Just before Christmas at Charmouth in Dorset the sea was choppy and rough, noisily chasing shingle up the beach. It was nearly high tide. You couldn’t see the sand or the flat rocky bit that has the piddock shells burying into it. The stones had all been pushed way up into big mounds mixed in with long-dead seaweed. It’s a treasure trove there. The mud and clay of the cliffs slips down in great heaps when the weather has been very wet. The soft glutinous sediment hold rocks, fossils, and a variety of finds from old Victorian rubbish dumps that were once dug into the ground on the cliff tops.

I’m not very good at spotting the fossils- although I do occasionally see small bullet-shaped belemnites and ammonites. Some of the ammonites have been transformed into knobbly spirals of iron-pyrites nodules. But what I usually search for are pieces of beach glass. Beach glass is quite hard to find on beaches nowadays because fewer bottles are dumped in the sea and more go to recycling. All the beach glass at Charmouth is very old. The broken pieces have been churning around in the surf and the stones for decades or even centuries. The result is a smooth pearly finish that makes even glass that was originally plain and clear look attractive. Colours range through all shades of green and brown but the rarest is dark blue. Dark blue glass was used in the past to make poison bottles; do you remember those six-sided ribbed poison bottles from when you were a child after the war? Discovering a piece of blue glass is special.

I love to collect beach glass – and even the small pieces of beach-worn pottery from domestic crockery with pretty glazes that you find there as well. My son makes some of the larger, more colourful pieces into jewellery by wrapping silver wire around them in intricate designs and hanging them on a chord. The rest, I usually pop into a tall glass cylinder I have on the mantelpiece so that I can enjoy their colours and patterns in the sunlight.


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14 Replies to “Beach Glass at Charmouth”

  1. Thank you for letting me know about your site. I think there is a lot more sea glass around in the States. It’s quite rare here. I have passed on your details to my jewellery-making son.


  2. Hello. I am pleased that my blog was useful. You are correct. The calcareous tubes on your sea glass are the homes of the marine polychaete bristle worm Pomatoceros triqueter. It has a common name of ‘German Writing’ because people thought the patterns that the tubes made zigging and zagging over hard surfaces like shells and stones resembled Gothic script.


  3. Thanks so much. German Writing is a bit of a leap of imagination! But, in time, perhaps one can train even a worm? Anyway, I’m training a few to decorate sea glass…


  4. It must be quite unusual to find anything encrusting sea glass if sea glass is formed by broken bottles rolling in the surf and sand. You would think that organisms wouldn’t have much chance to settle.
    I admit, your worm tubes looked more like scribble because they were heaped on on top of another in a mini reef. They look more like ancient script when there are not so many. I’ll see if I can find a better example of the phenomenon to photograph.


  5. Yes, you are quite right. This piece was firmly jammed between rocks in a shallow pool (at low tide) and had probably been there for some time after it had been tumbled by the waves. It’s the only piece I’ve found in this condition and in this position. I will call it my Gothic Collection, even if it isn’t a good example and is unique.


  6. I don’t think I am as serious a collector as you. I have not subdivided and categorised my collection. However, I do have a variety of colours and I have included some waterworn pieces of glazed and unglazed pottery.


  7. Me too. When there is little glass a piece of pottery becomes an entrancing find, suddenly.

    I only get to the beach once a week and then low tide is only a few times a year because I go at the same time, gravity being what it is.

    I just put the interesting pieces into a thimble and the rest are in a bucket.


  8. I usually display my beach glass finds in bowls or glass jars on my windowsill or mantlepiece where the light can shine through them or reflect off them.. If I find large pieces with interesting shapes, then I usually give them to my son who converts them into great pendants. At the moment my sea glass display is actually my computer screen saver. I’ll see if I can upload the image and a couple of others to http://seaglasslovers.ning.com.


  9. I will look out for your pictures. (I assume you have joined the site.) Your son might like to join as well-there are lots of jewellery makers, although the site doesn’t allow commercial or jewellery posting. The founder Linda Jereb runs her own business.

    The beach at Seaham has some beautiful glass. Look out for postings by Peter Mowbray.


  10. Thank you for the information, Ian. Is Seaham in Devon? I’ll look out for postings by Peter Mowbray.


  11. I wish! Its near Sunderland, and is one of the top beaches, along with Fort Bragg Glass Beach in CA. (Look for postings from Feather).


  12. Both are a long way to travel – but presumably worth it if you are an avid seaglass collector!


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