The Lost Blog - Clovelly Herring Festival 2019.

Clovelly Harbour November 2019

Clovelly is in my opinion the jewel in the crown of the Shire of the Sea Kings (Devon). Every year we make a couple of pilgrimages to this beautiful little fishing village that precariously clings to the cliffs near Hartland Point. This particular blog was one of those that just didn’t get written due to time, circumstances or any other excuse I could find, but most probably due to procrastination as I wanted it to be perfect and to stand out amongst the countless other stories and reviews that are penned about this quintessentially unique place - forgetting to take my own sage advice that DONE is better than PERFECT.


Sunday 17th November 2019 - Filled with the usual excitement and anticipation I picked up my long time friend and local photographer Gary Morris at around 09:30, then headed off to the Clovelly Herring Festival, the 60 mile journey passed quickly as the roads were relatively quiet and we had plenty to discuss on the way. 11:00 saw us heading in to the visitors centre to pay the £7.95 adult fee to enter the village, I guess this may seem expensive but I never mind paying it as it goes towards the ongoing costs of the upkeep of Clovelly which is still a private village owned by The Hon. John Rous. Your choice of footwear is always important when visiting here, as the steep decent down the cobbled street through the village and down to the harbour requires sure footing especially if damp, On my last visit I regrettably wore a brand new pair of expensive walking shoes which turned out to be nothing but comfortable ice-skates, so this time I donned my trusty gum rubber soled Magnum tactical boots which provided a perfect grip on the slippery cobbles. Even though the weather is less than temperate in November the Herring Festival still draws an impressive crowd - as long as you dress for the occasion a good time will be had by all.

The Harbour stalls were filled with produce from a variety of local suppliers but its the humble herring that takes pride of place, as its at this time of year that the shoals move up the Bristol Channel to spawn. The hunt for the ’Silver Darlings’ has gone on in the village for centuries as it has from numerous ports along the North Devon and Somerset coast. But sadly since the fishing ban in the 70’s the herring seems to have fallen off the menu across Britain, but the likes of Clovelly Harbour Master Stephen Perham are determined to keep the tradition of catching herring from small boats alive. I fear if he wasn’t doing this the knowledge would fade and the tradition would ultimately die.

Stephen Perhams 'Picarooner' Stephen’s heritage in herring fishing comes from a long lineage stretching back generations. Every late Autumn he shoots drift nets from his picarooner "Little Lily". As far as commercial fishing goes this is probably the most sustainable way to catch herring, as the net will only snag fish of a certain size allowing smaller ones to pass through. The boat is still powered by oar and sail so it has no effect on the environment. See more about Herring fishing at clovelly here.

Maritime historian and writer, Mike Smylie, was there with his “Kipperland” exhibition, which is devoted to the history of catching, cooking and eating herring. He also demonstrates how to produce kippers and bloaters in his smokehouse which were available to buy at the event. The herring makes for a very tasty and nutritious meal, it is easily prepared by cutting the head off and pulling out the guts leaving the roe intact then just scrape off the scales with the back of a knife and with a quick rinse and pat dry with kitchen roll its ready for the pan, grill or barbecue. My favourite method of cooking is dusting the fish with seasoned flour and slowly shallow frying it in olive oil until golden brown and crispy on both sides and serving with crusty bread and butter. For a tiny village Clovelly works extremely hard to promote itself and hosts many events during the year, so please support them by attending when the lockdown is finally over. I'm convinced that you like me will become enchanted with this magical place…

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