Consult the Coracle

I have been working on the next episode of The Bald Explorer and putting the basic script together. As I have done so, I started to think about the visuals and ways to make the episode more interesting than just standing by a building and spouting some facts and figures about it. Its very difficult to do much more than that unless you seek permission to go inside or find an expert to help you waffle on about the subject matter. In the past of course I have used computer graphics to help illustrate a point and I will be doing so again.

The next BE is about Shrewsbury, which is a fascinating market town and none more so because it is surrounded almost entirely by water. Its not an island, but might as well be as the River Severn nearly encircles the town by looping round on its journey from Wales to the Bristol channel.

One of the features that Shrewsbury has obviously found necessary to have are bridges and there are seven of them, each different and built at different times. Two are particularly interesting to me as they old, although not as ancient as the original constructions that once stood so impressively across this stretch of water.

It struck me that I could have a lot more fun in the video by not simply showing shots of the said bridges and me standing adjacent to them, but by paddling through and under them in some sort of boat. I do have a kayak in fact and my first thought was I could clamber into my life jacket and cut through the water with that. However, I am not at all confident in it and need to have lessons to right myself if I should, and I normally do, tip over.

The trouble with my Kayak is that it is not really in keeping with the serenity of the River Severn. Its a purple plastic thing designed for white water rapids and although there is a weir situated along the course of the river as you leave Shrewsbury I am not going to venture down that. What I need is some thing much more traditional and more placid.

Then it struck me. I need a coracle. This is an ancient craft, possibly older than the Romans and thought to have been in use in Britain before the invasion in AD43. It is a simple thing. In essence its an upturned basket made from local wood such as ash or willow. Traditionally it would have had animal hides attached to the underside to stop the water coming in, but I gather in the Victorian era, a waterproof substance called Calico was invented and painted on to a heavy material and does the job nicely.

A coracle is very much a single person craft and really a vehicle for fishermen. It wasn’t intended to be for carrying goods other than perhaps your sandwiches as you pootle about on the river surface with the single paddle. Sounds idyllic.

For me it is perfect, if I can control it, they are supposed to be tricky, but once the knack is mastered the opportunities are vast. As an investment, for they are not cheap to buy, I think it would be good as I can use it many times. One of the future videos for the Bald Explorer is to explore the canals and water navigation in Shropshire so I am sure it will get plenty of use.

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