What I Treasure - My beachy basket

16 Jul 2021

I have a basket of beach findings curated over many years, far and wide, I love to look over. Every treasure tells a story. Of its history and journey. And what it means to the person who uncovers it. For me beach combing, one of life’s simplest and free pleasures, shows me the uniqueness of pebbles and shells. That, like people, not one is the same. Suddenly seeing pebbles in one place the myriad hues of grey stand out. Who knew so many colours could exist outside of those fancy paint swatch cards? The smoothness. The roughness. How for some the granite really glints in the sun like precious gems. The joy of finding that stone that is kind of heart shaped and if, like your own heart, you choose to keep it or give it away. I gave my last one away, but will now be carefully guarding the latest replacement. That perfectly smooth oval pebble that has the potential of becoming a pretty painted paperweight or doorstop. A satisfying flat slate that makes the perfect skimming stone and with it the challenge to break your personal best record. For me a ‘9’ on Brean Downs beach in 2016.

Then there are the shells. Again so many types. Even in England alone. The excitement at finding a mussel shell whose two halves remain connected and the fragility of this mirroring the preciousness of our own personal connections. That pretty petrol iridescence of the inside of this common mussel shell. How that acts as a reminder to me not to judge someone by their ordinary looking outer shell and how great beauty lies inside of us all. The crab shell that has had its lifeblood pecked clean from the soaring seagulls overhead and a rogue random lonely claw poking menacingly atop the sand like some bizarre sandcastle flag. The great scallop shell that to this very day still holds all my earrings on my dressing table that I found as a small girl on a family holiday in Devon. The conch from more exotic climes that I can so clearly hear the swooshing of the sea in at my ear. A memory of my first holiday abroad, which, if I close my eyes I am transported back to that baking hot summer and broken attempts at speaking the language. 

But the finest treasure of all for me is the prized sea glass. Smooth and translucent and worn by the sea’s constant caresses. I take this from the basket and rub it in my palm to calm me when I feel anxious, like a meditative crystal, or a Catholic praying on the rosary. 

Another precious, less pretty, treasure was acquired from Portobello Beach in the summer of 2018 and brings me hope and positivity. It is a cockle shell with three barnacles clinging on for dear life - and now in death - demonstrating their sheer resilience. I look at this now in a time of great personal difficulties and draw strength from it, knowing that I too can cling on and come out the other side. 

This tradition of beach combing, like all good traditions, has continued, and now my son aged eight accompanies me as we scour the shorelines in search of our booty to add to this basket like land locked pirates. 


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July 17, 2021, 4:55 a.m.

Thank you Sue for such a lovely blog - I too have many seashore treasures, some collected on beaches around the south coast of England mainly - some treasured since childhood and kept in a chocolate box! Precious cowries - tiny ridged shells that I'd been taught to look for by my beloved Grandpa and that several of my cousins have also found examples of when scouring the tide line on the walk we all loved at low tide - from Seaview to Seagrove and Priory Bay on the Isle of Wight. Like you I enjoy finding mussel shells with the two halves still connected and I loved your description of the lesson they teach you about looking beyond the rough outside of people to the inner self - it reminds me of a silver lining (the good that can be seen even in times of trouble) I also like the imagery of the barnacles clinging to the cockle shell and how you interpreted that. My sister named a tiny baby Barnacle, as it grew inside her after she had suffered several miscarriages - hoping that it might "stick" and hold on tight, sadly barnacle didn't make it either, but happily now she is the proud mother of 5 year old triplet daughters born when she had almost given up hope of having a baby brother or sister for her son who was 8 and a half when his sisters were born. I also have a collection of more exotic shells and corals, from a time before it was recognised that it was not a good thing to destroy the living creatures whose homes were those shells and take them. As a teenager I would save my wages earned on a newspaper round to add to my collection, the first ones were bought from the Shell Shop in Appley Tower on the promenade of that area of Ryde Beach on the Isle of Wight - I added to my collection each summer, when I holidayed at my grandparent's house. Then when I went on my first foreign holidays in my later teens I added more to my collection - one I particularly like is called a Precious Wentletrap - it looks like a Mr Whippy Ice Cream. I have an Abalone shell with glorious nacre in irridescent hues of pinks and greens. These are all displayed on beautiful wooden Ercol Plate Racks on a wall in our dining room. My grandsons love listening to the sound of the sea in my giant conch shell. They also love to hunt for seaside treasures and I relive my childhood pleasures as I watch them and share their joy. We are fortunate to live in a seaside town. In fact just before I read your blog and did my moodscope cards this morning, I had opened an email from the National Trust and purchased their book of the month which is a children's book about the treasures of the seaside, planning to use it as a guide for my grandsons when we go to the seaside over the summer holidays. .



July 17, 2021, 6:14 a.m.

What a coincidence, Sue, only this morning in the bathroom, I was looking at my small shell and pebble collection and wondering at the starfish - I was sort of saddened that it was here and not in the sea, but had found him dried out and brought him ‘home’ from a holiday in Greece, on a holiday that I had loved. The pebbles that line the window ledge are all from different beaches from many visits a long time ago. I have two enormous conch shells in the garden by the summer house, that had belonged to my MiL and when she died, I was allowed to have them. I also have a couple of beautifully smooth, large stones from mountains and beaches we have climbed or combed (from before we realised we shouldn’t be taking them!). I brought back bits from a trip up Mt. Etna - the rough lava and the jet black, shiny obsidian…brings back wonderful memories of different holiday. Like Kristin, above, I appreciated the descriptions and thoughts of what’s inside can be so beautiful compared to a rough exterior…that we shouldn’t judge by appearances. I have been crocheting a few blankets in a seashell pattern…pinks, browns, sandy beiges, browns and creams, silver grey then splashes of sea greens, sky blue - the author of the pattern has put in a few different greens I think to represent the seaside grasses and the blue of the sky and sea reflections. I’ve enjoyed sitting watching them slowly grow over the past few months - brings me joy and hopefully joy to the recipients! The smooth glass we used to collect on certain beaches around N Wales, with my Mum when we were young, we’re jewelled bright! They were treasures to me. We used to get old jam jars and Mum would give us putty and we’d stick the glass on in different patterns and sell them as tea light holders at the local church fair. Such wonderful memories! Thank you for a beautiful blog which has lifted my spirits today. Love and Bear hugs x x x



July 17, 2021, 7:18 a.m.

Loved the idea! I have mine, not so full, not exactly in a basket. So many years I do not see the sea!I am a mountain person so to say.



July 17, 2021, 8:26 a.m.

Hi Sue How beautiful your descriptions are, I am so emotional. The thought for the day from St Augustine sums it up perfectly. I love the way you are able to link each treasure to something else; a memory of other days, people etc. Beautifully written, thanks for taking the time to compose it and share it with us.



July 17, 2021, 9:12 a.m.

Seashore treasures are the best! With a tiny shell or small pebble you can evoke memories of family, holidays, happy events and much more.... in seven decades of going to the sea, I don’t think we’ve ever come home from a trip without something exciting, small white pebble, little flat red stone, mussel shell. Once I bought back those slim white dried fish- looking things for the garden birds...but they were unappreciative ! On a course in Education / Special Needs, a lecturer once gave us all a tiny pebble each from his native Cornwall...the message is lost, but he remains clear in my mind for his lecture being the highlight of the day. Reminders are ever present in my stock: postcards with a message or a meaning, small vase from schoolfriend gifted to me 50 years ago, a holiday souvenir. Still useful today. A beaver toy given to me by a friend’s daughter because she knew I helped the local Beavers pack. All have meaning and value. Touching them, I feel refreshed and happy.


The Gardener

July 17, 2021, 9:37 a.m.

Sally, my family are much travelled - i do not think there is a corner of the world without a postcard in a huge album. On our own widespread travels I would send postcards to my mother, and gave her a special album. I captured it after her death, so it is a record of our own travels to add to photos. Warm my hands by them!


July 17, 2021, 6:16 p.m.

How lovely! A treasure. Only yesterday, I unearthed the parents’ address book. It’s great, voices from the past speak to me through these names and addresses.

The Gardener

July 17, 2021, 9:35 a.m.

Lovely blog, memories ARE important. I have a few very special shells - in our travels found so many - but luggage restrictions 'rationed' on. My second son is a geologist - he had a lovely selection of special rocks and fossils - he 'lodged' them with me. As he lives in Australia I doubt he will ever cart them back. Should he move nearer I doubt his wife would want them, so it looks as though they are permanent. They are displayed in my shop, subject of jealousy, as are so many of the treasures on no monetary value garnered over the years.



July 17, 2021, 9:36 a.m.

Hi Sue your lovely blog put me in mind of a favourite book of mine 'Gift from the Sea" by the wife of Lindenberg who flew the atlantic way back. Lovely reflections of life brought about by walks on the beach. I think I'll dig out my copy and have a read. Thank you my beach collection is of seaglass, beautiful refashioning by the waves of a manmade thing that shouldn't be there. Lovely thoughts xxxxDido



July 17, 2021, 10:09 a.m.

Thanks Sue for your lovely, uplifting blog!


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