Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Oh my Silver Darlings. In Praise of the Humble Herring

Fair weather drew the crowds down along Clovelly on Sunday to a celebration in praise of the humble herring. By chance we shared the trip down in the landrover with the present owner of Clovelly, the Hon. John Rous and a lady wrestling with some unwieldy cake-laden trays. The scrumptious looking buns and scones were destined for sale at the Lifeboat House. Down at the harbour a huge colony of gulls were squawking above the water and some Jolly Jack Tars were singing shanties acappella. Below the old Lime Kiln smoke was rising from the Kipperman's little hut. The Kipperland exhibition tells the story of the herring and how a small fish has played such an important part in the history of  Great Britain. On the beach Flaxland were demonstrating flax processing and net making. There were also three examples of flax woven craft. The curragh, a traditional craft from the west coast of Ireland used for fishing, kelp gathering and island hopping, a coricle and a canoe both made using flax fabrics. Languishing across the harbour with its red sails standing out against the grey quay stone wall was "Little Lily", Clovelly's very own Picarroner. It's hard to believe that at one time this harbour was filled with up to ninety fishing boats which landed nearly a million herrings. Harbour Master, Stephen Perham is one of the last herring fishermen in Clovelly, he still uses "Little Lily" to fish for Herring. Clovelly Herring Festival is a real food fest and the stalls along the quay did well to keep up with demand. You could buy fresh herring and mullet, local bread, beer and cider, mulled wine, preserves liquorice, confectionery and rock. In between the produce stalls, there was a colourful array of local hand-made crafts including stained glass, mosaics, jewellery, patchwork and haberdashery, knitted gifts and knitting yarns. A choice of delicious fishy treats were served up in the Quay kitchens, herring specialities, spicy mullet chowder, tale of three herrings, fish cakes and stir fry. We really enjoyed our Kipper Baguette. The Pancake stall was very popular especially with the kids. There was also a "Ships in a Bottle" display and a photographic exhibition. Flying the flag for the natural world on land, sea and in the air were the North Devon AONB, the National Trust and the RSPB. Kids were kept amused by a variety of event-themed craft activities. Time for a beer and a sit down and a chance to take in the view, listen to more sea shanties this time with guitar, banjo and fiddle from local group "Fifers Ruse" and Bideford folk band "Shake a Leg". The sun, low at this time of year, came out briefly highlighting the woodland which clings to the 400 feet cliffs above Clovelly Harbour. It is really a dream location for photographers and film makers. Dressed in old sea-fairing garb, the Exmouth Shanty Singers made a wonderful tableau and they and that plucky little Penguin were probably the most photographed subjects on the day. Heave Away, Haul Away, Up Along - time for that Bacon Bap. Article and photos by Pat Adams

Clovelly was once a major centre for herring fishing. This popular festival is held in support of sustainable fishing by traditional methods and to celebrate the herring, the Silver Darlings of the sea.  Click here to visit Clovelly Village Website - Whats On at Clovelly   
We recommend the Bacon Bap at the Clovelly Visitor Centre
Click here for North Devon Coast and Country Chronicle post on the Clovelly, Crab and Lobster Festival

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