I love a good pebble. Smooth to the touch and totally individual. They've become synonymous with calm: used in Zen gardens, wallpaper on iPhones and by designers on tablemats to bring the outside in. In Lyme Regis, there's a whole beach of them. And on this beach I found Adrian Gray (pictured above) engrossed in the fine art of stone balancing. Not just pebbles in this case, but huge, back-wrenching stones that he somehow rests on one another at incredible angles. It really is a case of "how does he do that?". Is it sticky tape, magic or spiritualism? Well none of these. As Adrian says: "It's a paradox of fragility and solidity. These are really heavy stones, balanced in a very, very fragile way. It's the illusionary quality that makes it so magical. Your brain is telling you that's not possible, while your eyes say it is."
Adrian got his inspiration for stone balancing from exploring The Undercliff, part of Dorset's "Jurassic Coast". He began experimenting with anthropomorphic shapes out of the stones he found which evolved into stone balancing.
"Parents seem to focus on the sense of wonder," he says, "while children are much more pragmatic about how the balancing works. We went to Charmouth Primary School, which is right on the beach, to do a workshop and even the more hyperactive kids were able to concentrate on the task of balancing stones."
I realise that while I'm spellbound, my kids are matter-of-fact about it all. They haven't been sullied by what's just not possible in this world.
Travel has shown them many impossibles already, from upside-down jellyfish in the Cayman Islands to a twinkling Christmas tree in the 30C heat of Mauritius in December. Which is, of course, why travelling is such a different experience for a child. The most ordinary things that an adult would pass by, a child marvels at, while they often accept the bizarre. And Britain can be just as intoxicating and exotic to a child as a far-flung shore. The pebbles are as wondrous in Lyme Regis (not least for their hidden fossils) as anywhere on the planet.
Footprint's 'Dorset, New Forest & Isle of Wight with Kids' is available now (£13.99)Reuse content