I chose this book because I read the blurb and thought it sounded really interesting and for someone who likes a good forage, be it in skips or on the shoreline, I reckoned I would really like it. I was therefore really surprised, when I opened the book, to see that the final chapter was titled Whitsand Bay, South Cornwall – my local beach and so my interest became even greater.
It starts in London on the bank of the Thames and charts the history of the writer’s family, who were in the different trades of waste disposal or recycling. A stone’s throw from the Strand to the mouth of the Thames around the Isle of Sheppey to the beaches of north and south Cornwall, it’s a catalogue of what we’ve thrown away and how an enormous amount ends up in our estuaries and oceans. Yes, it’s a sober read but fascinating to hear about the mud larking of the Victorians and how, until the middle of the last century, most items chucked away were made of natural materials that could degrade and it wasn’t until the onset of plastic and the idea of a ‘throw away’ culture that we started to have a really disastrous impact.
However, in the past people would also dispose of items too large for collection into the estuaries, thrown off cliffs and now, as land is being eroded, items are re emerging from beyond the mud and silt. The modern age equivalent of dinosaur bones.
On Whitsand Bay the problem is micro plastics and after storms the beach at low tide can be littered with millions of nurdles. On one day alone a beach clean collected over 3.5 million nurdles and yes, they were counted by Rob Arnold a regular beach cleaner who decided to count them to raise awareness. For accounts of his beach combing check out his Instagram
It would make a great Christmas present for anyone interested in mud larking, beach combing, or just anyone actually.
‘Over the course of a single lifetime- my mum’s- we have become a truly throwaway culture, recklessly squandering our planets resources’ Lisa Woollett