29 July 2019

A punt gun goes Bang

My father was a wildfowler outside office hours. That is to say at weekends, some weekdays and many a night, alone or in the company of like-minded souls of a sporting nature. His father and two of his brothers would often accompany him and many, many hours would be spent in pursuit of wildfowl on the Exe Estuary.
This was not a sport with rigid rules but more of hunting instincts, stalking a living prey for reward,
the meat, the kudos, cash and accolade amongst his friends over a pint or two.
My early childhood saw some of the drama of this almost obsessive pursuit of pleasure. Not always a happy experience and one or two occasions quite frightening.
What brings me to tell this brief true story of misfortune or blessing is the recent interest shown by a new generation of wildfowlers that somehow seem to have awareness of the prowess of my father's skill in the field and I have had cause to delve a little deeper into some old notes he kept on the flyleaves of an old book on the subject.

On the 23rd of February 1940 he records at 2.30pm off Exminster he shot 7 Brent Geese, but at 4.30 his punt gun exploded at Greenland, a large mudflat off Exminster in the middle of the Exe Estuary.
He records that his father Lionel came to his rescue and towed him ashore to Woodbury Station -actually, it was the Exton Railway station which is right on the opposite Estuary side to the Turf Locks Hotel. From there he would have accompanied him to RD&E Hospital. (His father would presumably have been waiting at the Turf to drive him home or possible he had been alerted by a shout from there and rowed out to the rescue ).
A month later father records that he was discharged from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and retrieved the punt, but the now damaged punt gun was "chucked overboard"; exactly where is not revealed, but my memory seems to tell me of having read somewhere that it was off Lympstone.
The punt was holed but would have been repairable and presumably, he was headed back to the Dawlish Warren creek where the punt was normally hauled out onto the mud beside the railway line at Cockwood.
Today the scene is quiet, pictured here in high summer from Exton Station.

Looking south-west

Under the rail viaduct

Looking towards Exmouth from the station

Looking towards Topsham

Turf Hotel in the middle distance

Father's notes record the accident

A similar punt with breach loader gun. Father's gun was an older type of muzzleloader

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