FOOTSTEPS crunch satisfyingly on the shingle. The suck and roar of the crashing waves is a constant background noise. We are on a beach in Suffolk with clothes designer Margaret Howell, who is hymning the pleasures of the pebbles under her feet. To be precise, the colours they offer, “the mix of greys and ochres and browns and oranges.” Next season’s colour palette perhaps?

The Pebble in Your Pocket (Radio 4, Tuesday) offered a pleasurable half-hour example of what radio does differently (better?) than television. On one level it’s the sound picture that it can create (that pebbly crunch has an extra oomph when you can’t see what’s causing it). On another, it’s the unlikely subject matter. Would TV give us a half hour on the humble pebble?

Steve Urquhart’s programme took us from shingle beaches to pebble dashing walls – or rough-casting as the two plastering lecturers at the City of Glasgow College called it. “We get paid to throw stones at walls,” one of them said.

On the way we visited Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach, personal tragedy (Howell’s son tragically died when he was 30; she has created a pebbled memento to him), and even post-war British sculpture. Barbara Hepworth, for one, saw pebbles as a symbol of continuity and took them as an influence.

Now, some want to reverse that process. “If it doesn’t look like a miniature Barbara Hepworth sculpture,” writer and stone carver Alex Woodcock says, while searching for pebbles, “I’m kind of not interested.”

Listen out for: Bill Nighy (above) as actor Charles Paris in Simon Brett’s new mystery A Doubtful Death on Radio 4 on Friday at 11.30am.