Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Wish List

As late Summer slips into early Autumn my Thanet Beachcombing season begins and from September to March the general finds on the coast really do start to pick up. Summertime can be good but the better finds are normally restricted to the low water mark because of the settled weather and the advantage of daylight hours . Whereas in the Autumn and Winter months the unsettled weather is more challenging offering so much diversity that anything can turn up anywhere at anytime.
Like many local Beachcombers/Treasure Hunters I do approach each season with a plan and the readiness is really based on whether will this year be the one. The one being a great storm.
Throughout history there are accounts of many great storms and in living memory the years 1953 and 1978 do come to mind. The January and February storm of 1996 was the last decent storm , but unfortunately or fortunately whichever way you look at it the Thanet sea defences worked in 1996 so there was very little drama. The only events of any merit in 1996 was the wartime Tongue Fort collapsing, a ship ("Argus") aground on the rocks by the Lido at Cliftonville and the final remains of the derelict Margate Jetty reduced to stumps. Plus the remains of the "Tartar" (29/03/1916) turning up at Foreness Point.
However, these big storms do make permanent changes to the coastline and it is the erosion in the following weeks or months after the storm that many more interesting finds both historical and natural can be found. This generally happens while the local authorities are carrying out repairs to the sea defences. When this does happen it is possible to work out what is buried in a large area by what is found in the smaller areas of a particular site while the erosion is taking place.
Collecting this Data makes it so much easier should another storm erode the same area again because I am able to pin point exactly where to go. From this I am able to come up with my wish list of top places to go should the mother of all storms hit the Thanet Coastline.
Top of the list is Palm Bay oppposite the Jet Ski cafe, then Newgate Gap to the Lido, Fort Point and the sand behind the Droit House. I would like to add Margate Main sands but I doubt if a century of silting up will move in my life time. The list is all Margate and my knowledge of Margate does cover over 30 years of discovery.
However now I live in Ramsgate I am slowly but surely building up a knowledge base there which I will blog later.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Beachcombing - a ramble about the Margate Main Sands

During the late 1960’s beachcombing hit a new dimension along the Thanet coastline with the introduction of the metal detector. Even though the early machines were pretty basic they proved to be very effective in areas of shallow sand over the chalk bed rock and in the soft sand on the main beaches. However, when the improved induction balance metal detectors become available in the early 1970’s the sky was the limit with many square miles of undetected open beaches up for grabs. Some areas without doubt had a history of over one hundred years of sea side tourism were now open to the new craze of Treasure hunting. For the more experienced beachcomber this proved to be a bonanza as it also gave access to more historical finds that tell the story of sea side tourism and events that took place on coastline in the past two hundred years.
My experience from that era to the present day came from the area from the groyne between the then Sundeck and the Nayland Rock to Foreness point. It may seem strange but I hardly ever went over the Westbrook side of the groyne except in exceptionally bitter cold weather. During the period from 1976 to 1996 I reckon that I must have metal detected every available square foot of sand at Margate and Cliftonville using only four different detectors and a mountain of batteries in that time. Furthermore I reckon I must have dug up well over 10,000 items that have a story to tell and considering I am not the only one to use a metal detector it is a indicator of the scales of the finds that have been found on the Thanet coast in recent years.
Today the metal detectors are very sophisticated and there are many areas where metal items can no longer be found. Even though the lost and found cycle of each tourist season brings in results of modern finds, Historical finds are now getting harder to find. However, some of that is not all down to constant metal detecting but the fact that along the coast some areas are silting up. Margate main sands are a fine example and the gradual burial of the boating pool by the clock tower proves my point.
The silting up of Margate main sands began in 1926 with the construction of the Groyne by the Nayland Rock, the Bathing Pavilion later known as the Sundeck and the Tidal Pool opposite the Arlington House. Considering nature has had a 40 year start before the arrival of the first metal detectors there are still many items buried beneath the main sands. If my memory serves me correct in the early years of the metal detector there were not many pre Second World War items dug up from the main sands except in exceptional circumstances. So what are these exceptional circumstances?
The exceptional circumstances were the result and aftermath of the storm of January 1978 and like the storms of 1897 and 1953 change the coast forever. For few a brief periods the aftermath of the 1978 storm did cause coastal erosion. The loss of the Jetty or Pier as some people like to call it did have some impact along the coast. The back of the Nayland rock was swept clean of sand and the remains of the Whitley mark V bomber that ditched on 3rd September 1940 were exposed. The old Tivoli brooks drainage pipe was exposed for the first time providing a bonanza of Victorian and Edwardian dated finds for metal detector users. On one exceptionally low tide, where the sand had been washed away the wheel marks from the Victorian bathing machines could be clearly seen and this to, resulted in many finds. When the Jetty head was finally demolished in 1998 there were ceramic and glass items found on the low tide line relating the paddle steamers and the Jetty. As in previous posting I have mentioned the many finds that have come from the Harbour in other exceptional circumstances.
Today, the gradual silting is returning to the main sands and the whole of the main sands is becoming a sealed time capsule of sea side history. I do still have a few remnants of some of my early digs from my patch from the early days plus recent natural history finds with I have loaned to the Marine Studios in Albert Terrace for display.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Not so Bleak

I found it so pleasing to read in today's Isle of Thanet Gazette (13/08/10) that the Museum at Bleak House Broadstairs is to reopen. Following the series of set backs local heritage has taken over the past few years with the dithering over the Ramsgate Maritime Museum, the closures of the Margate Museum and Margate caves, this has to be good news.

Another venue that is looking good at the moment is the Coach House at Northdown Park. Recently I had the privilege to have a look at the progress being made at the Coach House. Even though progress at the Coach House is moving forward slowly there is every potential that like Bleak House the Coach House can certainly be a centre of excellence. I must admit when I had a look around at the Coach House I could almost taste the history as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my first thought was this is Old England nothing artificial, nothing reinvented this is the real thing. There is plenty of space at ground level and the interior is well preserved and is not derelict, it just needs a bit of maintenance and a lick of paint. The coach that will be the focal point of the museum will look magnificent when the conservation is completed.
Overall if allowed to be completed this venue will be a assett to the local tourism package offering a interesting amenity for both local and vistors a like.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Shellfish Harvesting

In today's Isle of Thanet Gazette there is a interesting article on page 8 about shellfish harvesting, which once again opens the debate about harvesting shellfish from the foreshore of the Thanet coast.

Sometimes I think the concerns in the past have been more about the ethnic origin of the people doing the harvesting than what is actually being taken. But the Gazette does raise a very interesting point about whether shellfish is being harvested sustainably from our foreshore. Something which in my experience is really difficult to measure.

Firstly we have have to look at the life and death cycle of the shellfish that are being affected by the harvesting. I am without doubt that the loses of mussels during the harsh Winter period of the January and February winter period does make a hundred dustbin bags of mussels a drop in the ocean. Yet the population does recover.

Then we have the Oysters which also take a bashing during the Winter months. The only difference with Oysters on the Thanet Coast is that they are not native. In fact they are a invasive Pacific species which is undergoing a population explosion at present which has not reached its peak. So how on earth can that be measured.

As for Winkles, well they use to be harvested commercially many years ago by hand. This was done sustainably by sieving, allowing the smaller ones to fall through. Even during that period there was always plenty of Winkles about. Today the amount being taken is still fractional to the time when eating winkles was popular.

The problem I suppose is down to people breaking Fisheries bye laws and ignoring the Thanet Coastal code which is put in place to ensure sustainability. Even then I cannot see what inpact a few people ignoring the rules would have on the shellfish population.

My main concerns has to be the methods people use to harvest shellfish which is also pointed out in the article by coastal warden Steve Beck. It is the damage caused by digging, hammering or whatever to the shellfish beds which makes it difficult for the population to recover. A fine example of this has to be the harvesting of Limpets where the method is to literally smash at everything to get the Limpet off.