Thursday, 10 December 2009


The fishermen I knew in my youth often spoke of moots, 'moot' here being their idiom for something, anything, that might tangle the net. 'Can't fish here! Too many moots!' Drift nets in particular were in danger of snagging moots. I don't know how general the term is.

A most likely moot to snag the net is the stump of a tree and this, I think, is what Devon farmers call a moot. The word is clearly Old English and must surely be connected to the other kinds of 'moot' that all have to do with meeting, hence the moot halls in Keswick and elsewhere. Perhaps this Devon dialect moot is simply 'something one meets with'. Your ploughshare or your net meets with a moot and you wish it hadn't. You might even curse or swear at the moot.

There is always a fair selection of tree stumps and tree skeletons along the beaches of the Estuary. Some float in with the tide but the more dramatic ones have tumbled from the red cliffs. Where the trees at the cliff top have had their roots stripped bare by the wind and weather they have a wonderful gnarled and windswept look to them but sooner of later they fall below the tideline to float about a bit and to become moots for a generation.

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