Saturday, 3 January 2015

Seagulls and Crab Pots!

Well, Christmas and New Year have been and gone, and the world is slowly getting get back to normal. We had some snow on Boxing Day, then the temperature plummeted and everything was covered in ice and thick frost, until yesterday, when it got a little warmer, but very windy. So, somewhat perversely I suppose, I’ve got some nice, cheerful, sunshiny piccies for my Saturday Snapshot! These were taken in Brixham, on a lovely sunny day back at the end of August when we were kitten sitting for our Elder Daughter and her Boyfriend while they went on holiday – they acquired two little black cats after they’d booked their trip, then found the local cattery was full up…  So, of course, it was Mum and Dad to the rescue, and we had a wonderful (but unplanned) stay in Devon!
A view of Brixham - isn't it beautiful?
While we were there we had a day out in Brixham, which is a beautifully unspoilt little fishing town, and isn’t really ‘touristified’, if you know what I mean, and we thoroughly ourselves. As we arrived the first thing we noticed was the picturesque row of old, brightly coloured, fishermen’s cottages up on the cliff (though I doubt if many fishermen live in them these days).
The Golden Hind - at high tide she floats but, as you can see, it wasn't high tide!
 Then, in the harbour we spotted a full-size replica of the Golden Hind, the ship in which Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe back in the 16th Century (I know, I’ve already seen one reproduction of it at Southwark, in London – there are obviously a lot of them around!). Apparently, this particular vessel is here because in 1963 a TV series about Drake was filmed in and around Brixham, and this is a replica of the replica used in filming, because the first one was destroyed in a storm… confusing, or what?
Trying to be arty and get a close-up of the masts and all
that rigging. 
The original Golden Hind (Drake’s flagship – there were four other ships in his fleet) was launched as the Pelican, but was renamed to honour the wealthy patron who provided most of the funds for the expedition. Officially the brief, as explained by Queen Elizabeth, was to explore new lands and ‘find out places meet to have traffic’, which I gather means discovering new opportunities for trade. But unofficially the Queen had let it be known that she wanted revenge on the King of Spain for ‘divers injuries that we have received’.

A Brixham seagull. There are gulls everywhere!
So Drake and his crew had carte blanche to harry the Spanish, and that’s exactly what they did. They set sail in 1577, and the Golden Hind made it back three years later, laden with riches looted from Spanish treasure ships. The Queen was delighted – and no wonder, because she got half the proceeds. Drake made his fortune, was knighted, and became a national hero.

A fire juggling pirate.
Brixham seems to have a long history of piracy, smuggling and the like. When we visited there was some kind of pirate event going on, with children (and adults) dressed as buccaneers, and there were market stalls, street theatre performers, and all kinds of activities going on.  It gave a real carnival atmosphere to the day, but we never did discover what was happening – there is a proper Pirate Festival every May, so it can’t have been that!

A wall of crab pots..
Fishing has always been important for the town. From the Middle Ages right through to the 19th century it was the biggest fishing port in the West Country, and it’s still a thriving, working fishing port today. The quays around the harbour are piled high with nets, ropes, pots, baskets and all kinds of paraphernalia to do with fishing, and it all looks just as you imagine it should.

... And a close-up. I was trying to be artistic - again!
 Brixham, apparently, was famous for its fast-moving, powerful sailing boats, which were able to trawl for fish in the deep sea, in all weathers. Several of them, with their distinctive red sails (dyed with local ochre, which helped protect the canvas against sea and weather damage), have now been restored, and provide cruising holidays and training expeditions. We had hoped to see some of these Heritage ships in the harbour, so we could get a good look, but they were all out, and we were a bit disappointed - until we spotted this glorious craft sailing past in the distance, and felt as if we'd been transported back 150 years or so. We were really thrilled to see this - much better than looking at one in the harbour!

Red sails in the sunshine!
Doubtlessly, WW2 buffs will know that the Americans trained in Brixham  prior to the D-Day landings, as part of Operation Overlord, and the 'slipway and hard' that they used is now officially ‘listed’, and there is  a blue plaque explaining how troops and tanks left from here bound for Utah Beach, and convoys followed loaded with supplies and equipment. 
A D Day landing - A reminder of World War II.
There's a big, modern marina as well, and all alongside the quay, nestling up against the cliff sides, are little gardens, created by local volunteers as part of a Pride in Brixham project, and there were people fishing for crabs with string and bits of bacon, and I do wish we'd had a go at that - next time, perhaps!
Garden by the sea... One of the gardens created for the Pride in Brixham project.
The town itself was lovely, with some nice little independent shops - and a statue commemorating William of Orange who landed at Brixham in November 1688 with his Dutch army during the ‘Glorious Revolution; when the Catholic King  James 11 was forced to abdicate in favour of his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William..
Crowned with a seagull! I accidently deleted my photo of the e statue of
William of Orange in Brixham, so I've borrowe this one, from the site.
You’ll find more photographs, and details of how to participate in Saturday Snapshot at Melinda’s site, at West Metro Mummy Reads.