Tom Fort explores the River Trent in a punt – and Spider T

Tom Fort BBC4 River Trent

Writer Tom Fort’s programme River of Dreams exploring the history of the River Trent, and descending the River Trent from Stoke on Trent to the Humber Estuary in a paddled and rowed punt, on foot, and on board the Humber sloop Spider T is to be screened on the BBC4 tonight.

The programme goes out at 9pm, and I’m sure it will make some intelligent entertainment. Some readers may remember being intrigued by his 2012 programme about the unpromising-sounding A303. Little did we know…

There are clips from the programme here and here.

PS – We watched this last night. It’s well worth watching, though the Trent looks pretty scary in places, and I think Fort’s punt carries rather more buoyancy (and a shorter waterline) than strictly necessary, which will have made his boat a little slow…

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A boating adventure on the Brière

Brière Marais

Brière Brière Brière

Brière Brière Brière

Click on any of the images for a much larger photo

This is the Brière – an area of lakes and marshes a little inland from the France’s (or should I say Brittany’s) Atlantic seaboard.

Said to extend to 720 square kilometres, it’s a big area of marsh and water created by digging turf in much the same way as our own Norfolk Broads. However, it doesn’t have the long history of intensive exploitation by the holiday trade that is so apparent on the Broads – the big leisure activity here is wildfowling, and I guess that’s the purpose of the many hides.

The marshes are wild and empty – which makes them just lovely. (Click for a Google satellite image.) If you’ve ever wondered what the Broads would be like without the hire boats, the Brière is the best example I’ve yet thought of.

While there are no holiday cruisers, there small flat-bottomed canoes known as chalands that can be hired by the hour. They have almost no rocker and for seats they have thwarts high up in the boat, with the result is that they’re pretty tippy, and must be scary for holiday makers unused to canoes. They don’t paddle too well either – it’s no wonder that the locals use poles or outboards – but who cares? This is a fabulous place to be.

You don’t get any of the clear waymarking that the Broads has, and few clear waterways. The geezer who gives you your paddles also gives you his phone number because he half expects you to get lost, but that’s ok, for you will of course be rescued for a consideration.

He doesn’t explain how he’s going to find you in such an extensive labyrinth, however.

I gather the tradition is that the locals navigate by the churches, but our hirer gave me a satellite photo with suggested routes on it. I still became baffled after about half an hour and decided not to go too far: if you decide to spend a whole day on these empty marshes, I’d strongly suggest taking a smart phone with a GPS facility (and perhaps some spare batteries) so you can find your way using Google Maps.

You know you’re in a wild place when you see signs like the one above, which I found in an earth closet on an island in the marshes. As a freelance journalist, I naturally enjoyed the use of the word ‘commission’. And for our American friends, here’s a photo of a turkey that came to see me off…

Brière

Beale Park Boat Show: artist Claudia Myatt, Starfish Books and a coracle

Claudia Myatt Starfish Books

Artist and author Claudia Myatt has written to say she’ll be at the Beale Park Boat Show (10-12 June), where it seems her time will be divided between manning her Starfish Books stand, and messing about on the water.

‘Beale Park is the perfect antidote to big boat shows,’ she says. ‘It takes mixing business and pleasure to a fine art, which is why I spend as much time paddling my coracle on the lake as I do on the stand.’

Claudia has been exhibiting at the show since it began over ten years ago. Since then she has developed her Starfish Books range of colourful nautical designs, which now includes the Log Book for Little Ships and the popular Go Sailing series of children’s books commissioned by the RYA.

New for this year is RYA Go Green. Fun and colourful, it covers everything you need to know about the marine environment, from rivers to oceans, sharks to shopping. All Claudia’s books, cards and designs will be on the Starfish Books stand in the area of the show called the Marine Village – and colouring sheets will be available to entertain children while parents browse.

Finally, her website includes a nice child’s colouring-in drawing of boats on a lake that could easily have been inspired by the Beale Park show. If you’re bringing kids, why not print it out – I’m sure she’d like to see them nicely coloured-in at the show.

Claudia Myatt and her coracle