26 Jul 2009

The Removal of Stones from Beaches and Rivers

I’ve been slightly perturbed recently by the growing number of rune sets appearing for sale online that are apparently made from pebbles taken from beaches or river banks, as well as the increasing practice of selling these stones as they are for others to use in their craft. Obviously I’m not aware of how things work anywhere other than the UK, but the practice of taking stones, sand, pebbles or shingle from a beach is illegal in this country, not least because beaches are “property” and can be owned just like fields! Above the high water line a beach is treated just like any other land and can be owned by anyone (quite often the National Trust, although there are at least 5 or 6 privately owned beaches in my area) while between the high and low water marks it is owned by the crown. In a similar way, riverbanks and beds are someone’s property. In the cases where the river forms a boundary between two neighbouring properties, unless otherwise stated the line of the boundary follows the centre of the river, thereby allowing the ownership of one bank each. So quite clearly any removal of stones (or anything else, for that matter) from these places is common theft. There have been cases of keen gardeners being prosecuted for taking large rocks from local beaches or Dartmoor to use in their garden rockeries, so the legal implications are potentially quite serious… do you really want a criminal record, let alone a hefty fine? But apart from the legal side of things, and probably more important from a pagan perspective, anyone carrying off stones or pebbles from any part of the countryside is damaging the environment and helping to destroy natural ecosystems and our wonderful landscape. It might seem harmless to just take a small bag of pebbles or a pocket full of smooth stones, but these individual actions added together mount up and really do have a detrimental effect. There are beaches not too far from where I live that have beautifully smooth round stones that people have literally carried off by the truckload, and as a result the beaches no longer protect the cliffs from the effects of the sea and major erosion is taking place with large areas of the cliff face crumbling into the ocean. On a larger scale, the removal of a protective shingle ridge just offshore to build Plymouth breakwater in the early part of the nineteenth century has had a devastating effect on my local coastline, with one village having been completely destroyed and several more, together with a major road, seriously threatened. The road has been given an expected lifespan of just 30 years before it disappears for ever, and many millions of pounds have been spent on sea defences for the villages, although it looks as if ultimately they too will be lost. The same can be said of the practice of taking large quantities of those wonderful stones with natural holes worn through them (called “Lucky Stones” where I come from) in order to sell them. In any case, these mini wonders of nature aren’t meant to be sold, they’re meant to be found on a walk along the beach as a gift from the Gods and cherished as such, rather than be turned into an article of commerce. So please, think carefully before you buy articles that may be made from natural materials that really should have been left where they were.


  1. Here in the states u can take stones from a beach.

  2. That's not true, stealing from beaches is a crime. Stealing town property in the United States ( many beaches are towns property ) is regarded as a crime

  3. Actually, technically, in the states I believe it is only illegal when one tries to make profit, at least in PA and NY, as there have been quite a few times a governor or a mayor come through and look for beach glass and driftwood as a part of a decoration. Personally, I have found that artifacts from the lakes have a lot of energy and can be healing. The lawmakers get upset when people take the objects from public property and try to sell it for money. Think of it as the same logic as a child picking up pinecones and acorns from a public park.


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