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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Pebble Pinching
Man (unidentifiable) on Chesil bank
When does picking up a keepsake turn into theft?

Chesil Bank beach in Dorset forms part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site but, say conservationists, its currently under threat from visitors who are taking too many pebbles away from the beach.

The beach is an eighteen mile long bank enclosing Britain's largest tidal lagoon.

It's fascinated geologists and naturalists because of it's unique formation which creates a natural sea defence to protect the coast from Atlantic Storms. Unique wildlife shelters behind the defence.

Visitors to Britain's beaches often slip a few pebbles in their pocket as a keep sake but now a few pebbles have turned into tons. According to Chesil Bank and Fleet Nature Reserve, shingle is now often being taken away in sacks, wheelbarrows and, in the most extreme cases at night, driven away in tractors and trailers.

At 0820 this morning we'll be live at Chesil Bank, talking to conservationists about the problem and what can be done.

Earlier on Breakfast, our reporter Mike Sergeant spoke to a Marine Archaeologist at Chesil Beach, Gordon Lepard.

He explained that because Chesil is a fossil beach, the stones are irreplaceable. And there are no new pebbles being washed up on the beach : so once the pebbles have been taken, they're gone forever.

It's like picking wildflowers on a nature reserve

At Chesil Bank, there are around 20 - 30 incidents of people being caught removing shingle from the bank each year - that's double what it was a year ago.

Beach Warden Don Moxom, agreed that the beach wasn't in immediate danger, but said that it was important to make people aware of the problem - and discourage them from taking the pebbles.

What do you think can be done to protect the beach? Are over-enthusiastic gardeners to blame? Or is the beach a natural resource for everyone to share? Send us your views.

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Breakfast reporter Mike Sergeant at Chesil Beach

BBC Breakfast



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