Well the 2016 Bushcraft Show was fun. With our tipi pitched once again down by the Beehive Farm lake, a generous grassy space was turned into a combined campsite, canoe camping clinic and outdoor boat-building yard. Over a sunlit bank-holiday weekend, many a hazel rod and willow wand was cut into shape, and two coracles and a canoe were constructed and launched.
A clutch of plucky showgoers had signed up for one of two coracle building courses. None had put a coracle together before, and only one had paddled an example of this tiny craft, and then only briefly.
At the end of these two willow-weaving and fabric sewing sessions, all eight coracle-wrights set out to paddle their creation across the lake. Contrary to prevailing visitor opinion, and repeated prediction, each managed to return dry to the shore. One builder even took his daughter out with him. Who said coracles were unstable?
The canoe was constructed as a demonstration, building on earlier experiments with the sort of woven methods seen in the coracles. For this build I chose to use hazel though. Harder to weave, but quite a bit stronger.
Part of the objective of the canoe build was to show how easily someone in need of a load carrying craft in the wild, and with a tarp or two in their pack, could put something usable together over a day or two – and using only pretty simple woodcraft skills too.
Amidst a leafy pile of raw materials, much of it sourced from the woods around the lake, the canoe, or coranoe, took shape, and it was really enjoyable to discuss the project with so many interested people. There’s no denying that for quite some time any idea of completion before the show’s end looked distinctly optimistic, but an early morning start on the third day soon saw everything fall into woven canoe-like shape.
With assistance from three small helpers, and one big one, the fabric hull covering was stretched tight and sewn in place early on Monday afternoon, before the lightweight craft was slipped into the water amidst the banks of yellow iris flanking the lake.
My only regret during the weekend – with so much going on at our camp, I saw hardly any of the rest of the show.
My thanks to everyone who dropped in to our lakeside camp to watch and chat, and particularly to Dave Watson of Woodland Survival Crafts who stepped in at the last minute to provide additional willow for the coracle builds.