Walking over the WavesThis is a fantastic, informative and well illustrated book on the Piers of England & Wales. I wish I could say that in all honesty, but sadly it is badly let down by the authors strange fascination with litter bins, toilets, parking as close to the pier as possible and a style which renders some sections so jumbled as to be verging on unreadable.
The Author, Chris Foote Wood (Comedian Victoria Wood's Brother) has set the book out as a Gazeteer, with a brief intro followed by 2-6 pages on each extant pier around the coast of England, Wales and the Isle of Man. There is no explanation given for the omission of Scotland (or Ireland for that matter), except that the book describes an odyessey in 2007 when all of the included piers were visited.
The over-reference of litter bins, toilets, etc seems to be due to the authors age - He is aiming the book at OAPs who are seeking out piers to relive their youth, long before the modern arcades and the like took over. Nevertheless, such matters are easy to overlook. What is not so easy to miss is the jumble of information. While each pier is given its own 'chapter', complete with a key information list at the end, the body of text is not so well thought out.
Each pier seems to start with a paragraph on 'first impressions', but after that it is anyones guess. Breaking the information into sections such as 'Construction & Extensions', 'Calamities & Disasters', 'The Pier today', and adding in additional sections where appropriate would undoubtedly have made the author think more about how he laid out the text, but instead we have the comical situation where Southend Pier has a paragraph which starts explaining why the pier celebrated its centenary when it was 105 years old, before charging headlong into WW2; Southwold Pier starts a paragraph about the MV Balmoral berthing at the pier in 2002, before leaping seam-fully back to 1899 and the piers construction; Swanage Pier dives from visiting steamers and boat trips into the Swanage Swimming Club's Diving Platform. These are just a few of the puzzling leaps, which confuse rather than inform the reader.
BUT, despite all of this, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Piers. It doesn't cover the piers that have been lost, it doesn't (as mentioned above) cover Scotland or Ireland, but it does have a lot of information lost in its pages, and after all there are 56 piers covered in the 180-odd pages. Even better value when you manage to pick it up in Border's Closing Down Sale!!!