Just messing about on the river... or the canal... or the mere...
Visit Shropshire and take to the River Severn in one of the oldest forms of river transport, Coracles, which have free right of passage on the navigable River. Weighing just over 12kg each, and designed to be carried on a person’s back, with a strap around the chest to hold it in place, coracles were mostly used on rivers, and have regional variations in design. They have a basket frame; traditionally covered with animal hide, canvas or calico, but now more often with durable PVC rot proof and puncture resistant coverings. Propelled from the bow with a broad-bladed single paddle in a figure of 8 motion, they sit on the water, which makes them unstable, and easily carried by wind and currents. They cannot be re-entered once capsized, and have no built in buoyancy. The Coracle Society gives guidelines for using a coracle safely.
Coracles were mostly used in the past for pole, net and line fishing, and for locals to cross rivers, but are now mostly used in Shropshire for leisure, and at organised regattas.
The Macmillan Coracle World Championships – takes place each year from the Pengwern Boat Club on the River Severn in Shrewsbury, where teams of 4 compete, and raise money for the Macmillan Cancer Research Charity.
The Davies family of Shrewsbury are said to be the last traditional Coracle family in England. Fred Davies, who died in 1994, was well known for retrieving balls from the River Severn in his coracle during Shrewsbury Town FC home matches at their former home of Gay Meadow.
Coracle making courses are held in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire at The Small Woods Trust where you can learn to make your own coracle, and can then take part in the annual August Bank Holiday Monday ‘Ironbridge Coracle Regatta’.
Visit Ironbridge to see where Eustace Rogers, whose family had been building and using coracles on the River Severn there for at least 250 years, had his Coracle workshop in a hut beside the Ironbridge in Coalbrookdale. He died in 2003, and The Ironbridge Coracle Trust, Registered 2015, has been set up to buy and conserve the Rogers hut, and to open it to the public. It is said to be the last coracle shed in England, where circular boats were made for use on the River Severn.
Coracle regattas have also been held on the River Teme in South Shropshire.
For more information on coracles visit the Coracle Society.
There are opportunities to get out and about on our waterways, whether it is the canals, meres or the rivers.
Sabrina boats offer 45 min river cruises along the Severn in Shrewsbury.
There are a couple of companies offering canoe holidays along the River Severn based at Bridgnorth, Ironbridge and Shrewsbury.
If you are interested in any aspects of canoeing or kayaking in northern Shropshire please contact Shropshire Paddlesport.
The Shropshire Sailing Club is based at Whitemere near Ellesmere and aims to provide affordable access to sailing for beginners, keen racers and those who just enjoy “messing about in boats”. Telford also has a sailing club at Priorslee Lake.
There is a water skiing and wake board centre at Bomere near Condover.