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18 June 2014
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The National Coracle Centre, Cenarth
© The National Coracle Centre, Cenarth
The Case of the Coracle

During the 1930’s, the river authorities decided that angling as a sport would be more profitable if there were no nets on non-tidal sections of west Wales rivers. At this time, a license lasted the holder a lifetime, and could be passed down from father to son. As each holder died, these licenses were revoked, but it would take 40 years to clear the fishermen and their nets from the upper reaches of these rivers.

Today, there are many limitations for coracle fishermen: only 12 licenses are issued are per season to fish the tidal sections of the Teifi; 12 are issued for the river Towy; and only one licensed pair can fish the river Taf from St Clares. The season on all rivers is limited to five months – between April and August.

For many reasons, the number of salmon reaching welsh rivers has declined dramatically over the last 30 years. Only the few die hard fishermen who trawl the Teifi, Towy and Taf are able to keep this ancient method of fishing alive, and it is practised today mostly for the enjoyment rather than a means of earning a living.

Coracles on the Teifi
© The National Coracle Centre, Cenarth
The making of coracles in the traditional way is also a dying art in Wales. However, there is a great interest in the craft as the hundreds of people who visit the annual Coracle Regatta in Cilgerran each August will testify. This event has been staged for over 50 years and includes a full afternoon of races, demonstrations and handling, involving children and ladies, as well as coraclemen.

Coracle rides are available during the summer holidays in Cenarth and races on August Bank Holiday.

There is also a very interesting collection of coracles from all over the world on view at the National Coracle Centre in Cenarth. It would be a shame, however, if this wonderful and ancient craft might one day be only seen as a museum artefact.

The art of coracle fishing and making needs to be preserved on the rivers of West Wales before they become a thing of the past.

Words: Martin Fowler

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Internet Links
The National Coracle Centre
Richards's Coracle Adventure
– BBCi Where I Live South West Wales
Teifi Journey
–BBCi Where I Live South West Wales
Carmarthen coracle man game
Cilgerran Coracle Regatta
The Towy Coracle
The Coracle - a one-person boat with an ancient lineage.
– Data Wales
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