Weekends in Cornwall are a time for relaxation and enjoyment and for The Cornish Fishmonger’s family, living close to the south coast between two incredible stretches of water, it’s unsurprising we make the most of our aquatic location! Paddy our fox red Labrador loves a run around on the beach so, off to the banks of the River Fal we went one sunny day, choosing a very special tranquil location, accessed only by a road built by the Americans during the last world war. This particular beach or foreshore was used as an embarkation point by one of the airborne divisions who left for France in 1944. How different it must have looked to those who occupied the beaches over seventy years ago.
On reaching the beach I realised we had chosen the very lowest point the tide and also the lowest tide of the year. Instead of the usual few yards of stony foreshore, unveiled before us was a vast expanse of tidal sand bar, stretching out into the river some two hundred yards.
Turnaware Bar as it is known is we suspect, the result of millions of years’ worth of oyster shells being deposited by the fast flowing tidal waters of the Fal river. At its deepest, between forty and sixty feet of empty oyster shells, now present as crushed sands across hundreds of square yards of the bar. The surface is covered by the internationally renowned River Fal oyster. Varying sizes of shells act as a top dressing; many are still inhabited but, the majority have long since lost their occupiers serving as camouflage against predators or hungry humans. Also in occupation were razor clams squirting plumes of water from their airborne periscopes, whilst a bed of black Cornish mussels sunned themselves in the midday warmth.
So the scene is set, you have been transported to the epicentre of the Cornish oyster fishery, the River Fal. It’s the only oyster fishery in Europe using traditional methods of energy (oar or sail) to harvest this revered mollusc and, there’s not a wiff of diesel or petrol smoke anywhere to be seen during fishing hours! Such marine diversity and pristine habitat is exciting to see and experience. The cohabitation of a valuable commercial fishery within a balanced and sustainable ecosystem should be celebrated. Next time you visit your fishmonger, when there is an “R” in the month, ask him for some oysters from the River Fal, knowing you are enjoying a celebrated seafood, harvested for hundreds of years in harmony with its environment. Take a moment to savour this unmistakable shellfish, regarded by many as the height of luxury, irrespective of the champagne fancy London restaurants would have you drink as a suitable accompaniment.
Oh, and tell him The Cornish Fishmonger sent you!