James is Shrimping

I got a message via the usual social network from my friend Ash asking if I fancied a days course on the coast collecting shrimps and doing a bit of plant ID. I had seen a similar course on the Bushcraft UK website which I thought was interesting but I didn’t give it much further thought.

Being the type of bloke that I am I always prefer to go with a friend to such courses because it is great to share an experience and at some of these bushcraft type events you can get strange, sometimes competitive and often macho types whose overpowering character is as bad as their body odour and it is nice to know you will have at least one conversation partner that is on ‘your level’. I gladly signed up and as the course was £35 it was a no brainer.
We headed off relatively early for Dungeoness in Kent where we met Steve, John, Carol, and Catherine. Steve was the course leader and he also runs a highly regarded magazine called Bush We were immediately offered a hot freshly made cup of tea or coffee from the stove that was already on and heating water for a brew.
We were joined by Chiz and his partner who had driven down from Yorkshire the night before to attend the course. Steve the course leader, offers free camping at his farm for people who need accommodation before or after a course and had provided a venue for the Yorkshire couple to stay. Steve is very accommodating and generous in knowledge so I knew it was going to be a good day.
As we waited for the tide to go right out we went for a walk along the beach with buckets in hand. I tried and failed to suppress the childish excitement that I had surging through me. It took me right back to foraging with my dad for muscles, cockles and winkles. I have a memory that he ‘made’ me eat a raw muscle, but as I think that through and how inadvisable that is, I struggle to believe it actually happened, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I think I’d like to find out actually!
As we continued along the beach there was silly amounts of good-sized cockles laid out in front of us. Even Steve and John had to conceded that they hadn’t seen such a bumper amount of cockles for sometime. Amazing to see such a bounty of easily available wild food. Can it get any easier?!
We were shown how the sand looks when a cockle has snuggled just below the surface waiting for the return of the sea. I likened it to a big ‘drip’ like mark on the surface. With a couple of fingers you can easily scoop the little fella out of the sand. That said; it obvious to collect the big old boys sitting on the sand not yet submerged.
After 6 buckets of cockles between us we rinsed them in clean water and then filled up each bucket to allow the cockles to purge themselves and spit out the sand. No-one likes a gritty mouthful right?
Leaving the cockles to do their thing we were each given a shrimping push net. This type of net has been used for hundreds of years and the simple design hasn’t needed any update. We walked off toward the sea which was someway out and I am pleased to say that the water was as warm as I could have hoped. Despite walking quite far into the sea it was still only calf-knee deep. Confident I was in a good spot I dropped the net and starting pushing. After 10 minutes or so it was the moment I had been waiting for (for at least the last 10 minutes or so) and whilst maintaining a forward motion (so everything doesn’t flow out of your net) I raised the whole net out of the water and inspected what the sea had offered me.
The short answer is not as much as I would have liked. A baby crab, sea ‘rubbish’, a Rockling fish (cute) and some, but not many shrimps. I could tell I was going to have to play the long game on this one so collecting the good in my bucket and discarding everything else I dropped my net and carried on pushing.
It was so much fun that I lost track of time but I reckon after an hour we headed back to the cars with a huge amount shrimp. We all did good, and there was loads of shrimp and I even caught a fat prawn.
We handed the now purged cockles and shrimp over to Carol and Catherine and then after a cuppa we went for a wonder along the beach, this time above the high tide mark looking for vegetation.
From where we parked the car we could see a massive Sea Kale plant and as we  walked over for a closer look a dog ran in front of us and pee’d on it. We decided to move on…
Sea Kale was apparently massively popular in the 1700’s but has now fallen out of fashion which as great as far as I am concerned as it feels like a secret that I am now in on. The root is apparently very nutritious and you can eat it raw if you like, but I reckon it’s got to be fairly tough.
Back at base we handed over a bag full of Sea Kale and Sea Beet and we ate. We ate and we ate some more. Freshly cooked shrimps, the cockles and various other dishes that the ladies had pre-prepared such as a beautiful creamy seafood pasta dish, potted shrimp and a selection of pickles, pies, and breads. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
Truth be known, I was a pig. I was a seafood eating machine. I ate cockles by the handful, literally both hands full and I had to ask the person next to me to grind some black pepper on top. I ate three or four times this volume in shrimp. I removed the head and ate the rest, the legs barely visible through a mass of juicy eggs – amazing. There was a lot of good food and I was very pleased a help out re-homing it.
We finished the day with another cup of coffee, and a couple of take away bites of food for the journey home.
Big thanks to all the Bushcraft Magazine guys for a great day. I’ll be back next year for sure.
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About James G

It's a bit of this, and a little of that. Nothing fancy. You're welcome to it.
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One Response to James is Shrimping

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