Sunday, 8 July 2007

Mud Larks of Deptford

Mud Lark - ‘A fellow who goes about by the waterside picking up coals, nails, or other articles in the mud.’
Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue - 1811

On its southern bank, were it meets the Ravensbourne, the river Thames has a natural dry-dock, known as Deptford Creek.
On Sunday afternoon in response to claims of a ‘spawning ground for Flounder’ and ‘squillions of Mitten Crabs’ your pal the Bushwacker and accomplice Deej joined the Creekside Centre’s snappily named ‘Spring/Summer Low-Tide Walk Programme.’
And big fun it was too.
We were issued with thigh waders and broomsticks to use for wading poles and for nearly two hours we were led up-river toward Lewisham.
There were many signs of life, not all of it the stuff vandals leave behind. Between the shopping trolleys and torn down road signs Nature has reasserted herself, the guys who led the walk must have pointed out 25-30 different plants that had self-seeded in the creek and on its walls. Nothing was introduced by the regeneration project; everything there has arrived under its own steam.

The Creekside was the site of many a slaughter house in the century before last, (Tanners Hill is just round the corner) and the sawn bones of cows, sheep and horses poke out of the mud here and there. The Creek was also the launch dock for many a colonial endeavour / piratical raiding party and handmade shipwrights nails litter the site. We had a great time poking around in the mud. Just in case any of the group forgot we were in ‘sarf larn-den’ the guides told us how one school trip to the creek was enlivened by one of the kids finding a handgun sticking out of the mud.

After a few moments to get your eye in, looking through Polaroid sunglasses there are loads of juvenile Flounder in the crystal-clear water and the cast-off shells of Mitten crabs are everywhere. The water must be in good health as Mirror carp, Tench, Trout and Eels have all been caught in the creek.
The chaps showed us how to ‘kick sample’ the bottom, collecting up slit in a white observation tray, we could see hundreds of aquatic creatures swimming about. Londoners are habitually sceptical about the quality of the water in the Thames and its tributaries, but after seeing just how much is living in it I started to believe the guys claim that the Thames is the cleanest metropolitan river in europe.
Would you Adam an Eve it, me old china?

£5 very well spent – if you’re in the area, you gottta go!

"Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts.
So long as we are dirty, we are pure".
Charles Dudley Warner 1800's

creekside centre

Get stuck in

Mitten Crabs

Seen in the River Thames since the 1930s, the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) first arrived in Blightly as tiny larvae in ballast water in ships from China and Korea. Now there are loads of the bastards!
By burrowing into the rivers banks, (which causes rapid erosion) and eating enough stuff to put pressure on native plants and animals, they haven’t always received the welcome the deserve.
The good news is they’re not only delicious, but also very easy to catch!!
These hairy-clawed-snax-on-legs are rated 'proper delicious' in china.
The shell of a large one can be eight centimetres across. Making them perfect for the BarBQ.
You'll be please to hear the scientific community is united in its praise for this culinary delight; one serving suggestion, that sounds both thrilling and practical, comes from Richard Tullis, biology professor at California State University,
"Fixed Asian style, stir-fried with garlic, soy and ginger... it will also turn on non-Asians."
Who could ask for more than that?
Philip Rainbow (keeper of zoology at the Natural History Museum in London, England) concludes:
"The culinary route may represent our best culling strategy if we are to limit its potentially damaging environmental effects." Yummy!!

PS FOR READERS FROM THE USA (especially on the east coast)
If you catch or find a mitten crab: please keep it, frozen is best, on ice second choice, or preserved in rubbing alcohol.
Take a close-up photo of the beastie, and email your picture with
the precise location and date of the find to If you can’t take a photo, contact the
Mitten Crab Hotline on (443-482-2222).