The Pebbles on the Beach by Clarence Ellis (Faber & Faber, £9.99)

THIS beautifully written guide is a well-thumbed gem on my bookshelves. Published in 1954, The Pebbles on the Beach – whether delving into its pages for the first or umpteenth time – makes a charming and informative read.

As Clarence Ellis writes: "Most people collect something or other: stamps, butterflies, beetles, moths, dried and pressed wildflowers, old snuff boxes, china dogs and so forth. A few eccentrics even collect disused bus tickets! But collectors of pebbles are rare."

The book was reissued in 2018 with a touching foreword by Mountains of the Mind author Robert Macfarlane, helping introduce it to a fresh audience among those who delight in life's simple pleasures.

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Ellis extols the merits of pebble-hunting as pleasant hobby "that makes little demand upon one's patience and still less upon one's physical energy". For those who prefer their activities with a sedentary slant, this is one that can be enjoyed "from the luxurious sloth of a deckchair".

The jacket of the book folds out to reveal its own hidden treasure: an illustrated spotter's guide. There are 36 in total, identifying specimens ranging from a well-rounded pebble of fine-grained red sandstone to a fragment of jet and a broken piece of chalcedony.

The chapters span a breadth of subject matter such as The Shingle Beach; The Birth, Life and Death of a Pebble; and The Exciting Quest for Semi-Precious Stones.

My sole gripe is that the coastline chapter covers only England and Wales, a fact lamented by Ellis as he states: "The deep indentations of the Scottish coastline give it a length out of all proportion to the size of the country, and a description of it, even in bare outline, is outside the scope of this book.

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"This is all the more to be deplored, because so much of the coast of Scotland is unsurpassed in grandeur and charm. It most certainly deserves a book to itself." Well, quite.


Countryfile, BBC One, tomorrow, 6.15pm

Helen Skelton drops in on her local donkey sanctuary, Adam Henson assists a nanny goat in distress and young Scottish naturalist Xander Johnston keeps an eye on insect life during his daily walks.