Stories in Salcombe- 3 days on the Quay

Posted on: 24th October 2017 No Comments

‘Guardians of the Reef’ our Heritage Lottery Funded project gathering and sharing stories of the ever changing shellfishing industry along the coastal villages of South Devon, got underway last week.

Guardians of the Reef project begins...

We started off in Salcombe, nationally renowned for its superb crabs, and spent 3 days in our temporary recording studio (one of the fisherman’s stores on Fish Quay) surrounded by coils of ropes and hanging ‘dans’.

Beshlie Pool the Executive Officer of South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen Association, had invited shell fishermen of all ages to come along to the store over those 3 days to share their memories, but our door was left open for anyone on the quay who fancied dropping in for a quick yarn and a cup of tea and cake.


Exploring an old oyster dredge from Salcombe Museum

Salcombe Museum had kindly lent us objects pertaining to the industry from its collection and these quickly became the focus of much discussion and the prompt we needed to get people sharing. There was a beautiful withy (willow) crab pot complete with ‘skivvers’, a wire and sisal crab pot, some sand eel keeps or curge’s (much debate has been had over the spelling of this depending on where people are from… these include kurge and cooj!) and an old fashioned scallop dredge which would have originally been made for oysters and later used for scallops. The main puzzle over the 3 days was ‘who has made the withy crab pot?’ We still hadn’t got an answer by the time we left but it made for some fascinating banter.

We had a steady flow of visitors over the days, many from families who had fished for generations and they brought personal photographs of their ancestors in action. It was only then that we truly grasped the momentous changes that had taken place over the decades.

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Geoff Foall and Terry Cook share their memories

Amongst our visitors was Steve who taught us how to splice rope and tie important knots; Terry and Geoff who talked about their early days of fishing as youngsters in the ‘50’s and explained the evolution of the crab pot from willow to plastic; Alan who explained about the processing of crab and Tim and Dave who talked about their experiences of growing up and fishing in the smaller coastal villages of Hallsands and Hope Cove. Sarah invited us into the fisherman’s store she shares with her husband Phil and we were able to see what a vital space these stores are for the repair and storage of fishing gear. She also explained how sustainable crab fishing was and how as the ‘Salcombe Fishwife’ she made it her mission to re educate the general public at local farmer’s markets. From all our visitors we got a sense of a thriving and supportive community down on Fish Quay. Thank you very much for your contributions.

As part of the project all of these recordings will be archived and some of them turned into digital stories and films we will now be making.

If you didn’t make it this time, there will be 3 further collection days at the Cricket Inn at Beesands on 13th, 14th and 15th November from 11 – 3 each day. It’s free so drop in for a yarn and a drink at any time. If you have any photographs or objects that you think we’d like to see, then bring them along too. We will also be joined by Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum who are lending us some archive photographs and artefacts for the 3 days and who will be scanning personal photographs on the Wednesday from 11-1pm.

There is also an opportunity for anyone interested in volunteering and/or doing some recordings for the project so we will be holding a free informal training session on the Monday 13th November from 3-5 pm. If you would like to find out more about this or to book a place then simply drop us an email or call us.

Sarah       07767382552

Ali         07511266140

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