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Shed of Surprises at Lyme Bay Fish Shack

PUBLISHED: 16:41 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:41 08 May 2017

Lyme Bay Fish Shack

Lyme Bay Fish Shack

Matt Austin

Tim Maddams makes a fishy discovery when he bumps into an old friend

I have been bemoaning the loss of the independent retailer for years. Many of our butchers and bakers and grocers and fishmongers have gone as the relentless tide of the supermarket cult brainwashes us into homogenised submission and signs us up to its idea of what our lifestyles should be like.

I have been quietly fighting back, shopping as independently as possible, at extra cost, and do you know what? I feel good about it and I get better quality, higher value food into the bargain. It’s not just the food you eat that is affected when you step outside the bubble though; it is also a life enhancing opportunity. I can think of no better example than the Lyme Bay Fish Shack just off the A35 in the car park of the well known Millers farm shop – not your usual venue for a life changing experience I will grant you, but bear with me.

I like to think I know a thing or two about sustainability, particularly when it comes to food - and especially fish; so upon discovering that there was a new fishmonger popping up in the car park at Millers I was at first suspicious. But upon walking though the door of the shed (sorry chaps, it’s not a ‘shack’, it’s a shed!) I got that little tingle you sometimes get when you may be about to be happily surprised. There was no one in the shed, but there was something else missing too. There was no packaging and there was no ‘fishy smell’. It was just ice and a fairly awe-inspiring display of fresh (very fresh) fish. All good signs but I was not so easily convinced. I needed to know where this fish came from and how it was caught.

A young man walked in (you know you’re getting old when a man in his 20s seems young) and looked me straight in the eye.

“Hello, how can I help you?” was the polite enquiry.

At this point I have to confess I was feeling a bit cantankerous and I was going to grill this young man.

“You can start by telling me where all this fish is from please?”

It was a barbed response, and he knew it. But without hesitation he started filling me in.

“The plaice, sole and dabs are off day boat trawlers in Brixham - I bought them there at market this morning. The mussels are from the Exmouth mussel company and all the bass and bream, mackerel and pollack are from our own two boats in Axmouth...”

“Hang on!,” said I. “Which boats in Axmouth?”

He replied: “The Outcast and...”

Then the penny dropped! This was the place which is owned and run by a very old friend of mine, Jon Wallington of the Outcast and his partner in crime Nigel Birt, skipper of the KT – Sam.

And, as if on cue, in walks Jon with a box of fish fresh from the last tide.

“Hello Tim! What do you think of the shack then?”

It turned out that Jon and Nigel, who were a little fed up with selling their prime local and mostly line-caught fish into the market, wanted a good way of selling straight to the customer. The Lyme Bay Fish Shed (sorry!) was born.

We laughed and chatted and reminisced about fishing together. You see, Jon used to supply me with eye wateringly fresh bass straight from the boat in my River Cottage days and I have been out fishing with him on many tides, despite turning in a little worse for wear on my very first trip out with him. But, it was time to take him to task. I had just spotted something I wasn’t happy about...

“So, Jon - why the salmon?”

I have issues with farmed salmon and frankly I see no reason why Atlantic salmon should be on sale year round. This once plentiful wild fish is now reduced to an environmentally damaging shadow of its former self due to the dubious practice of large scale fish farming. In response Jon tells me straight.

“You know very well Tim. People want salmon, and cod and tuna and if I don’t sell it they will go to the supermarket. So this way I get the chance to try and sell them something different, but if I never have any salmon, many simply won’t come. And it’s organic, from a small farm in Scotland and cracking quality.” He made a fair point and I conceded it – even though I refused to move on the tuna.

So I left with a bag full of fish, some local mackerel and hand-dived scallops, and a great sense of pride in the South West and its fishermen. These two skippers from Axmouth, along with the ever helpful Dan and Corin, are making a truly concerted effort to get a better and more sustainable living from their way of life and to discuss, inform and interact with their customers. Fair play to them.

The shack is open most days, has a wide selection of fish and the knowledge to go with it. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather buy my fish; it’s fresh, locally sourced and fairly priced. I take my hat off!

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