Recently increasing numbers of people are taking pebbles from our beaches, to decorate and be used as messages of hope and positivity in these difficult times. Although a seemingly thoughtful idea, did you know every small pebble and rock plays a very important role on the beach and altering this environment can lead to serious consequences?
Each pebble, no matter how small, acts as a natural flood defence, protecting the surrounding area and homes from potentially serious flooding. The pebbles absorb the sea’s energy and prevent the formation of bigger waves. Without these pebbles or shingle banks, waves would continue building to full force and the larger the waves, the higher the risk of flooding.
On beaches where there is also a sea wall, the pebbles actually protect it from erosion and damage – acting as a natural cost saver.
Alongside this pebbles play a vital role in the unique ecosystem found on shingle beaches, which is home to highly specialized plant and animal species. A pebble beach might seem a seem hostile environment, but actually it is rich in life! Shingle beaches act as nesting grounds for birds, such as Ringed Plover, and even resting grounds for migratory species. Breeding birds such as gulls, waders and terns enjoy a shingle beach and you’ll often spot Sanderlings, Turnstones and many more searching for food amongst the pebbles.
Above the tideline, you’ll find many species of bees, insects and even spiders amongst the plants, such as Sea Holly, Sea Kale, Sea Beet and the beautiful Yellow Horned Poppy.
Since the Coastal Protection Act of 1949, removing stones from public beaches is actually illegal. You might think that taking just one of a few pebbles is harmless and won’t lead to flooding or damaged habitats. However, think if every visitor to the beach took one pebble away with them…
Recent suggestions to decorate pebbles and display them around streets and parks, is not the most responsible way of spreading hope and positivity in these difficult times. We can show thanks to key workers and lift spirits in other ways – rainbows in windows, clapping for carers or leaving written messages of hope on paper. Please help spread the message and raise awareness of the importance of these unassuming little rocks!
Next time you visit the beach, remember leave only footprints and take only memories…
If you’d like to find out more about the shingle beaches of the North West, take a look at our Find A Beach page.