Tag Archives: Salty

The Oystercatcher

Oystercatchers

Oystercatchers

The previous post focussed on the centuries old tradition of shell-fishing in the estuary but we have competition from nature.

Wander along the Teign estuary and you can’t fail to notice one of the iconic birds of the river – the oystercatcher.  The flashes of their bright orange bills sprinkle the Salty and the mudflats exposed on the ebbing tide.

The Oystercatcher
(Keats Ghost)

Coax a cockle from its cradle of sand,
muscle a mussel off a seaweed strand,
shuck open an oyster if you can …..
….. the oystercatcher can.

The oystercatcher’s tough enough
shuffling and scuffling each seaweed tuft,
sieving the mud and sand and stuff
of the Salty at low tide.

The shrill, the noise of oystercatchers
stilting boisterous on the Salty’s thatch,
thrilling at the bounteous catch
of fruits de mer ….. with samphire on the side.

With mincing gait and shrug of the wing
they’re cocks-of-the-walk as they sift and sing,
drifting where the mussels cling
and the cockles and oysters hide.

Coax a cockle, muscle a mussel,
shuck open an oyster if you can …..
….. the oystercatcher can.

Check out alsoThe Oystercatchers Cafe

Shaldon Bridge

Old Shaldon Bridge

Old Shaldon Bridge

In the last post we crossed the Teign by the ferry, as would have Keats.  But in 1827 the longest wooden bridge in the country, almost a third of a mile long, was constructed across the river to join Teignmouth and Shaldon.  The bridge has had a chequered history, suffering the ravages of the environment and shipworm which have caused it to be rebuilt several times.  The bridge is still an iconic feature of the estuary – Muse and the Olympic flame crossed it in 2012.  The views from the bridge are stunning, both across the Salty down to the sea and upriver towards the heights of Dartmoor.  It was the inspiration for this poem by Kim Edwards.

Shaldon Bridge
(Kim Edwards)

There I was across the bay walking not an hour ago.
Now here I am.
If I had stayed where my eyes rest now
time would have moved on
the tide would still have filled the bay.
Spin drift still settled into inland emptiness
Just as now.

Would I have had to run and rush like this tide beneath this bridge
To catch myself here,
To fill the places in me emptied of your presence
My life’s landscape emptied of those I once knew, without knowing as my people
Washed out to that sea and emptied of their own lives
Taken like so much cliff face fallen
On the outgoing tide of Time, that vast majority element
That holds us all within this very moment.

Standing on the bridge my inner eye rests upon places where
The people I lived amongst lived as my organs live
Amongst one another deep within my overcoat of membrane and skin
All who once were part of me and I of them
No more mine now than my own life feels is mine
Stranger in it that I am
Filled with the flotsam and jetsam of other people’s lives
I no longer recognise nor truly fit within my own.

As here I stand now empty, alone
Filled with longing for the home of belonging I once knew
The tides turn, turn once more
Returning I turn, walk on.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Shaldon Bridge …..