New coracle preservation project begins

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29 May 2024

In an effort to preserve the 10,000 year old gentle art of coracle making and sailing, The Coracle Society is commencing a new project with the UK Men's Shed Association to preserve this historical craft from oblivion for future generations to enjoy.

With a provenance dating back to the Iron Age, the humble coracle has survived to the present day but over the last 200 years has suffered a devestating reduction in their numbers and usage due to various factors, including the need to conserve our dwindling fish stocks and more sophisticated lifestyles and means of travel.

No longer seen are the bull boats of USA, quffas in Iraq, parasils in India, Ku-Du in Tibet, tub boats in China and Japan, or any of the European coracles. Only in Vietnam is coracle fishing prospering due to Government support for this valuable source of protein.

UK coracle making has fared badly, with coracle making listed as endangered and curragh making as critically endangered.

A grant has been received from the Heritage Crafts Association Endangered Crafts Fund and a pilot scheme is commencing, to build and record coracle making for use as leisure and recreational craft - with a focus on coracle types that are least known and most likely to be lost to history.

On receipt of further funding, the project will build and create a National Archive of some of the 22 and now obsolete regional pattern vessels to make the nation more "coracle aware" with the expectation of giving these historical and sustainable little craft a chance of surviving into the future.

The first pilot build took place on Saturday 25th May at the Shropshire County Agricultural Show in Shrewsbury, when I demonstrated the making of a traditional Shrewsbury coracle with the support of the Shrewsbury Men's Shed branch members.

Many of the visiting public took advantage of the opportunity to paddle our coracles in the river Severn which runs adjacent to the showground, along with the Shrewsbury Shedders, the verdict being "please can we do it again?" The answer is - WATCH THIS SPACE!

Shrewsbury and Cleobury Mortimer Men's Sheds are building more coracles in June before the project is rolled out nationally at Shedfest in July.

Dave Purvis