West Wales Willows

Have fun with building a Willow Coracle!

Coracles are light, fairly shallow boats, used with a single paddle, which could be carried by a man and which have been traditionally
been used for fishing on inland waters in Wales and Ireland.

Depending on the region, the designs and material vary slightly, but are generally made from a willow or hazel body,
with impregnated cloth or hide covering it.

They are easily made and good fun! Give it a try!

The following pictures were taken when we made 3 coracles with a group of people according to the instructions by Olivia Elton Barratt in Hilary Burns Book "Cane, Rush and Willow", which is a smaller version of an Irish coracle.   

We had a picnic and a coracle "race"as a highlight at the end and as you can see, we were enjoying ourselves all along the way!

Coracle materials: willow, cloth, tar, a wooden seat & tying material The basic coracle materials:

A bundle of tall, reasonably thick viminalis and some thinner, long rods for weaving;
a large piece of cloth;
tarr paint;
some wood for a seat;
some twine to bind the rods together
and cotton to suture the cloth on with.

That's all to put you onto the water!

Well, a paddle (made from some ply and a broomstick)
was also helpful!
The seat is laid down and the willows staked into the ground around it. More willows are woven round to form the edge of the coracle. Staking up the coracle
Bending over the stakes The willow stakes on the long sides are now bent over
to the other side and tied with twine to their counterparts...
... followed by the stakes on the short sides. The coracle is being shaped
Finishing the top of the coracle The coracle is taken out of the ground, the ends of the stakes are reduced and the seat it tied in.
Phase 1 finished! The finished willow body for our coracle
Sewing the cloth onto the coracle The calico is sewn onto the frame...
.... and the first layer of tarr paint applied to the outside of the coracle.

Overall, you will need 3 layers of paint.
Allow at least a week between each layer for it to dry properly !
The first layer of tar
The finished willow coracle! One of the finished coracles.

The tarr was still fairly wet for a while, so allow enough drying time, especially in the summer, when the tarr will soften again in hot weather!
And here is the grand finale!

All 3 coracles looked slightly different and some people were better at directing them then others.

We were really "messing about in boats" and swim wear was the better option, while we were learning how to deal with them.

The cloth cover can rip easily, so care needs to be taken not to puncture them on sharp objects, but it is easily repaired again with a tarred on patch - it just takes a while for the tarr to dry again!
The willow coracles on the water

The best time to make a coracle is in the first half of the year, when the willow is still flexible.


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