This outing was facilitated by Alistair Phillips of WoodWorks and Coracles, as a reunion activity for a group of volunteers who’d met when building a cob roundhouse. All being of a similarly outdoorsy type, keen to learn new skills and explore the countryside, we travelled to Oxfordshire and had our first tentative wobble in a coracle on the pond in Alistair’s garden.
Traditionally, coracles are made using a willow frame with a skin of calico coated in tar. Alistair’s modern coracles use ash with strong plastic instead of calico, making them more durable and lighter to carry. We used the PVC offcuts to make pirate hats, and, sporting the height of coracling fashion, we set off for the river.
Rapids! Tiny ones! We plunged gently down a stony shelf below the bridge, one by one, popping out the other side – except our admiral, Cliff, who capsized! He emerged from the shadows bravely, hatless, and with one dry shoulder. Tipping the water from his little boat, he climbed back in and we set off once more down the peaceful, dark green tunnel between hedgerows dense and tangled with August’s bushy sprawl.
You can make a coracle of your own with Alistair by contacting him at www.woodworksandcoracles.co.uk. We also whittled wooden spoons – well, at least a rough impression of a spoon – and turned some lovely bowls.
Here's some Alistair made earlier...