Shedding new light on our coastline

Jules Pretty spent a year rambling and meandering around the entire East Anglia coastline on a personal odyssey of exploration with his discoveries featuring in an enriching book. Keiron Pim reports.

Jules Pretty cites a couple of American writers who guided his thinking as he prepared to walk the entire East Anglian coastline. One quotation comes from Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century author whose work forms a blueprint for the personal, lyrical and authoritative 'new nature writing' of the last decade.

'I wish to make an extreme statement,' said Thoreau. 'Walking is about the genius for sauntering. It is not about getting somewhere, but being somewhere.'

But the more combative Edward Abbey put it in terser terms: 'You can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees.'

Jules took their advice to heart, not following Abbey's instructions to the letter but at least abandoning the automobile and lacing up a sturdy pair of boots. The way to begin to understand the East Anglian coast, to feel a sense of deciphering its mystique, was to ramble and meander and stop and think whenever necessary, to take 'time to stand and stare' as WH Davies' poem Leisure has it, to walk with the intention of absorbing the surroundings rather than with a destination in mind. For this reason he dropped his original plan to trek along the whole coastline in one stint – better to go at different times of the year and see the coast in different weathers, and to focus on the feel of individual places rather than on a long journey from A to B. He'd had the idea while poring over a map of East Anglia, he explains, and now his account of a year's exploration is published as This Luminous Coast, the latest lavish East Anglian hardback issued by the Suffolk-based Full Circle Editions.

'The interesting thing about the coast is, if you think of East Anglia as being like half of a wheel, one tends to go to the coast as if you're going along the spokes of the wheel. You drive to a place, get out and walk for a bit, then get in the car and go back inland. Whereas when you walk around the edge, you're walking around the edge of the wheel and you kind of come in the back door of places.'

This Luminous Coast, by Jules Pretty, is published by Full Circle Editions at �25 but EDP readers may buy it at �22.50 including free P&P, direct from the publishers. Send a cheque made out to Full Circle Editions, to: Parham House Barn, Brick Lane, Framlingham Suffolk IP13 9LQ or telephone 01728 723321 and quote 'EDP offer'.

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To find out more about Jules Pretty's life-changing exploring of the East Anglian coast see the EDP Sunday supplement in tomorrow's EDP.

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