The tide is well out but running in; beyond the stony beach below the town are the vast ranks of exposed trestles on which bags of oysters are laid or strung. The scale of production is industrial and locally contentious with a planning inquiry shortly set to adjudicate on the fate on the scale of the enterprise. Subject to bans during cold weather when waterbirds are especially vulnerable as well as other measures Natural England recently dropped their objection to the development.
Soon after dawn and the town is yet to wake; the sun burns through the heavy mist to reveal a harbour of two halves. To the east, aggregates are shipped in on little coasters and offloaded into huge clamps to feed the tall, grey clad, asphalt plant; the noxious smell of hot bitumen drifts over the restaurants and market stalls that line the other walls. There is something pleasing about the fact that Whitstable is not just a tourist repose but a place of local industry and local employment. At rest on the sand at the base of the high harbour walls, is an assortment of fishing boats, cockle dredgers, a Thames barge and tour boats. A fishermen sells his fresh skate and Dover sole off a small, neatly stacked stall to a long line of locals that know their fish. Young herring gulls and solitary crows hang around waiting for the lunch crowd. The small town and surrounding terraces are alive with flocks of house sparrows and starlings and a grey wagtail walks across an empty car park; the first dog walkers take to the path along the beach and soon the trickle will be a flood.
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