On the beach, next to the Whitstable Oyster Fisheries, there is a huge pile of oyster shells. Usually, you can’t touch them; they are important for rebuilding the oyster beds. But, on one night every year, you can grab a bucket full and build a grotter!
“What’s a grotter ?” you ask.
Let me explain…
A grotter is a little grotto, built out of oyster shells and lit with a candle. In the 19th century they became a popular way for children to beg. At that time, over 300,000 oysters were sold in London alone and so oyster shells were easy to come by. Over time grotto became grotter and so grotters were born.
Grotters come in all shapes and sizes, from huge, elaborate affairs with thick walls and roofs, to simpler, single walled examples. Once you get the hang of building, the world is your Whitstable oyster.
Make your own Whitstable Grotter
1. Get a large bucket of oyster shells. You’d be amazed by how many shells it takes to build a decent sized grotter. Also remember to put them back when you’ve finished for the evening, shells are important for the baby oysters to hide from predators.
2. Find a nice patch of beach that is reasonably level. If it isn’t, move some stones or smooth out a patch of sand. It’s important that you have a stable base for your grotter. Also, make sure that people aren’t going to be walking through your space. You don’t want your grotter to be knocked over.
3. Start by placing oyster shells in a circle. You should use your biggest shells and you need to make it big enough to place a candle inside at the end. Make sure that the shells overlap each other, so that there aren’t too many gaps between them. This will give your grotter some stability.
4. Once you’ve made your first circle, place more oyster shells on top facing the other way. Try to make sure that each shell covers the gap below, a bit like bricks in a wall.
5. Keep doing this using smaller and smaller shells.
6. Once you are happy with the size, shape and height of your grotter wait until it gets darker and then place a candle inside. You might want to put the candle in a jar to save it from being blown out by the breeze.
7. Step back and admire your handiwork and all the other grotters around you.
8. Take photos and share them with our Facebook Community on the Whitstable Grotters photo album and they will be displayed below !