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Avalon Marshes

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork


Launch that canoe!

In the past the reed swamp, bogs and mires of the Avalon Marshes were difficult to cross! Neolithic man overcame this by constructing trackways. However, in the Iron Age the marshes became far wetter and dugout canoes replaced these trackways.

Working under the guidance of Richard Brunning of the South West Heritage Trusts’ Hands on Heritage volunteers have recently completed two sections of replica trackway.

Today saw the literal launch of their next project having completed the construction of a dugout canoe. The canoe was launched at Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and the volunteers paddled it through the open water between tall reeds as people would have done all those years ago.

The canoe was carved out of a single Beech tree donated by the Forestry Commission. The tree came from the Blackdown Hills near Castle Neroche. Whilst it was not moved across Somerset by manual labour it was hard manual work that carved the canoe from the tree! Replica Iron Age tools and the sheer hard graft of the volunteers were the key to success.

The volunteers are based at the Avalon Marshes Centre and meet up each Wednesday, come rain or shine, grafting away to replicate the techniques used in past times. The Hands on Heritage project is run by the South West Heritage Trust and is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership.


During the three years of the Avalon Marshes Partnership, we aim to construct a different dugout canoe each year, based on archaeological examples from different periods in prehistory.

The first one is an oak example based on later prehistoric vessels. This will be similar to the Shapwick canoe now on display at the Museum of Somerset.

It is currently under-construction by our Hands on Heritage volunteers, who are using tools familiar and fitting to those used in the Iron Age.

Keep an eye on our blog to stay up to date with our progress:

Chance Posted by Chance
19th March 2015ce

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