Beachcombing

Brook, of course, had a good supply of fresh fish and flotsam and jetsam were other sources of ‘free food.’  An early morning walk along the beach after a stormy night often resulted in a good find, a tin of this or that, or a useful piece of timber.

Alice Morris remembers how, in the 1890s : We had great excitement if a ship came in loaded with coal, flour, wheat, sugar and many other things. Of course we helped ourselves when we had the chance. You might think it wasn’t much good but the water only caked it on the outside.  The inside was quite good. If the preventative men came again, there was great excitement running around to hide the goods. Only once or twice was anyone caught, then they had to go ‘Up the steps’ as they called it, which meant they had to go to the Town Hall and pay a fine. WI Scrapbook, 1958. 

In the 1940s Robin Shepheard looked forward to coming home from school in Freshwater:

There were so many things to do which were all free. Beachcombing was terrific fun. Over the years vast amounts of timber and deck cargo were washed up on the beach and some of it was carried from the beach back home. A great tradition when you were combing was that if you came across a piece of timber propped up against the cliff you did not take it as you knew someone would be coming back for it.  

Most of the decent stuff was washed up at Sudmore, a long walk from Brook. David Hookey came up with the great idea of positioning his father’s tractor at the top of the cliff near the coastguard lookout hut (no longer there) and lowering me down the cliff on a rope. I would tie the timber or whatever to the rope and David would haul it up. At times you could get a bit greedy and end up with more timber than you knew what to do with.

Once a whole cargo of pit props and bales of rubber that had been deck cargo lost in a storm were brought off the beach with most of the village involved. The bales of rubber were declared to Customs and Excise and a tax paid on it but there was still quite a lot of money made by the locals. Hard work, but worth it.