Living in South Devon with so many beautiful beaches to choose from, I have always been amazed by the vast differences in types of stone or pebble on each one. The beaches might only be a few miles apart but they all have their own signature. Bending down to pick up a pebble that then fits perfectly into my palm, or running thousands of tiny stones through my fingers, as I sit and chat with family and friends, has never lost its appeal; the colours, textures, shapes and sizes still delight. The wide, long and endlessly sandy beaches of my childhood in Yorkshire were washed by the freezing North Sea. Stones were thin on the ground there unless you were into collecting granite slabs - my brothers and I became experts in digging holes and burying each other up to the neck in sand instead, largely to keep warm, if I remember rightly. Later, the craggy dark stones on the Jurassic Coast took on a different and more urgent purpose - we never considered their shape or size or beauty, in fact we never gave them a second glance, we cracked them open mindlessly hoping they would share their hidden secrets with us. Then, one summer on the island of Ithaka in Greece when my own children were small, we stumbled upon a tiny beach covered in large, perfectly round, snowy white pebbles rubbed smooth by the Ionian Sea. I found them exquisitely beautiful and I have never forgotten the way they felt in my hands, a strange combination of softness and weight. I'm sure that if we could have seen inside them they would have been full of gold.