Could you be a gilly warden? Ex-quayside volunteer hopes role is revived

Sue Riseborough from Wells-next-the-Sea was the first and last gillying volunteer in the seaside town from 2016 to 2019.

Sue Riseborough from Wells-next-the-Sea was the first and last gillying volunteer in the seaside town from 2016 to 2019. - Credit: Sue Riseborough

A former gillying volunteer believes more signs and volunteers for her former role are needed to improve welfare for crabs.

Sue Riseborough, from Wells-next-the-Sea, was the first and last gillying volunteer in the seaside town from 2016 to 2019. She would walk the quayside most days, making sure people were treating gillies kindly.

Gillying is otherwise known as crabbing, with crabs referred to as gillies on the Norfolk coast.

The 69-year-old used to work at an office opposite the gillying hotspot and would see the mistreatment first hand, which inspired her to step up into the role.

Sue Riseborough from Wells-next-the-Sea was the first and last gillying volunteer in the seaside town from 2016 to 2019.

Sue Riseborough from Wells-next-the-Sea was the first and last gillying volunteer in the seaside town from 2016 to 2019. - Credit: Sue Riseborough

“With Wells getting busier and busier I was seeing people being horrible to them, picking them up by the legs, swinging them around, kicking and stamping on them," she said.


You may also want to watch:


"'It is unbelievable the people who cram too many gillies in their buckets, crushing them.   

"The number of people who don't free their gillies and change the water regularly,  especially during the hot weather, otherwise the poor things get boiled alive.  Not to mention the people who don't realise that they should have seawater in their buckets at all."

People gillying by the quayside in Wells-next-the-sea.

People gillying by the quayside in Wells-next-the-sea. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Most Read

She would try to be kind to people, making conversation with them and advising them of the small things they needed to do in order to make the experience better.

She also provided leaflets across the town where people could buy gillying equipment.

The former volunteer never wanted to stop anyone from gillying because of the joy it gave countless people.

In the summer of 2019, she approached a woman on the quayside who would be her last.

Environmentally-friendly crab lines which can now be hired.

Environmentally-friendly crab lines which can now be hired. - Credit: Archant

“I said excuse me, you need to put some water in your bucket, I was wearing my gilly patrol t-shirt and it was obvious that I was there in an official capacity," she said.

“She rose up to me and shouted at the top of her voice, ‘How dare you to tell me what to do, you've got no right to talk to me like that and tell me what to do.’

“I was so disheartened. I couldn't finish the third year.

Gillying for crabs at Wells quayside. Picture: Colin Finch

Gillying for crabs at Wells quayside. Picture: Colin Finch - Credit: Colin Finch

"After finishing, my husband told me to stay away from the quayside for a little while, because it would break my heart."

After Joe Granger voiced his concern over gillying education in the town, Mrs Riseborough echoed this. She hopes somebody steps into the role she loved working in.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter