This is the ultimate beachcomber's book. A series of meditations prompted by walking on the wild estuarial beaches of Ainsdale Sands between Blackpool and Liverpool, Strands is about what is lost and buried then discovered, about all the things you find on a beach, dead or alive, about flotsam and jetsam, about mutability and transformation - about sea-change.
Every so often the sands shift enough to reveal great mysteries: the Star of Hope, wrecked on Mad Wharf in 1883 and usually just visible as a few wooden stumps, is suddenly raised one day, up from the depths - an entire wreck, black and barnacled, and on either side two more ruined ships, taking the air for a while before sinking back under the sand.
And stranger still, perhaps, are the prehistoric footprints of humans, animals and birds on the beach: prints from the Late Mesolithic to mid-Neolithic period which are described as 'ephemeral archaeology' because they are preserved in the Holocene sediment, revealed briefly and then destroyed by the next tide.
Strands describes a year's worth of walking on the ultimate beach: inter-tidal and constantly turning up revelations: mermaid's purses, lugworms, sea potatoes, messages in bottles, buried cars, beached whales and a perfect cup from a Cunard liner. Jean Sprackland, a prize-winning poet and natural storyteller, is the perfect guide to these shifting sands - this place of transformation.
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Elegant memoir… For those for whom such encounters are a rare occurrence, reading this beautiful book is only a tide’s whisper away from being on a beach itself and feeling the wind in your hair and the sand between your toes. - The Economist
Compelling...well-contextualised, sharply-observed, clued up, environmentally aware and deeply researched… She writes a supple, attractive, gently ironic prose that brings alive this distinctive shoreline. - Independent
Each sentence is as cunningly crafted as a piece of driftwood, a lyrical tribute to the meeting place of land and sea. - Scotland on Sunday
Sprackland’s clean and unfussy prose, her powerful sense of atmosphere, gradually draw you in. If a book can have the appeal of a really good long walk, this one does. - Daily Mail
'Nature writing' is the Olympics of metaphor production, requiring technical agility and testing the writer's stamina for simile. In this respect Sprackland excels; her quick portraits of the sea's idiosyncratic cast-offs are inventive and precise…absorbing narrative. - Guardian
This delightful book is, like a practiced treasure seeker, a questing thing… Sprackland’s evocative imagery is never self-conscious and she is a wryly and witty companion. - The Lady
Spirited prose. - Times Literary Supplement
The flotsam and the jetsam washed up along the esturial stretches between Blackpool and Liverpool prompt thoughts on landscape and regional history in the lovely travelogue. - Metro
Simply gorgeous... One of the finest piece of writing, nature or otherwise, to emerge this year. - Big Issue
Fine-grained nature-writing and human curiosity come together in this prose journal of life on the sea’s edge by a gifted poet. - i
The prose sparkles with the poets sensibility. - Radio 3 The Verb
The perfect beach-combers manual. - Voyager
She [Jean] brings to her account of a year’s beachcombinga precision with language and the kind of generous, associative imagination that sees connections everywhere, and can turn ordinary (and extraordinary) seaside discoveries into something rich and strange … the kind of imaginative insight that results from a life spent making poems, and the ability to render those discoveries for us in clean, sparkling prose. - Caught By The River
Readers who enjoy Perrin on peaks will relish Sprackland on the shoreline. - Wales Art Review
I loved this book. - thebookbag.co.uk
A gentle British poet. - The Economist
Sensuous and interior, poems dated as the eponymous journal explores both practical and symbolic aspects of living with bees with a strong, original sincerity. - Independent
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About the Author
Jean Sprackland's first collection of poetry, Tattoos for Mothers Day, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 1999. Her second collection, Hard Water, was published by Cape in 2003 and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award. In 2004 she was named by the Poetry Book Society as one of the 'Next Generation Poets'. Her third collection, Tilt, won the 2007 Costa Poetry Award. She lives in London.