Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett

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Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Musings on a year's wanderings along the coasts of Britain plus some stunning photography make this a book to treasure. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 168 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Zart Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0957490215

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Over the course of a year Lisa Woollett invites us to go with her on her visits to various beaches in the British Isles, although 'visits' might make what happens sound a little too formal. Woollett knows her local beaches, and some further afield, in much the same way that a gardener knows their own plot. She's aware of minute changes, how the phase of the moon will affect the tide, what she can expect to find in the strandline and where it's come from. She delights in every variation of the weather and she's a mine of wonderful information from ancient myths to up-to-the-minute science.

The writing is superb, almost poetic. She has that talent which all the best writers have: if you look closely at the words you won't understand why it's quite so good. There are no literary devices, language is simple and everyday and the locations available to us all. She describes her finds and isn't precious when she doesn't know what something is - we get to hear what she thinks it is and what it turns out to be. We catch her slight feeling of discomfort as her friend cleans out the skulls she's found on the beach, but she perfectly captures the reality and the atmosphere of that ever-changing area between the sea and the land, time and time again. Let me give you an example:

The children go off to play above the beach them almost out of hearing, and for a while I am left alone on the sand. I close my eyes to the spring sunshine and gradually the sounds of the sea begin to separate. Over everything is the swash of waves on the shore, rhythmic as breathing, and after each rush the hiss of the backwash, as water seeps away into the sand. At each side of the cove the sea laps at the base of the cliff, with all the small playful sounds - almost musical - of water amongst the rocks.

Magical, isn't it?

But that makes it sound rather dry and this book is anything but. Whilst she walks the beach she muses about whether or not the children will be too old to run down the beach in their pants next year - and you can imagine just what stage they're at, just as you can feel for them as they struggle into last year's wet suits. Woollett is fascinating on the ecology of the beach - and I laughed out loud at the list of plastics found on the beach, which included a couple of moustaches.

If all this sounds good, then there is more to come: as well as being a gifted writer, Woollett is also a talented photographer and the images in the book are stunning. She has an unusual breadth of talent as a photographer: her seascapes are just as good as her closeups of marine life. Weather is captured exceptionally well and you can sense the moods of the sea. I really felt that I was there on the beach as I sat in the garden and read: gulls are not uncommon in this part of the Yorkshire Dales, but I was sure that I could still hear the sounds of the sea, even after I'd closed the book.

Sea Journal is a classy book: it has all the bells and whistles of an upmarket coffee table book at a fraction of the price and with a lot more substance. The index is business like and works well and the list of further reading is very tempting. I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you'll also enjoy Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by Jean Sprackland. Those with an interest in water will appreciate How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley.

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Buy Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sea Journal by Lisa Woollett at


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