Thursday, 16 November 2017


There's no better place for a walk round here than Winchelsea Beach at low tide. The sand stretches out for a quarter of a mile, flat and perfect for Aggie to run on. Also, it's the nearest beach to DI Sonny Russell's railway carriage home in Blood on the Tide.

There are a few pools and lagoons with rivulets running back to the sea, generally shallow or narrow enough to get across without mishap. At this time of year the sunsets, to the west, over Cliff End, near where I live, can be quite spectacular.

The other feature of low tide is the bait diggers.

Nowadays, bait 'digger' is a bit of a misnomer. Originally, these hardy souls would go out on the flat sand, looking for ragworms and lugworm, armed with a narrow-bladed spade and a bucket tied across their shoulders with a length of rope or twine. They would seek out the telltale worm casts on the surface of the beach, often coloured by a lower layer of darker sand or mud.
These dark squiggles mark the top of the worm's burrow and the digger would dig like fury, hoping to catch the worm before it burrowed deeper. As I said,  this is how they used to operate.
Nowadays they have, what can only be described as, a super-duper bicycle pump. This they push down onto the top of the squiggle, rapidly pull up the handle on the pump, sucking up sand and, hopefully the worm. The handle is then depressed, squirting the soggy mess onto the sand and the worm, if it's there, is grabbed and chucked into the bucket. This is not now tied round the shoulders but carried regally in a little four-wheeled cart, rather like an infant's babywalker. Today, there were no less than ten of these gentlemen, lined up along the shoreline and as dusk fell, head torches were switched on, making them appear like so many fireflies, as their heads bobbed up and down.
And so, dusk falls, leaving a dramatic sky and just enough time to get back before it's too dark to see where we're going.


  1. I remember digging for lugworms in my youth, on Pett Level. When we stayed with my uncle at Biddenden we often went down to the coast there. The other activity there was to fish for shrimps with small nets and gather cockles. These would be cooked and eaten on our return to Biddenden.


    1. What a lovely memory Richard. And thank you for finding a way to comment!

  2. A splendid description of bait digging that certainly hit a nostalgia button, as many years ago we used to often go to Meon Shore near Lee on the Solent where Pam's parents took their annual family holiday in a rented beach chalet - sometimes over a dozen people squashed into a shed on the beach that couldn't have been more than about 15ft square. When the tide was out we were all dispatched to the sand to hunt for king rags, vicious things, ready for Pam's dad and her 2 older brothers to go out into the Solent every night in a little rowing boat to get fish for the next day's main meal. Some lovely sea bass was usually on the menu!


    1. What an interesting reply, Mick. I'm so glad that I was able to press your 'nostalgia button'.