Oundle may be landlocked, but the fish that is available at the local markets is renowned for its variety and quality. Simon Long of Longshore is a Saturday farmers’ market favourite whose monthly stall attracts a steady queue of regular customers waiting to fill their bags with his fresh fish.
Mr Long’s family have been fishing for four or five generations. He fishes from the small coastal village of Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast in his own ten metre dayboat named “Don’t Know”, and also works with inshore day boats in Norfolk and Suffolk. Back in their kitchen, his wife Carol makes all the cooked products, such as handmade fishcakes, soups, curries, pies, and pâtés.
The Longs have grown oysters and mussels near Blakeney Point for decades. Mr Long rejuvenated his oyster beds about 15 years ago after sand and silt shifted on the coast. The oysters themselves need regular maintenance.
“As the oysters grow, they stick together, so I have to give them a shake every month to stop them sticking together and knock some of the new growth off,” he said. The beds lie about 15 feet under water at high tide, so he harvests weekly while the tide is out. The oysters are in bags that swing in the tide, and he gathers them for grading and purification for 42 hours.
Crabs and lobsters are their main catch from the Cromer area, with 300 pots for lobster. He line-catches and nets mackerel, bass, sole, and cod, also picking up flat fish from other boats along the coast. Over the years there has been less cod available, while customers’ tastes have changed and become broader.
The Longs only sell at markets, and have been selling in Oundle since the start of the farmers’ market. “We have very loyal, very good customers that have been coming all that time,” he said.
Ken, from Aldwincle, is a regular monthly customer. “I can find interesting stuff here, as opposed to just cod, salmon and haddock.” He can spend up to £60 at a time.
After the Saturday market in Oundle, Simon goes back to Norfolk and prepares for the weekly Sunday market in Marylebone, London.
“I will load up again, fillet some fish. There are crabs and lobsters to deal with, and live lobsters to get out of the tanks for people. I’ll try and get some sleep at some point,” he admitted.
Mr Long says he does not take days off. “Stuff is so fluid on what you’ve got to do. It’s more like hours off here and there.”
The boat sets out to sea whenever the weather is suitable, though when the weather is bad, that just means there is time for Mr Long to repair gear or work on the oyster beds. The sea never sleeps, and nor does it seem, do the fishermen who make sure that the freshest fish is always ready to deliver from boat to market.
1 December 2020