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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Looking for gold in an outboard-powered punt

Nahanni by Donald Wilder, National Film Board of Canada

‘This short film focuses on the legend of a lost gold mine and a river in the Northwest Territories that lured men to their doom. Albert Faille, an aging prospector, set out time and again to find hidden gold. His route took him through the wild and awesome land particularly suited to the mood of this Canadian odyssey.’

That portage!

Nigel Royall’s Broads gun punt

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These shots are of a 18ft by 53in gun Norfolk punt named Shoveler made by Nigel Royall, of Royall’s Boatyard at Hoveton on the Norfolk Broads, and fitted with a rig from a Coypu. My thanks go to Nigel for his permission to use them.

As a boatyard operator hiring boats to holiday-makers, Nigel’s had a few dealings with gun punts over the years and finally decided to make his own; he’s put a long post about the project on the Royall’s Boatyard weblog.

As he points out, in the old days most Broadsmen could only afford one boat, so a gun punt was not just used for wild fowling in winter. For example, they it might be used for eel picking or transporting a marshman to or from the dykes where he was employed in dredging and clearing dykes – which is called dydling and fying in Norfolk.

Nigel also explains that gun punts were open until 1824 when a Colonel Hawker introduced his new half-decked design and that the punt has hardly changed since then. Slightly different types developed at Hickling and on the River Ant and Breydon Water, but they all tended to be around 18ft with a beam of between 3ft up to 4ft, with the larger beams on the tidal water of Breydon.

They all had a long foredeck, a short aft deck and narrow side decks with low combings and 9in high sides, and they drew about 1½in of water. Where they varied was in the details of the big punt guns, such as their bore, whether they were muzzle or breach loading, and how they were restrained.

Nigel tells me that he has recently recreated eel picking, and sculling and firing a punt gun from another gun punt for a local amateur film maker, and says he was intrigued to see how it handled with an eleven foot sculling oar and a large gun on board.

My hearfelt thanks go to HBBR member Ian Ruston for tipping me off about this story, and Nigel’s entertaining and interesting weblog.

PS Check out the Nigel’s post about  the Broads pleasure wherry Solace.

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