The coracle is one of the most basic and oddest-looking boats designed for use on British rivers. It has been in use for hundreds of years for hunting, fishing, poaching and carrying goods and people. Its origins can be traced back into prehistory. The coracle used on British rivers was designed to be lightweight so it could be carried on the back, with a chest strap holding it in place.
The British Coracle has to be:
- Small enough to be manoeuverable.
- Light enough to be carried.
- Paddled with a single paddle
The Ironbridge Coracle was made from a lightweight frame of narrow ash laths or splints. Coracle frames were made with whatever was available locally – such as split ash laths, or woven Hazel or Willow withies. They were originally covered with animal hide and later with calico or similar material waterproofed with pitch and tar. They were used on rivers in England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.
Fishing from a coracle
Fishermen can move quietly in a coracle and the fish can’t see them at night. As they are such a tiny boat, they float in a few inches of water. They were used for net, pole and line fishing for hundreds of years. In the Ironbridge Gorge they were used with ‘Night lines’ to catch eels.
The River Severn once had more coracles than any other British River.
The famous painting of the Iron Bridge by William Williams shows a coracle man in the foreground.
People from Ironbridge Coracle Trust taking part in the drift:
Jude Pilgrim, Julia Tinker, Marion Blockley, Deborah Lowe, Anne Ketchen and Jude Kristia