Punt gunning – including an interesting description of the original double-ended Poole canoe

The original Poole canoe

It turns out that Poole Harbour’s famous Pool canoes were not always flat-bottomed skiffs developed for use with a small outboard motor – in their earlier versions they were double ended rowing boats used for wildfowling.

There’s some interesting history about punt gunning here, including some stuff about the dangers of dealing with all that recoil when your boat is light and tiny, and the gunner is likely on their own, and some slightly disturbing stuff about ‘droppers’ and ‘cripples’ and ‘your man’ collecting the spoils.

PS – Retronaut has some good gun punt images here

PPS – And there’s a striking illustration of the power of these guns here. And no, it’s still not something I’d want to do.

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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

More old photos of Scoter

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scoter, Count de la Chapelle, idle duck, bawley, lynher, maurice griffiths, wildfowling

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Doug Grierson has sent in some more old photographs that will no doubt delight the large numbers of people who have been following the Scoter story. Thanks Doug!

For more on this famous old bawley-derived yacht that was so admired by Maurice Griffiths and which passed through a long line of owners including artist Colin Grierson and son Doug, click here.

The first image is from a postcard sent by an earlier owner of Scoter to a recipient in Essex in 1907; Doug doesn’t know how or when it was passed to his mother.

The two photos of Scoter from 1994-5 at Woodbridge and Maldon show later coach roof and original windlass and circular fore-hatch; the final item is a scanned image of a water-colour by Colin Grierson dated 1932 showing the rig she had when he bought her in late 1930.