Fosdyke’s Queen of the Saltmarshes

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She’s known as the ‘Queen of the saltmarshes’ but at heart June Barton is still a marsh child.

She was carried on to Kirton Marsh as a baby and has spent just short of 65 years exploring its creeks, watching its birds and picking samphire.

Queen of the Saltmarsh June Barton and samphire she picked during the season. Photo (TIM WILSON): S061114-104TW

Queen of the Saltmarsh June Barton and samphire she picked during the season. Photo (TIM WILSON): S061114-104TW

She retains a child-like enthusiasm for the passion learned at her father’s side and admits she struggled to sit inside a classroom to absorb formal education.

It’s why her old teacher at Kirton Marsh Primary, Sheila Battram, still calls her the ‘Marsh Child’.

June has never spent much time away from the marsh and says of her one experience of living in a town – 12 weeks in a flat in Boston with her husband in the 70s – “I was like a duck out of water. I still had my land and horses at the marsh so I kept coming back daily, but I couldn’t settle so we got a council house overlooking the salt marsh.”

The marriage ended after seven years, possibly because June is a bit of a loner, happiest on the marsh, pursuing the lifestyle she has always known.

June says: “We used to have the ‘annual feed’ on the old August Bank Holiday Monday at the beginning of the month when people used to congregate from the towns because samphire is known as the ‘poor man’s asparagus’. We used to have hundreds of people come to our farm and every fortnight during the summer we’d go out on the marsh with a picnic and go butt stanging or some people call it dabs. It’s when the flat fish come on the big tides in the large creeks and we’d have a thing with prongs to stab them, but it’s disallowed now.

“I used to take my horses on the marsh and jump over the creeks. I didn’t see it as dangerous, though I wouldn’t do it now because the creeks are wider.”

She says the marsh changes with the tides, and June has spent a life-time studying the wind, erosion and currents. She says: “You don’t pick those up out of books. I am fourth generation salt marsh people, I am the real McCoy and one of the last of the breed. The television people told me that.”

An element of fame came with appearances on television and regular radio slots. June, who now lives near Fosdyke Marsh, has also shared her knowledge in two books, Queen of the Saltmarshes and Living the Dream.

She is also in demand as a public speaker and spends much of her life, when she’s not on the marsh, talking about her favourite topic.