October 2016: Foraging on the Dorset Coast

The idea: Fish for our dinner
Location: Lulworth Cove, Dorset
Transport: Feet
Essential kit: Fishing rod, 500g of ragworm bait, a handmade rake and a bucket filled with seawater
Less-essential kit: The additional 490g of ragworms
Kit we wished we’d had: A fishing boat, a guide on fishing for dummies
Cost: £40 for the fishing rod and supplies

ov3a3219-copy

“That’s my lady talking, don’t you go worrying yourselves about that”, said the man behind the counter. “That’s just my lady in Thailand”, he repeated, as the Asian voice that had previously been filling the room with a low murmur began to shriek. We laughed awkwardly, trying to be as polite as possible, feeling our faces flush red with embarrassment for the man who we were so hoping would be our saviour.

Unfortunately, we needed him. He was an experienced fisherman, working in a fishing tackle shop, and we’d promised each other we’d try to catch our dinner off the Dorset coast this evening. Having never so much as baited a hook between us in our lives, it was unlikely we’d be able to catch anything more than a cold without his knowledge or fish enticing supplies. A cold wouldn’t sustain us for long, so we were willing to ignore the awkward sexy/non-sexy ambience in the pursuit of a snagging ourselves a hearty meal.  

After an hour on the rock we hadn’t had a single bite. Either we were doing something wrong, or the man with the cyber girlfriend had purposely led us astray.

Fishing rod, lures and vomit-inducing ragworms in hand, we left our guru to his private business and headed to the coast. On the way, we noticed a man raking at the sand that had been exposed due to low tide along the shore. Certain he was foraging for food, we stopped the car to ask what he was doing. “Digging for cockles and clams”, he said, “my wife loves them!” He explained that it was possible to collect hundreds of them in just a few hours, so we knocked up a makeshift rake from an old piece of wood and a few screws and got to collecting what we assumed would be our first course.

ov3a3301-copy

ov3a3384

ov3a3368

With 50-60 shellfish in the bag, we carried on towards Lulworth Cove. We’d scouted out the perfect fishing spot on a previous adventure and headed around the Cove to the protruding rocks on which it sat. Leaving half the group to forage for rock samphire to flavour the fish we’d inevitably catch, and prepare a BBQ, Nick, Jake and I clambered up and over the cliff face to a nice flat ledge where we baited up and cast off (if those are even real fishing phrases).

We threw our baited line into the tempestuous sea over and over again, waiting for a few minutes in between each throw as we stared out into the sea with high hopes.  Would two or three bass be enough to feed six hungry people? We weren’t sure, but we’d see how long it took to catch the first and adjust our hunger levels to suit.

ov3a3373-copy

ov3a3435-copy

ov3a3734

After an hour on the rock we hadn’t had a single bite. Either we were doing something wrong, or the man with the cyber girlfriend had purposely led us astray. Perhaps we should have seen the signs? No matter. Any disappointment we might have felt about our lack of fishing ability didn’t last long. We were on precarious rocks, looking out at an endless sea, knowing that we had a bucket full of hand-foraged, bite-sized morsels waiting for us back on the beach.

ov3a3473-copy

ov3a3540

ov3a3674-copy

ov3a3705-copy

Before heading back, we took some time to climb up a nearby cliff face. Allowing ourselves just enough fear to call this a proper Everyday Adventure, we climbed up and over a few select ledges then scrambled our way back to the beach, fishing rod in hand. We tried our best to look sullen as we explained to the rest of the group that we’d failed, but the climbing had etched permanent smiles on to our faces. Not even the fact that I’m highly allergic to shellfish could take the enjoyment of the last few hours away.

Our failure in the New Forest taught us to prepare for failure, so we bought some fish in a local supermarket before heading to the coast. These, with what I’m told were delicious shellfish, meant we didn’t go hungry after all. They also made us look like successful fishermen to anyone passing by (or anyone looking at this blog post who hasn’t read this far) who couldn’t tell that the freshwater rainbow trout we were tucking into couldn’t possibly have been caught in the English Channel…

ov3a3794-copy

ov3a3755

ov3a3853

ov3a3832-copy

ov3a3880-2