Book of the week: The Pebble Spotter’s Guide by Clive Mitchell

There’s nothing quite like searching the rocks on a beach until that special one catches your eye – a perfect shape, a gorgeous colour, an intriguing pattern. I have been a fan of pebble spotting since I was a little girl. I still have a few meaningful pebbles collected from beautiful beaches over the years, the heart-shaped ones being my favourite ones. As the UK slowly eases out of lockdown and parents begin to plan their family holidays for the summer, Clive Mitchell’s new guide on pebble spotting is the perfect introduction (for them and their children) to everything they didn’t know there was to know about the mindful pleasure of pebble spotting. 


They say that pebble-hunting is what geologists do on holiday, and Clive Mitchell’s first experience of geology was over 50 years ago, picking up pebbles on the beaches of Cornwall and Devon on family holidays. He had no idea what they were. It was purely the tactile pleasure of holding a perfectly smooth pebble that fitted neatly into the palm of his hand.

The Pebble Spotter’s Guide is the perfect introduction to everything you didn’t know there was to know about the mindful pleasure of pebble spotting. The best pebbles are always the ones that you find yourself, that appeal to your own preferences for colour, texture and shape, and slip into your hand as if they were designed just for you.  I personally find it very relaxing and works like meditation as your mind is clear and focus on looking for rocks. 

Simply sit on a beach or next to a stream for 10 minutes and find amazing treasures at your feet; there is much to find. Hidden in plain sight along every shoreline is the beauty of a smooth pebble. They are usually, but not always, formed from a naturally occurring rock that has been worn smooth by the action of water on beaches, or in lakes and rivers. There are also pebbles formed from artificial materials such as concrete, brick and glass; while these are not rocks, they often make interesting pebbles that are sometimes hard to distinguish from rocks.

In this spirited guide, richly illustrated throughout by Ella Sienna, passionate geologist and pebble spotter Clive gives practical advice on how to identify 40 pebbles and where to find them, making a trip to the beach or riverbank all the more interesting. From the humble flint, to feldspar veins, spotted slates, serpentinite, granite ovoids and the holy grail of pebble hunting, the rare rhomb porphyry (with distinctive diamond-shaped crystals nestled in dark-brown rock), this charming book includes a space to ruminate on your own findings, taking note of the treasures that you pick up along the way.

Clive Mitchell grew up in the village of Congresbury on the northern edge of the Mendips in North Somerset. Family holidays in Cornwall and Devon were spent collecting pebbles on the beach, his first introduction to geology. Now an industrial minerals geologist at the British Geological Survey, he has been lucky enough to travel all over the planet, working on mineral resources. Clive is an enthusiastic geoscience communicator and can often be found online helping to identify rocks for keen amateur geologists. Clive lives with his family in Nottingham.

The Pebble Spotter’s Guide is out on 10th June 2021 – RRP £9.99 published by National Trust Books.

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