Whitstable Oyster Festival 2012

This year I went to the Whitstable Oyster Festival’s opening weekend (I do every year). I took lots of pictures. Here they are (unfortunately I missed the Morris dancers this year):

On my stroll to meet my sister, thought I’d take a picture of Slaughterman’s Cottage down Skinner’s Alley (formerly known as Slaughterman’s Alley, and Ship Alley before that).

This was an abattoir for a previous butcher, hence the curved tiles on the roof necessary for air ventilation.

Onwards to the beach by the harbour’s West Quay looking towards the Isle of Sheppey:

Beyond Sheppey, Southend can be seen…

Newfoundland dogs demonstrating how they rescue people. They have webbed feet which helps them swim. Funny – their heads are shaped a bit like a seal’s and they bark similarly to them too – well, I think so anyway. Quite a potent smell though when they all get together.

Whitstable’s excellent drumming band Samba Pelo Mar in the lead up to the blessing of the oysters. In the background is the boat Emmeline, built in 1904 and which became the last shrimping boat. It was lost and then found in Spain in the early nineties, before being brought back to Whitstable.

Looking towards Tankerton:

The oysters arrive to be blessed. Most of the oysters used at the festival aren’t native, as this time of year they’re spawning. The reason it is held at this strange time of year is because it is the traditional down season when fishermen used to hold their festivals – even dating back to Norman times. Whitstable’s native oysters are generally harvested in the months containing the letter “r”. See Tipping the Velvet for more information on this…and a whole lot more on other stuff.

Walking down through Harbour St to watch the parade – quite a crowd to get through!

 A quick German pint at our annual spot outside the Ship Centurion…

 And then the Oyster Parade:

I learnt my lesson – should have filmed in landscape mode. Oh well.

Later on that day – a view of “The Street” at Tankerton slopes. When the tide goes out in Tankerton, a long path of pebbles and stones goes far out to sea, known locally as “The Street”.

The Street on a 1924 postcard:

The next day at Whitstable Harbour:

And finally, we come to the picture of my first ever fresh oyster:

How is that your first oyster? I hear you say, considering I was born and raised in this town as a fully qualified shellback. Well, I’ve tried them tinned, smoked. But my parents never really bought them fresh, so I never tried one. When I was younger, there were a couple of things that happened which meant they were harder to get – red algae outbreak was one thing. I even had to ask the lady on the stall how to “do it”. Squeeze of lemon, bit of Tabasco…it was really nice. Gave me the taste for them. Next time I might try them without the Tabasco as I think it wiped out the actual flavour…and maybe I’ll even chew it next time.

Interesting to know:

– oysters contain arsenic – so don’t trough too many

– oysters used to be the working class person’s food in the 19th century

– some types of oysters can grow to around three feet in length

– Colchester also holds an Oyster Feast each year in October where festival goers enjoy the town’s native oysters

So, there is my collection of pictures from my weekend at the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Hope you enjoyed them!

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  1. Pingback: My 2012 in Pictures | The History Post

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