'This Luminous Coast' is a social and ecological portrait of one of the richest yet least-known regions of Britain. Over the course of a year, Jules Pretty walked the coasts of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, completing 400 miles on foot and travelling a further 100 miles in a variety of boats. This is a coast about to be lost: not yet, perhaps, but soon. A thousand years ago a king commanded the waves to retreat to show human futility in the face of nature. Others built sea walls and estuary defences. Small stretches of cliffs provided natural protection, as did shingle heaped into banks. Sea walls were raised, yet still churches, houses and whole settlements fell into the sea.
This process continues inexorably. In 50 to 100 years it is possible that no landscapes by the sea will survive quite as they are today. What, some may ask, is there to lose?
The Luminous Coast is Jules Pretty's exhilarating but disturbing answer to that question. Pretty, a noted East Anglian academic and environmentalist, takes the reader with him on a journey over land and water, over sea walls of dried grass, beside stretched fields of golden cereal, alongside white sails gliding across the intricate lacework of invisible creeks and estuaries, under vast skies that are home to curlews and redshanks and the outpouring of skylarks.