Birkdale beach by Jean Sprackland

Strands – A Year of Discoveries on the Beach

The Birkdale coast was intimately portrayed in Jean Sprackland’s Strands – A Year of Discoveries on the Beach (2012) as the poet explores her local beach for a year before leaving for London, weaving a tale of shipwrecks, natterjack toads, neolithic footprints, jellyfish and strandline findings. This is a celebration of beachcombing which turns up everything from mermaid’s purses to buried cars.  She writes in the introduction to the book:

Of all the British coastline, this is hardly the prettiest or the most unspoilt: its sands are not the most golden, and there are no rockpools or hidden coves. Neither is it the most dramatic: no pounding surf, no rugged cliffs. Low tide can take the sea nearly two miles from shore. Stand on the beach at Ainsdale, on any reasonably bright day, and you can see the offshore wind farm in the Mersey estuary. Turn and face the other way, and there are the familiar Blackpool landmarks: the tower, the rollercoaster. But in really clear weather the bigger picture is visible: the southern fells, the Clwyddian hills, the pale but unmistakable shape of Snowdon. This is a place of big skies and lonely distances, a shifting palette of greys and blues; a wild, edge-of-the-world place.

For a general natural history and historical guide to the coast see Sands of Time Revisited (2009). Difficult to find outside Merseyside but highly recommended.