Oysters back on the menu at coastal retreat
AS much as I enjoyed my day by the sea in Prestatyn, three days on the Norfolk Coast between Cromer and Sheringham knocked the East into a cocked hat, not least because I was able to watch marsh harriers each day, but also little ringed plover, ruff, and both brent and pinkfooted geese.
The latter two were gathered in great numbers before flying back north to breed in the Arctic, and they were amazingly confiding and unalarmed by the throng of holidaymakers and serious birdwatchers armed with telescopes the size of bazookas.
Our base was the Cromer Country Club, and a luxurious two bedroom apartment. However, it turned out to be part of a worldwide American organisation called Diamond Holidays, and that’s where it gets spooky.
When we turned on the television, the company had their own channel and the CEO was telling us how to enjoy ourselves, emphasising that the secret to a good holiday and a great life was to ‘stay vacationed’.
The real secret was to sleep there and get away as fast as you can during the day to the marshes and reed beds and, of course, the fish and chip shops and seafood vendors, all of which were outstanding.
I particularly enjoyed my half dozen oysters i in the Hoste Hotel, an old haunt of Admiral Lord Nelson’s in the quite wonderfuld f lB Burnhamh Market, sweet as a nut and with an amazingly creamy texture and well worth a chew on the way down, au naturale, just as they should be.
Born at the Burnham Thorpe in 1758, Nelson frequented the Hoste – formerly the Pitt Arms – in his early years.
Before being recalled to service in 1792 he is known to have stayed in Room Five.
He would catch the morning coach to London from Burnham Market, as well as receiving his dispatch papers there.
He also used the Pitt Arms as a recruiting post. The hotel was named after another local seafarer, Captain Sir William Hoste.
The English east coast, washed by cold waters and dotted with shallow bays and inlets, is ideal for oyster beds, both natural and farmed.
But this natural treasure was once considered unfit for the best tables.
How things have changed. Today eating oysters is a relatively expensive seasonal treat, but in the 19th century they were so plentiful and cheap that they were the food of the poor.
Eventually the English turned their noses up at the aphrodisiac bi-valve and lost the taste for them.
In fact, in modern times the bulk of the native oyster harvest was shipped to France.
According to Natural England, in 1864 more than 700 million oysters were eaten in London. One hundred years later, over-fishing had reduced the total throughout the country to only three million.
Nowadays oysters are becoming plentiful once again, and I for one will drink to that.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●● The coastline at Cromer and, inset, Sean tucks in at Hoste Castle