Oys­ters back on the menu at coastal re­treat

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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

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