Jean Sprackland (one of our writers)
May 2012
Jonathan Cape

About the publication

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.


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.

The 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.

The Guardian