The Guardian
added by CarltonC | editThe Guardian (UK) (Aug 2, 2018)
 
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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.

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