Friday 26 April 2019

Appledore – Shrimps and Sheepskin Fiddlers

Grade II listed and one of the oldest properties in Appledore, Dock Cottage was home for our weeks family holiday. With a prime location and panoramic estuary views over to Instow just added to the character of the property. A large patio area to dine, crab and occasionally fish off I was looking forward to the Easter Break. It's been a long time since Christmas and New Year and the daily grind was taking its toll.

Now Appledore, famous for its narrow streets, colourful fisherman’s cottages and boat building centre dating back many years is a popular holiday destination all year round, but my Twin Brother and his 3 daughters lives down this neck of the woods now having moved from Coventry, so it’s always good to catch up. Especially as a pub crawl is always in order, and shared time away from the kids to put the world to rights.

Appledore has always been a sea-faring place, with free-port status. In the 1580's there were 15 vessels and 115 mariners registered here. Many of these sailors are understood to have helped defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Fishing was a lucrative trade in the 16th and 17th Centuries both in the Bristol Channel and further afield as far as Newfoundland. In the 18th & 19th Centuries Appledore was in the deep-sea & coastal trade and many brigs were used to import domestic goods from Bristol & Liverpool, and coal & limestone from South Wales.

Dock cottage where we were staying was apparently the residence for the owner of the Dock in days gone by. Construction started in 1853 and was completed 3 years later. This entailed the demolition of some alms-houses close to the site, and the construction of outbuildings, rigging lofts, saw mills and smith shops.

When finished, the dock brought work and prosperity to Appledore, not only in ship repairing, but in many other maritime trades, from boat building & sail making to rope making & chandlery. The resulting Dry Dock was 330 feet long, 36 feet wide, and could hold 2 large vessels at once. The first ship to be sailed over from Prince Edward Island, and brought into the Dock, arrived on 17 July 1856.

In more recent times with the onset of World War II in 1939, there was plenty of work: old wooden sailing ships were converted for barrage-balloon defence; motor gun-boats, landing-craft & wooden mine-sweepers for the Admiralty were needed. The contribution of the workers to the war effort cannot be under-stated. History here in abundance.

As I’m typing this though the current dock owners are seeking proposals for the use of the dry dock, as work dried up excuse the pun. Luckily the site is recognised as being of special historical importance, it is Grade II listed, and has the potential to be a Maritime Heritage Centre, which if realised, would contribute towards the general regeneration of the North Devon area. The UK likes to look after its heritage so let’s hope they can sort that out pretty quickly.

It didn’t help that one of the more recent companies to run it were taken to court and eventually prosecuted over noise and also because of water from the estuary was seeping into the dock and becoming contaminated with oils, sludges, paint and dirt from dismantled vessels. Instead of containing any contaminated water, FTD Marine Ltd pumped it back over gates and into the estuary. !!!!

That’s no good is it, so maybe a heritage centre would be the best use for it, a recent proposal and subsequent refusal by the council for flats and large-scale redevelopment of Richmond Dock was upheld by Secretary of State, so I’ll be watching with interest what they will eventually do with it.

Now out of the many watering holes to be visited, the Champ public house is one of my favourites down this neck of the woods, some fine Clearwater Brewery ales on tap (bottled ones are poor), live open mic sessions most evening and barmaids like they should be, you know, a proper pub !!!!

The weather had picked up as well because the 3 or 4 weeks prior, the bitterly cold wind really did hang around far more than I’d liked, and I was ready to pack ones winter coat. But with daytime temperatures in to the early twenties, it really had kicked up a notch. So much so, my Brother would be hosting a Barbi on the Sunday such the upturn.

To be fair we do well for the weather in the UK when we’ve holidayed here despite every year adding to the CO2 issue by venturing to far flung sunnier climes to be able to don the shorts, wear the rays without having to look at the weather app. Get good weather and location in the UK, it really is hard to beat.

We had quite a lot planned for the week round and about, but just being able to get out every day in to the fresh sea air everyday works wonders for mood, especially as the environment I work in doesn’t have any natural light. Fish and Chip always taste better when you’re by the salt, shore and sandbars, but then everyone knows that don’t they.

Being so close to the water, yes I did bring some fishing gear. A float set-up and also a lure rod to trying popping for bass that worked in an area not far from where we were staying.

The float, well hadn’t a clue what I’d put in the hook, I was trying to find some live shrimp when I was down here as I watched a YouTube video with someone catching quite a few schoolies on them.

If I couldn’t get any of them I’d try bread, lugworm or even some artificial living shrimp feathers I’d impulse purchased off of Ebay.

Tide times printed off, tackle down to the minimum, targets in mind !!!!

We were really lucky with the weather with only two shower dodging days, the start of the week reached 23 degrees as expected.

When you've a view of the estuary over to Instow it an ever changing picture they I could never tire of. The boats, the birds, the changing tide and weather. Ben was in his element taking every opportunity to spend time outside.

Gulls, Oystercatchers and other birds were very active , shame the fishing wasn't. To be fair after the 2nd lure fishing trip to some rocks a short walk away where I'd caught Bass before, I decided to fish right off the deck when the tide was up, well for crabs. Where in one particular hour session with my brother and his kids over we managed 33, all falling to smokey bacon.

A bleeny even wanted in on the act, but the other fish were not forthcoming despite trying a few methods to catch something.

A trip to Bucks Mill, Instow and Hartland Quay is was a busy week, it took 2 hours and 50 minutes to get down down without a stop (left at 6:15am) and it took nearly 6 hours with a nightmare service station stop, just before Bristol.

I love this part of the world though, it feels like England from a time gone by, we'll be back. Now need to dust off those Zander rods.


  1. Crabbing, thats something I haven't done for years! must give it a go again with little lady once shes old enough !

  2. I used to do when I was a kid, so keeping up the tradition !!!!’ Get the drop nets not the lines with mesh bags my only advice


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