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Palmones - Messing about on the River

'There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.' (Graham Greene, Wind in the Willows).

Messing about on the River

Much of the population of Palmones would no doubt agree with that sentiment. Sat on the north bank of the Rio Palmones the town of Palmones looks out over the wide river estuary, which is sheltered from the worst of the weather by a sand bar, to the gullies and islands on the south bank that make up the Marismas of the Rio Palomes, a declared Natural Site. Fishermans cottages front the seawall and beach overlooking Algeciras Bay whilst their boats are moored to shanty style homemade piers, some even sporting a locked front door, jutting out into the stream, their inland ends firmly lashed to rings in the wall. The piers are themselves fascinating, manufactured from driftwood and any other scraps to hand. Some sport roofs, others are at crazy angles, others are as neglected and sad as the weed-shrouded boats sunk beside them. They would be the envy of those who prefer to secure their boats in the mud berths of the Hamble or Wyre in the UK.

The tide is flooding into the estuary and a dinghy with a small outboard putters past. Its sole occupant is whistling a soft tune as he is bombed right and left by unheeding gannets spearing into the water for the small fry brought in with the tide. Soon the only view of him is his head with its red baseball cap just seen above the reeds on the islands. The hundreds of herons mark his passage, swivelling their necks in perfect synchronisation, totally unmoved by his presence. Not so happy are the egrets that launch themselves indignantly into the air in a cloud of snow-white wings and breasts ahead of the boat, only to circle and land noisily in a flurry once it has gone.

Yet another boat, this one a small fishing boat, casts off and makes its way sedately to the fishing quay upriver. Its cigar-sporting captain, in a threadbare sweater stands with one hand nonchalant on the wheel but ever conscious of the snorkel diver who is in midstream searching for the cockles and muscles from the mud and rocks on the riverbed. With a slight twist of the wrist he manoeuvres in plenty of time and chugs safely on.

A group of fishermen line the wall at its seaward end casting lugworms into the rapid current for sea bass. They enviously watch a gull on a rock across the tide who has managed to trap one all to himself that would feed a family of four. The gull takes stabbing bites of the fish that he holds down with one large webbed foot scanning the sky frantically for competition whilst he swallows.

It is not all idyllic though on this Sunday 31st October 2009. A bright red boom designed to contain oil blocks the river's passage to Algeciras Bay. The fishermen and their boats are confined to the estuary. Overhead helicopters and planes monitor the spread of the slick whilst lorries remove hundreds of tons of polluted sand from the long beach that runs for three kilometres south of the estuary to Rinconcillo and beyond to Algeciras.

© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.

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