The art of coracle building and the 9th Guisborough Forest Festival

PUBLISHED: 18:34 06 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013

Dave Purvis paddles down the River Ure in a coracle

Dave Purvis paddles down the River Ure in a coracle

A woodland festival brings out crafty people in North Yorkshire as Jenny Green reports<br/>Photographs by Doug Jackson

With this summers record rainfall it is not surprising that business is thriving for one of the nations few coracle builders. Studying and making the ancient boat design has become a passion for retired plumbers merchant Dave Purvis.

Daves interest in coracles came about accidentally. He originally applied to join a bow-making course. He was told it was full but that there were still places to learn how to make the little boats. The rest is history and he is now one of a handful of people nationally keeping the old tradition alive. Fishermen still use them on three Welsh rivers.

It takes Dave, who is from Ripon, two days to make one of the mini-vessels using ash wood, which is relatively easy to bend to shape, and bitumen to keep the fabric covering tort and water-tight. Historically, they would have been used by fishermen and hunters and to navigate swampy areas, being durable, light and manoeuvrable.

My grandson Euan has also got the coracle bug and its something we love doing together, said Dave. There are 11,000 year-old cave paintings showing coracles, so its a design that has stood the test of time. Ive sold quite a few over the years, but these days I prefer teaching. We are also involved in testing bigger ancient craft such as a six-seat curragh and plan to row one 150 miles down the River Wye later this year.

But first Dave will join scores of other craftspeople at the 9th Guisborough Forest Festival on Sunday, September 9th - the regions biggest woodland jamboree, demonstrating that old skills are very much alive and kicking.
More than 3,500 revellers are expected at the festival, staged in the idyllic foothills of the North York Moors.

Other craftspeople will be at the festival. including bushcraft experts, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, willow weavers, whittlers, charcoal makers, organic foodies, circus acts and wildlife fans with their birds of prey. The trees will also echo to the sound of percussion from African dance workshops.

Forestry Commission ranger Cath Bashforth added: There are lots of opportunities to get involved with plenty of hands-on attractions.
We are always bowled over by the public response to the festival and it has grown to become a tremendous day out in majestic countryside.

Organisers from the Forestry Commission, Friends of Guisborough Forest and Walkway and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council believe the event will showcase the talents of more than 100 people also including artists, musicians and wildlife experts.

For further details call 01287 631132 or visit

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