19 August 2011
right out on the marsh
You must know Tollesbury, Chief. Everybody knows Tollesbury... A wonderful place. You must know Tollesbury.
Yachts, oysters, fishing boats...
Right out on the marsh, yet only forty odd miles from London.
It's littered with little sea going boats, all of them out in the river well away from the village, and the dinghies lie around on the mud with no one to mind them (Margery Allingham, The Tiger in the Smoke, Chapter 18).
I'd picked up a copy of "The Tiger in the Smoke" in a charity shop, in the mood for a bit of post-war murder and fog "like a saffron blanket soaked in ice-water", so when we were up in Margery Allingham's old stamping ground around Tolleshunt D'Arcy we decided to take a detour to Tollesbury. I didn't even know that Tollesbury was mentioned in the book until I found it on an information sign on the river front.
Somehow the link between the fog of Allingham's London and the fusc of the marshes seemed just right. And it was good to find that there were still boats in the mud of the river. Lots of boats. And wood, and old iron and bricks, all littering the place, a lovely muddle of works in progress and paint splashes. Even a salt water pool with a sign saying you must not enter if there are already a thousand people in it.
We stopped and talked to the owner of "Reminder". He's restoring the boat, an old fishing boat previously owned by the Osbornes of Leigh on Sea (the place where I bought my cockle tea). It had gone out to Dunkirk, one of those that had made the journey safely. It felt like the boat was in safe hands again.
I've no idea what Tollesbury is like when its busy, if indeed it ever it is. We were there just before dusk which may well be the perfect time to go, as the rabbits are coming out in the fields, the goldfinches bombarding the thistles around the sea wall and mist is rising off the marshes,