Flotsam and Jetsam

My “Minimalist” photo of the beach

“There’s a simple mnemonic that helps distinguish flotsam from jetsam. Flotsam (or floatsome) are those items which are floating as a consequence of the action of the sea. Jetsam are those which have been jettisoned by a ship’s crew (although that may float too of course).”  www.phrases.org.uk

The waters of the English Channel cast some strange things onto our beaches and I for one am an avid collector of them. One of the few dissapointments with the lovely Dymchurch beach is that the daily tides, (unlike the beaches to the east and south west), yield  nothing very interesting. At somewhere like The Warren, near Folkestone, all manner of treasure is to be had. Dungeness also gets it share of goodies, although when it was less popular, pre- Derek Jarman it was probably much more interesting. Even the shingle at Littlestone yields the odd surprise.

An “odd surprise” washed up at Littlestone

All is not lost though, one of my nicest “finds” at Dymchurch was when I was out walking the dogs about  two years ago. As I peered over the seawall (that first sight of the beach and the sea is always a joyous experience) I saw what looked like hundreds of little brightly coloured balls. Further investigation revealed that they were, in fact oranges. Presumably they had fallen off a passing ship. Tescos’ loss was our gain. Although no longer edible, (salted lemons , great in Morrocan food, but not oranges) they looked fantastic strewn across the golden sand. That’s the nice thing about Dymchurch beach, it’s so flat and empty, any change or interuption stands out. It’s a Minimalists dream stretch of sand. When I walk along the beach even the smallest things become major visual events.

The other day I met a man near the central slipway who was sweeping along with a metal detector. it was bleeping quite frequently. He told me that despite appearances Dymchurch beach is a proper treasure trove. Under the surface you can find Napoleonic musket balls, powder flasks and other assorted militaria from that period. This is left over from when the beach was used as a target practice area. There were, of course a large contingent of soldiers stationed in and around Dymchurch during this time.  Secondly, there are the finds from the First and Second world wars. Lastly (and most lucratively) the loose change misplaced by recent visitors, with the odd wedding ring thrown in as an occasional bonus.

Napoleonic Treasure Hunters wait for the military to clear off…

It’s funny really, there’s a Time Capsule on the Seawall which will be opened in 100 years time. That’s fine, but the real treasure on the vast Dymchurch beach is hidden right in front of us, below the  sand.


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