Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach
by Jean Sprackland, published by Penguin Books, (2013), 9780099532439
This remarkable series of essays is the product of author Jean Sprackland’s time spent walking on Formby and Ainsdale beaches in the north-west of England, just north of Liverpool (a location which many schools use as a case study for physical geography teaching about depositional sandy beaches and sand dune ecosystems). Also aimed at the general reader, this book brings to life all kinds of wonderful links and connections between Formby beach and other places worldwide. Sprackland reflects on how local beaches in the north-west of England (and coastal landscape) have been shaped over time by global connections (both physical and human). Physical processes, including ocean currents, combine with the human processes of trade and migration to shape a densely connected, layered and outward-looking landscape. Stranded sea creatures and ancient footprints in the sand tell tales of changing tides and sea levels over different timescales ranging from hours to thousands of years. Sea wrecks – such as the Star of Hope, wrecked on Mad Wharf in 1883 – offer a glimpse of how the world economy worked in the late 1800s (and Liverpool’s vital role as a global hub). The book even explains how the piles of old tobacco waste exposed by Formby’s retreating dunes offer clues to neighbouring Liverpool’s shameful past role in the transportation of various enslaved African people to the Caribbean. This book is a tour de force in ‘joined-up thinking’ for geographers.