An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 18, 2009

Low Tide On Folly Creek (Variation on a Theme)

Friday found me once again on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, and my father took my son and myself out in his boat. He needed our help marking one of the small channels in Metompkin Bay that he and others use to get to the island or out to Metompkin Inlet. Basically we were just driving some stout, straight tree saplings (minus the branches) into the mud. To the top of the sapling markers we tied bright empty detergent bottles so they could be seen easily. Not that pretty, but they are effective, and it is good to reuse. This task is one that needs to be done at low tide, and as I mentioned previously, the mouth of Parker's Creek where he keeps his boat is impassable at low tide. So we trailered the boat to the ramp at Folly Creek, which is the next deep water creek south.

Folly Creek is close to the courthouse town of Accomac and has had an active history, but now things are relatively quiet. On either side of the shoreline are historic homes, woodlands, farms and marshes. Over 1700 acres of land surrounding the creek have been placed in some form of conservation easement, hopefully ensuring that the environmental quality and the views will remain relatively unchanged.

One of the houses on the north side of the creek is Bowman's Folly. The "new" house was built in 1816 by John Cropper who served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. During the War of 1812 he was appointed a Brigadier General, which might be why the British came up the creek and burned down the old Bowman's Folly. Before Cropper began rebuilding, he had his slaves haul up tons of earth from the shore to form a mound, raising the elevation of the house. This not only kept it above flooding storm tides, but gave it a more prominent place near the mouth of the creek.

After our channel marking duties were complete, we got to go clamming, which is also best done at low tide. Dad took us to a spot at the southern end of the bay, with clean firm sand where he has had good luck in the past finding clams. If you have never had the pleasure of clamming, it is fairly easy. Sometimes you can use your bare feet to find them, but we used clamming rakes, which are like garden rakes, only with longer tines and with a small wire frame on the back. All you do is pull the rake through the sand until you hit a clam, making your rake "sing". A little effort pulls the clam to the surface.

These clams must be happy, for they have grown really large here. There size will make them tough to eat steamed or whole, so they will likely be chopped for chowder, fried clam strips or for fritters.

For most of its history, change has come gradually to the Eastern Shore, but the modern world exerts great pressures, and changes on land impact marine life. While it can't or shouldn't be frozen in time, I applaud any effort that aims at the preservation of its history, culture and especially the quality of its land and waters. Recently the current owners of Bowman's Folly added their 601 acres to the conservation easement, so at least part of this special place (and maybe some clams) will be around for others to enjoy.


  1. Looks like a great day Les. (Your link to Bowmans Folly didn't work) There is so much history here in Virginia. I don't know the Eastern Shore well, but it sure is an interesting place. Thanks for a little more history.
    Those are some big clams! wow.

  2. A nice mini vacation, a little bit of history, some good comments on preservation - thanks.

  3. Very neat tutorial on clamming in your area. I used to clam in Maine, also at low tide. But there we use a pitchfork mounted backwards on a short handle. I guess because we have to dig a bit deeper. Love fresh clams as steamers!

  4. Very interesting post. I loved reading about the old house and the clamming.

  5. I've never eaten clams. How do you get them open? Like oysters?

  6. Wow, awesome about the clams,and love that big old house!!!

  7. Very interesting post Les. Great photos too! I've been to the ES a few times & have enjoyed each visit; & enjoyed this one as well through your blog post. There's a birding/waterfowl festival up there this fall that I hope to make.
    Just let me know when the chowder and clam fritters are ready and we'll be right over! LOL!!

  8. Soooo cool. It's my birthplace (Chincoteague.) Although I left there as a child, I still think of it often. H.

  9. I remember visiting the area as a college student...but appreciate it more as an adult! I've never clammed and it looks like fun. gail

  10. Those clams are large! I have a neighbor who clams for a living - and supplies them to folks for parties, etc. I often run into him, depending on the tide, as he is bringing his boat back in when I'm driving home. Sometimes I feel envious of his day, thinking about the chaos of my own - but I know that he has challenges too. It just seems so peaceful.

    I like these posts about the local waters!

  11. That house is the same style of our house (which I've been told is called Cape Cod). Ours is very similar to the one pictured, but not that big!

  12. Super post. As always your images tell the story even without the words. Loks like it was a memorable day on the water.

  13. Janet,
    Thanks for the heads up on the link, I am not sure I will try to fix it or not. You should try to get over there before Va. is no longer your home. Fall is a great time with few tourists.

    You are welcome. Preservation and history are important to me.

    It is cold in Maine, I would go deep in the mud as well if I was a clam.

    Sweet Bay,
    Thanks for the kind comments.

    The flesh of clams is firmer than oysters and a bit sweeter. You can open them like oysters by prying them at the hinge point. If you steam them they just pop open. Mine are in the freezer and they will open slightly as they thaw.

    Thanks for stopping by and please come back at anytime.

    I'll be sure to let you know when they are done!

    These clams were taken about 10-15 miles south of Chincoteague, so they are close enough to be kin.

    It is great fun!

    Watermen seem like they make an honest, but hardworking living. It is a romantic notion that it would be a great way to make a living, but it is tougher than that.

    If your house is as nice as your garden - it must be something.

    Any day on the water is special.

    It was a great day all round.


  14. Thanks for showing this, Les. It looks like everyone was happy as clams. Man, those were some big ones too. We love the little guys, for me the smaller the better, no chewing necessary! Glad to hear of the preservation of that pristine spot as well. Hear hear. :-)