The Coracle Society

Richard Cavendish paddles along with the Coracle Society.

The coracle is the oldest type of boat still in use on British rivers. Bowl-shaped and flat-bottomed, it is one of the few things which might be perfectly recognisable to a visitor to our time from the Bronze Age. The Celts were using seafaring coracles in Julius Caesar's day and voyagers in the western seas in Irish curraghs may have reached the New World centuries before Columbus.

A coracle can float happily in only a few inches of water and is light enough for its owner to carry it easily on his back. It is also a stable craft, as it needs to be if you are going to land a struggling 201b salmon in it.

Coracles were used to catch salmon and sea trout on Welsh rivers like the Teifi ('pronounced Tivy) and the Tywi (Towy) far down into the nineteenth century. In the 1860s there were more than 300 of them on the Teifi and a coracle hung outside more cottage doors than not in riverside villages like Cenarth. After a sharp decline and a time when it seemed that the coracle might go the way of the dodo, interest has begun to revive. A few still operate on Welsh rivers and the infant Coracle Society has been formed to encourage coracle making and the use of these historic craft. Although it is only a year old, the Society has close to a hundred members – including American, Canadian and Irish enthusiasts. The Society publishes a magazine twice a year and encourages coracle events.

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