Gathering shell-fish on the Crozon peninsula
Wide open spaces and as much sea air as you can handle!
If you fancy discovering the joys of shellfish gathering and treating your lungs to a good breath of sea air, then get your wellies on and bring your family and friends to spend a day or a weekend with Julia and Morgan on the Crozon peninsula. Hold tight shellfish, here we come!
Welcome to Ty Bihan!
Julia and Morgan give us a warm welcome as we reach their little slice of paradise towards the end of the afternoon. Paradise, in this case, is a tiny hamlet consisting of two beautiful stone houses, lovingly restored some 6 years ago. With a home-made Breton cider kir in hand, the friendly atmosphere of the place takes over. And the evening continues with a delicious seafood dinner: fish soup followed by fresh fish and rounded off with a very special apple and banana oatmeal crumble!
A family affair
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we are shown books and brochures on shellfish, because before we head off for the wide open spaces we need to have a good idea of what we're looking for! Clams, goose-neck barnacles, abalone, velvet crabs - there's a story to tell about every one of them. Shellfish gathering is a tradition in this gĂ®te, with accumulated knowledge handed down from one generation of owners to the next. And with Julia and Morgan already big fans, the tradition is clearly in safe hands. But now it's our turn...
Spring tide spectacular
When we get to the GrĂ¨ve du Seillou, the panoramic view is really something. We can see not just for miles but for 360 degrees: a vast stretch of shore revealed by the waning tide, with the river Aulne and Landevennec Abbey as a backdrop, and to our right the famous Brest straits. Far away we can just make out little groups of shellfish hunters on the lookout for abalone. So it's on with our wellies, before doling out the equipment â€“ baskets, buckets, and scrapers â€“ and then we're off to harvest the fruit of this ocean garden!
Hunting razor clams â€“ or finding your inner child!
The first item on the agenda is flushing out razor clams. This is great fun, because there's a whole technique to catching them! We're told what to do: â€śFirst you look for an oval hole in the sand, you pour in a bit of salt, you don't make a sound and you wait for the clam to surface. When it pops out, you catch hold of it, you wait for its muscle to retract and then you can grab it.â€ť The seagulls cry, the sun shines, and the salt is passed from hand to hand. The children, Maxime and Clara, are a little hesitant at first but are soon enthralled â€“ and so are the adults, with Bruno as proud as Punch to have caught the biggest clam!
A fruitful harvest
Moving a little further on we search the rocks for oysters â€“ no easy task, as they blend with the rocks to fool their predators. But once we have trained our eyes, we come and prise them off the rocks with their tools. Shovel-loads of whelks can be found under the seaweed, you just have to bend down and pick them up â€“ we learn how to recognise the black, rounded shells of the ones that are good to eat. We have to make sure we only take shellfish that are big enough to meet regulations, and carefully replace any stones or rocks we move, but that doesn't prevent us from filling up our baskets with razor clams, clams, oysters and whelks. Meanwhile Clara and Maxime are having a great time and coming across all sorts of marine life as they paddle beside us: â€śLook, I've found a sea-slugâ€ť, â€śand over here there's a baby eel, that's a bit of luck, it's an endangered species!â€ť
Time for a treat
We've worked up quite an appetite with all that walking and fresh sea air, so we're seriously looking forward to the seafood platter that awaits us. When we get back to the house, Julia and Morgan organise a little cookery workshop â€“ and they show us how to cook the clams and whelks, while the men get down to opening the oysters. The table is set, and we sit down to a veritable seafood banquet with eyes a-sparkle â€“ it's not every day that you get to enjoy freshly gathered wild oysters!
Text: AgnĂ¨s de l'Espinay
Day's shellfish gathering trip: â‚¬ 50 (From 2 to 5 people)
Special all-inclusive short breaks available throughout the year.
Find the dates of spring tides at www.grandes-marees.com
When you are collecting shellfish, be sure to:
- Find out from the town hall whether there are any health and safety issues
- Comply with any permanent or temporary bans
- Do not collect shellfish after heavy rainfall
- Limit the quantity of shellfish that you take and comply with minimum size regulations
- Store your catch at the correct temperature and degree of humidity
- Eat shellfish promptly
- Protect the marine environment: put pebbles back where they came from; use the appropriate permitted tools, etc.