Going with the tide

PUBLISHED: 12:24 14 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:24 14 July 2015

simpers mussels

simpers mussels


The irrepressible elements are a delicious force for good down on the Deben estuary at Ramsholt for Stephen David, chef-director of Bespoke Events

simpers mussels simpers mussels

The sun shone as I pulled off the beaten track on the Ramsholt Estate and up to the doors of the farm offices at Simpers Deben Shellfish.

The sheds packed with refrigeration and purification tanks, and a trio of refrigerated fish vans out front were a clear sign of the imaginative diversification this Suffolk farming family has achieved.

I was here in the rich mud of the foreshore to face the rigours of mussel raking, and I was soon at the mercy of the waves. Time and tide wait for no man, so they say, and mussel raking is absolutely at the beck and call of these two elemental forces.

“We have a window of about 90 minutes to access the river bed at every low tide, but this is, of course, a moveable feast as the tide times get later each day,” says farmer – and my much appreciated guide – Jonathan Simper, as we head off to the family’s shellfish grounds in the Deben.

simpers mussels simpers mussels

“It is so enthusing to see the purity and habitat of the Deben getting the acknowledgement it deserves for the quality of its shellfish harvest. We as temporary custodians are playing our small part in its hopefully prosperous longevity and in the great historical narrative of oyster production and now mussels too in this place.”

I was thrilled to hear Jonathan speak so passionately about the recognition and popularity of their seafood, with local chefs and fishmonger are customers throughout Suffolk and beyond.

I have been fortunate to work closely with the Simpers. Together we founded the Woodbridge Shuck seafood festival, now in its fourth year later in October, a long weekend celebration of great East Anglian shellfish and all things River Deben, especially the superb local oysters and mussels. www.thewoodbridgeshuck.org.uk for more details.

The weather played a huge part on my trip. We escaped torrential showers, but the stormy skies and magical rainbow made it feel rather wild and atmospheric down on the Deben. The sun shone intermittently making our impromptu riverside feast of other delicious river produce – fat Deben oysters – and fine Aspall cyder even more pleasurable. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall eat your heart out!

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