In late 2016 , the Welsh Men’s Sheds Association challenged the Frome Men’s Shed to make and race a coracle.
The Frome Men’s Shed took up the challenge, and the coracle was made in a traditional manner by two of our Frome Shedders – Tony Hopkins & Steve Gray.
We managed to have the UK Men’s Sheds Association publish an appeal in their newsletter, and we tried to get other English Sheds involved, but failed ! We hope to run a larger event in 2018, with more Men’s Sheds involved.
The Build (March to June 2017)
The Coracle was mainly built by Frome Shedders Tony Hopkins & Steve Gray. (Although they got a lot of advice from other Shedders) There are many different forms of the Coracle across the UK, but the Frome Coracle was based loosely on the Severn-Ironbridge type. It’s width about 3 1/2' (105 cm), length about 4 1/2' (135 cm), depth about 14" (35 cm). Instead of the traditional method of making a Coracle frame with cleaved laths of Ash or willow, the frame of the Frome coracle was made from a single board of 4 mm Birch plywood, cut into 35mm strips by Avon Plywood of Keynsham. The laths were woven (Nine laths lengthwise, nine laths crosswise) and shaped after soaking, and applying heat. The covering is heavy calico, painted with flexible bitumen paint. The paddle was hand made by Tony. The coracle was started in March 2017, and took about three months to complete, largely working just half a day a week at the Frome Men’s Shed on a Thursday morning.
The Test 27th June 2017
We tested the Coracle on the River Frome, by the Cheese and Grain – Shedders involved were Patrick Abrahams, Steve Gray, John Philp & Tony Hopkins.The Coracle was launched, named “Glennis”, and some Prosecco poured over the side. The coracle was named “Glennis” after Tony’s late wife. Tony said “Making a coracle has been a lifetime ambition for me – and it was brilliant seeing it on the river – Glennis would have been very proud”
Patrick, John & Tony all trialled paddling the Coracle. It all went very smoothly – With quite a crowd gathering to watch (and perhaps hoping that one of us were to fall in) The photographer from the Frome Times - Martyn Payne arrived, and took some really great photographs. (See http://thegrid.ai/martyn-payne-photography/)
The earliest record of coracles on the river Frome was when the wild Silures Tribe from South Wales came over the Severn and down the River Frome in coracles to attack the Romans at Farleigh Hungerford! We hope that Frome can wreak revenge at the Carmarthen river festival.
The Race 8th July 2017
We strapped the Coracle on the top of the car, and headed down the M4 to Carmarthen. Patrick, John and Steve arrived in Carmarthen to meet Tony Hopkins who had travelled separately. We met up with Malcolm & Jenny Rees from the Carmarthen Coracle Association. We also met up with the Richard White and a gaggle of Ferryside Shedders, and also Robert Narayan-Taylor from Carmarthen. We met lots of people at the Carmarthen River Festival, including the Carmarthen Mayor Alun Lenny.
The race took place at slack tide. The start delayed by the passage of the RNLI rescue boat racing up and down the River Towy – Making some waves that challenged the novice Coraclers.
See the video of the RNLI rescue craft making waves
The race was fairly slow, with Ferryside Shed coming third, John Philp from the Frome Shed coming 4th, and Patrick from the Frome Shed last ! See the mayor presenting Richard with his medal below. Our thanks to Andy Fraser and Malcolm Rees for their support to Frome Shed !!
See the video of the race