Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Judging by the consternation caused when I first mentioned it in connection with a beach, I rapidly realised that shingle isn't as widely recognised as I had thought. In this context it's neither a roofing material nor a disease. It's neither a haircut nor a sign to denote a doctor or lawyer. It's a mass of small pebbles

A shingle beach.  Apart from the fact that it's made up of pebbles, it looks normal enough.  The pebbles themselves are made mainly from flint which has been eroded from the cliffs by the waves and then tossed around until they are relatively smooth.

What you can't see from this angle is the banking and shelving characteristic of shingle.

The waves wash the pebbles up, but because pebbles are so much more porous than sand, the backwash is much less strong and so the pebbles aren't sucked back into the sea.  It causes some difficulty for local fishermen, as you can see, but at the same time provides a safe place to pull up boats, well above the reach of the tides.

Of course waves don't often hit the beach at right angles so the wash is at an angle while the backwash drags straight down.  This causes what is known as longshore drift, a zig-zag path moving along the shoreline. 

This can, in time, have quite a dramatic effect.

I presume at one time it was necessary to climb down to the beach from the path. Now there is barely any difference between the two levels.

Considerable effort is put in to maintaining the shingle beaches.  Not only do they provide key wildlife habitats, but they are a great defence for the shoreline by absorbing a lot of the impact of the waves.  Although in the area of these photos the shingle seems to be accumulating, a short distance down the coast there are houses built on the beach in an area where the sea has been encroaching.

Copyright Ron Strutt of Geograph under this Creative Commons Licence
It may seem highly desirable to have beach at your front door, and the properties do command a remarkable price, but it's virtually impossible to mortgage them.


  1. I must admit I knew nothing of shingle beaches until I was 20! It is only the south coast that has them, and up north we had proper sand beaches. Much better than the shingle ones.
    It does look like the shingle is rising in that area however.

  2. A fine description, and great photos to illustrate. Love the buried steps!

  3. A wonderful montage displaying the shingle beach along with an informative description. Great post.

  4. Problems with your foto blog. Posting comments impossible. Fine if you wish this but I wonder if you realise the difficulty. The blog is good.

  5. @Adullamite, the only reason I know anything is that my uncle used to live in one of the little houses on the beach. It's a long time since he stopped having any worries about that or anything else. Thanks for the warning about comments on the other blog. I hadn't realised.

    @Dragonstar, many thanks!

    @PS, I'm happy you enjoyed it.

  6. Or should that be "consternated"? :)

  7. You were right in assuming I was consterned about this subject. Thank you for explaining it. Flint? Ouch! But I guess one doesn't run barefoot on shingle...

    I love the pictures.


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