20 July 2001


Traditional ways of harvesting food are not

confined to farmers. A fisherman on the Bristol

mudflats uses tools the Romans were familiar

with. Paul Felix photographed him at work

BRENDAN Sellick ploughs a lonely furrow a mile out on the Bristol Channel mudflats.

He can be spotted hunched over his mud horse – a wooden frame on a sled which, though once widely used by fishermen on the vast mudflats off the south coast, is now a rare sight.

"Its been in my family for at least 100 years," says Brendan, half laying over the sled, propelling himself with his feet.

"Ive been working since I was 14 and intend to carry on, like my father and grandfather did. I also hope that my son, Adrian, will continue the tradition."

But he warns: "The wind can scythe through your clothes and the rain lashes you, mercilessly, exposed as you are to its full force. Its got to be in your blood."

Explaining the skill, Brendan continues: "The origins of the mud horse go back to pre-Roman times. In the past the fishermen on the coasts of south Wales and Cumbria used them, but now I think Im the last one."

Some of the time he works out of sight of land out on the flats of Bridgwater Bay, where his tidal nets – strung out between poles – can catch shrimps, cod, salmon and eels.

"I rarely return empty handed, but there certainly arent the fish there used to be."

Brendan, who is now 62 years old, sells his catch to hotels and restaurants near his home at Stolford on the Somerset coast.

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