As Spring starts to come into being, most of us will be looking forward to a day or two off for the long weekend. But here on the Helford some families in Cornwall will be popping on their welly boots, dusting off their buckets and spades, and setting out for a once-a-year experience unlike any other in the UK. That’s right, it’s trigging time!
Trigging is an old Cornish term for cockle picking, but refers to the collection of any shellfish by hand. This is a practice permitted on the Helford River for one day only- Good Friday. Armed with rakes and buckets, locals set out at low tide towards the creekside cockle beds at Bar Beach, Treath, and Gillan. Walk along the banks of the river at low tide and you’ll see folks at work all along the shoreline, collecting cockles and other shellfish by hand.
The act of trigging on the Helford River dates back to pre-christian times. Ancient laws state that this can only be done one day in the year, and it just so happens to be Good Friday, at the start of the Easter weekend. Although ancient, these laws are important in the current climate, helping to ensure that the marine life of the Helford River remains in it’s delicate and healthy balance. Trigging is closely monitored by conservation authorities, and whilst trigging it’s important for marine sustainability that any undersized cockles are left in place, so anything smaller than a 20 pence piece needs to be placed gently back into the foreshore for next year.
It’s a simple process really, gently raking the shore and plucking the cockles out into a bucket. After a good rinse, you’re free to take them home and prepare any way you wish. In days gone by it was traditional for the cockles to be prepared, cooked and eaten beside the river. Nowadays, most people take their foraged food home for supper. There’s one thing that has stayed the same however, that fresh taste which comes from the unpolluted and pristine waters of the Helford River.
If you plan on heading out trigging this Good Friday, make sure you follow all the usual rules for keeping safe beside the sea. Leave only footprints, and please do check the tide times before heading out, keeping a careful eye on the incoming tide.
If you’ve missed the opportunity for trigging this year, crabbing is a great way to learn about our marine life.